My biggest learnings and tips from blogging so far

Flamingo Monroe is two years old! I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for two years already. Where does time go?! To celebrate my blog’s 2nd birthday I have decided to write up my biggest learnings and lessons, which hopefully will help fellow aspiring bloggers out there.

Writing this has made me realise that I really should put a lot of my words in to practise…

Marilyn cake

Happy Birthday to Flamingo Monroe!

Practise makes perfect
Or in my case, makes vast improvements! Flamingo Monroe (FM) is far from perfect. I found myself cringing at some of my early posts. The quality of my photographs were poor, my writing style was bad and some of my topics…well, what WAS I thinking!?
I’m my worst critic in life and thankfully even I’m noticing some improvement in my writing and photography from when I started. There’s still a long way to go but I hope I’m heading in the right direction… (hint for feedback please!)
Practise, practise, practise! And ditch the rambling!

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Working on my “flatlay”

Dedication
FM is my baby, my hobby, my escapism. It’s not my career by any means. I have a full time job (we grown ups do have bills to pay!) and having a successful blog requires time and effort, even more so if you want to make a living from it one day.
By successful I mean traffic stats, follower numbers (to blog and on social media), social engagement and those fabulous inbox messages of real people commenting and “reaching out” (excuse the corporate lingo!) as well as brands wanting to work with you.
By effort I mean (but not limited to) writing frequently blog posts, marketing your blog, researching other blogs, networking etc.
Blogging can feel like a full time job, especially if you do your own marketing and promotion too, but sadly for me in my current time of life I only have limited time to research, network, prep, write, create, promote and review.

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Dedication can get you anywhere, even running a marathon

Don’t get offended
A BIG learning of mine. When I launched FM I (wrongly) assumed ALL my friends and family would be all over it, acting like my personal PR staff – sharing, retweeting, forwarding, commenting, liking etc. The truth is about 1% (maybe less!) of my blog following and social engagement is from friends and family. Most of my friends and family don’t even mention my blog to me – they don’t talk to me about any posts they enjoyed, or ever give me feedback. But that’s okay! Blogs are like marmite!
I was initially offended, but I realise my blog isn’t for everyone and I’ve come to realise how amazing it is to connect with so many people I’ve never met! All those people that proactively follow and read FM, from all over the world is truly mind-blowing and the biggest compliment any blogger could receive.
My thyroid posts have helped and inspired so many people out there who continue to message me. That gives me such an amazing feeling and makes it all worthwhile.
And if you do get a relative pointing out a typo, or a friend saying a post you did was dull, big deal. It’s your blog, you’re not writing a novel or a university dissertation!

Kim K

Don’t fret! Not everyone will like you and your blog. Just like not everyone likes Kim Kardashian.

Personality
As with any brand you love – blogs too need personality to gain followers, loyalty, trust and a good reputation. I’ve tried to strategically bring out my character in my posts and across my social media touch points but I try not to take myself too seriously – I’m not here to be a serious “fashion blogger” or “content creater” or “influencer” so why would I pretend to be anything that’s not me?
With my “A lifestyle blog for the flamingirl next door” strap line, I hope FM, across it’s entire “digital road map”, emphasises a girl-next-door feel with a tongue-in-cheek approach. If it doesn’t, then let me know!
I like to throw in the odd joke and pun, and I talk about things I love. I don’t post fake or biased posts as that’s not going to get loyal followers in the long term. Be yourself. Not everyone will love you, but to have a small pool of people that do is really rewarding. Quality not quantity and all that…

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Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with your blog.

Content
In the beginning I had no real idea what I was going to blog about. I hadn’t written a strategy or a content plan. I knew I wanted to cover off a range of lifestyle subjects and over time I’ve learned what performs well and what doesn’t – not just in terms of traffic, but other factors such as social media engagement (i.e. likes and shares), comments and inbox messages I receive (especially referencing all things “thyroid” I’ve written about).
I find content based on life experiences will get you accepted in the blogging world – whether it’s medical related, about your Tinder nightmares, your holidays or your life as a new mother – for example.
Users want to read content that is unique, has a journalist/feature approach, with believable reviews and opinions – and if you choose to write about fashion trends and new beauty launches, emphasise the “why does this look work for all body shapes” and “why is this lipstick long lasting”. Do your homework!
When you think of an idea to blog about, make a note of it (so you don’t forget it), and try to create a content plan – a schedule will help you stick to it.
My focus is to always ensure my content is genuine and not unrealistic for others to aspire to. For example, I don’t have a HUGE income where I can buy anything I want and blog about it (what “normal” 9 to 5 people do?!). Some of those “content creators” are probably blogging based on bribery/freebies, which some brands are falling for, but don’t get me started on that rant… (I say “some” as there are many established bloggers who are successful and are gifted with items and products from brands in the hope they’ll get reviewed and the exposure.)

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Make sure your content stands out if you want to be noticed.

Don’t fall in to the freebie trap
Actually I will just touch briefly on that subject. Certain bloggers/influencers/content creators will soon get a bad reputation for only ever blogging “I got sent this xxx for free and therefore I am blogging (or Instagram’ing) about it and (am pretending) to love it!” You legally have to declare in your posts (including video) if something you write about was given to you for free.
They undoubtedly look good in front of a camera (okay I’m a little bit envious of their beauty and size 8 figures) and have pretty Instagram profiles, but working in marketing and the world of magazines, media and lifestyle, I can tell you that surviving on just Instagram will only be durable for so long.
My recent conversations with brands show that they are wanting bloggers to be more journalistic in their approach when reviewing their products and services. They want more science, knowledge, expertise and honesty. Perhaps stick to subjects you know about. What are your skills, experience and hobbies? Don’t preach about beauty if you’re not an expert or trained in that area, and don’t do a food blog if you are terrible in the kitchen! For example!
Bloggers need to watch out too as not before too long laws and tax implications will be applied where freebies – gifts and services – will have to be declared and eventually tax will have to be paid on items perceived as “income”. How is it fair to avoid paying tax because you live a life of (free) luxury? You heard it here first…

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A holiday might be expensive, but the memories are priceless (& give lots of content opportunities!)

Social Media
Social media is imperative for a successful blog. Digital forms of marketing are proven to be the most successful ways of driving traffic to your blog (by a simple click) and creates more personality, brand “touch-points” and awareness for you and your site.
Having an active social media profile can feel like a full time job in itself. I don’t post or tweet anywhere near enough as I should, let alone spend more time on additional platforms such as YouTube and Snapchat.
I can barely keep up with my own personal Facebook newsfeed but I do try to post on my FM Facebook page and tweet when I can (anyone else finding Twitter a bit saturated?).
I LOVE Instagram though and tend to put most of my efforts there. I’m a very visual person and we all know an image says a thousand words. It’s lovely to receive compliments on posts and to see my follower numbers increase on there as my photography skills slowly improve!
I may get laughed at by some for my use of hashtags on Instagram, but it’s how users find my posts and engage with me and consequently end up on FM – the end goal!
I’d also love to have a YouTube channel – not to be a “vlogger” – but to add another platform to FM’s offering – another way to enhance the FM brand and content. And we all know that Facebook is favouring video content in newsfeeds at the moment. For me though, I’d need to create a strategy before venturing in to the world of video as I don’t really like myself on camera. I hate hearing the sound of my voice and my Estuary twang (I mean Essex accent, but a previous boss once kindly referred it to an Estuary twang – nice ey? She is no longer my boss, thankfully.).

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Nothing wrong with an Estuary twang…FYI

Social media – watch out!
Please don’t buy followers or use bot sites like Instagress! PLEASE! I’ve been doing some blogger research for a potential new project at work and I’ve almost given up on the idea as it’s so hard to tell who’s got followers organically or who has used bot sites, aka forced (and not genuine) followers that are not a worthwhile audience/following.
I met with a PR team from a huge beauty brand recently who is cutting back their work with bloggers for this very reason. I actually tested a bot site for a few days to see what it was like but I found it was finding followers/engagement of no relevance, and not even speaking the same language! Test fail! When I first heard of sites like Instagress last year, I actually thought initially they were marketing tools worth exploring for the company I work for, but I was soon advised otherwise, thankfully!
You want loyal followers buying in to YOU who will genuinely like and engage with your posts. It’s not a popularity contest, so allow your follower numbers to grow organically. Brands and media owners (like the one I work for) are seeing through this more and more where eyebrows are raised when someone has 250K followers on Instagram but just a fraction of this on Twitter, Bloglovin’, Facebook, YouTube etc.
As I said earlier, it’s quality not quantity! And if you are talented and your blog is of good quality then your social media popularity will grow quickly, yet organically.

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Enjoy real fans that want to follow you

Marketing
Marketing must be high on the list for creating a successful blog. As any fellow marketer out there will know, marketing for any product/brand/service can be a full time job in itself.
You want your blog to get noticed, right? So invest your time in to promoting it and yourself!
Seeing I have a Head of Brand Marketing job title myself, I actually fail in promoting my own blog. There’s so much more I could do, I just wish I had the time to do so, maybe one day…

I’ve touched upon the importance of social media – different social media platforms are our “owned media” – our audience – our fans – so having decent (yet genuine!) social followings are important to promote your blog posts to. These are the fans mostly likely to click and read.
In an ideal world I’d have time to use Hootsuite to post numerous of times on a daily basis, even revisiting past posts that are not time sensitive.
I’d love a big budget for Social Media advertising and for sponsored posts, as well as for SEO. There are some free blog pinging services that do some element of SEO and if you’re with a site such as WordPress, some SEO is included every time you post.
Having a marketing email database is important too. Get people to follow your blog to receive inbox notifications, or have a button to sign up to a newsletter for you to send news, updates and links to new blogs posts. Platforms such as Mailchimp are good for this.
There’s nothing like viral marketing and word of mouth. Get your friends and family to share yours posts – they’re surely supporting your blogging venture, right?? If they’re not, then question your friendship! Okay that’s harsh, and I say that in jest, but I hope *some* close ones are supporting you.
I can talk about marketing all day, it’s what I’m trained in and it’s what I do. I think I’ve covered off a few key aspects that I feel are super important to get your blog noticed.

Camilla-Bevington-Graves-disease-gal-in-London

Market to audiences you can related to, and to who you want your posts to be seen by.

Blogging community
Make friends not enemies in the blogging community. Read other blogs, pay compliments where credit is due, partake in blogging chats online and engage with other bloggers on Instagram. You never know, you may find friends for life and guest blog for each other. Fellow (and established) bloggers are always honest in their feedback too which I’m always appreciative of. I’ve made some friends in the blogging world who I’ve grown to really like. We all support each other.

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Support each other in the blogging world

It’s all about you
If you don’t have a million followers just yet (I certainly don’t!) then don’t fret. If you’re writing about subjects that are quite niche, there will be people out there wanting to read your content.
Write what YOU want to write about, have fun with it and enjoy it. If blogging is going to make us millionaires one day then bring it on, and if it doesn’t then enjoy it for the hobby and escapism like I do.

Flamingo Monroe

Sometimes in life it’s not always about everyone else.

A life diary
As I looked back over my archive of posts, I found myself smiling to see all the things I’ve logged (or blogged!). It brings back some wonderful memories and I’m happy I’ve diarised it all in this way. Should one day I become the only follower to my own blog (I hope not!) as least I’ll have lots of happy memories to look back on.

Vahine

Take me back here any day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as I’ve loved working on it. If you are a fellow blogger enthusiast – keep going! You should never give up on any goals in life.

Now to practise what I preach…

Please do come find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (@flamingomonroe), sign up to follow Flamingo Monroe via WordPress to receive new posts straight in to your inbox or click the “Click here” button with my face on it for the occasional newsletter! Haha! 😉

Thanks for reading! 🙂

XCamilla

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