Sunday, October 14, 2018

Before You Hit Publish...

I have been blogging for roughly four years. I started back in 2014 with Samsam Cherie, a blog that began as a lifestyle/beauty blog, transitioned to a travel blog, quickly switched to a blog focused on veganism (specifically life as a vegan college student), and eventually dissolved out of uncertainty. I worked with companies such as Vega and Celestial Seasonings, sharing both sponsored and unsponsored posts. I connected to a community of other bloggers and took part in "tags", challenges, and little contests we held on different social media platforms. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I learned so many lessons as I wrote. I took several months off when the original blog dissolved a second time, and re-started this summer when my life was about to go through another huge time of change. It just felt right. And so, one day in July, She Goes Simply was born.
In the course of four years, I have learned not only how to write cohesive posts, but I've also learned how to edit, link to other posts/websites, upload photos, format layouts, create labels, write disclosures, and share content that I'm passionate about. I've learned what types of posts capture your attention and which ones don't (thank you, statistics) and how to interact with you across different social media platforms. It has been something of a part-time job for me over the past four years: 10-15 hours per week and unpaid, but completely educational. And I continue to enjoy every minute of it.

That being said, there are some things that I hadn't known about blogging prior to starting my own. There are things that go on "behind the scenes" that might not be realized by readers or family or friends: things that are inconvenient, frustrating, or stressful. So today I wanted to take some time to give you a snapshot of what goes on before a blogger shares a post with the world. Here are the things that happen before we hit 'Publish'...

1) What am I going to publish?
Any person in the creative field will confirm that inspiration comes in ebbs and flows. Some days I have a million and one ideas for future posts, and I have to write them down for the days when I can't think of a single thing to write about. Sometimes there's a post I have in mind, but don't know if its going to be accepted by my family and friends (basically anything on being vegan, some posts on minimalism, etc.). And then there are posts that I have sitting in my drafts box for weeks because as passionate as I am about the topic, I wonder if it will affect my professional/day-to-day career. Simply deciding what to publish is one of the biggest struggles facing bloggers, especially when they don't have one simple focus. My blog is a combination of topics, from travel to recipes to chit chat. Some people write only about food, fashion, beauty products, travel, or life in a foreign country. I have friends who write blogs on motherhood, and others who only write about minimalism. But of course there are others like me who do write about a handful of topics, and I think they'd agree that it can be a challenge sometimes. It is the first, and in my opinion biggest, hurdle to overcome as a blogger.

2) How can I get a photo for my post?
Once I have the idea for a post, the words tend to just flow. I'm very thankful that I have that ability, and I'm glad to have found a way to share that with the world. However, a blog post can't consist only of words (or rather, it can, but its much more interesting when photos are included). Finding the perfect photos can be a challenge. I recently wrote a post on my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. I would have loved to include a snapshot of my class attentively listening to our teacher or a photo of my teacher sharing a Kundalini meditation method. But would that have been appropriate to take? Absolutely not. I once read a quote, "Would you still visit that country if you couldn't take a camera?" and it hit a chord with me. Of course I would still go. But as a blogger, when you share bits of your life with the internet, of course you want photos to go along with your content. On more than one occasion, I've  been stared at when I've gone to take a picture of food at a restaurant, a random street shot downtown, or a candid photo at a family gathering. I've definitely used the phrase, "It's for the blog" and that seems to lessen the awkwardness. The photos that bloggers share just aren't as easy or convenient to take as they are to upload. As they say, the struggle is real.
Pictures of food at restaurants...guilty!
(Not pictured: all 6 of our yoga mats, my classmates, or really anything other than the teachers' chairs.)
(When I was moving out of my apartment, I literally rearranged the painting equipment just for this picture)
3) Will there be collateral damage?
When you hit 'publish', there's no taking it back. Of course you can go back in time and delete a post, but heavens knows how many times its been linked to another website, screenshot, downloaded, or even printed. (I'm not trying to be narcissistic here, I've actually found posts of mine shared on downright bizarre websites!) Literally anyone can see something once you hit 'publish'. When I first shared my Yoga Teacher Training post, I actually called my mother as soon as I published it because I hadn't told her about it yet. I was nervous of what she and my dad would think, but knew once I posted about it that they might eventually see it. When I was still writing Samsam Cherie, I posted about going vegan. I shared the post on Facebook and the comments absolutely exploded. My brothers were ruthless, and it caused quite a stir between the two of them and other members of my family. There have been other instances when something I've posted has hit certain individuals the wrong way, times when they've really resonated with someone, and times when they've surprised people enough to warrant a message. No one will ever know exactly who is going to read a post: its just impossible. And because of that, its critical to ensure that anything you post online is something you're ready and willing to share (and that goes for any platform, and any person!)

4) When am I going to share this?
Going along with collateral damage, timing is everything when publishing on social media. If I were to publish a post at 2:00am on a Sunday for example, obviously it isn't going to get many views. Statistics show that posts on social media are viewed most between about 1:00pm and 3:00pm during the middle of the week. (Though I would argue Saturday mornings around 10:00am tend to drive a lot of traffic, too.) However, I have many friends and family members in Europe, meaning their 1:00pm is only 7:00am in the United States. Frankly I tend to ignore these "optimal publishing times" because I find it varies based on what platform you're using. Instagram seems to be best after 8:30pm. Blogs are best earlier (in my experience), around 4:00pm or 4:30pm. But then I have coworkers who see me publish a post at that time, when everyone is still in their cube at the office, working away, and ask me if I've actually been working or if I've been writing. That's the beauty of the draft. I will write a full post the night before, save it in my drafts, and publish it during working hours. So any coworkers who are reading this...no, I do not blog at work!

5) Where am I going to share this?
I don't share every post to Facebook. I don't always share that I have a new post on my  Instagram story. I could use every platform to share a blog post, but I find that an onslaught of activity (publishing every post on every platform) tends to cause a slow-down of views. It's a huge stretch of the 'distance makes the heart grow fonder' mentality: if people constantly see post after post being shared, they're less likely to give it the time of day. If I have something big and new and exciting to share (have I mentioned my YTT post enough here?) I'll cover all my bases. But if I'm sharing a Creative Clarity post or something simple, I won't post on every single platform (though I do update the link on my Instagram for every new post). It just creates too much noise. Now, I have had a few (and I mean a very select few) posts that I've shared on LinkedIn. For example, I shared how a summer of sleeping on the floor in a big, empty apartment actually made my internship incredibly more effective and memorable than I could have expected. But overall, given that LinkedIn tends to focus more on my professional career, I'm much less likely to publish blog posts there since it isn't in line with my full-time job. (People don't seem to care if their recruiter shares a recipe for tofu fried rice haha). But the plethora of social media platforms has made growing a blog so much easier than it used to be. I've just had to learn where and when, and whether its the appropriate audience or not.

(Check out Why Sleeping on the Floor.... - an article I published on LinkedIn!)
(Whereas this Creative Clarity post was published on Facebook)
6) What am I hoping to gain by sharing this post?
This is not (yet) a for-profit blog. I don't even have ads (yet) and I haven't established any brand partnerships for She Goes Simply (yet). Am I hoping to eventually? Of course. But every time I publish a post, my goal is just to connect with my readers. I mentioned earlier that I have friends and family in Europe. I once lived in Portland. I once lived in Dublin. I went to school in Minnesota. I have friends who have moved out of state. There are so many people in my life that I want to keep in touch with, but only a very, very small portion of them are close enough to see in person on a regular basis. Blogging allows me to share what's new and what's going on with the friends and family I'm connected with on Facebook, Instagram, etc. and its made 'staying close' so much easier. I've also grown a bit of a following on Instagram - mostly yogis, vegans, and other travelers - and blogging is an amazing way to share more with them as well. These are people I may have only met once. Or maybe I've never even met them and our relationship is purely social media based. This is not a bad thing! The entire point of social media is to close gaps and bring people around the world closer together. I now have social media friends in Austin, TX who I had the chance to go visit for the first time this summer. I have a friend in France who's also going through a Yoga Teacher Training. And of course you've heard about my good friend Miriam who's from Germany, lives in Canada, and wrote this amazing book. My point is, I blog for a reason - for many reasons - and its been hugely rewarding in building and maintaining relationships all over the world. Whether a company eventually sponsors me or sends me samples or not, I plan to continue blogging for a very long time. 

7) What can I incorporate into this post to make it even better?
Blog posts can be so much more than words and pictures. The hyperlink is a magical thing. It's how you can click on this link right here to see my Instagram. It's how I can send you to another corner of the Internet, another page I want to share with you, or a page where you can buy something I'm loving or promoting. And then there are videos. (I've never included a video in my posts because I'm not photogenic enough as it is, but you can include videos in a post if you are so inclined.) There are polls you can create for your readers. There are giveaways. There are so many things to learn as a blogger to make posts more engaging and interesting. I love that there's always more to learn as a blogger: more things to learn from other bloggers, Youtube, or how-to tutorials. 

Blogging is not just sitting down, writing, and hitting 'publish'. It's a lot of work that can be at the same time both stressful and incredibly rewarding. Its a way to reflect, connect, and learn simply by sharing news or ideas. And while there is a lot to do both before and after publishing a post (as I mentioned, it really can be a part-time or even full-time job!), it is 100% worth it. 

Fellow bloggers out there, wouldn't you agree?

2 comments:

  1. Wow, this is a LONG post. Respect! And yes, I couldn't agree more with everything you said! Blogging is changing a lot, but I still love it dearly. It's crazily time-consuming, but so very rewarding! One of my fave parts (aside from the community) is that it's a time capsule. I love looking back and seeing how much has changed, or how goals I used to only dream about became reality!

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    Replies
    1. I could have kept writing, there's so much that goes on before every post is published! (Or maybe that's just me...haha). I agree that blogging is like a time capsule. I've never been very good at keeping a consistent diary, and heavens knows if I'm writing at the end of the day, I'll ever be able to read my handwriting again. I like incorporate the pictures, really painting a 'full picture' for my friends, family, readers, and myself!

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