The Blogging “Rule” It’s OK to Break
Writing about my flagrant mis-use of social media last week got me thinking about some of the other so-called “rules” I break as a blogger.
There are quite a few of them, actually, and now I’m going to tell you aaalll about them. Well, come on: you didn’t expect me to have a thought and then keep it to myself, did you? So here are some more of the blogging “rules” I’m quite happy to keep on breaking…
I don’t have an Instagram theme
Admit it: you just clicked over to my Instagram account, and now you’re sitting there going, “WHUT? Bitch DOES have an Instagram theme? It’s the same ‘basic blogger’ white background thing everyone ELSE has, surely?”
Well, I can see why you’d think that, and it’s true that I AM pretty basic most of the time, but I actually don’t have an Instagram theme – or not an intentional one, anyway. The fact is, most of my backgrounds are white, because most of my HOUSE is white, and that’s where I normally take my photos – so no real “themeing” is necessary. If, however, I take a shot that doesn’t have a white background (I mean, heaven forbid!), I have no hesitation in posting that too, and I don’t really care if it’s “off brand”, or breaking the continuity of my grid, or whatever.
I did TRY to have a Instagram theme once. Last year, I read so much advice about how having an Instagram theme will get you more followers, that I thought I better get on board with that, STAT. Well, I have to admit, I do love looking at “themed” grids, and God knows, I’m a sucker for a bit of colour-co-ordination, so I dutifully started to develop a “theme” of my own, and, you know what? It didn’t make a blind bit of difference to my follower numbers – or not that I noticed, anyway.
What it DID do, on the other hand, was to completely kill Instagram for me, because it meant that, instead of just posting whatever I wanted to post, I was having to stress over whether each photo worked within the context of “the grid”, and whether I was sticking to the right colour scheme – which, in my case, was “white, with a pop of colour”. Do you know how many different variations there are on the colour white? Can you even imagine how boring it would be to have to find out? People, I lived that nightmare so you don’t have to, because I’m really not convinced it mattered that much.
I’ll be honest: on the rare occasions when I actually look at someone’s Instagram grid (as opposed to just seeing their photos when they pop up in my newsfeed), I enjoy a colour scheme as much as the next person – I do. The presence or absence of one doesn’t affect my decision to follow you or not, though, and I can’t be the only one, surely? Now that I’m fully over my MUST! HAVE! A! THEME! moment, I’ll happily post photos that don’t have white backgrounds, and my followers have yet to freak out and unfollow me because of it, so honestly, I think the only real “rule” of Instagram is to post awesome photos… whether they’re colour-co-ordinated or not.
I don’t make every single post “useful”.
Another piece of advice you often see is that when you’re writing each blog post, you should ask yourself whether it’ll be “useful” to your readers, and how you can MAKE it useful, if it isn’t. Again, this isn’t bad advice: every one of my most popular posts, for instance, is a “how to” or advice post, because that’s what people tend to search for. Well, no one’s hitting up Google and typing in, “I want to read about what random Scottish women got up to at the weekend,” are they? No, they want to know how to walk in high heels, where to buy a dressing table that will hold all their makeup, and which foundation is best for vampires – that kind of thing.
I write that type of content because it’s useful, and it brings new visitors to the site: and of course I want to bring new visitors to the site, don’t I? I don’t ONLY write “useful” content, though, because, well, that would bore me rigid, to be perfectly honest. And it would probably bore YOU rigid, too, if you’re a regular reader: it would be like only ever reading instruction manuals, and never getting to flick through a trashy magazine, or sink into one of those mystery novels I love so much.
It takes all kinds of content to make a blog, is what I’m saying – or to make THIS kind of blog, at least. So write the helpful posts, sure – they’ll help your blog as much as they’ll help other people. Don’t be afraid to write the random life updates and other anecdotes, too, though: not EVERY post needs to be “helpful”, and not every post has to make it into your greatest hits parade. Sometimes you just want to write something because you feel like it – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I don’t go to blogger events.
I kind of hesitated with this one, because these days it feels like blogging is SO much centred around events and other non-blogging tasks that it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out unless you either live in a major city, or are able to travel to one regularly to attend all of those blogger events everyone’s always writing about. I DON’T live in a major city, as some of you know, and I have never attended a blogger event in my life: I’m WAY too anti-social for all that. Has it affected the success of my blog? Honestly, it’s hard to say: I mean, I feel like I’m doing OK, but I do have to acknowledge the fact that I might be doing a whole lot better if I was just willing to make the trek down to London every couple of weeks, and spend a bit of time awkwardly standing around, clutching a wine glass and trying to pretend I wasn’t about to faint with terror. Or… maybe not, actually.
So, I can’t say for sure, but I HAVE managed to make a living from blogging without jumping through all of the event-related hoops that are so much a part of it these days: yes, I suspect I could make a BETTER living if I DID do those things, but… I’m OK with that. Yes, really. You might not be, of course – I get the impression that one of the reasons a lot of people want to get into blogging these days is because they perceive it as being kind of glamorous, with wall-to-wall events, and non-stop socialising, so I suspect I’m a bit of an outlier with my preference for the quiet life. But blogging is still a pretty good choice of profession/hobby for introverts, because you don’t necessarily HAVE to do all that stuff if you don’t want to.
I don’t have a ‘niche’ – or not a very narrow one, anyway.
This may be controversial, because it seems to be widely accepted that blogs need a very defined niche in order to be successful, but I’m going to respectfully disagree. I wrote an entire post on WHY I disagree a few months ago, so I won’t repeat myself, but in short, if I tried to stick rigidly to just one subject, I’d have given up years ago: in fact, the main reason (and perhaps the ONLY reason) this blog is now a decade old is the fact that I allowed it to evolve, and didn’t try to force myself to only ever write about one topic. That might work for some people (and it obviously does!), but it doesn’t work for me, so I’m perfectly happy to continue with my non-niche blog.
I don’t do video
I’m constantly hearing about how video is the blogging of the future: how You Tube/Snapchat/Periscope are gradually taking over from text-based blogs, and how you’re missing out if you don’t have a You Tube channel, and didn’t bother to snap your breakfast this morning.
So, I DO have a You Tube channel, and I also have a Snapchat account (It’s ‘foreveramberUK’, if you’re interested, but the fact that I had to go and look that up – and re-learn how to actually navigate Snapchat in the process – should tell you how often I use it…), but while I’m happy to dabble in both of them from time to time, I don’t see myself ever producing tons of video content, or making it a regular part of my schedule. Not only do I find video-editing hugely time-consuming (I have NO idea how people who do daily/weekly vlogs manage it: hats off to them, seriously…), I also hate the way I look/sound on video, and I know that, ultimately, trying to become a You Tube or Snapchat “star” would actually HURT my blog more than help it.
The fact is, I’m a writer. Always have been, always will be. Writing is my natural habitat: it’s where I feel most comfortable, and most “myself”. I can express myself in writing in a way I can’t really do it in person. I mean, despite its length, this blog post didn’t take me very long to write. If I’d tried to do it as a video, however, it would’ve taken me all day, and the result would be 20 excruciating minutes of me umm-ing and aahh-ing, and turning bright red, and you’d all be, “Wow, Amber’s actually a bit of a dumbass, isn’t she? UNFOLLOW.”
It always surprises me that so many people seem to think an ability to write a blog implies an ability to do video, or public speaking. They’re actually two (three?) completely different skills, and just as someone could be an amazing speaker/video presenter without being good at writing, it’s also possible to be a competent writer, who goes to pieces when put in front of a camera. And, of course, the nature of digital content creation has changed – the fact that I’m calling it ‘digital content creation’ rather than just ‘blogging’ is a sign of that – and I now frequently get requests to do video campaigns or public speaking engagements, rather than to write a blog post.
I turn every one of those requests down, for the reasons given above. As with the “events” point, I’m guessing I’d make a lot more money if I DID get into video etc… but so far I’m still doing OK without it, and I’m happy with that.
As for the rules you DO need to follow, meanwhile…
… I can only think of three:
02. Don’t break the law.
03. Don’t be an ass.