It seems surreal to think that in two months, I'll be celebrating ABOH's third birthday. I've never poured this much time and energy into a project and not a day goes by where I don't do something related to this blog. It's been difficult, rewarding and so fulfilling to see how much this online space and my community have grown, especially over the past few months. I love sharing my journey with you all. Blogging has been fundamental to getting me where I am today and I can't stress the importance of it enough.
So in celebration of my 25th birthday on Saturday (whoop whoop!), today, I'm sharing 25 of the biggest things I've learnt about building an online presence. I hope that these insights might help you with your own journey and open up your mind to new possibilities too.
#1 | Share your dream with people
Even if it's scary, even if you don't have a plan yet and even if it's not articulated one little bit - share your dream with someone. Tell them your plans and the goals you want to achieve. You never know where this might lead you and who will help you along the way. As soon as Tom knew how passionate I was about developing this online space, he jumped on board immediately. He's now my photographer... and general go-to guy 😉
#2 | Broaden your horizons
Google might be your best friend, but it won't solve all your problems. Even though I graduated with a distinction in my Digital Journalism module, I really didn't understand the ins and outs of generating a community on social media. Search Pinterest, trawl through sites for inspiration, follow tutorials on YouTube and engage with people as much as you can.
#3 | Learn the tools of your trade
Here's the situation - you tell someone you designed your own website on Squarespace and now you're a pro. They ask you for help with something. You take a look and you've got no idea.
You can't lie about your ability. You want to become a WordPress web designer? You better make sure you learn everything there is to know about WordPress. Want to teach newbie bloggers about photography? You better make sure your photography is top notch.
That way, when someone comes across your skills and you can deliver, they'll likely recommend you to someone else.
#4 | Seek help and network
Even though you are the manager of your blog, this isn't something you have to do alone. That's why there are things like Twitter Chats, Facebook groups and Instagram community hashtags. They're there because having a support network of people is needed in order to build a successful online presence.
I've reached out to many different bloggers over the years asking for their advice or help. They all responded and not with just a sentence either - they'd each spent the time crafting a unique response to me that I'll carry with my forever.
I also know an entrepreneur who hired someone because they were being so active and helpful within different Facebook groups. There's no reason why that couldn't happen to you.
Take part in social media networking, attend events, reach out to people. Build relationships and I guarantee these will help you grow or even change your life.
#5 | Brand yourself
I'm yet to create a logo, but that doesn't mean my brand isn't legit. My why, my purpose and my message are strong and members of the ABOH community know that. I've built my website. I continue to grow my social channels. I share and create content that relates to my overall message.
Once you have the foundation for your brand you'll be well in your way. And if you're unsure of what your brand is or means, go through this short exercise. It'll take you five minutes.
6. It's OK to wonder what the heck you're doing
I like to refer to this as my limbo stage of blogging (and don't be fooled, there'll be more than one). At this point, I wanted to make money with my blog, but I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. Instead of creating my own strategies, I was simply using other people's. But I was tired. I was unhappy in a terrible job. I had no balance. I felt like I was working so hard but not seeing any results. It was only when I listened to my instincts, and let myself be that I finally realised what my path was going to be.
#7 | Preparation is crucial
Especially when you're posting several times a week. An editorial calendar is vital to ensure you're posting quality content on a consistent basis. Planning ahead takes the guesswork out of coming up with new content ideas, and makes the whole blogging process a lot easier.
#8 | Your readers are the most important aspect
Many people say readers are selfish and it's true - in the nicest of ways. We go to blogs and we read things only if there's something in it for us. We want to go into something knowing we're going to get something out of it. This is what you've got to keep in mind when you're creating content. Whether it's entertainment, insight, knowledge or a friend, consider what you're giving your community in each and every post.
A great way to do this is when you're creating each piece of content ask yourself this question: what's the one thing my audience is going to take away from this?
#9 | Slow and steady wins the race
Overnight successes do not exist. It's highly unlikely you're going to wake up tomorrow with 100,000 Twitter followers. And honestly? I wouldn't want to be successful in that way. Some blogs take off faster than others. But I believe it's the ones that have the slow growth that have the most impact. Why? Because their results are more visible.
When you're putting all the work in and you see that growth slowly? That is an amazing feeling and just pushes you to keep going. You know you're working hard behind-the-scenes to create, promote and share. Never dampen your success just because it's slow. Progress is progress.
#10 | The more content you'll create, the more ideas you'll generate
A question I'm asked quite often (and there are a few posts about this subject on ABOH now) is how I come up with so many ideas. In my answer I always say this: the more I blog, the easier I find to create new ideas. You'll get to know your audience better, what content they connect with the most and how much deeper you can dig into different topics. As you get more and more feedback, you'll begin to know what to look out for.
#11 | Honesty is crucial
Being yourself right from the beginning is the best thing to do. People can see through a fake personality or someone who's trying to be like everyone else. Don't be that person. Be you and create a blog that is a true representation of who you are. That's a quality more people wish they had.
#12 | It's good to be pushed out of your comfort zone
Blogging pushes you out of your comfort zone. I'd never seen myself and a creative before I started this blog. My weakness was design and photography. But the more experience I've had, the more I've learnt and the more my weaknesses have turned into strengths. I'm now complimented on my photography and I created this Squarespace website by myself. You never know what skills you might learn along your journey.
13. You've got to be consistent
I know some bloggers like to upload content as and when, but I've learnt that in order to build a successful online presence, consistency is key. By posting at 7am every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and sending my newsletter out every Thursday at 2pm, my audience learns to know what to expect and that makes them more likely to return to my site on a consistent basis.
Even things like scheduling tweets and posting to Instagram reminds your community that you're here and you've got things to offer them.
# 14 | Blogging positions you as an expert
Your online presence gives you a platform to validate your experience and share your knowledge. It's given me the opportunity to share more about my career path, as well as everything I learn from my day job in online marketing, and how I stay motivated and driven to achieve big things whilst living life to the full.
#15 | Strong content is the foundation of everything
People know good content when they read it. If your posts are short and full of errors, new readers aren't going to return. You've got to give everyone that visits your blog an experience to remember. Creating content with a purpose for yourself and your audience encourages them to keep coming back for more. It also encourages them to share your work with others which only leads to more growth.
#16 | Draw on your experiences to make yourself stand out
You hear the phrase that everything has been written about and there are no new ideas anymore. People who say this are wrong. There's one thing that makes one idea very different - your voice.
The way you got to where you are now will be a completely different path to someone else's. The way you edit your photography will be different to everyone else's. It's how you present it that matters. Take your topic, look at other posts and ask yourself how can you make yours the best out there? Part of this comes down to your own experiences - that's what makes you and your blog unique.
#17 | Online friendships are important
It's tempting to hide away from social media and just focus on your corner of the Internet. But if you don't put yourself out there and build relationships, you'll find you won't get very far. Put yourself out there. Interact on social media. Find your own people. Meet them. I've met so many amazing and talented people through blogging and I can't wait to meet some of them in real life.
#18 | Loyal readers are better then general followers
The number doesn't count - it's the quality that's the most important. What's better - having thousands of followers and no comments? Or having a few hundred followers and at least one comment on every post? I know what I'd rather.
Remember this when you're building your community. It might be slow growth, but at least you're attracting the right people.
#19 | You must listen to your instincts
When this blog changed to one purely about tech and digital marketing for a few months last year's something didn't feel right. I knew this wasn't the right path, but I was trying to hard to make it work. Eventually, I stopped and listened to my instincts. They told me to go back to basics with my blog which is what I did. Since then I've had bigger and more impactful results then ever before. If you ever feel lost or stuck, always pay attention to yourself.
#20 | Your online presence can get you a job
In every interview I’ve had, it’s been my blog that’s made me be successful. My online presence has always given me the most to talk about, because it encompasses so many skills that employers look for. Organisation, planning, processes, consistency, content, social media - if you think about it, building an online presence actually teaches you a hell of a lot.
#21 | Social media is incredibly important
Not only are social channels great for getting yourself and your content out there - they’re also great for building relationships and community. The people I speak most to online, I found through social media.
Twitter especially, has done so much good for my website over the past few months. Especially since I created a strategy that works.
#22 | The more you write, the more you'll improve
I’ll never know what classes as a ‘good writer’. But I’ve spoken to a lot of beginner bloggers who put off starting a blog because they feel they aren’t good enough at writing. But this is where they get it wrong. It’s not about your skill. It’s about your voice. The more you write using your own voice, the more your own unique style will improve. That’s what makes people come back to a blog.
#23 | Focusing on the positives makes you stronger
There will always be negative people on the internet and no matter what, they’ll always be willing to share their negative thoughts. You’ve got to focus on the positives. If you don’t see something you like, don’t get involved. Click away and move onto something else, or talk to the people that will put a smile on your face.
It’s the same with numbers. I’m a big fan of keeping my eye on my numbers, but here’s the thing. Focusing on the positives means not just focusing on the number of followers you have, but the quality of them. Focusing on the positives means not complaining you’ve only received one comment, but feeling grateful for the content of that comment.
#24 | You need to believe in yourself
"Just pick a goal, a goal you truly want to achieve, and take a clear-eyed look at your weaknesses--not so you'll feel less confident, but so you can determine exactly what you need to work on. Then get to work. Celebrate small successes. Analyse your weaknesses. Keep going. As you gain skill, you'll also gain a feeling of genuine confidence, one that can never be taken away--because you've earned it."
#25 | Blogging can change your life
And mine is a prime example. Blogging has allowed me to grow my confidence, share my passions and believe in myself more than ever. I get the chance to connect with some amazing people, I’m pushed out of my comfort zone and there’s never an end point. The staircase just keeps on growing, and I can’t wait to keep climbing it.
So I’m saving the big speech for my third blogiversary, but for now thank you. Really, none of this would be possible without you and if I could meet up with each and every one of you I could. I’ve learnt so much so far and developed as a person. That’s all down to you, this blog and my online presence.
What are some of the greatest things you've learnt from building an online presence and blogging? What's your favourite on this list?