Windy City Cosmo turned one this January! Thank you for reading this blog and for walking through city life with me.
It’s been quite a journey, but a fabulous one filled with dinner parties, faking French, cosmos, new friends, boy next door’s, and more opinions.
Looking back on this past year of blogging, I want to share with you special blog tips. Some of my readers are fellow bloggers or in the digital marketing realm, so these blog tips are for you.
If you’re curious about
- content creation
- building your personal brand
these blog tips will keep you in the know!
Get on the (Mailing) List:
One of the most important blogging tips is to have a constant stream of content. It’s fun to come up with your own content through events in the city and your own social calendar, but being on the list, the PR list, is crucial.
PR contacts are your friends. They have insider information, they can hook you up with party invites, and they have beautiful photography, so you can focus on the experience and the marketing. They have the research. As a journalist, you should still do your own research, but PR media kits, interviews, and connections make it a lot easier to get a story that is not only relevant, but has a subject matter expert.
One of my favorite articles,“CDM Media Moves into Google’s Previous Chicago Office and Seeks Rock Stars” was through a PR connection at CDM Media in River North. It was an article that would have only happened by being on the right mailing list. I got on one of the biggest lists simply by buying my domain name: windycitycosmo.com. Before it was a wordpress.com site URL.
2. Build Community With Fellow Bloggers:
Another important blog tip is to build community! You may have your own blog or business (congrats!), but you will need to build community to succeed. You need other bloggers and readers to help you a) promote your blog b) support your blog c) help you find contacts and story ideas.
A) Promote Your Blog
Promoting your blog is hard work. You don’t want to only promote your own content. You want others to share your content, as well. And, you want your social media channel to include more perspectives and content than yours (unless you are Mashable or The New York Times).
I learned a little blog tip at my first event, that other bloggers were tagging bloggers and promoting their content as well. It’s not as much as a competition as a mission for everyone to succeed. It’s a win win.
— Lauren Lehocky (@ihadabiglunch) December 12, 2015
B) Support Your Blog
Having someone support you means everything. In the beginning, growing your following may seem impossible. When I reached my first 100 followers on Instagram I felt famous, and even this weekend, having other bloggers congratulate me on my one year of blogging felt amazing.
C) Help You Find Contacts And Story Ideas
While PR people are awesome, you want to have story ideas from different sources.
There are a few awesome blogging communities in Chicago. One of the most popular ones Windy City Blogger Collective, is run by Kit Graham and Erin Bassett. In this one membership blogging community, you have access to hundreds of bloggers and can meetup with them at monthly and weekly events hosted by the group. My good friend and fellow blogger, who I met on Twitter, Maddy Osman of ChicagoCheapAss.com, highly recommends it.
Membership is $70/year (that’s less than your Netflix subscription) and includes:
- Profile on WindyCityBloggers.com & Access to the Members Only Forum
- Free copy of our ebook “WCBC’s Tips for (almost) Everything Blogging!” (a $35 value)
- Opportunity to contribute content to WindyCityBloggers.com
- Opportunity to take over the @WindyCityBlogCo Instagram account
- Invitations to exclusive member events
- Early access to register for educational workshops and conferences
- Inclusion in the weekly email sent to members covering events and exclusive opportunities
- Consideration for sponsored content campaigns with WCBC brand partners
- Access to the group Pinterest boards
- Meet The Member post to the @WindyCityBlogCo Instagram Account
- WCBC Widget for your sidebar!
Full Disclosure, I have not committed to joining Windy City Blogger Collective, but I have benefited from this group through their Monday night Twitter chats and Chicago events, where I have met their members, such as at Social Media Week Chicago.
If you are low on budget, it helps to create your own small group of bloggers. There is a private Facebook group called “Girl Bosses of Chicago” that is meant for Chicago bloggers and business owners to share advice and meet fellow bloggers in the city.
Having fellow bloggers comrade is critical to your success.
3. Join an Accountability Group or Get a Mentor:
Having a group of fellow bloggers is great. But, it’s also important to have someone or a group help you develop skills and check-in on your goals and progress. That’s why my third blogging tip is to have an accountability group. SheSays Chicago, an international organization aimed to help women grow and become leaders in creative fields, started a mentorship program last year and multiple accountability groups. I led one of the accountability groups in Uptown. There were only four people in our group and we met bi-weekly or monthly depending on everyone’s schedule. We all had different projects, but each of us helped one another make goals and actually reach them by providing specific advice.
4. Learn SEO and Google Analytics:
Knowing your audience is the most important part about being a blogger and growing your brand. So, my fourth blogging tip is that you want to use the right tools to understand your target market and what they are searching for. Google Analytics will give you key insights on gender and age, but will also help you plan a better content strategy. Google Analytics teaches you valuable information like who is coming to your blog, if they are coming back and how long they stayed. If you have ever done retail management, you had to track this every night to tell corporate how your store performed.
While good content is important, good content cannot be found if you don’t lace it with the right keywords. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps you do that. To get started, check out SEO Moz for articles about link building, getting started and other specialties.
Side note: Make sure you are tagging your photos and every article for maximum reach.
What do you think my keywords were in this article? (Answer in the comments).
5. Be Interesting, But Be Interested:
Being on social media is about conversations and connections. While the Buffer App and Hootsuite can help you generate scheduled tweets, remember that the purpose of social media is to be social. This means that we should use it to support people and businesses, share good content from others, and share updates. It’s easy to post updates as a one-way conversation, but it’s truly beneficial when you use it to connect with others.
We all can’t be like Beyonce and follow no one on Instagram and yet have millions of followers.
Some of my greatest growth for Windy City Cosmo came through social media because I was interested AND interesting.
I will share with you two stories.
The first is that Giuliana Rancic, the host for E! News, retweeted a tweet, and my blog almost tripled it’s traffic and since then, has kept growing. In all fairness, I wrote an article,”Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market Opens in Bucktown with a Donation to FAB-U-WISH and Breast Cancer Research,” about a non-profit organization that she founded, FAB-U-WISH. By tagging her in the tweet and using the campaign hashtag, I was able to grab her attention and gain a lot of awareness about my blog.
Commenting on Instagram:
While going through my Instagram feed, 312Food, a predominant Chicago foodie with 22k followers on Instagram and one of the most widely used Chicago food hashtags #312food with 15+k posts tagged, posted a picture with chocolates and I nonchalantly made a comment that I wanted some. To my surprise, she private messaged me and told me I could meetup with her in Lakeview to have some of the photographed chocolates. Due to scheduling conflicts (because we are basically celebrities jk) we didn’t meetup for chocolate. But, I did invite her to a cocktail mixer that I was invited to. We met up and now she is one of my favorite people and a huge supporter for my blog.
I consider myself a writer. I have been actively writing since 2008, when I joined my college newspaper. Since then, I have interned or worked for digital marketing agencies, PR firms, magazines, online publications, etc. While I have written business proposals and RFPs, newsletters, cover stories, blog posts, speeches and product descriptions, I am still trying to improve my vocabulary, grammar, and editing/proofing skills. (Sorry to all of my English teachers.) And, blogging helps you be a better writer.
As good as your writing is, if the grammar is terrible and words are misspelled, you lose credibility. Below are some tools that I use to help me improve my writing.
Confession, I have saved all of my grammar lessons from high school English class. I have been practicing grammar my whole life, and surprisingly learning to speak Spanish helped me learn English grammar. However, I still need guidance.
I turned to the Grammarly app. It is a Google Chrome extension and provides you with weekly reports about how many words you wrote and how many grammar mistakes you made. Most importantly, it instantly edits your blog posts, your emails, your tweets, etc.
7. Create an Editorial Calendar:
One of the best parts about blogging is that it forces you to be accountable and to stop procrastinating. To do that you need a schedule. Developing story ideas and writing good content with good pictures is a lot of work. Editorial calendars will help you better manage your time and be more organized. Also, as you grow as a blogger, you will be working with more brands and you will want to easily see what your capacity is to write blog posts.
By creating an editorial calendar it will help you:
- Produce Better Content
- Find Better Pictures
- Give You Time to Edit and Create Multiple Drafts
- Give You Time to Plan your Promotions on Social Media
- Be Consistent for You and Your Readers
Articles to read to help you get started with editorial calendars:
- 3 Tools to Better Manage Your Blogging Editorial Calendar
8. Be Social:
The best way to promote your blog is through:
- Word of Mouth (Over Cocktails)
- Social Media (newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.)
- Online Blogging Communities (Bloglovin)
This blogging tip is simple: make sure you have social media accounts where you can engage and grow your audience. The second part of the blogging tip is that you are actually producing content that will engage and grow your audience.
Note: Don’t be on every platform. You will find you are better at some social media platforms than others. For instance, food bloggers tend to prefer Instagram to Twitter.
9. Create Facebook Ads:
Ads are scary. They cost money. People think they are annoying, etc. But, by creating a targeted Facebook Ad, you can reach a whole new audience that you could not reach organically.
Let me put this in your language. Think about your friends. Do you think you are going to have more luck finding a guy through friends of friends or through a dating app?
For my 9th blogging tip, the secret to blogging is that you balance organic marketing with paid advertising.
I just recently discovered the power of paid advertising. One of my top posts on Facebook received about 500 organic views. For a separate post, Windy City Cosmo received more than four times the amount of views through paid advertising then through organic reach.
An article in Fortune Magazine,“How Vera Bradley’s Founder Bagged Success,” about Vera Bradley inspired me:
“A seamstress made the first bag, then we put an ad in the newspaper for people who wanted to sew in their homes.”
Vera Bradley was founded by two housewives and they started with $250 loans from their husbands, which they used to start their company AND take out a newspaper ad for employees.
10. Go For The Sponsored Post:
Blogging is about coordinating events and posts, promoting blog posts, writing good content, and building great contact mailing lists. Blogging is as much as a business as it is a hobby.
Getting paid for your work through affiliate links and sponsored posts can be intimidating. Legally, you have to indicate in your blog post that it is a paid/sponsored blog post. When we write this in our blog post, bloggers may feel like they may lose their audience because it appears that bloggers aren’t genuine or are doing it for the money. But there are awesome benefits to sponsored posts, like working with great brands and gaining more sponsored posts.
Not only will you gain credibility, but it’s an opportunity to make money for your blog to do things like pay for your blog’s domain name and buy advertising to promote blog posts and invest in new camera equipment, digital services and blogger courses.
I hope this blog post helps you during your first year of blogging. Being a blogger gives you the opportunity to be an influencer, a responsible and informed member of your community, and it also can give you access to prominent and successful business leaders and fun events.
What is your favorite blog tip?