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Blogging, From The Heart

From The Heart: Will Blogs Survive 2016?

January 5, 2016

Hello dear readers and a very Happy New Year to you! I want to talk about blogging and where I see it for 2016 but first… I’m preparing for a trip to Paris in a few weeks so you’ll be seeing lots of French inspiration on the blog very soon as I play roving reporter in one of my favorite cities. I’m also on the cusp of this blog turning TEN years old, I can’t believe it and how so much has changed in my life since I launched decor8. I’m trying to think of something special to do for the big birthday so I think I’ll just celebrate it in Paris, that seems like a great spot to celebrate anything, right?

From The Heart: Will Blogs Survive 2016?

When I thought about my blog turning 10 years old, I felt a bit emotional about it at first, then excitement, and currently a bit mixed. What is next for me? I’m still trying to hammer everything out but for now, I’ve decided: Write more regularly on decor8 from the heart, with personal experiences, feelings, observations. Hire more writers for decor8 so there is one new story here daily. I’ve hired two great food bloggers who begin this month; I’m now looking for a super special DIY/craft blogger who takes gorgeous photos and makes great stuff. Email me if you have experience and are interested. This is a paid position. Expand my topics on decor8 and Rent a large open space locally so I can teach workshops, host pop-up events and creative meet-ups. Actively explore opportunities to expand into radio, video, television, products, something that feels and fits right. I need to test and explore to see what I genuinely like and what I’m good at. I don’t want to do something because everyone else is doing it or because I feel like I have to do them in order to stay on top of my game.

I also wish to Travel regularly and blog about my adventures with my own photography and insights. Expand Blogging Your Way with videos that are inspiring and fun and products for the shop. Diversify coursework and cover even more topics that reach outside of blogging and social media. Maybe move to a new city or country. This is a big thing to put out there publicly, but we’ve been considering it. Find more joy in what I do each day and focus on what I have built, not what I need to build.

These are some of the things I’m thinking about currently for my business. There are more but this is a good start! My blog will always be the heartbeat of my business, I never want to stop blogging, it’s everything to me personally. For anyone who has authored a blog for 10+ years, I’m sure that the big TEN was a major milestone for you too. I don’t know a lot of bloggers who have been blogging this long as a professional choice, but I feel strongly that blogs still have power, are still important tools for effective communication and still matter A LOT.

Maybe we all read fewer blogs and are on Instagram or Facebook more frequently, but I honestly cannot find the quality of writing or the storytelling on Facebook as I can on a blog. Facebook is one big rant for the most part. And on Instagram, it’s only photos that pop up and though they are lovely, I crave to know what people are thinking, not just what they see or want us to think their life looks like.

Blogging is something we shouldn’t allow to become muddy through ads, tons of sponsored content and too much self-promotion because then we are pushing readers away and over to Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels – no one wants to read one post after another that a blogger was paid to write and in so many cases these days, not even sincerely write (sad to say). I personally know bloggers who have confessed to me that they disliked the products they’d written about and dumped them in th trash the next day after the post appeared – they were paid to say they liked it. But they didn’t.

I don’t want blogging to become THAT. You know?

I hope that anyone reading this, as I am also striving to do, will aim to strike a balance. Maybe 10% of content is sponsored and the rest isn’t. Or maybe you write 5 posts in a week, and one is sponsored. Come up with some math that works for you and your finances. But be cautious because the very thing you are trying to do (become more popular and earn a good living) may be the very thing you contribute to killing (blogs in general) because you are pushing too much sponsored stuff in people’s faces.

Readers honestly don’t believe the typical “What I’m writing is from heart and my own experience, regardless of that I was paid to say this stuff” blurb that you toss at the end of sponsored content. We all know that it’s a nice attempt at sincerity but in the end, the fact that you were paid still clouds judgement just a wee bit and that is often what scares readers away. When money is involved, readers suddenly question YOU.

Turn your blog into one big ad about your products, books, and clients… Well that simply can’t last and currently, with more and more people complaining about how they’re not reading blogs as much due to all THAT – beware. You could be phasing out your blog without even realizing it.

I am not just saying this stuff either. Remember, I teach e-courses (for nearly 7 years now) to bloggers and bloggers-to-be and I hear what they are saying in our private forums and even when I outright ask them, I hear ALL of these complaints above. Lots of our homework centers around what they love about blogs and what they dislike. Students even list the blogs they once read that they cannot tolerate nowadays because the content is so fabricated and soulless. I am often surprised by the blogs they’ve stopped reading because to me, their content still felt strong and balanced.

Yet everyone still loves Garance Dore and Emily Henderson. At least right now (blog readers are a picky bunch) and so why is that? These ladies strike a good balance between sponsored and authentic content from the heart. Their voices have remained on the blog and their heartfelt joy for what they do is still there and felt very strongly. I feel like I’m getting something when I read Garance or Emily. I’m learning something or simply having a good time – they can both be entertaining at times. But there are only a handful of these blogs that still exist that my students are still in love with and tune into regularly. A few years ago, students would list maybe 20 blogs. Now they are naming 3 or 4. That’s a massive decline and shows that poorly chosen content is driving people away from blog reading and guess what? We can’t blame Instagram. We can only blame ourselves because content is slipping or becoming entirely about our products or our clients.

BALANCE.

Find balance, or rather CREATE balance, and you’ll notice more readers again and you’ll notice more engagement and even more interest in blogging. I believe that people are bored for the most part with what’s being offered currently online.I don’t see Pinterest nearly as popular as it was. Who is even using Twitter as they once did?  Maybe you won’t notice the same number of readers you had during the big blog explosion of 2008/2009, but you will see people coming back to your blog.

Bring your voice back to blogging, and you’ll bring the right kind of readers back to blogs.

So this is my new year’s message about blogging. Let us all remember WHY we started blogging, and consider what you can bring, but also consider that people love YOU and what YOU are doing and saying. And they want more of that. More of YOU. What you REALLY love, what you are doing, what makes you tick. Sure, some of that can be sponsored but try to balance what you are paid to write and what you are writing from the heart. Be an Emily. Be a Garance. Bring your heart, your expertise, bring value.

That’s my blog goal for 2016. What are some of yours?

(image: holly becker styling, susanne irmer photography)






Blogging

Photography + Styling For Your Blog + Instagram

November 11, 2015

Hello everyone! How are you? I’m going to Hamburg this week to attend a design show, Blickfang, with my new French friend who is also working with me on partnerships and advertising for decor8. Not only does she have the perfect French name, Amelie, but she has the Garance Dore accent and this wonderful, positive spirit. I adore Amelie – we just started to work together a few weeks ago and it’s been great having her around. So yes, I’m off to Hamburg soon and so I wonder, Hamburg experts, any good suggestions for shopping, eating, cafes, etc.? We’ll have 5 hours to burn so we want to burn them wonderfully (wink).

Photography + Styling For Your Blog + Instagram

Okay so onto the meat of this post. Blogging. What the heck is happening with blogs and the internet and what is the future? We can all speculate which is sorta fun but I firmly believe in one thing (the rest is a blur): that the folks behind blogs, Instagram, etc. for lifestyle categories, foodies, design, etc. only have a chance at reaching a certain status or level of success (or earning money) if they have great styling and photography. I could sit around and tell you it doesn’t matter but I’d be a liar. It does matter. When I really put my all into my Instagram account (I’m @decor8 if you are curious and wanna follow me), I get hundreds of new followers overnight. When I flake out, like I have been the past few months because I’m working on my 4th book (I turn it in in Sunday, omg you guys!), my followers massively slow down when it comes to interacting with me, liking my pics… Not to mention how few new followers I see. So yeah, I can bs you and say photography and styling aren’t important, just wing it, but that is not the case at all.

In the Blogging Your Way Instagram e-course earlier this year, I promised a follow-up to that class. In it, we taught the nitty gritty on how IG works from algorithms (yes really) to “the grid” and the importance of this, that and the other. Now it’s time for the follow-up, for you to LEARN how to style (aka arrange stuff in a nice way) and compose your shot (like angles, SO important) and how to take photos way better than you thought you ever could. And we’re not just including Instagram for this class but bloggers in general who want to also style and take better photos for their blog.

I’ve teamed up with Tina Fussell, Jack Fussell and Holly Marder who will tell you everything they know and I’ve already seen their lessons – GUYS YOU ARE IN FOR A TREAT. Take this class!

The e-course is self-paced and runs for three weeks from 15 November until 7 December. Then you have all of the holiday break and new year to practice your new skills on friends and family! Weeeee! You will also walk into the new year with your head high because you have major ammo, mega mojo and monster-size mad skills so you’re not starting the new year thinking, “Oh my god, resolution time, I don’t know where to begin!”, rather you are beginning the year thinking, “I’ve got this, internet WATCH OUT”.

This is the last one we’ll be teaching on these topics until Fall/Winter 2016 so don’t wait another year, too much time to not make any progress! Come learn with us – see you soon!

CLICK HERE for e-course outline and to sign up. It’s like unicorn magic how that works.

(images: holly marder, tina fussell, jack fussell)






Bloggers, Blogging, From The Heart, Ramblings

From The Heart: A Blog Is Only Dead When You Are

September 23, 2015

Call me dramatic but I believe this strongly — your blog is only dead when you, your content, your zeal for it, dies. It’s a strong statement but it’s worth chatting about for a moment because there is lots of talk online about the future of blogs. I see many of my favorite blogs changing, stagnating or simply selling out (I define this as when a blogger does things for fame and/or money that others find questionable or that they hide because they know readers wouldn’t support them). Due to some of these things, I often wonder if the practice of writing a blog purely out of pleasure has become a lost art. Other times I see certain bloggers who make me proud  – they are full of fire and life, they say what they want, their words aren’t diluted or disingenuous so as to please sponsors and clients, they are unfeigned and they don’t give a damn.

From The Heart: A Blog Is Only Dead When You Are

Those are the bloggers that convince me to carry on — they astonish with words, ideas, photography – some or all.  I rely on their voices and go to them when I need a dose of humor, reality or to really think and feel something again. I don’t look to Facebook updates or random photos posted here and there on apps and websites. These blogging voices remind me that having a blog can still be relevant, fresh and invigorating when the people authoring them are. Blogs can still electrify.

I’ve been busy and unfocused lately when it comes to blogging and truthfully, even ambivalent. A colleague told me that my blog has become boring over the past few months. I was mildly offended at first but then realized the truth in her words because it even bores me, which has lead to my highly irregular posts. Many bloggers are struggling currently, have you noticed? Content is boring, posts are few and far between, content is constantly sponsored, passionate opinions are few (or gone)… Many bloggers feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of social platforms that exist now. Others are struggling to make money since blog ads aren’t pulling in the cash that they were years ago. How do you maintain a blog and find enough time to produce engaging content on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn? How can you also make money blogging when the entire revenue structure has changed?

I guess this is why I’m writing this post. To say that all of us can fall into the boring rut but whether we remain in it is up to only us. And I have decided to get out, and I’m starting with this post because it’s been awhile since I really said anything here.

It can be soul-crushing to stay fresh on every social channel while also trying to reply to those who want to network with you via these platforms, too. It can be hard to turn down a company with products that don’t interest you when they’re offering you thousands for a blog post. Blogging becomes all about survival, all about numbers – number of fans, number of dollars, number of page views, number of followers on other platforms. While some massive blogs thrive on numbers and love the push, the rest of us just don’t function that way. I personally have to believe in and love a product before I’ll take on a sponsored post but I have other ways to generate income that have nothing to do with my blog so I don’t feel pushed to accept every offer I get. I can’t judge those who do and who have families to support. I get it. But this all has changed blogging and how we once felt about it. .

Blogging, for many, gets pushed in the background because posts take time, in fact more time than posting a quick photo on IG or an update on Facebook. I loved blogging before massive online communities where everyone seems to throw out whatever pops into their mind without a single edit. All day you are bombarded with streaming random thoughts from “friends” which amounts to a lot of information that you really didn’t need (or care) to know about.

Then there are places where you only post and share imagery. And those places end up just showing the most edited, perfect, beautiful scenes imaginable. And they are at first inspiring but later, end up making you feel like you have to pump out equal or better content and if you don’t, you’re lame. In my opinion, there are two negative extremes online within these communities –  unedited oversharing and massive role playing (portraying your life as perfect).

Okay, maybe there is another negative and it’s called content overload. There is so much happening online making it impossible to focus and truly appreciate the hard work bloggers are pouring into their content. You find one great post and a second later, you’re reading ten more or liking ten more and so on. Same goes for the beautiful photography produced and shared on Instagram and Pinterest. In this sense, staying in a constant state of feeling oversaturated can be negative since studies have proven that too much choice stamps out creativity, causes depression, creates family stress and even alters our personality – we go from being humble sharers to hungry attention seekers at the cost of even our very own family life.

Limitation breeds creativity. My husband says this often. Being selective in what we’re taking in matters because it impacts our own work and voice. Which leads me to talk about this thing called power editing – not perfection, not role playing, not oversharing – power editing. Using a measure of self control in what we share to maintain both joy and sanity.

I sat in a bar recently in Amsterdam across from Leslie Shewring having a good chat. Her firm belief in power editing is quite inspirational. She believes that you have to power edit your life and not allow excuses or people or anything else to hold you back from doing what needs to get done. Leslie is all about power editing. And some of the book authors I read are into mindfulness, slow living and creating value. All good things.

With power editing, you ask yourself who are you the spending the most time with? Are they good for you? What are you doing for a living? Is it fulfilling you? Stuff like that. You really make your life choices intentional. For things that won’t work for you, that drain you, that aren’t rewarding – those are the deal breakers. You have to root them out or put your focus elsewhere if you can’t make them go away. And as for blogging, maybe we can all work to do the same. Only share what is left over when you’ve filtered out the loads of content you have taken in during the day – share what mattered the most to you personally. It’s a lesson in editing, that’s for sure – a lesson in holding back, in having self control. But that’s the good stuff and that’s why I will continue reading blogs – if I can tap into gems like that.

Power editing is also about making better choices for yourself quicker and with less emotion attached to the process. We crave intimacy, a sense of belonging and the motivation that only others can give through sharing how they’ve navigated their own struggles. You don’t get that by looking at pretty photos all day. You get that from conversations. You also don’t get that from overthinking everything to the point of paralyzing yourself. Blogging could easily become more creative, meaningful and special again if we all worked on this approach. Even therapeutic for us and others.

Power editing isn’t about being fake and presenting only the good, it’s about being genuine and presenting what matters most to you personally even if it ruffles some feathers. In fact, that is the only way blogs have a future in my opinion – if we start blowing minds again. If we break ourselves off from what’s comfortable, popular or trending… If we individually rise up and use our voice to create emotion, stir thoughts, stimulate creative thinking… Then blogs aren’t dead at all because we are very much alive.

What do you think, has blogging lost value? Will blogs eventually fade and die? Do you still read blogs? How do you think power editing can apply to bloggers in general?

(photography: holly becker for decor8. That is my little boy in the top photo examining the mushroom he found last week. Isn’t this something to do more as adults, to inspect what we are finding and value it? Maybe the same can be applied to the content our friends are sharing online. Take a moment to appreciate what treasures you find before you move quickly to the next thing.)






Blogging

16 Instagram Ideas For Photographing Kids

June 29, 2015

Instagram is the new black. That’s why it’s super important if you’ve been sitting on the fence with it to up your game this very second. This post will share 16 Ideas for Photographing Kids For Instagram, but you can use lots of these tips for photographing adults too. I’m so hot on IG and my students got me all fired up… We recently wrapped up our online Instagram Bootcamp class and wow, what a great class it was because even the teachers, who have tons of experience and who think we’re pros (ah-hem), realized after day one just how broad Instagram really is. We taught 26 lessons that took our students into the deep end of the Instagram pool – no more splashing about in the shallow side thinking that posting photos, any photo, and applying one of the generic filters is enough to engage others.

16 Instagram Ideas For Photographing Kids

Instagram is where it’s at right now with social media, so don’t miss out if you’ve been wanting to try something new to spice up your work and rekindle the joy you once had blogging. It has actually given bloggers who have a small readership a new lease on their online identities – I know some with a few thousand readers who just started IG and have over 100k followers already. Insane! It’s inspiring to see and has been a game changer for so many. If you’ve felt bummed that you haven’t been able to get your blog going, then look to Instagram as your second blog and put your all into it. Instagram is also amazing for established bloggers who want to share more than carefully curate blog content and elaborate stories. It’s such a great space for engaging with  Continue Reading…






Blogging

Welcome To The All New decor8!

June 1, 2015

Welcome To The All New decor8!

Hello friends and welcome to the all new decor8! Woo hoo! I am so happy and proud to reveal my new blog because it was time for a major change around here. I just wasn’t feeling the whole blogging thing anymore. I realized that it was because I was doing the same thing expecting different results, I know that’s so cliché, but true. I realized that my blog looked nothing like me. My passion for writing online was on a fast track to bombing out because my zeal was waning big time. I realized that I needed to consider some important questions like… Continue Reading…






Blogging

8 Ways To Brand Your Instagram Beautifully

May 29, 2015

I have 8 tips from a consumer side of the fence when it comes to how brands market themselves on Instagram, you know, what I like and what I find annoying. But first, ever since my little boy was born, I’ve been shopping Petit Bateau because I just love their clothes for little boys. And aside from their gorgeous clothes (my son has this sweater and this sweatshirt), and how well-made everything is, I find their Instagram account so cohesive, beautiful and helpful for when I want to peek in and see what they’re up to whether it be a new outfit or a photo shoot. That’s why I follow them – I love their product AND I love how they present themselves on IG. In fact, I have found so many brands on IG that really market themselves beautifully, you don’t even feel as though you are being sold to because they present product in artistic and creative ways. For this blog tip, aside from my 8 tips, I want to open up the discussion to all of you because I’d love to know how you are marketing your brand on IG (leave your IG @name too in the comment) and if you have any tips on what is making it work for you OR if you are a consumer/fan of a brand and want to highlight some brands that you think do it right and most importantly, why. I’ll weigh in with my thoughts below.

8 Ways To Brand Your Instagram Beautifully
8 Ways To Brand Your Instagram Beautifully

Brand Marketing Thoughts:

1) Cohesive photography – a must!
2) Natural lighting so I can see products as they really are (no fancy filters or altering colors, for instance)
3) Sharing behind-the-scenes in a cool way, not showing big messes and chaos or anything that may make me feel like you are just like me. I actually WANT to believe in the dream when I buy from a big brand. I want to believe they are a fairytale and everything is magical at their cool company.
4) Have some negative space in some photos, or in all. I like the focal point of the image to pop and I don’t like cluttered photos where I don’t know where to look.
5) Don’t be too vague. I get so annoyed when brands sorta kinda reveal something underway but don’t reveal enough to excite, just annoy, you. It’s a balance but a good brand manager can figure out how to do a teaser without ticking people off.
6) Don’t re-gram my photos simply because I’m wearing one of your products without asking me first. I just may not want my infant or my bad hair day to be seen by your 200K followers.
7) Don’t post a lot of sales, giveaways and new products in boring ways. Get creative and make engaging with you fun and memorable.
8) Don’t have too many IG takeovers. I know these takeovers are trending, but some brands pick the wrong people to take over their accounts and so many times I have unfollowed brands because I cannot stand the images that start funneling in from the guest IGer. Make sure your guest grammers are as good as you, or better, and share your aesthetic.

Okay that’s all I can think of, what about you? Care to weigh in? #20blogtrends

(images: petit bateau)






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