22 May 2015

The unspoken blogging rules everyone's talking about

I've wanted to share this post for quite some time now, but knowing how to word things and get my point across in the right way has been quite difficult! Grab a cuppa, because this is going to be a long one...

First off I want to make it very clear that I adore blogging. I've had this blog for over 3 years now and it is a huge part of my life. My blog means a tremendous amount to me and it's such a daily habit, I don't know what I'd do without it. I know there are bloggers who have been around a lot longer than me, bloggers who have been sharing their favourite beauty products from the very beginning when beauty blogging was still completely new to the UK, even to the world. I have a huge amount of respect for these bloggers, because they've seen beauty blogging grow from the very beginning.

In the 3+ years I have personally been blogging, the 'blogging world' and community has changed immensely, so much so that to me, it's nothing like it used to be. Maybe a lot of that is down to me growing up and getting older; I don't have as much time to indulge in daily and weekly blogger chats, I've finished University and now work 7 days a week so I don't even have a lot of time to dedicate to the more social side of blogging that I used to. When I first started blogging I used to go to any event I was kindly invited along to, and I used to arrange blogger meetups both in my home City of Nottingham as well as London, where I went to University. I just had more time back then, so getting stuck in was easy. Now, not so much, and maybe that's why everything feels different to me now, but it's certainly not the only reason.

There's no denying that beauty blogging, alongside YouTube, has revolutionised the way we look at beauty. No longer do we have to rely on biased magazine features or celebrity endorsement, splurging on products with little to no knowledge on whether they'll work for us other than what the brands and advertising tells us. Now we can search for a certain product on good old Google and be met with hundreds if not thousands of beauty reviews from real people, real men and women who have tried the products themselves and whose opinions and reviews are straight to the point, detailed and most importantly, honest with no bias of being employed by that brand to say the product is good. For me, beauty reviews from bloggers and YouTubers has given me a whole new confidence when it comes to picking and choosing beauty products; I can't even remember the last time I bought a beauty product without checking out at least one review first.

The amount of blogs being started daily is both amazing and scary. Hundreds of new blogs are cropping up everyday and it's fantastic to see so many people wanting to share their love and passion whether that be in a beauty blog, fashion, lifestyle or any other genre. I think the rise of popular bloggers and YouTubers has played a massive part in the amount of new blogs being started, people with dreams of becoming the next Zoella, of being world famous overnight. But Zoella didn't get famous overnight, she has been on YouTube a lotta lotta years and blogging even longer than that; her success is amazing and opens up a lot of doors for other bloggers and YouTubers to be taken more seriously, but it'd be naive to think that didn't come without a lot of hard work, or that the same success is reachable for anyone else in such a short space of time. It's an attractive idea, isn't it? Start a blog or a YouTube channel, and you'll become famous, release your own beauty line, release books, be adored from all corners of the world. For me personally, I'd never want that. I'm far too much of a home-bunny who likes to sit in with a cup of tea watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer or binging on Netflix. But there's a lot of people who aspire to be the next Zoella.

As blogging has become more popular, so has the rise of 'advice' posts and 'how-to' guides. Unspoken blogging rules that we say don't exist, yet with so many people giving advice and telling you how to run your blog, do they? Are there rules we 'older' bloggers who started many years ago, simply weren't told about when we started blogging? Have we missed a trick here? With so many people asserting themselves as blogging gurus, have we being doing this all wrong? Have I been doing this all wrong, for over 3 years? Should I have had a guide book, telling me what to write and when, how to share it and how to make my life look? Should my blog look a certain way, read a certain way, share only certain content, in a certain way? I'm going to go with a no here.

I don't have anything against advice posts or even how-to guides for blogging. I think if you're a new blogger starting out and you want some great tips and advice from people who have been doing it longer than you, then they can be super helpful. Personally? I love that I started this blog without a single clue what I was doing, that I had to learn every single thing along the way and I'm still learning now, constantly on a daily basis. An advice post or a how-to guide that offers tips and tricks in a fun and friendly way, which makes suggestions and shares ideas, well that's one thing. But is anyone else noticing the amount of advice posts or how-to guides which sound a little gospel? You know the kind, the ones which make you feel as if you have to do this or that, and if you don't, your blog won't be up to standard, it won't be good enough? Yup, those posts I don't like so much. Share your advice, share your tips, share what has and hasn't worked for you; word it right and your post could be a life-saver, word it wrong, and you could leave someone feeling rubbish and unworthy of being a blogger.

There is no criteria to being a blogger. There is no job description you have to fill, a set of boxes you have to tick. If you want to start a blog, you start a blog. It's as simple as that! Of course somethings have shown over the years to work better than others; most people prefer large, clear and infocus photos on a blog, most people prefer an easy-to-navigate layout to make getting around a blog quick and easy, most people like posts that flow nicely and are presented well. Does that mean you have to do any of that? Nope. Your blog, your rules. Yes, it's nice to take into account what your readers might want to see when they come to your blog, but did you start a blog because you wanted to start a blog, or did you start a blog for people you didn't even know existed yet? I'm constantly changing the look of my blog, playing around with navigation, adding and removing pages, etc etc etc. Partly because I want my blog to be as easy to get to grips with as possible for readers, but mostly because I want it to look a certain way. It's me who writes this blog, no one else - the readers I am both extremely lucky and also extremely grateful to have, are always at the forefront of my mind when I write a new post or change something, but ultimately it's how I feel about this blog that counts towards my final decision when making changes.

It worries me how many people are being led to believe that their blog is only worth reading if they abide by a set of unspoken blogging rules. I for one find these posts (not all, just the ones which are worded to sound authoritative and headteacher-y) a little stressful if I'm honest. Since the beginning of this year they have become more and more frequent, I've seen blogs change their content entirely to be purely based around posts of this nature and if that's what those blogs want to do then I fully support that, go for it, blog about what you want to blog about. But when they leave people second guessing everything they do, are they really all that helpful? Sure, these posts must bring a hella lotta views to those writing them, but just like any type of posts that has become super popular over the years, they'll soon fizzle out, or Google will become so oversaturated with them, that will they really be worth it?

I don't think there are any blogging rules. I don't think there needs to be a handbook on how to blog. Don't copy content (plagiarism is always outed in the long run), sure, don't steal someone's idea, give other bloggers credit and a link-back where it's due, sure. But that's common sense and human decency, not a rule. Blogs started out as online (sometimes private only) journals and over the years the niches have expanded and people share literally anything and everything. For me, blogs are about personality, about a unique view or opinion on something, about what that one specific person writing that blog thinks. If we follow these unspoken blogging rules, we all become carbon copies of each other, we lose our voices, we lose our personalities that used to shine through our content so much so that readers could imagine you there, talking directly to them, preferably over a nice hot cuppa tea.

If you want to start a blog, go for it. If you want some help, advice, ideas, look for it. But don't feel like you have to blog a certain way, or that your life has to fit a certain criteria to be interesting. Whether it's 1 person or a million, someone will enjoy what you have to say, someone will want to see what you think. First and foremost, blog for you. Because god knows the time and effort that goes into blogging is not easy, and if you're not doing it for you, if you're not enjoying it, what's the point?

What do you think to advice posts and how-to guides? Do you think the way they are written and put across makes a difference? Do you think they can be helpful, or have they left you questioning everything you do? I'd love to know what you think, whether a reader who doesn't blog themselves, or a fellow blogger. 
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