Tuesday, 26 November 2013

"Why Do You Blog?": An Examination of the Blogging World and Its Consequences Upon the "Real" World

As a personal style and lifestyle blogger, I am often asked that most infuriatingly difficult-to-answer question: “Why do you blog?” In order to examine my motivations for maintaining this online publication over the past year,  I would have to delve into the fascinating world of blogging for an answer. Blogging allows individuals to build an online presence that might eventually have a noticeable effect on their offline personalities and characteristics. Thus, the boundaries between the cyber and “real” world can become blurred and interact with one another in intricate ways. This paper will seek to explore some of these complex relationships by assessing various concepts surrounding one's audience and the personal goals and motivations that have inspired the creation of my own blog.       
      
Audience
In order to become a 'serious' blogger, one must both create captivating content and carefully consider the nuanced needs of one's target audience. The main inspirations for my blog, which include Her Waise ChoiceAlicia FashionistaBrooklyn Blonde, and IFB, have motivated me to not only create a certain minimalist aesthetic for my blog but also taught this fledgling publisher how to execute proper blogger etiquette. For instance, IFB's article "How to Build A Loyal Following" suggests that fledgling bloggers create relationships with other bloggers and readers through comments, "engage actively on social media," and "be consistent" in terms of content and posting schedules (Davies). I feel that these pieces of advice, along with many other subtle guidelines, helped me to gain and maintain an audience following that would have an impact on both my zeal for blogging and my own daily habits.  
        
Over the course of my own blogging endeavours and throughout the duration of PUB 101, I have become increasingly aware of the need to know my audience in order to experience any amount of success. Google Analytics is an extremely useful tool used by countless sites and corporate entities in order to track audience numbers, behaviours, and monetization goals. According to our guest speaker Monique Sherrett, the successful use of this particular tracking tool can be summarized through the ABC's of "Acquisition," "Behaviour," and "Conversions." "Acquisition" refers to your readership's origins in terms of geography, device access, or even how they found your site. On the other hand, "Behaviour" pertains to what your readers actually choose to do while on your site. Lastly, "Conversions" may indicate the achievement of either monetary transactions or "goals." Whether the main intent is to make financial gains or to have a message be heard, knowing the approximate age, gender, and interests of your followers can allow bloggers to craft material suitable for their audience.

Social media platforms are often used by bloggers to both promote their publications and to connect with brands and other bloggers. However, Alexis Madrigal's article “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong”  states that at least 69% of content sharing is accomplished through the "dark social," which are unknown sources of referral that are invisible to most analytic programs (ex. email), rather than public sites such as Twitter. In light of the fact that most sharing is done through the "dark social," Madrigal concluded that social media sharing can only do so much and that content must be appealing enough for it to be shared through such 'invisible' networks.

Does the public sharing of my blog posts on social media then truly gain me a larger audience? As a result of using Google Analytics, I have been able to deduce that I have gained a larger readership through methods such as Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. However, some forms of social media are not so easily able to transfer a readership from one platform to another; for instance, taking wonderful pictures on Instagram is very different from creating tantalizing content on a blog. Consequently, it is important to note that different social media mediums can be completely different breeds of creatures.

What then are some tried-and-true methods of using social media to gain and keep an audience? Trevor Battye warned that monetization can only be successful if we respect the boundaries of our audience and maintain an authentic voice; for instance, it is not wise to transform a simple blog focused on frugality by suddenly filling it with shopping ads. Instead, Trevor maintained that the best opportunities blur the line between information and advertising; in other words, audiences enjoy receiving something of value in return for their loyalty. Therefore, as a result of learning about audiences in Publishing 101, I have found that knowing more about your readership is always better while sometimes doing less is required in order to preserve the authentic voice of your blog.


Motivations and Goals
My motivations for creating and maintaining What Doffy Does are deeply influenced by a constantly-changing society that increasingly focuses on individual action and personal initiative. Seth Godin, a blogger and entrepreneur, claims that our society is transitioning from one leadership model centred around mass marketing to another based on "tribes" of individuals, who bond together through mutual interests and passions (Feb 2009,  "The Tribes We Lead"). Godin also mentions that tribes, in a snowball effect, build upon other tribes until the initial pioneers have created something much larger than themselves: a movement. As a result, "tribes" have become an acknowledged way with which people today can attempt to take important matters into their hands.

While hearing about "tribes" is inspirational, there are also more concrete factors that have led to the phenomenon of online publishing. Clay Shirky's online article "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable" presents several compelling reasons for the fast-growing pace and popularity of online publications. Shirky observes that the print industry is in a dire state since the printing press has become too expensive in comparison to faster, cheaper and more accessible technologies. Rather than harping on the need to revive print industries, Shirky maintains that "society doesn't need newspapers" but rather needs to "'do whatever works'" in order to save journalism. In relation to my own blog, this article illuminates the fact that we do not need to mourn the decline of print fashion magazines when a new mode of fashion reportage has come to the forefront.

Godin's speech and Shirky's article allowed me to uncover some of my own reasons for blogging: my wish to be a part of movement larger than myself. Following the creation of my own blog, I began to feel like I was part of a larger, global community. In addition, I completely understand Seth Godin's statement about tribes building upon one another to make unprecedented changes within our contemporary lifestyles. After establishing my own blog, I have been able to create in-person and online relationships with fellow bloggers, both local and transcontinental. As well, I believe that obtaining a decent readership may provide opportunities in the future to pursue my passion for issues related to social justice and equality. In fact, I recently met with a local blogger who is utilizing her online influence to promote Dress for Success, a charity group focused on helping impoverished women; her zeal and ability to find ways to use her blogger status to make a difference in our society is a great inspiration for me!     

As a consequence of undertaking Publishing 101, I have been provided with invaluable information with which I can both improve What Doffy Does and think about a potential career within publishing. All of today's online publications require in-depth knowledge about gauging audiences' interests using certain tools and the ability to act upon such information in order to improve viewership. As well, success within the publishing field today requires open-mindedness and the motivation to constantly improve upon old methods. In terms of future plans for my blog, I am curious about how far my blogging can take me in terms of developing skills and knowledge that might be useful within a full time career in publishing, such as marketing, photography, and writing. If I compare the present day What Doffy Does to my very first blogging endeavours, I find myself quite impressed with the degree to which I have improved the quality of my work. Who knows where my little hobby will take me?



Works Cited
Battye, Trevor. "Audiences and Markets." Clevers Media. Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C. 5 Nov. 2013. Lecture.  

Davies, Taylor. "How to Build a Loyal Following Online." Independent Fashion Bloggers. N.p., 3 Dec. 2013. Web. Available at http://heartifb.com/2012/12/03/how-to-build-a-loyal-following-online/. 12 Nov. 2013.

Godin, Seth. "The Tribes We Lead." TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, Feb. 2009. Available at http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead.html. 13 Nov. 2013.   

Madrigal, Alexis. "Dark Social: We have the whole history of the web wrong." The Atlantic. Oct. 2012. Available at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/dark-social-we-have-the-whole-history-of-the-web-wrong/263523/. 12 Nov. 2013. 

Sherrett, Monique. "Exploring Analytics." Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C. 29 Oct. 2013. Lecture.  

Shirky, Clay. "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable." Clay Shirky. N.p., 12 March 2009. Available at http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable. 15 Nov. 2013.





5 comments:

  1. Interesting post!
    I must say, if someone asks me, why do I blog, I say, because it's my diary. It's amazing to see, what you were wearing like one year ago.
    And not only this. I enjoy the communication between the bloggers. And I also enjoy reading blogs because that's how I get my inspiration for my everyday look :)

    Hugs
    Svetlana from Lavender Star

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really enjoyed reading your article! You're a skilled writer.

    xx

    andysparkles
    Follow me on Facebook

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great article and you're an amazing writer! Your beautiful style, pictures and words are my inspiration. Keep up the good work and I'm sure great things are in store for What Doffy Does :) You're amazing, keep blogging!
    -Vivian from stylemeendless

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's so refreshing to actually see writing in a fashion blog! I'm glad you don't just post some photos and call it a day.

    And I really like Seth Godin--I heard him speak last year and his concept on "tribes" rings true. :)

    Jen K.
    Lifeunrefined.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fantastic post, very informative.

    www.plogstyle.com

    ReplyDelete