Once a month FBC's Managing Editor, Melissa Hartfiel, weighs in on the latest trends in food blogging and digs into some of the bigger questions.

Beyond Blog Traffic & Money | Food Bloggers of Canada

I'm a blogging dinosaur. I started my first blog in 2004, back in the early days before iPhones and iPads, before WordPress was the platform of choice and before social media existed (this would be an appropriate time to use the #BeforeFacebook hashtag!).

Many things have changed in the last 12 years. Back in 2004 very few, if any, bloggers made money from their endeavours and a full-time income wasn't even a thought for most of us. Brands hadn't embraced this new medium and there were no blogging superstars. The landscape was wide open with plenty of room for bloggers to explore what was then the wild west of digital media. There were no rules, a lot of ugly websites, and buzzfeed lists weren't even a twinkle in anyone's eye.

For most of us, blogging was strictly a creative outlet to share things that mattered to us. For anyone who had ever dreamed of being a writer, it was a dream come true — a place to share our thoughts and sentences with anyone who might be interested, instead of a paper journal that might never see the light of day.

But I think what really came out of that early era of blogging were the communities that formed. My early blogging days created some of the strongest friendships of my life, and many of those girls aren't even blogging anymore!

It was a culture of reading and sharing and commenting. It wasn't about traffic or money — it was about finding out what our new friends were up to and forming bonds. It was the precursor to social media. And then when social media arrived, we carried those friendships over to new platforms to keep in touch. Late night chats with blogging friends on Twitter were the norm. We had yet to view each new social platform that came along with an eye to how we could manipulate it to increase our blog traffic. Instead, social media was just that ... social.

Fast forward to today.

Blogging has changed. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. The digital media landscape progresses rapidly and that means that blogging evolves at an extremely fast pace that's not for the faint of heart.

Recently, conversations we've seen around the web surrounding the use of social media got me thinking about some of the darker sides of blogging — namely, the traffic game. Traffic at all costs. Traffic at the expense of community. Traffic to earn income. Traffic at the expense of creating a welcoming environment for our most loyal followers. Traffic as the ultimate goal.

A question arose around tagging other pages in Facebook status updates. The example was, should we tag contributors to a recipe roundup we've put together. The resounding opinion was that doing so would result in a dramatic drop in organic reach for the Facebook post, thereby impacting traffic.

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I found it so interesting that giving a polite nod and thank you to people who've contributed their content to posts for our own sites has to be weighed against whether or not it would affect the post's organic reach.

Tagging is not only a way to publicly say thanks and give those other bloggers a little social love, it also makes it easier for them to share your content — which they're more likely to do if you've given them a shout-out.

I honestly couldn't understand why this was even a question. Why do we even have to think about whether or not to publicly thank somebody who has helped us out?

It also wasn't lost on me that one of the most vocal blogger laments we hear on a daily basis surrounds lack of reader engagement — no commenting, no sharing, no retweeting: the list goes on. And yet, the irony seems to be lost on everyone that we aren't so willing to do for others what we wish everyone else would do for us.

Why should anyone engage with us when we don't engage either?

If reach and traffic have become so important that we have to question whether or not to publicly thank somebody who has helped us, something has gone wrong.

Beyond Blog Traffic & Money | Food Bloggers of Canada

Follower engagement comes from building a community. To build a community around our blogs and our social media we need to be the ones to engage first. And we need to keep engaging. Every single day. It can't stop once our communities and tribes have formed and grown. That's only the beginning!It has to be practiced every day.

Yes it takes time. But it also takes time for people to leave us comments, to share our content, open our newsletters and engage in a more meaningful way than mindlessly tapping a heart or like button. If we can't take the time to set the example we wish our readers would follow then we can't expect them to give us their precious time either.

It's as simple as practicing the manners we were taught as kids — saying thank you to those who have helped us. Saying please when we ask for something. Politely replying to people who have taken time out of their busy day to speak to us. Being kind to others the way we wish they would be kind to us.

When you treat your followers and peers in the way you want to be treated then traffic and money will follow. It will be slow but it will happen.

By neglecting those who help you build or contribute to the community you want, you will erode your follower base. It will happen slowly as well, but one morning you'll wake up and realize that nobody is interested in what you have to say anymore.

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Categorized:: Resources, Marketing & PR, Social Media, Blogging 101

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11 Comments

Kellie
Reply

Hi Melissa,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject even though some of them were very challenging (in a good way).
You are so right and I long for those days when we can just be social for the sake of it rather than be so focused on stats and money.
I have a journal with this saying “Common Sense is so Uncommon that it should be Classified as a Superpower.” Your article resonated with me so much that I immediately pulled it out and had a great little chuckle at how true and timely your piece is.
One thing I will say though is that as I blogger I sometimes find the platforms a bit tricky with the “how to’s” of engagement. i.e.: hashtags on twitter and instagram. None on Pinterest and then Facebook well that’s a whole other can of worms isn’t it? I don’t feel I lack in interest or genuineness but do feel hindered by the techniques of it all on occasion.
Thanks again for the article it certainly has many points for conversation. Well done.
Kellie from Princess & The Yard Ape

Melissa (FBC Admin)
Reply

It is definitely a challenge navigating so many social platforms! Sometimes it can actually work better if you just focus on 2 that you are really comfortable with. But even so, if you’re genuinely engaging – asking your audience questions or for feedback or their opinions – and then responding to them, then you don’t have to worry so much about the rules. And the flip side is – don’t be afraid to reach out and start the conversation – twitter is great for that. See something you like? Tweet at the person and ask them more questions about it. As bloggers we’re overjoyed when somebody takes the time to ask a question or add some feedback so if you do that for others, they’re probably going to have that same feeling!

Lyndsay Sung
Reply

I had no idea there was a reason why people didn’t tag on Facebook status updates and that it affected reach to tag others? Argh, so silly. (might explain why some brands who had promised “exposure” ended up not tagging me. Harumph.) I agree with you wholeheartedly – thanks, gratitude, sharing and community! Total gold. That is amazing you were blogging in 2004!! You have me beat, hehe! I thought I was an oldie at 2008. Great article, Melissa. Staying genuine and community-minded in the maniacally huge glut of food blogs out there is the only way to go.

Melissa (FBC Admin)
Reply

I didn’t know either Lyndsay – until the conversation came up! It’s something we always do on the FBC Facebook account because it just seems like the right think to do. (and we actually find it improves our reach because most of the bloggers tagged will share the post!)
But I agree – community building is the key to any successful business. You need those die hard fans – they will often be your biggest marketers too! So treat them like gold – plus it just makes it more fun!

Cathy
Reply

I’m so glad that you promote good manners and community. I wouldn’t want financial success without them. This makes me feel like FBC is a great fit, and I’m happy that I belong to it!

Teenuja
Reply

I can so relate to what you’ve said Melissa. I started blogging in 2008. Even then when social media had just started to become popular, the blogosphere was very much different. There was really a community on blogs back then and I made so many friends around the world. I could always expect to get 20+ comments on each blog post. And I wasn’t among the most popular blogs. The popular ones would get hundreds. But time has changed and gradually the community has disappeared. I have long been thinking about the community I had before. After reading your article, I am now reflecting more on this, how social media changed the landscape. Nowadays everything is so focused on monetisation. Even non-bloggers would only comment if there is anything to win (a giveaway etc). I do believe in bloggers supporting each other.

Melissa (FBC Admin)
Reply

Hi Teenuja – thanks for your thoughts. It really has changed a lot. Readers have more ways to follow your content than ever before so we have to go out to where they are and engage with them. It’s definitely more work now than it used to be but, I really think in the long run it’s worth it!

Janice - Salads for Lunch
Reply

I started blogging in 2004 too! Remember when we measured our popularity by The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem? I miss the old community environment when blogging was about connecting, not about how much $ could be made through monetization. A wise person once said do unto others as you want done unto you. Great post!

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