Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

[Blogging] 8 years of blogging lessons

I only realised recently that I've been blogging as Stitch & Bear for over 8 years. That means it's been 8 years since I looked at the Blogger homepage and wondered "What will I call my blog?" Once I got over that major hurdle, then I was left with the question "What will I write about?"

To be very honest, I wrote a lot of crap at the start. Unlike many bloggers today, I didn't start blogging with a game plan in mind. I just started writing. A sense of purpose and clarity for Stitch & Bear didn't emerge for quite a while. I think it was 2011 when I finally said "Enough crap, Stitch & Bear is going to be about food only!"

Since then, I've gained weight, which is a natural consequence of being a voracious eater who wants to taste everything. I've also met many wonderful people who are involved in the production and service of food and drink. I've written approximately one blog post per week and I've learned a few things along the way...
Stitch & Bear - Blogging lessons I've learned

1. Change is the word...

Blogging has changed so much since I started, and it continues to change at a dizzying pace. While there are still many amateur bloggers, there are quite a few bloggers who have converted a hobby into a full-time career. 

Blogs started out as simple, largely text-based pages, using a standard template provided by Wordpress, Blogger or one of the other platforms. Now it’s all about slick Instagrammable photographs and mobile responsive websites. Bloggers are au fait with terms such as SEO, analytics, self-hosted and plug-ins.

Much of this growth has been fuelled by the rise in social media and the meteoric rise in popularity of the fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger. Facebook still dominates, although I personally think its days are numbered. Twitter’s star shone brightly for a  few years, but it’s lost some lustre recently while Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat offers different approaches to visual storytelling. 

What have I learned from this? I tend to be a slow adopter of change. I have my personal style and I like to see how new trends evolve before I adopt and adapt them. But change is necessary, and if you want to stay connected with your audience, you have to embrace the concept of change, and figure out what will work for you. 

2. Keep learning

This is a no-brainer, and it holds true for all aspects of life, not just blogging. Whatever your chosen subject matter, you need to stay hungry for knowledge and experiences. 

For me, the desire to know more about food, about wine, about drink has driven me to read more, practice more and see more. How can I write about food and drink with any authority if I haven't tried to understand it or practice it myself? As a result I have bookshelves (yes, many bookshelves) crammed with cookbooks and books on writing, wine, cocktails and travel. It's what drives me to experiment with smoking techniques on my BBQ, learning to make my own cheese and practising my Manhattans until I have the perfect dilution.

3. Keep it simple stupid

I’m a big fan of simplicity. Keeping it simple means that there is less room for you to make a mistake. On the flipside, it’s also more obvious when you do make a mistake. So you could say that it takes a certain confidence to be simple. 

4. Quality over quantity

Some bloggers post every day, or even several times per day. I frankly don’t know how they do this, and I’d be concerned that starting out “too hot” will eventually lead to burnout and fatigue. I’m more a fan of “slow and steady”. It’s not a sexy theory, but steady posting on a mostly regular basis has allowed me to stay blogging and creating content for 8 years. 

The same principle can be applied to any metric that you use to measure your blog or interaction. I’d rather have less followers, but of higher quality, than more followers of dubious provenance. Readers who are interested in what you read, and who provide you with feedback are worth their weight in gold. I was recently disappointed in the Blog Awards, but the comments that I received from readers proved to be worth far more to me than any trophy could ever mean. 

5. Be honest

I practiced Taekwon Do for years and I loved it. I’m a scrappy little fighter by nature, but TKD taught me a lot about self-control and maintaining your composure in the face of opposition. Another tenet of TKD is integrity. In real life, I work in consulting for a world leading company, and just like my TKD days, I view integrity as being essential to everything I am professionally. 
If you stand for nothing, then you’ll fall for everything.
For me, this means paying myself for every meal that I review. I personally need to have that independence in order to feel comfortable. If you’re a blogger that is happy to accept complimentary goods or other compensation, then I expect you to say so. I know that the recent ASAI rules only cover the situation where actual monetary compensation has taken place, but for me, any compensation (monetary or not) should be declared. If you do this, your readers will appreciate it. 

6. Be nice

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you will probably find yourself receiving invitations or other material from PR agencies. This is one of the true perks of blogging, and it’s a fantastic way to grow your network and learn about your interests.

Be thankful for these opportunities and make sure that you say thanks. Thank the PR agencies who send you invites and other material. Thank the chefs, maitre ds and waitstaff. And if you can’t attend an event, make sure to let the organisers know. Finally, make sure to be thankful for your readers. 

1 comment

catherinemc said...

I enjoyed reading this and most of your comments ring true. I only started blogging and in the beginning I posted numerous times a day. I just got a little hooked on it! I think its true though that you have to pull back, look at it and give it structure.I am trying to do that now.
Well done on your 8 year milestone,

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