People frequently ask me what my goals are for my blog. On it’s face, it’s a perfectly innocent question. However, I get a bit annoyed when asked. I mean, no one would ask what my goals are for playing on a weekend basketball league, or taking a Tuesday night pottery class. What’s wrong with simply blogging as a hobby, purely because it’s something I love?
Of course, this question wouldn’t get under my skin if it weren’t a sore spot of mine. I’m a naturally competitive, goal-oriented, metrics-driven person. And when you’re a blogger, your metrics are your unique visitors, your page views, and, perhaps unfortunately, the number and engagement level of your Instagram followers.
It can feel incredibly narcissistic to care too much about how many people follow you on Instagram, but in the world of blogging, it’s naive to think that those digits don’t matter. Most brands won’t think of collaborating with you unless you hit a certain number of followers. And it can be difficult not to compare your stats with those of countless other seemingly similar bloggers with an astronomical following.
However, there’s a thin, gray line between working to grow your following and becoming obsessed with it. After all, I don’t think any of us aspire to become an Instagram girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse (see Instagram Husband; it ain’t pretty). When I find myself going down a social media rabbit hole, a web analytics shame spiral, or the beginning stages of an existential blogger crisis, here’s what I do/tell myself/ask myself to snap out of it.
Remember Why You Started Blogging in the First Place
I didn’t start a blog to become Internet famous, and I didn’t have any dreams of becoming an Instagram star. I started a blog as a fun creative outlet, an opportunity to take a break from the tech world I work in and revel in my passion for fashion and makeup. I started a blog to share the advice my friends and family often come to me for with a broader audience of people who might find it helpful, or fun, or interesting. And I started a blog to keep learning – to pick up a few skills in web design, photography, video editing, and social media.
When I feel the fog of doubt begin to roll in, I ask myself if I’m still having fun. If I still enjoy playing with makeup and clothes, and writing/taking pictures/making videos about it. And I ask myself if I’m still learning. If the answer to these questions is “yes,” I keep going. And I allow that to be my barometer for success.
I Probably Won’t be the Next Cupcakes and Cashmere – And I’m O.K. With That.
I’m a definite believer that with hard work, dedication and a dash of luck, anything is possible. But I’m also a realist, and I know that there’s a slim chance that I’ll be packing it all in to travel the world on my blogger money. Acknowledging and embracing this helps me keep a healthy perspective on how important it is that I get a perfect shot of my new Zara purchase, or that I engage with my followers each and every day.
Don’t Believe the Hype
There are countless talented bloggers and Instagrammers who have worked incredibly hard for years to organically grow their followings. And many offer tips that you can apply to yours as well (see Teni Panosian, Shayla Mitchell, Karen Sarahi Gonzalez and Marianna Hewitt’s advice). However, not everyone’s methods are worth replicating.
It’s well known that many people buy their Instagram followers, or boost their followings with fake accounts (even Justin Bieber’s social media team was caught making this ‘Gram gaffe). Numerous others follow you on Instagram, just to unfollow you once you follow them back – a notorious method used to keep their followings-to-followers ratio low. Gross, I know. It’s also been frequently stated that the quickest way to boost your following/likes is with a little nudity. And I have no interest in going down that road.
Again, this isn’t to say that anyone with a strong following employs these shady tactics – it’s just a good reminder to take all of those numbers with a sizeable grain of salt.
Apply the Marie Kondo Method to Your Social Media Feeds
I have to admit, I haven’t yet read Kondo’s best-selling book “'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” But I’ve heard enough about it to know that the core of her process is to only keep belongings that “spark joy,” and (lovingly, respectfully) get rid of things that don’t.
I’ll occasionally take this same approach to clean up my social media feeds. Is there someone I follow on Instagram just because I think I should as a dutiful fashion/beauty blogger, but whose posts only irritate me? Buh-bye. Am I still following someone who did the whole follow-back bait-and-switch thing mentioned above? Poof, gone (Iconosquare is a great tool you can use to keep an eye on who has unfollowed you, among other helpful Instagram analytics). Now, when I scroll through my feed, I only see pictures from people I care about, or who inspire me, or who, you know, spark joy.
Set Goals That Have Nothing to Do With Numbers
If you, like me, blog in part for the learning experiences it offers, set a goal for yourself that’s tied to learning something new rather than a specific metric. Maybe it’s tackling a more ambitious or personal project. Maybe it’s recording and editing your first video. Maybe it’s mastering PhotoShop, or Final Cut Pro. Maybe it’s learning to do a bit of your own coding. Or perhaps it’s getting over your fear of taking your own photos, and going out alone with your tripod, a camera with a self-timer and a confident smile (like I self-consciously did to capture the photos accompanying this post).
Achieving goals that aren’t tied to a certain number of readers or followers or likes will not only provide an incredible sense of accomplishment – it will also reignite the passions that led you to blog in the first place.
Stick to an Analytics Schedule – And Leverage Tools to Use Your Time Effectively
Of course, I’m not telling you to ignore your numbers completely, or that you should let your social media presence(s) languish. Instead of endlessly and obsessively checking your metrics, set a schedule for when you review them, and use tools to learn the most from the numbers.
For example, I only allow myself to log onto Iconosquare twice each week. In addition to evaluating the folks I’m following, I can also see what time of day it’s most effective for me to post, which hashtags resonate best, and what types of photos generate the most engagement. This way, instead of simply stressing about my numbers, I can use this intel to use Instagram even more effectively in the days to come.
One of the many, many reasons why I decided to host Faux Fancy on Squarespace is their incredibly useful analytics dashboards. However, I only allow myself to visit this page once a month. Similar to Iconosquare, I can use this data to determine the types of content my readers enjoy most, where they’re discovering the posts (Facebook, Twitter, direct visits, etc.), which keywords are driving visitors to my site, and more. I can use this to decide how to prioritize the type of content I develop moving forward, and where/how I promote it.
Additionally, I don’t allow myself to check my social media during certain hours. There was a point when the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night was obsessively like, comment, and follow folks on Instagram. Now that I force myself to leave the ‘Gram alone by a certain hour, and don’t allow myself to check my feed before a certain time, I’m sleeping much better, and starting my day much more mindfully.
There are so many areas in our lives where we’re tied to expectations and success metrics set by others, where we have to be constantly serious and results-oriented and stringent in our pursuit of greatness. If you’re lucky enough to have a blog as a side project, something you do for fun, then let it be fun. Obsessing won’t lead to success – it will only lead you to hate the thing you once loved. Taking the approach of blogging for the love of it, instead of for likes, will improve the way you feel about it. Which can inspire you to create even better content. Which, funny enough, might just lead to more likes.