The Truth About Blogging – What the Twitter Polls Taught Me

What the Twitter Polls Show about BloggingIf you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of polls lately – great new feature by the way Twitter! I thought it would be a great way to get some feedback from people that both write and read blogs, and so I’ve been asking questions on a variety of blogging-related subjects, to see what people really think. The great thing about the polls on Twitter is that they are anonymous, so hopefully this means that people have been answering honestly. So here is what the polls have taught me…

Working with Brands and PR Companies

I for one find it really frustrating when a blogger has clearly been sent a PR sample, and they fail to disclose it. It is so easy to do, often only requiring the use of an asterisk (as has become the blogger norm for sample disclosure) and demonstrates to readers that you are being open and honest. It can be very obvious when for example a brand sends out a slew of samples when a new product is released, and then lots of bloggers post similar reviews at the same time about the new release (Benefit Cosmetics are a good example of this). Quite often the reviews will all be glowingly positive, and this makes me question whether the review is entirely honest or whether the blogger wants to ignore the negative of the product to ensure they can continue their relationship with a brand. At least with a sample disclosure, you can make your own mind up as to whether you trust that review or not. Anyway, I asked Twitter whether bloggers should disclose PR samples, and 83% agreed that yes, PR samples should always be disclosed. Interestingly, when I asked whether it would change your thoughts on a review if the blogger had not disclosed, the results were evenly split between yes and no.

With the rise of full-time blogging, it is obvious that bloggers are now in a position to be able to receive income from their blogs. Sponsored posts, advertising, and affiliate links are all great ways of earning money, but truck-loads of PR samples do not pay bills. I asked whether bloggers acceput purely product samples as payment, or whether they also request monetary compensation; don’t forget, blogging takes time (admin, responding to e-mails, social media management, taking an editing photos, writing blog posts, etc) and time equals money. You wouldn’t expect anyone else to work for free, so why should bloggers? Only 11% of you said that you charge a fee for product review posts.

I wondered how you all felt about going ‘full-time’ with your job – that is, blogging being your only source of income. 25% of you said that was your aim, 31% of you said full-time blogging is not for you, and 42% said that you would be happy if it happened, but weren’t too fussed if it didn’t. A very select 2% of you shared that blogging is already your full-time job.

Blogging Platforms

There seem to be two major players in the war of blogging platforms – Blogger, and WordPress. I asked which was the preferred platform, and 71% said Blogger, whilst the reamining 29% opted for WordPress. Lately a lot of people have been jumping the Blogger ship to join WordPress, so it could be that those that prefer Blogger have yet to try Wirdpres, but it seems that the ease and simplicity of the Blogger interface is a great starting point for beginners.

Blog Readers

I am a huge fan of Bloglovin’, as I just find it so easy to find and follows blogs and read and save posts. Following and unfollowing requires just one click of a button, unlike following blogs on Blogger which requires a lot of hasle to unfollow someone and often does not actually work properly. I asked which platform you use to read blog posts, and 53% of you prefer to use Bloglovin’, 44% chose to visit the blogs directly, and just 3% continue to use the Blogger frame. Interestingly, no one cited RSS feed readers as their reading platform of choice. 28% of you choose to read blog posts on your smart phone, 31& use a computer, whilst the remaining 41% use a combination of their phone and computer. I usually schedule my posts for 7am, not for any particular reason other than it was a time I plucked out of thin air and have stuck with it for the last three years. I’ve seen many blog posts and articles advising that you should know your readers, and find the optimum time to post content to your blog and stick with it. However, as many people use blog readers, I don’t see that posting at a particular time makes a difference; once the blog post is published, it’ll sit in your reader list until you’ve read it, regardless of the time it was published. Don’t even get me started on tweets such as “My new blog post is up at 10pm, who’s ready?” as if anyone is sat up waiting for your post to appear. 64% of you said that you catch up on reading blog posts in the evening, and 36% of you said that you usually read blog posts during the day. Interestingly, none of you seemed to read blogs during your commutes to and from work. As I said, I read the majority of blog posts using the Bloglovin’ app on my phone. I love how easy it is to use, and how quickly I can wipe between posts. One thing that has really bothered me lately though, is that plenty of bloggers have a ‘read more’ link after the first paragraph of their blog posts, which means I can’t read the rest of the post without having to leave the Bloglovin’ app and go into the Safari browser. Not such a big deal to some, but it’s something I find adds too many clicks and waiting time when all I want to do is quickly read your full post. I wondered if anyone else had these same thoughts; 57% of you said you would still read the post if it had a ‘read more’ link, whereas 43% of you said that you would actually skip the post entirely. This may be worth bearing in mind, especially if such a large propertion of your readers could potentially skip your posts due to that pesky little page break. The majority of referrals to my blog come from Twitter, and I wondered if this was the same for other bloggers. A huge 72% of you say that you usually find new blogs to read via Twitter. 11% of you find new blogs through Instagram, 11% through word of mouth, and surprisingly only 6% fnd new blogs via advertising on other blogs. I have long questioned whether blog advertising is really worth it, and this only confirms that for me it doesn’t make enough of a difference. IMG_2462First Impression After a recent discussion with a fellow blogger on whether the domain name suffix makes any difference, I asked Twitter; 82% of you said you preferred a .com address, whilst just 18% preferred .co.uk. I’m firmly in the .com camp, simply because I think one less ‘dot’ is easier to remember, and if I’m looking for a blogger whose URL I am not sure of, .com seems the obvious choice. Also, I want my blog to attract readers from across the globe rather than just those in the UK. For example, I am very unlikely to view a blog that has the .au suffix, as I would assume that it’s relevant only for Aussie readers. I asked what was more important for readers when visitng a blog for the first time. None of you were fussed by the title of the blog itself, but 64% of you felt that blog layout was most important, whilst 36% said that the quality of photos mattered most. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful pre-made blog templates on Etsy to help you spruce up your blog, as well as the wonderful Pipdig, and plenty of photography videos on YouTube to assist you in improving your skills – I’ve even shared a post on my favourite photography tips for beginners. On a similar topic, I asked Twitter what puts you off reading a blog, and I got a huge amount of responses. 5% of you said that poor quality photo will turn you away from a blog; 11% said the choice of content would put you off; 21% felt the blog layout would make the biggest difference to you, and a huge 63% said that bag spelling and grammar would be the biggest deterrent. I am not at all surprised by these results, and I must admit if there are too many typos or grammatical errors in a blog, I will unfollow pretty swiftly. I understand that some people struggle with spelling and grammar or are dyslexic, however there is always a spell checker and it’s not exactly hard to run the spell check and proof-read your post before hitting ‘publish’.

Blog Content

I’ve noticed a big rise in blogging tips and advice posts over the last year or so – far too many in my opinion. Everyone seems to be a self-proclaimed expert. You can probably tell that I’m not the biggest fan of generic blogging tips posts, particularly the ones that repeat the same old ‘tips’ over and over again; post regular content, interact more, up your photography game, yack yack yack. 35% of you agreed with me and gave a massive thumbs down to blogging tips posts.   I used to find it incredibly satisfying writing makeup empties posts; I would take great joy in saving up all my empty tubs and tubes, and then give a brief summary of each product and state whether I’d repurchase it. I did this for almost two years, before realising that I didn’t actually enjoy reading other bloggers’ empties posts. I decided to ask Twitter for a general consensus, and I was quite surprised to learn that 56% of you said that you did not enjoy reading empties posts. If you read blogs at Christmas time, you’d find it very hard not to notice an influx of ‘gift guide’ posts. I struggle with reading these, and certainly never write them myself. Personally, I think that a gift guide should be a round-up of products / gifts that you have selected because you really like them, and have good reason to recommend them to others. However, it seems gift guides should actually be called Stuff that I got sent by PRs and need to feature in a post, regardless of whether I’d recommend it or not. Opinion was fairly evenly split on this one – 53% of you said that you enjoy gift guide posts and find them useful, meaning that 47% said you do not enjoy them and do not find them useful – possible food for thought?! Additionally, 55% of you said you enjoy reading wish list posts, 30% said you do not enjoy reading wish lists, and the rest of you were indifferent. When it comes to keeping track of editorial content for my blog, I have tried using notebooks, diaries, wall charts and calendars, my phone, and finally Excel spreadsheets. Excel wins every time, and I have developed a system that really works for me. I have a huge spreadsheet document which has different sheets for every bit of information I could possibly wish to document, and that’s what works for me. 63% of you prefer to use a notebook or planner, whilst only 6% use a spreadsheet. Another 6% use a handwritten diary, whereas the rest of you just wing it – you rebels!

Blog Comments

I have read a couple of posts over the last few months about  blog comments and the debate over whether you should respond to each and every comment, only those that warrant a response, or none at all. Opinion seems to be very divided – I usually reply to blog comments (it may take me several weeks, but I do reply!) that warrant a response. Comments saying something as basic as “Nice post” make it very difficult to leave a meaningful reply, so instead I give it a thumbs up on Disqus. The findings were fairly evenly split on this debate – 56% said they reply to all blog comments, meaning that 44% said that they don’t always reply. I use Disqus on my blog for people to comment, having quickly got fed up of the Blogger commenting interface. I find Disqus much easier to reply to comments quickly and easily, and when it comes to commenting on other blogs, I find it so much more aesthetically pleasing. I can even leave my blog link without having to type out the HTML code. Anything that saves me time is going to be preferable. I was surprised to find that 39% of you continue to use the Blogger commenting form, although 33% agreed with me on Disqus being their preferred commenting medium. 17% of you use the WordPress form, with just 11% using the Google+ equivalent.

Twitter

There was a time when the #PRRequest and #BloggerRequest hashtags were used quite readily, and you knew that if you checked the hashtag you’d be met with some potential opportunities for your blog. These days however, you’re more likely to get people making joke tweets such as “#PRRequest a new car, a holiday, and someone to do my ironing for me – LOLZ!”. Or, there are the deadly serious tweets coming from people that say things like “It’s my birthday next month, who wants to send me birthday presents to write about and throw me a massive birthday party #PRRequest”. So I asked whether anyone still used the hashtag, and I suppose it’s not surprising that a huge 72% said that they no longer use the #PRRequest hashtag.  One of my Twitter pet peeves, is the constant pleading / begging for help in meeting ‘milestones’. By this, I mean: “Help me get to my next milestone of 2000 Bloglovin’ followers – follow me!” Swiftly followed the next week by: “Help me get to my next milestone of 2,200 Bloglovin’ followers – follow me!” I can be a bit petulant when I see tweets like that, and usually respond by rebelling and UNfollowing. 15% of you agreed that you would unfollow if someone posted a tweet asking for help reaching a milestone, 48% of you felt indifferent, and 34% said posting tweets like that is a massive ‘hell no’! A very minimal 3% said that you would follow someone that mentioned a milestone goal. Guys, perhaps it’s time to stop with the begging for followers? #F4F

Social Media

In a toss-up between Pinterest and Instagram, 85% of you said that Instagram was your favourite platform. I can’t help thinking that Pinterest is a hugely under-valued and under-used platform, as if you use it to its full potential, you can gain a huge increase in page views. After Twitter, Pinterest is my biggest source of blog referrals (81% of you also said that Twitter is your biggest source of referrals, with 19% saying that your biggest referral source was Google itself). I have had several of my blog images pinned that have generated hundreds of re-pins and these all result in vastly increased page views. Pinning your images takes just a few seconds, so it makes sense to do this for each of your blog posts.  I asked how often people pinned their blog images to Pinterest and whether they had noticed any difference; of those that pinned regularly, half saw an increase in page views, whereas of those that posted irregularly, almost none of them saw any impact on page views. I think the learning point from this is that consistency and regularity is key when it comes to making the most of Pinterest.

Photography

Unless you’ve been living on another planet and ignoring Instagram, you will all have heard of the new bloggers’ favourite accessory, the Olympus PEN camera. I asked for feedback from anyone that owns or has tried the camera; 43% of you said it really is that good, whereas 57% felt it was just another over-hyped, gimmicky blogger trend. Many of you recommended the Canon PowerShot G7X as a much better alternative.

Blog Events

I love, love, LOVE blogger events. I love meeting new people, I love meeting the faces behind the brands, and I love mingling with girly girls and having a few cheeky drinks at the same time. I asked you all what you felt was the most important element of a blog event; 54% agreed that the most important part of the day is meeting other bloggers, 25% felt that meeting brands was the goal, 13% enjoyed learning new blogging tips, whilst just 8% thought the priority should be taking away PR samples. I also asked you how you would feel about making a financial contribution towards attending a blog event, in the hope that I could dispel the myth that bloggers are just in it for the ‘freebies’. Thankfully, you’re all a very generous and lovely bunch and 100% of you said you would be happy to make a financial contribution to support a blogger event in going ahead.

Giveaways

Finally, a word on blog giveaways. It’s become much of a norm to host a blog giveaway at various blogging milestones, whether that is reaching a certain amount of followers, or a blog birthday. Now when I host a giveaway, it’s either to get rid of brand new products that I have and want to get rid of, or to get me some new followers. I struggle to understand why people harp on about a giveaway “To show you readers how much I love you all, and thank you for your support” – come on people, we can see right through it! Twitter (mostly) shared my views – 41% of you said you hosted giveaways in order to get more followers, 41% said to thank your followers, 15% felt that they were just, lovely, kind, generous people, and the remaining 5% confessed to wanting an increase in page views.

So there we have it! The truth about what we all want and expect from blogs and blogging, straight from bloggers themselves. What do you think about what these polls show?
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