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My Blogcademy Debrief

Photo by Caroline Winata of www.milouandolin.com

It is hard to believe, but I have been blogging for 9 years!

Originally I started my blog to let my family and friends know where I was when I was traveling on international business trips (this was pre-Facebook and Twitter).  But over the last couple of years I noticed more and more people are reading my blog (clients, people I went to high school with, ex-coworkers, people in Zimbabwe, people I admire, etc.) and I have decided that if it is going to be out there on the internet I want to have some sort of strategy, and for it to be more fun/entertaining/informative to read.

That being said — I am super pumped up and inspired after attending The Blogcademy in Los Angeles last week!

WHAT IS THE BLOGCADEMY?

The Blogcademy is a two-day workshop for bloggers who want to push their online presence and businesses to the next level. Taught by three high-profile bloggers, Gala Darling (Gala Darling), Kat Williams (Rock n Roll Bride) and Shauna Haider (Nubby Twiglet), we cover everything related to blogging strategy, branding and personality you’ve ever wanted to know.

WHAT WE LEARNED

Business skills, branding, SEO, #bloggerface, positivity, photo skills, how to monetize blogs, social media strategy, how to engage with people online, ideal readers, WordPress tips, how to decide what kind of content we want to create, planning/editorial calendars, features for bloggers, how to do a digital brand audit, creating media kits, negotiating, diversifying our income streams, networking skills, using Photoshop actions for blogs, etc.

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT

  1. NEW FRIENDS – I got to meet a bunch of passionate bloggers and make a ton of new friends! These days I work/write alone a lot of the time, so finally feeling like I have a blogging posse is really exciting. I loved the diversity of classmates: food bloggers, fashion designers, fashion bloggers, beauty writers, tarot card readers, branding experts, YouTube celebrities, photographers, stylists, a doctor, small business owners, social media managers for big brands, graphic designers, programmers, etc. A bunch of us plan to get together regularly and continue to support one other. Plus — there are active groups of Blogcadettes in New York, London and Portland that I can catch up with when I am in those towns!
  2. ENCOURAGEMENT – Shauna (a.k.a Nubby) was so sweet and encouraging in person! I really loved all the headmistresses but I especially connected with Shauna in that we are both designers and blogging on the side (not as our main business or source of income).  She took the time to give me some great advice about specific ways I could improve my blog and add features that really made sense to me and my situation.
  3. GRADES – Getting my blog reviewed/graded. I was anxious to see what things I was doing well and where I should focus my energy to improve the blog. They say you get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the work. I wanted to see how that would apply to my blog.
  4. KNOWING WHAT I AM DOING RIGHT – It was reassuring to know that some of the decisions I have made already with my blog, are smart. For example – I moved my blog to WordPress in 2009 and I am really glad I did that for a ton of reasons.
  5. BUNNY EARS – At Blogcademy everyone is encouraged to wear ears (bunny ears, kitty ears, Minny Mouse ears, etc.). It might seem silly or bizarre at first, but when it is really an ice breaker and it makes people feel more confident about speaking up. It kind of transforms you into a super hero. Plus — if you are a blogger you really need to get over your fear of looking crazy or having people make fun of you! A couple of us went out to dinner after class with our ears on and a bunch of people came over to our table to ask us about our ears. We brightened up their day and we gave out business cards for our blogs.  (+ I’m thinking about wearing ears for a week straight to see what would happen…)
  6. FORUM – There is a private forum where the The Blogcademy graduates to discuss all kinds of issues, from technical problems, programming to branding and motivation. So I always have a place I can go to get advice. It is like our own private Reddit.

LOS ANGELES BLOGCADETTES

Group Photo moment: Shauna, Kat and Gala are in the center of the front row with round ears. I’m in the back row (top, right, w/cat ears) with my new blogging BFF’s.
+ If you want to see more pics from the event I posted a bunch on my Instagram!

Photo by Caroline Winata of www.milouandolin.com

REPORT CARD TIME

So THIS blog (the one you are reading right now) got reviewed and graded by my three headmistresses, Gala, Kat and Shauna. I have been blogging for a long time and this was my first real critique, so I was a both a bit frightened and excited about it. Luckily they recently stopped giving letter graded because the decided it was “too brutal”. But they did give written feedback in these five categories:

Overall Content:
Your blog is a nice mix of personal content and images and advice posts. We particularly like the “be your own life coach” post. More of this please!

Aesthetics:
Your design is engaging and memorable. It is simple and we really love it! Nice branding! We think it works really well. Fab use of color on the top. Top marks!

Voice/Tone:
Some regular features or educational stories/articles will really help to define your online voice. Be sure to update regularly. Make a schedule that suits you but make sure you HAVE a schedule.

Interaction:
We recommend social media button somewhere really obvious on your front page, near the top of the sidebar. Your content is fantastic, let the world know!

Confidence:
The CIA alumni video is awesome. This should definitely be on your about page! At present your about page is quite ‘professional’ and while that is important, we’d love to see some of your personality come through as well!

When I got home my husband read my report card and added this gem:

“I think your blog needs to be bitchier — it is way too nice all the time.”

That made me laugh. All in all, I pretty much agreed with the group critique. I was happy that they approved and liked the new design/branding. I agree that I really need to have a blogging schedule/editorial calendar. I need to post more consistently and make better use of features. Also I would note that I signed up for The Blogcademy back in January, so I have had several months to start working on the re-design and re-branding. Had I not done this pre-work I think my grades would have been a lot poorer.

WHAT IS NEXT?

So, I have a list of about 50 things I want to fix/improve/write/edit on my blog over the coming months. It is a really long list in Evernote. Some of the items are simple things that would take 30 minutes to finish but others items are bigger more complicated projects. I am trying to break it down into manageable chunks, 5 tasks at a time.

My next 5 tasks:

  • Re-write my bio (adding a more casual, conversational introduction)
  • Write a welcome page for my first time viewers
  • Create a schedule / editorial calendar
  • Think about who my ideal readers (there are probably a few “ideal” readers) and brainstorm what they want to read about
  • Planning a meet-up of Los Angeles area Blogcadettes

So —  I have work to do! Keep checking back to see how the transformation is going! I’ll keep posting updates about the blog transformation.

+ You can also follow my blog/life on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

 What are your suggestions for improving my blog? What do you want to read more about?