Blogging: Taking part in the Q&A Panel at The Co-op #OnTheList Event

On Friday night I took part in the Blogger Q&A Panel at The Co-operative #OnTheList event in Manchester. I was, it’s fair to say, as nervous as hell. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking and all that. If you know me then you know that I have raging social anxiety. I remain perplexed as to why I was asked to be part of the panel, but now it’s over it was a great (confidence building) experience and it had made me reflect on what I do and how I do it.

I don’t present myself as any kind of blogging expert, it’s an ever evolving world and I think even the best of us struggle to keep up at times. I’m lucky to be part of the North West blogger community, an incredibly supportive and hilarious bunch of friends who would do anything for anyone. Anyway, I digress. 

Photo credit: Karen Hannah

The panel were sent most of the questions the day before so we could look things up and prepare ourselves a bit. I know on the night my answers were not as in-depth as they would be here, plus we didn’t manage to get through all the questions during the panel, so for those who may be interested here are my answers in full. Feel free to ask me anything, or almost anything…

Which social media channel is your best referrer, and why do you think that is?
I get a significant number of referrals from Twitter, then Facebook. I have a fairly respectable following on Twitter and I tweet and auto-tweet regularly. I could and should do more to promote my blog posts across the board, but I don’t have the time to do everything.

Do you vlog? If so, why, if not, why?
I don’t think I’d ever call myself a vlogger, I don’t think I’m very natural in front of the camera and I lack the technical skills to make decent vlogs, but brands want video content so I have done the occasional one. < Insert plug for YouTube channel here >

How do you prefer a brand to approach you, in order to work with you?
Preferably with a bottle of prosecco… A nice personalised email is always a good start, a PR or brand who are open to having a useful dialogue about what they want and what I can offer. I don’t mind if I get a “Hey Bloggers!” email, I do mind it when they get my name and the name of my blog wrong, which is either careless or rude.

I like to know specifics, what they want, when, how much etc, I don’t have the time, energy or patience to go back and forth for days, I don’t want vagaries, I want specific detail which I can work with.

Do you actively engage in SEO tactics, if so, which do you find the most useful?
My blog is self-hosted and is a WordPress blog. I have the Yoast plug-in which was recommended to me by nearly every blogger in the world and a whole bunch of SEO professionals. It’s really easy to use and it takes the thinking out of SEO, so I just follow the Yoast instructions and suggestions until it gives my blog post a green light. I get a lot of traffic from search engines, so I think I must be getting something right.

Do you have your own domain and if so, why, if not, why?
Yes, I’ve been self-hosted for about two years now, it doesn’t cost that much and it’s not that hard to go self-hosted. I blogged on the free WordPress for about 6 months before I made the leap and never looked back.

Do you think it’s acceptable to sometimes blog about something “off topic” or should we stick to what our readers are expecting from us?
My blog is HodgePodgeDays, hodge-podge literally means a jumble, so theoretically nothing is “off topic” for my blog. I think it’s your blog, your little corner of the internet, you can write what you damn well please; go off topic, what’s the worst that can happen? You might even get some new readers.

Do you stick to a regular post frequency and rhythm, or just blog spontaneously?
I used to try and blog regularly and did blog most days. These days I have less time due to work commitments and life so I blog less. I find I get a day or two every few weeks and I blog my socks off then, I try and schedule them out a bit. I think my lack of consistency in terms of frequency and content topic lets me down and is something I need to work on.

What opportunity do you see on networks like WhatsApp and SnapChat, if any?
I’m not on either. I’m a bit of an old skool Twitter junkie who is having a passionate affair with Instagram, as well as a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

Affiliate partnerships, do you partake and if so, are they worth the hassle?
I think I’ve been an Amazon affiliate for about two years and I’ve not earned a penny, so I’m obviously doing something very wrong. I know some people can earn good money from affiliate partnerships but I’ve yet to motivate myself to properly monetise my blog.

How is best to get to know new brands, to prospect opportunities?
Get to know brands via social media, be nice and chatty as well as open. I’m not a pushy person so I don’t often make the approach, I’d rather PRs and brands approach me, because then I don’t feel so much like a blagger. I sometimes cruise the #BloggersWanted and #BloggersRequest hashtags on Twitter, but some of the best relationships I’ve got with PRs and brands are where someone has recommended me to them and they like what I do and my helpful, professional attitude.

What’s the best opportunity you’ve had, because of your blog?
Three things really stand out for me. Earlier this year we went to Bluestone Wales and had a fabulous holiday we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. I also got to be a judge at the International Cheese Awards, and in September I went to River Cottage with Foodies100 and a group of other food bloggers. There are no words to describe how amazing that experience was.

What’s the next step for you and your blog?
I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to be able to do what I really want with my blog. I know I need to re-balance the content and post more personal and family blog posts, because that’s what people really want to read about. I’d like to earn more money from my blog, not least to justify the time I spend on it.

So that was me and my answers. Any questions?

PS. Thank you to everyone who was lovely to me, you’re all so very kind xx

She thinks it’s all over…. it is now… phew!
Photo credit: Karen Hannah

#OnTheList Event at The Co-operative

It’s nice sometimes to get invited to a swanky place you’ve often admired. I had a lovely friend who used to work at 1 Angel Square in Manchester, we used to meet outside for post-work drinkies and I’d often gaze in awe at this shiny new building, tucked away in a quiet corner of Manchester and wonder if it was just as swanky inside. I can confirm that it is just as beautiful inside as it is out.

We were invited guests of The Co-operative who were laying on an introductory evening for local bloggers, with some useful speakers and free flowing prosecco and nibbles.

First off we had an interesting panel Q&A session with Ruth Clemens (The Pink Whisk), Sarah Harradine (That Squat Bot), Jordan McDowell (Fashion Rambler) and Emma Campbell (What Emma Did). This was followed by Jo a.k.a Slummy Single Mummy, who was as funny and engaging as usual. Listening to other bloggers speak reminds me what I great community I’m involved in and some of the exceptional campaigns and work we (the royal we) do.

The Co-operative

We were given free reign over the nibbles, cheese boards and cake tables while we watched a cookery demonstration. Skilled chefs created amazing chocolate glittery balls filled with all manner of indulgence; we tried out chilli and salted caramel brownies, flavoured popcorn, a selection of cakes and cupcakes, but me, I made a bee line for the cheese. They had a brie that was just perfection, I’ll be hunting that down in my local Co-op.

The Co-operative

The Co-operative

After a raffle (I won a posh coffee machine from The Co-op Electrical Shop – hurrah!) and a chance to natter our socks off with our blogging colleagues, we tottered off into the night full of good cheer. A really good night was had by all. Thank you to all the Co-op team on the night, it was a brilliant event and a fabulous first date!