I can't remember if I ever properly introduced myself to all of you when I started working at IFB. So, hello, I'm Taylor, and I'm the content lead over here at IFB HQ. That means I am in charge of organizing and often producing much of the content you see on our site each day. I also write a blog called Eat, Sleep, Denim. As you might have guessed, it's a blog exclusively about… Drum roll please… Denim!
What I want to share with you today is just a little about my experience in taking on producing new and enticing content within a specific blog niche. I came from writing my personal blog (here) – which is pretty much my fashion-centric running stream-of-consciousness – to managing these two publications, each with a much more narrow focus.
To say it's been a seamless, easy transition would be lies on top of lies. Just as with beginning any job, there's a learning curve, and it felt like I was swimming up a waterfall for a while. I've had to work at it – hard. Go figure, right? Anyway, I've learned a few things in the few months I've been doing this, and I thought it might be helpful to share them with you here:
Have an editorial calendar.
I've realized this is an incredibly important part of having a niche blog. Giving yourself guidelines, or general themes or topics that you address each week, month, etc. will keep you focused and inspire you to think of new ways to talk about the different elements of your niche. For example, with Eat, Sleep, Denim, we feature a blogger with great denim style every Wedensday, and for IFB, we have “Tech Tuesday” where we post tech-related posts each week. A featured type of post is also a great way to hook readers, and keep them coming back to see your new twist on that feature each week.
This part was a tough transition for me. With my personal blog, I just post whatever comes to mind, whatever I'm inpired by at the moment. Sometimes it's an outfit post, sometimes it's a Polyvore set, sometimes it's music. And then sometimes it's radio silence. With my personal blog I don't worry about that too much, but as you can imagine, I have no such luxury with Eat, Sleep, Denim and IFB. Having an editorial calendar keeps me focused and forces me to fill in the blanks so there's never a day that lacks content.
Get off the computer & go to where the things are.
Okay, I know it sounds silly, but really, whatever it is you're writing about – go to it. Writing about runway looks? Get yourself to a runway. (There are indi fashion shows all over the place all the time). Writing about denim? Go to a denim store and try on 10 pairs. Take notes. Report back. Or, try and get an invite to a preview of a denim line's new collection. Think about all the different real-life elements of your blog niche, and how they manivest themselves on the streets, in stores, in conversation, everywhere!
Writing about your niche is only half the battle. You should be knee-deep in your niche on a daily basis (as often as you can). Get into it, get wrapped up in it, buy it, make it, take pictures of it… At the very least, go for a walk around the block. I know in New York City that means something very different than it does in a lot of other places, but just get outside and take in what's going on around you.
Like Elissa said in her post last week, I think that a big part of what makes blogging cool and special is that it gives you the ability to write and report from a personal perspective. I also believe this can be a powerful angle with a niche blog. People want to know why you're writing this specialized blog, why you're so dedicated to this subject matter, and why you care. Odds are it's probably not for money, or fame, so be honest and share with your readers.
I get pretty personal with my denim reviews on ESD. What help would it be if I didn't? I'm upfront about the specifics of how each pair of jeans feels, how it wears and stretches, but I'll also freely explain why a specific pair does or doesn't work for my body. (Eek, talking about my body on the internet? The horror!) Guess what though? When you sign up to be a blogger, you're essentially signing away a bit of the anonymity you previously enjoyed, on purpose. I think there's a lot of value in sharing of yourself, not just your ideas.
Tweet, surf, repeat.
This is not the part where I tell you to rip off ideas from other people. That is a big blogger no-no. However, we are a community, and we are sharers by nature. If we wanted to hoard our ideas and keep all our talents to ourselves, Twitter wouldn't exist, blogs would all be private, and man, would the internet be boring!
Often, when I feel like my brain has been sucked dry of all it's creative juices, I spend some time surfing around other blogs, magazine sites, Tumblr and Twitter. I think it's helpful to see what other people are talking about and then do one or both of the following: Create a post that talks about what everyone else isn't talking about, or create a post around a popular idea, but with my own particular spin.
Alright, alright, that's easier said than done, I know, and we seem to say it all the time at IFB. Take it to heart though, please. We say it over and over because in this game, originality is all you've got. What's the fun in being just like everyone else anyway?
So how do I manifest originality through my niche blogging? Well, for Eat, Sleep, Denim, original photography is really important. We try to use only our own photographs as much as possible, which is why we have our own photgrapher, natch. We send him out into the streets to photograph girls in their denim, so we don't have to copy/paste images from The Sartorialist, Mr. Newton, etc. Those guys are out there doing their thing, and it's theirs, so we're out doing ours!
For IFB, keeping the juggernaut of original content going can be a little more tricky. Luckily I have the help of a super-talented team at the office, as well as wonderful guest contributors, whose fresh voices and ideas are often the life-breath of my week. We also have a content meeting each week to generate ideas and get organized, and I suggest doing the same, even if you're the only one in attendence. Set aside time to brainstorm, browse magazines, take notes and set up your editorial calendar.
The Most Important Thing I've Learned.
I CANNOT DO IT ALONE. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. I run out of ideas, like, all the time. All the time, I tell you! It's going to happen to you, too, and it's okay. I rely heavily on my friends, my roommates, my coworkers, my favorite bloggers, eve-ry-one, to help me come up with great new ideas for content. Two heads are better than one, and 15 heads are definitely better than two.
Do I go to my friends and say, “Help! I'm out of ideas!” everyday? No, of course not. But when I'm feeling stuck, I never hesitate to strike up a conversation via chat, email, Twitter, or right here in the office. I ask thoughtful questions, and take notes on what they say. Your social sphere is often a great sampling of your blog audience, so take their suggestions and ideas seriously.
In the end…
There is really no excuse for saying, “I have no idea what to write about. I've exhausted every idea there is.” As long as the world is turning and people are communicating, there will be new things to learn and share on every subject.