I work in social media full-time during the day and my heart is in what I do – I love social media and really feel it is an integral part of business success. I also run this blog and a social media business. (And of course, then there are the cupcakes…) I really believe that in today’s digitally-influenced world, you have to have a social media presence that adequately represents your business’s identity. But how do you do that?
A lot of people will talk about investing into your business. My suggestions on what to initially invest in are easy and obvious: Invest in a clean, quality logo. Invest in a well-designed blog. Invest in a good host and keep an arsenal of contacts who you can call if you run into a design tweak issue or security problem later on.
Most people will agree on those things, but then you’ll find peoples’ feelings diverge from here.
For example, this morning I was involved in a sometimes heated discussion about blog conferences. There’s a hot one that’s selling tickets right now and a lot of bloggers are going. I’m not – at least not yet – and I’m okay with it. The group was rather down the middle, with half going and half not. The reasons were varied, with those who had already purchased tickets ranging from “I want to be taken seriously as a blogger” to “I want to be seen at this conference, that’s worth the cost alone. Those who can’t go or are undecided were a bit taken aback, as the implications were that they weren’t taking themselves seriously as a blogger or that they weren’t spending their time/money wisely. As one of those undecided people, I wasn’t offended because there was no malice intended, but I totally get it why there was some level of insult; the implications being discussed couldn’t have been further from the truth.
If you ask bloggers to give you an honest answer, a lot will tell you that the ticket price is a problem. It’s not that it’s too high; it’s just that there are other priorities, and putting them on the spot to explain is a place no one wants to be. I personally don’t feel like saying that no, $500 is not in my budget this month, but that’s the reality. Does that make me less serious of a blogger? Does that mean I don’t want to network with the right people? Not at all. It just means I have to put my money elsewhere right now, and that could be a new camera lens or a business license or $2100 on a new rear-end for
my the car. (True story, Bro.)
The list of conferences is long, with so many wonderful choices that I can’t possibly get to every single one of them. I am a professional blogger, but I’m also a mother, a wife, and an employee. Those three roles alone give me depth to my life, and they provide me many of the experiences and topics on which I write. To not have the time for those that I want, or need, is not really an option. But I digress.
Other investments in our blog business that come up are all over the map and not everyone will give you the same short-list that I’ve written below. (In fact, the discussion I was involved in was so varied, I can’t even remember everything that came up!) I will say that the domain vs. free blog topic also got a bit heated but I can only do one hot topic per post or my head will explode.
Online classes: love these! Some are free, some cost, but many offer ebooks that are so worth it. This leads me to one of my personal things, books. I buy way too many – in all genres – but there are some standout social media and marketing books that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to invest in growing their blog or online business presence.
Business cards: quality if important, but so is creativity. You want it to stand out but yet to showcase you and your business. You also want it to be easy to hold and store.
Education: Invest the time in learning how to do what you find your biggest expenses are. In other words, if you want a killer blog design but can’t afford it, you can learn to do a good job on your own. I’m not saying that there’s not a time and a place to pay for someone with a degree or a ton more experience or skill but what I am saying is don’t let the lack of talent in this area stop you. You can learn! HTML, CSS, they’re not scary and once you start, you may find yourself having fun. I did invest the $60 (approximately) in the Genesis framework, and then I did spend another $19 on a theme, but I took that theme and turned it all around to make it my own. Without learning HTML and CSS, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I do know a lot of people who turned it all over to someone else to do – and if you have the money without taking it from another important source, go for it! – but it isn’t a requirement.
Domain: having your own domain doesn’t need to be costly. You can do it for less than $10 a year, with a private proxy option another $10 or so. Hosting, for me, costs only $60 per year, and there are cheaper (and more expensive) options. There are free options out there as well but I’ve been told by several PR people that having my own domain does present a more polished appearance.
Advertising: since we’re in social media, the lion’s share of advertising is not traditional print but digital forms, and while we like to think we can do it all, you may still decide you want or need some help in this area. A professional SEO guide can be worth a lot of money, but shop around and be sure you know what your price range is and if it’s realistic.
Gear: I recently did buy a new killer lens so I can improve my close-up shots of food and my people shots. Cellphones do a fantastic job anymore, especially with some of the apps out there, but I still find that a good DSLR camera can produce a photo you won’t get otherwise. Good computer. Reliable phone that gives you access to social media while anywhere, and a portable charger is more money well-spent. Photography or image-editing software. There are a lot of options, from free to expensive, but find something you’re comfortable with and something you’ll be able to use regularly. And don’t forget a good printer! Even though we’re talking digital, you’ll still need to print things out. Invoices, media kits, documentation, etc., you’ll still want a printer that is quality enough to share a document with someone as necessary.
Last but certainly not least, the The Associated Press Stylebook 2013 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law) is one of my best purchases ever! Not sure whether to hyphenate a word, capitalize a name or where to put a piece of punctuation? This book will tell you so you can not only be consistent and accurate, but anything extra you can do to present that professional edge pays off.
In the end, there are a lot of investments you can make and what one person thinks is important will rate far lower down the list than another. One thing I think we can all agree upon is that we need to not let our own personal feelings divide us. If someone says they’re not going to a conference, don’t judge or assume they’re not as professional as you are. If someone’s business cards are handwritten in butter on a piece of toast, let it go. And if someone is hanging onto their WordPress.com blog like a lifeline, that’s okay. Everyone has their reasons, none of which they need to defend, and everyone has their own goals, though I think we’re all pretty much similar there: we want to succeed…but each of us is going to take a different path to get there.
Isn’t that a good thing? I sure think so!
I agree, if you want your blog to be a business you have to treat it like one, and that means making investments. It doesn’t have to be thousands and thousands of dollars up front, but if you want to move your business forward you are going to have to spend a little money on equipment, education, and supplies. Great post!
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Christy Garrett Uplifting Families
Great tips and suggestions. I highly suggest when you do start making money that you keep reinvesting a certain portion of your funds into your business. Use the money to promote your blog, out source someone to help you with your marketing strategy, or invest in other opportunities.
You’re right about all the conferences out there. So far, I’ve been lucky enough not to regret any that I’ve paid to attend; but I’ve been spending far less than that particular one I think you’re talking about–and yes, I’d like to be considered a professional (at least part-time) blogger.
Thanks for the book recommendations. My copy of the AP Style book goes back to my college days; so its probably time to update that one for sure!
Could you list the social media/marketing books that you recommend? I agree that attending a blog conference doesn’t work for everyone and personally I’d rather attend a conference that focuses solely on my niche. It’s a ton of money to spend for something that doesn’t necessarily pertain to everyone, although I’ve never attended any blog conference. I’m glad you mentioned business cards because I’ve recently found myself on the fence regarding their value. Do I wish to pay for a creative design only to find they’re really not increasing my traffic and were a poor investment?