[Fashionable Feminist] Friend Friday: Rules of Engagement

Last week’s Friend Friday post was about fashion and feminism. This week, the Qs are about the nuts and bolts of blogging etiquette. I don’t often write about how to blog — mostly because I think I am still learning how to do it! — but I thought it might be interesting to talk a little bit about how the Beauty Schooled sausage is made.

Q: Guest posts are a good way to gain new exposure. What do you think is the appropriate way to go about securing a guest spot?

I adore guest posts. Both writing them for other peeps and featuring them here on Beauty Schooled. Let’s face it: Coming up with daily blogging content can be a grind, and it’s nice to cut yourself a break every now and then, by letting someone else do the work for you I mean, featuring exciting new writers that your blog readers might not otherwise know about.

The sticky point, for me, is that Beauty Schooled is such a labor of love, I’m like an over-protective helicopter mom when it comes to quality control. So very occasionally I find myself in a situation where someone has sent in a guest post that just doesn’t float my boat — an entirely subjective and not always seaworthy vessel, to be sure, but that’s the whole point of blogging: You get to build your own boat. Usually, a guest post misses the mark because the would-be guest poster hasn’t really read the blog all that often and doesn’t quite get our approach to beauty: That we’re not about product reviews, but we’re also not about rejecting every last patriarchal beauty standard either. It’s a tricky balance.

So I think the number one rule when you’re submitting guest posts to other bloggers is to make sure you’ve really read their blog and have a clear sense of their voice and approach — then make sure your post reflects that. You should have your own style and perspective, of course, but it needs to mesh seamlessly with the blog’s big picture. This is the same advice I give (over and over) when I teach or talk about how to be a freelance writer. You just can’t be too precious about your words — if you want editors or bloggers to run your work, you need to be like a round peg fitting perfectly into the round hole in their line-up.

Q: Leaving comments is essential to growing your blog. But how can you leave a comment without coming across as ‘Follow Me. Follow Me!’?

Okay, confession time: I am a comment slacker. I read so many blogs every day, but I don’t always have time to think out a whole thoughtful, articulated comment, so I don’t interact online this way nearly as much as I should. I’m actually trying to set aside a little time each week for comment leaving, so I can get better about this. In the meantime, I’ll often tweet (with a quickie comment) the link to a post I love, which can be a more efficient way to join the discussion. I think (correct me if I’m wrong, bloggers who I tweet about often!) that other bloggers appreciate this, because my tweets go out to all of my Followers, a good portion of whom may click through and check out the post itself, increasing their exposure a little bit. (I know I sure appreciate it when people tweet my posts and I get click-throughs from that.)

But if I’m being a little more mercenary about it, tweeting links to posts is a clever substitute for shameless “Follow me!” comments, because, of course, I also benefit from the tweet — a blogger who gets a lot of click-throughs from me will be likely to come over and check me out. Plus I look all cool and finger-on-the-pulse for tweeting their awesome post in the first place.

That’s not the only reason I do it, honest. But it is better than one of those tacky “your blog is good, here is a link to my blog” comments — though, I have to say, I really don’t get too many of those. 99.99 percent of the comments y’all leave are hands down awesome! And I also sort of love when people include a link to something related that they wrote about, because it’s so fun to meet new bloggers this way.

Q: We’ve all gotten a mass email at one time or another asking for blog exposure. But the mass emails don’t work. How do you make your email stand out from the crowd?

Okay, this time, I have to reject the premise of the question. I send out a handful of mass emails per year — I sure did one when Beauty Schooled first got started, and when I started blogging at Never Say Diet a few weeks ago. I’ll also send them when I have a new article out that I’m particularly super-duper excited about, and have been doing that every few months since I became a freelance writer six years ago. There are several hundred people on my email list; most I know (at least in passing), some I’ve only had sporadic comunication with and a few are bloggers or editors that I don’t know but really admire and figure, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt.”

I’ve never had a single complaint about this approach. And I have seen tons of benefits – increased blog traffic, editors I haven’t worked with in awhile delivering an assignment because I popped back up on their radar, plus just generally nice notes from old friends and colleagues pleased to hear from me. And that’s how I feel when I get other people’s mass emails: all “Good for you!” even if I don’t bother to actually do anything with the email. (Which is maybe 1 in 10 — the other nine times, I’ll respond, tweet, leave a comment, or something, to show support.)

I think the keys to employing the mass email tactic gracefully are:

  • Keep it short, sweet, and not sloppy. (In other words, proofread like crazy.)
  • BCC the list. Obvs.
  • Don’t send more than one every month or two, max.
  • Don’t be needy and weird. Nobody likes that person.

Q: In interacting with other bloggers where do you draw the line between seeking support and begging for exposure?

Well goodness, don’t beg! See above re: being needy and weird. One email every couple of months when you have BIG news (like a brand-new blog, a major article, or a book deal) is awesome. One email every week is annoying. If you’re targeting a blogger individually (which sounds sort of lethal — I just mean, if you’re pitching a guest post or otherwise politely and calmly approaching a blogger you don’t know), be patient. Again, when I teach about freelance writing, I emphasize the Rule of Three, which I think applies to this situation as well: Send your email. Wait 2-3 weeks. If you don’t get a response, send a second email (forward the original one so they don’t have to dig through their inbox for it) with a polite, low-pressure follow-up. If you don’t get a response to that in another 2-3 weeks, send a third and final email, thanking them for their time and letting them know that you’ll assume at this point that your idea wasn’t the right fit and take it elsewhere. No hard feelings.

Q: What’s one rule of engagement error you made and how have you remedied that?

Just responding to these questions, I’ve come up with two! (Not commenting enough and sending out mass emails — though I still stand by the latter not really being a mistake if you do it well.) So I’m sure there are tons more that I haven’t even realized yet! Consider this a blanket apology for any faux pas I made in your general direction — I’ll try to do better next time.

Fellow bloggers/blog-readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any and all of the above: Any stories about blog etiquette issues you’ve had to deal with? Any blogger interaction pet peeves? Don’t hold back. Let’s discuss.

And go check out what other FFBF participants are chatting about over on Modly Chic (the great architect of this whole series.)

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2 Comments

Filed under Fashionable Feminist

2 responses to “[Fashionable Feminist] Friend Friday: Rules of Engagement

  1. Super helpful questions and answers. It’s interesting to read a variety of bloggers’ experiences and perspectives on the creative process. Writing is so personal and intimate, yet so… public! I will certainly keep these points in mind. (See, look at me leaving comments; I’m a quick learner!) 🙂

  2. This is a great post! First, it makes me feel better about being something of a comment slacker (for which I feel awful because the comments I get from readers are always amazing); second, it answers questions I’ve had about mass emails; and third, I’ve been in a couple situations where I didn’t feel like a guest post didn’t fit in with what I was ultimately shooting for, and had no idea what to do.

    It can definitely be hard to know what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to blogging, and as in all matters of etiquette, sometimes what not to do is obvious, other times things aren’t very cut and dry. You’ve done a great job here of breaking down some of those situations.

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