What I am fairly sure of, though, is that many people are getting into blogging for the wrong reasons, or going about it in a misguided way. They need some advice. Do they need my advice, specifically? Maybe not, but I'm going to offer it anyway, because that's the sort of person I am. I've held off from making this post for fear of coming off as a pompous windbag, but given that I'm training to be a full-time pompous windbag (i.e. academic), why should I hesitate? So, without further ado, some dos and don'ts of beauty blogging, drawn from my own experience as a blogger and dedicated reader of blogs.
Is this also an excuse for me to rail against everything that annoys me about the blogging world? Why, yes, but I'll try to keep it nice.
What not to do:
Don't start a blog for the purpose of money or fame. We all know about those bloggers who have been able to quit their jobs and blog for a living. Here's the thing: with very few exceptions, those bloggers started several years ago, when fashion, beauty, and lifestyle blogs were thinner on the ground than they are today. Temptalia started in late 2006 and Makeup and Beauty Blog in early 2007. These days, the blogosphere is saturated, and the blogging bubble has started to burst. Remember when fashion bloggers like Tavi and Bryan Boy were sitting front row at couture shows? Yeah, that was back in 2010 or so (and even Tavi has moved on to other ventures). Brands are no longer desperate to work with bloggers. You may be able to earn a bit of money eventually, but not enough to make a living, and meanwhile you may find yourself neglecting your real livelihood, as blogging can be very time-consuming. I would strongly encourage you to think of your blog as a hobby. That may change for you in the future, but it probably won't, and thinking of it as a hobby keeps it fun.
Don't spam other sites with links to your blog. You can always tell the people who started their blog for the wrong reasons (see above), because they leave blog comments like "Great post! Check out my blog: [link]." It looks desperate, and desperation isn't cool. Before you start scattering your links like so many dandelion seeds, think about why you want people to visit your blog. Is it because you want to have interesting exchanges with like-minded people? Or is it because you want the empty ego boost of pageviews and followers? It's fine to want both (who doesn't want an empty ego boost every so often?), but be warned: if you dedicate yourself to gathering as many pageviews as possible, it won't be long before people are commenting "Great post! Check out my blog: [link]" on your posts. And you will be annoyed.
This goes for your activity on social media sites, too. Don't make yourself a nuisance on Instagram with "f4f" or "likes for likes" requests. This behavior says, "I don't like your account enough to follow it for its own sake; I have to be certain that you'll follow me back, too." It's insulting. Just post what you want to post and follow the people you want to follow. Simple as that.
Don't make promises. You're excited about starting your blog, so you've no doubt planned out a posting schedule, at least one weekly series (a new red-lipstick review every Wednesday, or whatever), and a list of things that your readers can expect from your blog. That's great--just don't share any of this with your readers, especially not in your very first post. Your blog is almost certainly going to change as you get used to writing it, and there's no point in drawing up elaborate plans until you know what blogging is actually like and how many posts your schedule can accommodate. I try to post every three days, but sometimes a week passes between posts, because my blog isn't my job and I have shit to get done offline. I won't pretend I don't feel bad about this, but I don't feel that bad, because I've never promised regular posts. The more promises you make, the guiltier you'll feel at your inevitable failure to fulfill all of them, and the more guilt creeps into your blogging, the less fun it will be for you.
Don't apologize for your failures to post on time. I promise, no one is biting their nails and wondering why you haven't posted in five days. Feeling guilty about this creates a cycle of shame and procrastination, and nothing signals the downfall of a blog more clearly than a series of widely spaced posts beginning "Sorry I haven't posted in forever, but life got in the way."
Don't dilute your content by reviewing unrelated products.
You can probably line up some press samples of makeup if you write to the right people, but I've heard from other bloggers that those quickly become a burden instead of a pleasure. Once a brand has your address, it can send you anything and everything, and you don't want to become one of those bloggers who end up writing reviews of toilet paper. Have some fucking dignity.
At least at first, you probably won't get unsolicited correspondence from brands you recognize, but you may well get emails that sound like they were put together by a content aggregator. To quote one that I received recently: "Given your trendy beauty expertise, we would love for you to share some of your favorite looks matched up with pieces of lingerie collection! What best your favorite look?" Do not engage.
In the beauty blogging community, most people are extremely nice to each other. This is great--believe me, I'm not complaining--but it can also foster an environment in which any comment that isn't 100% positive is dismissed as "haters gonna hate." It's important to distinguish between obvious trolling (e.g. "hey, bitch, you're an ugly bitch") and well-meant comments that might not be phrased in the most tactful way. Keep an open mind and, when in doubt, kill 'em with courtesy. Which brings me to my next point...
Don't get into online fights.
No commenter on my blog has ever been less than delightful (thanks, guys!), but I've gotten into quarrels elsewhere on the Internet, and I've never failed to regret it. If someone does try to start a fight with you, don't engage. It's never, ever worth it. No one wins, no one convinces anyone else of their opinion, and everyone gets more upset than they were before they weighed in. What I love doing, instead, is being annoyingly conciliatory to people who are clearly spoiling for a fight. "Hey, you make a really good point! Thanks for the insight"--something like that. Few people can stay belligerent when confronted with level-headed courtesy, and you'll probably irritate them, too. Win-win.
What to do:
Do leave thoughtful comments on other people's blogs.
The best way to gain new readers is indeed by commenting, but you have to do it in a genuine and well-considered way. I'm sure there are a few people who have inspired you through their own blogs. If you don't already comment there, now is the time to start. Really engage with their ideas, and resist the urge to copy and paste that precious link at the end of your comment. Your blog name will show up at the top of the comment, and that's seriously all you need.
Do reply to comments on your own blog.
I don't expect huge bloggers to address every comment (though some do, which is awesome), but if you're getting just a few comments per post, and especially if they're thoughtful comments, responding is a nice thing to do. (If you're getting "hey read my blog thx [link]" comments, that's a different story.) Sometimes you'll be too busy to reply, and that's fine, but do make the effort at least sometimes.
Do think about what sets you apart from other bloggers.
There are thousands of beauty blogs out there, and people start new ones every month. So why should we read yours? Maybe you don't know the answer yet. Maybe you just want to talk about your latest obsessions, and you don't care who reads your posts. That's fine--you'll get a better sense of what makes your approach distinctive, and what people value about your writing, as you go. Just know that if it is followers you're after (no one wants to shout into a void, after all), you need to contribute something unique to the conversation.
Do read GOMI.
Yeah, I said it. Get Off My Internets has its share of nitpickers, obsessives, and trolls, but many commenters there, especially in the forums, are intelligent, insightful, and fucking hilarious. I believe strongly in the value of satire and anonymous snark (both of which existed thousands of years before the Internet). Blogging has become conspicuously monetized in the last few years, and as long as this process continues, we need to be skeptical about bloggers who are trying to sell us something--an image, a lifestyle, an endorsed product. No discourse should become so huge as to mute all other discourses, and this applies to beauty blogging just as much as it does to politics. Take what you read on GOMI (and elsewhere, including this blog) with a grain of salt, but know that you can find some good blogging tips there.
Do proofread thoroughly.
Online publishing and sloppy editing go together like gin and tonic (can you tell that I'm drinking one now?), and the biggest sites can be the worst offenders. Given this dismal state of affairs, you might think that a small personal blog doesn't need to be proofread very carefully, but nothing makes me close a window faster than a legion of misspellings and misplaced punctuation marks.
Do make sure that blogging stays fun for you.
What aspects of blogging bring you joy? Keep those in mind, and never let them get too far from you. If your blog becomes a chore, you'll probably lose the will to continue. But also...
Do accept that your blog won't continue forever.
Knowing that it will have an end, whether next year or five years from now, is paradoxically freeing. You aren't chained to your blog. It's not an obligation. This is something you chose to do, and you can choose to stop whenever you like.
That's all I've got for now. Do you have anything to add?