What Blogging Has Taught Me About Personal Branding, the Job Market, and the Fashion Industry

A Guest Post by Lauren Goldstein, Part-Time Lifestyle & Fashion Blogger, Full-Time Student, American University

For the past eight months, I’ve posted three times a week, every week, on fashion, New York City, Washington, D.C., and life in general. Along the way, I’ve learned more about myself, fashion, and PR. Today, I’m sharing those lessons with you.

There’s no one way to use social media: When I started blogging, there were maybe three to five bloggers I followed on a regular basis. I found bloggers primarily through Instagram. At the time, it was my understanding that an amazing, curated, consistent Instagram theme was the key to drawing attention to your blog. I had this fantasy in my head that I would create Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts and people would magically find me and flock to my blog. Boy, was I wrong. Instagram is hard; it’s hard to get attention, to always have aesthetically pleasing, well-edited pictures to post. To get people interested in your posts it’s a slow, grueling process, and doesn’t amount to much, until you make it big. My 500 followers draw minimal traffic to my blog. Granted, that could be different, if I chose to use bots to engage with potential followers and comment and like pictures, but that’s not my brand, so I’ll stick to slow growth. I’ve learned hashtags matter, consistency is key, and Instagram isn’t everything. Instead, most of my blog traffic comes from Facebook – my family, friends, family-friends, and friends of friends who are seeing and sharing my posts.

Blogging will allow you to make new connections: Where I go to school, we have a Facebook group called “Free and For Sale.” People use the group to buy and sell everything from clothes to furniture at ridiculously low prices. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed a post selling business clothes. I work at my on-campus Career Center and earlier that week we had discussed doing a business professional clothing drive. I commented on the post saying if she was unable to sell the clothes, she should keep them to donate to the upcoming drive. The poster decided to follow my comment back to my Facebook page, where the link in my profile picture goes back to my blog. She then messaged me to say she was also a DC blogger who had attended American University and asked if I wanted to grab coffee. That was the first message I’ve gotten from Facebook, but I’ve received similar e-mails from other DC college bloggers who found my page through my Instagram, Twitter or through blogger Facebook groups. There are so many bloggers trying to make it and while there is certainly some competition, I’ve found that for the most part, bloggers love to connect, find each other, and help each other whenever possible.

Influencers aren’t going away, but how they influence is going to keep changing: It’s no secret that brands love influencers. They spend countless hours and dollars sending bloggers and influencers care packages in the hopes of making it on their blogs and into their Instagram stories. Although brands are looking to bloggers to promote themselves, the system works both ways. Some of the best bloggers are not only influencing their audience, but influencing and taking command of the market too. They’re making their own lines and doing collaborations that go beyond what the brand is already doing. From Target’s “We Wore What” line to Something Navy x Nordstrom and Gal Meets Glam x Frye, influencers are not just promoting other products, but creating their own. As the number of influencers, Instagram users, and social media platforms grow it’s become harder and harder to make it as a blogger and grow an audience, but the successful ones are going beyond blogging in a way that was once unimaginable.

Staying true to your brand is key: When I started my blog, I struggled for weeks on the name. I wanted something that would be consistent with me and what I represented even years from now. When I first started blogging, I would become giddy with excitement every time I got an email from a brand, and, subsequently, disappointed when I opened it only to find a 50% discount code. I’ve avoided promotions and sponsored content in favor of products and brands I really love. As a result, I haven’t made much money from my blog, but I’m okay with that. If you go into blogging with the intention of making money from it, your readers will see right through you. I’ve seen bloggers promote anything and everything – cheese, credit cards, you name it – they’ve done it. It’s a testament to the influence bloggers can have on their audience, but with a caveat; do too many collaborations or sponsored posts and you’ll look like a sell-out. The best influencers will continue to share their favorite fashion, beauty, health and other products, but in a way that’s true to their brand and represents their audience’s interests.

Blogging is by no means easy. It’s challenged me to constantly come up with new ideas, learn how to use software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, sacrifice weekends and nap time to create new content, and go beyond my comfort zones to reach out to friends, professors and family for help. For me, it’s been worth it – I’ve created a brand I’m proud of, shown myself what I’m capable of, and taught me so much more than I could have learned in classes alone. But, before you decide to go out and start a blog for yourself ask yourself these questions: “Why am I doing this?” “What do I hope to gain?” “What do I stand for?” and “What do I want my blog to represent?”

Lauren. GoldsteinjpgLauren Goldstein is a part-time fashion and lifestyle blogger and full time college student at American University, majoring in Public Relations and German. She lives in New York City and is passionate about branding and personal style. You can check out her blog at www.fashionandfernweh.com or connect with her on Twitter @LNGoldstein.