blogging

Are You A Blogger? Here Are 5 Props Perfect for Autumn

Are You A Blogger? Here Are 5 Propers Perfect for Autumn | Writing Between Pauses

Blogging can be hard business. Taking photos is one of my favorite and least favorite parts of it. Sometimes, I really thrive. (I really hit my strive last December.) And sometimes, I’m like, I forgot how to use my camera. (The last, like, 5 months.) I keep a running Amazon wishlist of props that I like; things I see in photos that I love and want to try, or things that I think would add interest and help my photos be a little more visually appealing.

I thought I’d share a few of these props for Autumn, because we could all use a little inspiration sometimes.

1. These Color-Changing Twinkle Lights

These would be perfect for Autumn (orange! purple!) or for Christmas (multi color!), but they would also be kind of pretty for just putting up in my office. I love using twinkle lights in photos because they can help improve the light situation, plus they just look really pretty. These ones are incredibly affordable and really long.

2. Photo Backdrops

Browsing tableux or flatlay backdrops on Amazon is actually a part-time job, it feels like. There are so many options. I personally love these ones because they come with a storage solution (!!!) and you get a huge variety with your purchase. Back in the day, so many bloggers ordered marble vinyl to put on foam whiteboards or pieces of wood. Now, we can just buy a few sets at once. How times have changed!

3. A Ring Dish

Having little dishes, or bowls, in your photos, especially beauty photos, can take the photo from a basic product photo to a scene. I like buying small, cheap ring dishes to use as props. You can use them for anything (jewelry, rings, candy, make up, whatever) and you can find tons of designs. I like this one with constellations, but there are some with beautiful autumnal patterns.

4. A Scarf or Fabric to Add Visual Interest

Want backdrops but don’t want to spend $35 on backdrops that you’re not sure if you’ll use? Let me let you in on my secret: I often use fabric. I have a ton of plaid scarves that I use as photo backdrops throughout the year. I also usually buy a yard or two of fabric that I like if I see some that I think would work, like plaids or small patterns. This is a great affordable options for backdrops: use something you already own or spend $5 instead of $35.

5. A Small Ring Light

Light in Autumn is always a problem. By the time I’m ready to take photos, the sun is gone, it’s dark outside, or it’s pouring down rain. This mini ring light holds your cell phone, but you can also use it as a lighting source for your photos. Use it to film Instagram stories or IGTV videos, then use as a lighting source when you need it. It’s only $13!

Have props you love? Share your tips & tricks in the comments!

How I Grew My Pinterest Engagement by 400% Without Really Trying

How I Grew My Pinterest Engagement 400% Without Really Trying | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog post for a while now. Here’s why: I think Pinterest is a bit of a mystery to a lot of people, especially woman-owned businesses. They might use it personally (nearly every woman I know has a Pinterest account), but they might not be using it for their business. And if they are, they might not be using it effectively.

This blog post isn’t just for bloggers looking to increase traffic, by the way. This blog post is for:

  • Business owners

  • Anyone selling a product to women between the ages of 18-45

  • Bloggers

Here’s the rundown of what I’m about to tell you: I increased my engagement on Pinterest by 400% without…

  • paying for Tailwind (too expensive)

  • spending hours on Pinterest

  • more effort than checking in once a day

I noticed this increase most starkly this month, but it’s been steadily building for the past 6 months, ever since I put in renewed efforts to build a strategy. I am cheap, however, and didn’t want to pay for something like Tailwind. This is all just me, Pinterest.com, and the Pinterest app.

Let’s jump in.

(Pst, if you’d like to check out my Pinterest, you can do so here.)

Analytics

Here are my analytics on Pinterest for the month of July:

July 2019 Pinterest Analytics

And here are my analytics on Pinterest for the month of August:

August 2019 Analytics

Between May and June, my impressions varied between 19,000 and 21,000 per month. (For whatever reason, I don’t have full analytics for those months on Pinterest. It may be a switch in their built-in analytics programs.)

That’s a pretty significant jump over 4 months, right? And like I said, I didn’t spend money on it and I didn’t dedicate hours of my day to it.l

So what did I do?! Let me tell you.

Methods

When it comes to me and basic methods for social media, there are no secrets. I realize a lot of people would put this information behind a paywall and it’s one of my biggest annoyances. I’ve signed up for tons of free Pinterest (or Facebook or whatever) webinars and sat through them, only for it to be 10 minutes of basic information (like “make a Pinterest account” DUH!) and 20 minutes of selling me a bigger webinar or e-course.

Sorry, not interested.

Here’s what I did over the last 4 months:

  • For each blog post I posted (which admittedly wasn’t a ton), I created 3-4 additional Pinterest graphics. This was because I was testing what worked best on Pinterest. I don’t have a concrete answer on that, by the way.

  • I then pinned each blog post at least the week it was posted. Usually, I did this all as one on Saturday morning. Then I would schedule the different Pinterest graphics over the next few days. All of these pins initially went to my specific board for my blog posts.

  • From there, I pinned each blog post pin to my group boards.

  • Throughout the week, I would check each day and pin each varied Pin as it posted to my group boards.

That’s literally it! That’s all I did! I just kept up this weekly and daily task list every single week for four months.

It does seem time consuming. But let’s break it down.

  • On average for the past few months, I’ve been posting maybe 2 blog posts a week. In total, each blog post might take me 2 hours.

  • It might take me an additional hour to great 8 different Pinterest graphics.

  • On Saturday, it took me on average about 2 hours to write unique Pins for each blog post and Pin/schedule.

  • Every day, sharing pins to my group boards took maybe 30 minutes.

In total, that’s 7 hours for writing blog posts, creating graphics, and posting on Pinterest. However, 4 of those hours I’m already doing anyway in the form of writing and scheduling blog posts. Then, in total per week, I spent 3 1/2 hours on Pinterest throughout the week. That’s definitely less time than I spend on Twitter and Instagram. (Is that embarrassing?!)

Here’s a few additional things I did throughout these 4 months as well:

  • Checking daily Pinterest trends (if you press the search box to type, you can see trends for you specifically as well as trends throughout Pinterest). If I saw any trends that correlated to blog posts I had, I immediately repinned those blog posts to my group boards.

  • If I had seasonal posts that I thought might be relevant, I would also repin those. In mid-August, I started to notice a steady increase in engagement on my Blogtober pins from 2018 and 2017, so I began sharing those Pins to my group boards as well.

  • I created Pinterest-specific graphics for my affiliate codes, announcements, and sponsored posts. These included information that people needed without having to jump to my blog; it helped increase uses of my affiliate codes as well as my traffic. I was slightly worried that giving away the free bit wouldn’t help my traffic, but I was wrong. It helped a lot!

A Note on Group Boards

As you can see, I rely on group boards a lot on Pinterest. I am hesitant to make suggestions for group boards, as these aren’t ones I own. I don’t necessarily want to be held responsible for the rules or content should anyone disagree! However, if you would like suggestions, please don’t hesitate to send me a note and I’ll send a few links over.

As well, if you would be interested in a group board with me, let me know.

Do I expect to see results forever?

“Forever”—what a funny way to phrase that!

To I expect to see these massive increases in engagement (and subsequently, my blog traffic) forever using these methods? No. I think this was a good way for me to get started and get the ball rolling, so to speak. As I continue to tweak my methods, I expect to have to change things and, eventually, I know It will be beneficial to me to start using different methods, including paying for tools and streamlining my methods.

However, I wanted to share this method I’ve used because I see so much advice about Pinterest that literally boils down to “pay for this tool!” I don’t know about you, but I am so hesitant about paying for things that I feel I can do for free, at least for right now. In the future, that may not be the case, but it is for me right now at this moment (given being recently laid off!)

Now, it’s time for you: do you have questions about Pinterest?

What Have We Learned From Pipdig?

What Have We Learned from Pipdig? | Writing Between Pauses

I feel like the blogging community has been in an uproar for the last 10 days. But for those who don’t know what’s going on, on March 29, a dev and blogger named Jem posted this blog post, detailing malicious code she discovered in Pipdig’s plug-in and themes. I won’t detail everything Jem wrote about here, but needless to say, the blogger community was quick to discover her post.

Pipdig has been a popular theme provider for bloggers, specifically in lifestyle niches, for the last few years. I know many who self-host on Wordpress immediately went for Pipdig themes as they were easy-to-use, highly customizable, and came with outstanding customer service.

Throughout the Pipdig ordeal, many bloggers originally called to Pipdig’s outstanding customer service as a sign that perhaps Jem was mistaken about the code. (Long story short, code doesn’t lie and many, many developers backed Jem up. In fact, Wordfence, one of the premier Wordpress security blogs, happened to post about the same Pipdig issue at nearly the same time. They also shared some valuable information afterward that showed that even Blogger themes were effected by the code.)

As with any issue in the blog community, it felt like there was lots of back-and-forth for the first few days. A lot of the bigger, top tier bloggers went silent pretty quickly—they defended Pipdig, then dipped out of the conversation. Tempers were lost and a lot of people doubled down without really knowing what they were talking about.

The complication with all of this is that very, very few bloggers (especially in the niche that Pipdig primarily served) know how to read code. They relied on Pipdig to provide them with good customer service, to help them install their themes, and to do so in a way that was trustworthy. And unfortunately, Pipdig betrayed that trust because they behaved in a way that unethical very secretly, knowing that very few of their blogger customers would be able to catch them at it.

For many bloggers, this left them feeling naive—and as if they had been called stupid by the devs trying to explain it to them. There is absolutely no shame in not understanding code or technical language when it comes to code. However, bloggers can be quick to forming opinions without having a full picture and it is natural to want to trust an “industry giant” like Pipdig.

However, my thought is this: there were just too many experts telling me the exact same thing and I knew that absolutely none of them have a horse in this race, so to speak, in that they aren’t Pipdig competitors. Many of them had never really been involved in the lifestyle blogging community beforehand; they really didn’t even know it existed and if they did, they didn’t realize how robust it was, and they definitely were not prepared for the sheer amount of push back that they got. They were just professionals trying to do their due diligence and help people.

At the end of this post, I’ll have some valuable resources for Pipdig users if they still need to switch themes or uninstall the plug-in. As well, there are so many devs on Twitter offering their assistance to help bloggers remove Pipdig products. Again, if you need help understanding what’s going on, I highly recommend reading the Wordfence and Jem blog posts thoroughly.

For now, let’s talk about what this Pipdig fiasco has taught us.

1. The “Blogging Experts” Have Agendas

This doesn’t discount their expertise necessarily, but clearly some of the top bloggers in the lifestyle niche, and those who peddle classes and ebooks for sale that they know everything about blogging, have agendas that aren’t necessarily always going to fit with what is most helpful for other bloggers. I don’t want to name names here, but a lot of the biggest bloggers in the industry were quick to defend Pipdig, then went absolutely radio silent as more and more evidence came out and more and more developers started saying the same things. Many of them still haven’t said anything—which is fine! If that’s their bag, that’s their bag. But it makes you wonder why, exactly, they aren’t saying anything?

These same bloggers will be the first to throw other companies under the bus and tell their followers, or those who buy their advice, not to use them. They will sell their ebooks and online classes and give very strict advice on what to do for blogging, but when it comes to using a service that is maliciously using bloggers to do their dirty work, they go absolutely silent. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it?

The truth is, affiliate networking among hosting and theme providers has become increasingly common. I was actually just reading a blog post about how it is one of the best methods of affiliate marketing to build income from your blog, so it wouldn’t surprise me if many of the first to defend Pipdig (and then go silent) were affiliates who received income from referring people.

So what do we learn? If someone styles themselves as a blogging expert, and they make income from that styling, they may have an agenda. They may have partners that they don’t disclose. They may not be as authentic as they say. After all, it is still the internet. As much as we think we know all these bloggers, the truth is that we absolutely do not know these people. Just as none of us knew what Pipdig was really doing, none of us know what these experts are up to. Remember to do your own due diligence when it comes to their advice and who they back, because sometimes they don’t have the blogging communities best interests at heart.

2. The Blogging Community Has An Echo Chamber Problem

One big bloggers posts a Tweet about Pipdig and every medium tier blogger RTs it, then every small blogger RTs it, then every new blogger RTs it, and none of them think to actually read the blog post or look at the evidence. Partially because they don’t understand it (again, not their fault), but mostly because they trust those who have been blogging longer, or more successfully, or whatever.

It becomes an echo chamber. The biggies say this, so we believe it, so we all repeat it. And everyone who posted an opinion otherwise—those like me who work with developers, or those who understood code, or simply those who were willing to take an independent third parties word for it because they had nothing to gain or lose from it—was treated really, really terribly.

It goes without saying: Pipdig was a vendor to bloggers. They were not a friend, or an associate, or a best buddy. They were a vendor. They made money off small bloggers, and medium bloggers, and big bloggers. (And some of those bloggers potentially made money from everyone as well!) Pipdig might have had good customer service, but good customer service doesn’t mean anything when it comes to malicious code or unethical business practices. Some of the biggest companies in the have good PR; it doesn’t mean they aren’t shady.

The echo chamber of the blogging world is stunning and shocking even at the best of times. One person posts something and it becomes the opinion everyone must hold, or is afraid to not repeat. We all hate the follow-unfollow game on Instagram; we all blame the algorithm; we all do this, we all do that. It really is exhausting to keep up with the opinion we’re supposed to have. Because we’re bloggers, right? We’re all the same.

That’s right, I didn’t think so. It’s time to stop letting one single, popular blogger speak for all of us and damage the community as a whole, especially when they might have an agenda.

3. Pipdig Became “the Way To Have A Blog”

This is a big controversial, but all the Pipdig themes looked the same. Yes, they were highly customizable for users, but rarely did they ever get customized in a way that separated them from each other. Pipdig sold relatively affordable themes that fit the way bloggers thought their blogs should look.

Just like the blogging community has become an echo chamber when it comes to opinions, many people deferring to other people instead of critically thinking, the blogging community has also fallen victim to thinking they have to do X, Y, and Z before they become “real” bloggers. You need a self-hosted Wordpress website. (You don’t.) You need a Pipdig theme that looks like everyone else’s. (You don’t.) You need to take your photos a specific way. (You don’t.) You need to do this, that, and the other thing just like so-and-so tells you. (You don’t.)

There is no one way to blog. There is no one way your blog should look. It goes without saying, but blogging is highly personal… but we’ve all fallen victim to the pressure to look a certain way, or do certain things, to make ourselves successful.

I would consider myself a slightly successful blogger; I’ve been plugging away at this a very, very long time, so I feel a bit like an elderly person in the game, but I’ve gotten to this point (a small income, some sponsorships) without ever doing anything anyone told me to the letter. I am not self-hosted on Wordpress. I don’t have the same theme as everyone else. I don’t spend hours focusing on Pinterest or any other social media platform. I just let it happen, write posts i believe in, and let Google do the rest.

Getting a Pipdig theme was often treated like a goal post for blogging—and this made them into a giant that people didn’t want to see as an actual business, but rather just a goal. Pipdig was, to repeat myself, a vendor. That’s it. Nothing more. And they used bloggers to behave badly. There is no one way to have a blog so please, let’s not replace Pipdig with some other giant now.

Resources

If you have any additional resources for those who have a Pipdig theme, or the Pipdig plugin, or are available to assist bloggers when switching, send me a note!

Free E-Course: Start Your Blog in 2019

Free E-Course: Start Your Blog in 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

When I started blogging in 2009 (!!!), it was an entirely different world. Twitter had just launched; there was no Pinterest or Instagram yet. It has been quite the ride watching the blogging world change from a hobby to an industry, to watch entire platforms pop up—and to watch people take advantage of those platforms in a way that is super beneficial to them and their businesses.

Often when I speak about my blog to other people, they want to know how, exactly, I did it. How do you start? What do you start with? Starting any big project can feel like a huge effort, especially when the steps seem hazy. And with blogging, there are so many: what kind of content should I write? What does “choose a platform” even mean?! How can I promote my blog without annoying everyone I know?

One of my biggest frustrations with blogging has always been how secretive people can be about information. Blogging started as purely a hobby world and has quickly turned into a professional for many people; and for that reason, lots of people have started making their own businesses out of selling the secrets of blogging.

I don’t want to tell anyone how to make their money. And there are definitely people out there who know more about blogging than me and they totally deserve to have people pay for their time.

However, the secret is there is no secret to blogging. Getting started is just about getting started.

I recently relaunched my newsletter, the Pause, as a way to talk about blogging every month with people who wanted to learn more about blogging or just improve their own blogs. I didn’t want their to be any secrets when it came to blogging, at least when it comes to the knowledge I have.

I started thinking of other ways I could help people learn more about blogging and start their own blogs (or jumpstart their pre-existing blog) in 2019. And it came to me: a basic e-course that walks you through the process of starting a blogging, writing your first pieces of content, and promoting it to the world.

My free e-course will start May 6 and cover everything I just listed, as well as SEO basics and developing a voice. Blogging is something I love and am incredibly passionate about—I want others to love it too, as a hobby, as a form of income, and as an industry. But I don’t believe in hiding that behind a paywall, which is why this e-course is 100% free. That means I won’t give half the information and advertise another e-course at the end. I won’t bait-and-switch. Just 5 free emails over the course of a week with all the information I have.

This e-course isn’t just for those who have dreamed of starting blogs, but those who already have a blog and want to kick it up a notch.

Sign up today to make sure you get that first email on Monday, May 6!

Round Up: My Best Blogging Articles

Round Up: My Best Blogging Articles | Writing Between Pauses

If you haven’t heard the news, I’m re-launching my newsletter! It’s called the Pause, a no-nonsense newsletter all about blogging, from the perspective of a busy mom who doesn’t really have time to mess with jargon, paid plans that don’t pan out, and much more. If you’ve ever dreamed of starting a blog, or have a blog but feel lost in the massive landscape of blogging advice, this is the newsletter for you. You can sign up here.

Before that, however, I feel like I should put my money where my mouth is. For my day job, I often write about the data of marketing; I like to have evidence for the things I say and what I decide to do. That’s just how I am (aka I have to have a reason for saying something). Sometimes, this is pure data. And sometimes, this is based on experience.

I’ve been blogging since 2009. That’s right: 10 years this year. It feels like it’s been way longer than 10 years, but also not nearly as long as 10 years! 10 years ago, I was 20 years old, living in a dorm, and idolizing Gala Darling. I remember the days of personal blogs that absolutely exploded (Gala Darling being one), people who monetized their personal lives before "being an influencer” was even a thing. I remember the days of lookbook.nu and those websites, fashion blogging using photos taking on a point-and-shoot in my dorm room (or propped on a retaining wall in my college’s quad, which is very embarrassing to think about now).

There are years I blogged a lot (2012-2013), and years I barely blogged (2014-2015). Years where I thought for sure it was time for me to quit blogging (2015-2016) and years where I couldn’t imagine not having a blog (pretty much the rest of the time). I love blogging. And I realized I loved writing about blogging too.

This isn’t a blog about blogging. I find those a little annoying, especially when run by people who haven’t managed popular niche blogs before. That’s why I wanted to restart my newsletter; I feel like that’s a much more personal, easy format to write about blogging without coming off like a jerk.

However, I have written a few posts about blogging—and I wanted to put these all in one place for anyone who is curious about my perspective about blogging. I’m definitely a hobbyist; I think longterm careers in blogging are difficult to come by. However, blogging can be a great resume builder and it can be something you are really passionate about, alongside your current career or life goals.

Without further ado, here’s everything I’ve ever written about blogging.

How to Plan Social Media for Your Blog

3 Ways to Achieve Your Blog Goals

How to Write Better Instagram Captions

3 Ways to Improve Your Flat Lay Photos

5 Tips for Starting a Newsletter

30 Ideas for Your Blog

4 Tips for New Bloggers

7 Tips for Starting a New Blog

5 Must-Have Blogging Resources

Should You Use An Editorial Calendar?

Improving Your Blog in 4 Steps

Here Are 5 Steps You Need to Know to Write Killer Blog Posts

4 Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos

Even better, I have an entire board dedicated to blogging resources on Pinterest. You can check it out here.

If you haven’t signed up for the Pause, of course, you can do that here. The first issue comes out March 2 and it will be the first Saturday of every month after that (unless, of course, you ask for more!)

How I Edit My Photos in Autumn

How I Edit My Photos in Autumn | Writing Between Pauses

In 2017, I shared how I took better iPhone photos—and that included my editing process in the app, A Color Story. (You can read that post here.) My process has changed a lot in the last year. I primarily take blog photos with my DLSR these days (iPhone photos just end up too blurry in blog posts, as you can see from my post yesterday) and then use my phone to take photos for Instagram.

I recently started trying to keep a “theme” on Instagram. I had been planning to use a darker, orange-based filter for Autumn since at least late spring (yes, I am embarrassing) and when I finally got to start doing it, I was so excited. My feed looks lovely and I’ve had quite a few people message me asking about my process for editing.

Instagram 2
Instagram 1

So I thought I’d share a quick blog post about how I edit my photos. The process is pretty simple. Sometimes, it feels like people really complicate their photo editing process. I like to keep mine simple by saving my favorite filters in a sequence in A Color Story; this helps me always get roughly the same look (although sometimes I do adjust things later on).

Let’s start with a basic photo.

Before Photo
Color Story Photo
After Photo

This is the process I use for a low-light photo. These are my standard filters; October is from the Seasons pack on A Color Story, Brent Wood is from the Mood pack, and Cashmere is from the Fawn pack. You can see that it increases contrast, adds a moody feel, and increases the warmth of anything that is golden- or warm-toned to begin with (like my skin and table). I will use this for darker photos as well and photos taken in better light. (I didn’t have any photos in need of editing for this example, so I know it’s not the greatest!) This set of filters is how I got the look on most of my photos on Instagram.

However, I do have a secondary set of filters that I use on Instagram specifically for photos where I don’t want my skin tone or Forrest’s skin tone to end up looking pumpkin colored.

Before Photo 2
Process Photo 2
After Photo 2

In this photo, you see that Forrest’s skin tone was warmed up a little, but not much; the background is darker, the photo is moodier, and in general it looks like it would fit right in on my Instagram. (I love this photo of Fo because he looks like a little alien!) Cashmere, again, is from the Fawn pack; October is from the Seasons pack, and Venice is from the Mood pack. In general, this filter set is just a bit “lighter” on skin tones than my other, making it perfect for selfies.

So that’s it! That’s my process for editing photos for Autumn. Do you switch up your process seasonally?

My April 2018 Wrap Up

April 2018 Wrap Up | Writing Between Pauses

April is... over!? 

You know how I said that March was a doozy of a month? Well, April arrived bigger and badder. I had a lot of ups this month and a lot of downs. I'm going to write this post a bit differently than I usually do for these wrap ups, because I have a lot to talk about!

A few years ago (after I had Fo really), I decided that I shared too much online about everything that happened in my life. It wasn't fair to Forrest to put so much of his life out there. And really, it wasn't fair to myself either. But as I've blogger more the past 6 months, I realized it is hard to draw the line between "hobby blogger professionally" and "being cold"! Does that make sense? 

I'm hoping to use these wrap ups as a chance to share a bit more about me and my life as a mother and professional. 

1. Big Blogging News

I've been blogging for ages, really, but it's only been in the past 2-3 months that I started getting fun "blog emails." I don't want to talk about this too much as it starts to feel a bit like an echo chamber (and to a non-blogger reading this, it is so boring to hear bloggers write about this so I apologize in advance). It's nice to feel like I'm finally achieving something because I do work on this blog a lot. 

There was also a Twitter thread recently that I added my thoughts onto (you can read it all here) and it really underscored for me the importance of blogging for a purpose. I love my blog, but my purpose here is to educate and inspire. I don't just want free stuff. I want to write content that others want to read and for me, that means taking myself (and my personal life) out of it. I'm here to review products, to provide advice, and to help people figure out what works as a mother or young professional, lover of makeup, or whatever! I'm not changing the world.

One sponsorship I'm really proud of this month is my collab with Smile Brilliant. I'm still hosting a giveaway from them, so if you haven't entered yet, click here

2. Motherhood Never Stops Being a Challenge

Without going into too much detail, the Friday before last, we had our first big medical scare with Forrest. He has had croup before, where we rushed him to the ER at about midnight. And he's been quite sick before. But on that Friday, he'd gotten pushed at the park (still not happy about it) and fallen forward with his arms outstretched. He seemed fine initially; we went home, he napped, and I tried to get work done. When he woke up though, he was inconsolable. Finally, I got out of him that he was hurt and he needed a doctor. I called our pediatrician and just as Danny got home from work, my pediatrician called me back personally and said, "Put him in the car and get him to me now please." (In case you're wondering, I love our pediatrician; she's absolutely wonderful and made time to check his arm.) She immediately saw he wasn't using his arm properly and wanted us to get x-rays. 

Cut to us running around the entire city of Eugene to find an x-ray tech that was open. We kept getting to places immediately after they had closed or being told that they don't do outpatient x-rays. We ended up driving across town and getting into an office after a nurse from the hospital called and begged a fellow x-ray tech to stay late. (Bless that nurse!) Forrest got his x-rays. He had to wear a tiny sling for a few days (which was a horrible challenge). On Monday, our pediatrician called to tell us his elbow wasn't broken (thank goodness), but severely sprained. Rest and time helped and his little "broken wing" is better now. But it was scary!

I always think I can handle, or anticipate, the challenges that happen. But that Friday, I was not expecting to spend several hours with a sweaty, sobbing toddler trying to get someone to x-ray his arm! 

3. Learning to Live Slow

I impulse bought this book at Target three weeks ago. Let me say: I feel like I've learned so much from it already. I've stopped to use one of the mini-journals it comes with, but I'm so excited to read more. This book is all about taking the time to really wind down and think, to live a little slower, and to stop stuffing our lives with activities and jobs in order to feel like we are always "busy." It's about really letting yourself feel your emotions. Even writing about it, I feel myself calming down!

I get chronic migraines and tension headaches; I've gotten tension headaches since I was 20, but the migraines are new, within the last two years, really. They aren't fun and at this point, I know they are caused by my stress and anxiety. I'm hoping this book can help me start alleviating some of the anxiety that I feel (that often leaves me either unable to stop working or paralyzed at the thought of starting a task). 

4. Other Bits

A lot of highs. A lot of lows. I feel like that's been the past few months. However, my hope for May is that I can go a month without a serious medical or home expense (I bought new tires and a new dishwasher in March; I had to also buy another new piece of car equipment in April; my savings account is crying). 

However, this past weekend, Danny and I went on a solo trip to Portland. It was really nice to be able to just spend time with him and not worry about anything else for a change! 

I have a lot of exciting blog posts coming up this month, as well as some really fun personal stuff. 

How was your April? Did you have a good month? 

Is Instagram Even Worth It?

is instagram worth it.png

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been doing a thread of observations I've made since switching from a personal account to a business account. Most of the thread is based on numbers, a disparity between follower counts, and more technical bits. I'm planning to write a full blog post about that next month (I need one more month of data to really inform my conclusion on it), but I wanted to ask, and perhaps answer, a question about Instagram today: 

Is doing all this work even worth it? 

I know some have wonderful success on Instagram. And that's great for them! But the vast majority of bloggers and small business owners, from what I can tell, struggle to make Instagram work for them. 

It's hard to exactly know how to fix the platform. What causes some people to grow so quickly and others, who are doing the exact same things and sometimes posting more meaningful content, to grow so slowly or not at all? Is it just purely luck? 

A huge issue seems to be, of course, the move from chronological order to an algorithm based on your personal likes and whose story you've watched. While in theory that sounds great, in reality what happens is that you end up seeing photos from 5-6 days before on your feed... instead of the stuff that people just posted! That means that when I post a photo, most likely no one who actually follows me is going to see it for at least 24 hours to 2 days; posting anything topical becomes really difficult, to say the least. 

There are other issues within the blogger community that make growing difficult. Following and unfollowing is a big issue and can feel like such a downer. That's not the only thing, there are absolutely more, but it can all feel like a huge weight when you're just trying to do the best you can and see results. 

It's no wonder, truly, that people go to the extreme lengths of buying followers. It absolutely won't help your brand at all, but it will make you feel a bit better about struggling to grow!

In the past 2 years, I've doubled my followers. From 300 to 600. For some people, that's pretty significant; but in that time, others have started Instagram accounts and climbed to thousands of followers. I definitely do want that kind of success or those numbers (being famous scares me!), but I do wonder just what exactly I'm doing wrong. I've improved my photos. I've upped my hashtag game. I've done everything I can aside from turn into one of those emotionless Instagram accounts that's all about aesthetic. (No offense to Instagram accounts with themes.) 

So, knowing that I'm not really alone in feeling this way, I have to wonder: is Instagram even worth putting this much thought and effort into? It's still listed as many people's favorite social media, but when it comes down to numbers, I don't see evidence for it contributing to blog traffic--just potential for sponsorships! That's where it gets difficult, isn't it? 

I might decide to let Instagram go and not try--but in the end, that hurts my ability to work with brands. It's brands that want a large Instagram following, really, and it's something that a lot of bloggers just can't provide. What happens to us? What happens to the people who have a large Twitter following, good traffic, and a bumpin' Pinterest profile... but not a great Instagram presence? Do we get left behind because where we thrive isn't where brands want us to thrive? 

It's a lot to think about! So I'm turning it over to you: what do you think? Is Instagram worth the hassle? Am I overthinking this?