Branding and Social Media : Be True to Yourself

Beastie Boys quote found in the studio of Design Love Fest.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThere is one big struggle that I have recognized over my blogging career.  Being true to myself.  You can get so caught up in the business side of things that you forget to let your personal style come through.  Or you are afraid that the readers that you have built up so far won’t like the real you.  So I found it SO fitting, when I first walked in to the shared space of Design Love Fest‘s studio in Los Angeles last weekend, and saw this quote on the wall.  Boom.  Right there in my face.  “Be true to yourself and you will never fall,” Beastie Boys.  I was there for Bri’s Social Media Class but I instantly knew it was going to be about more than that for me.  This is the first time I have seen Bri in person and she was charming and delightful.  She’s super funny and made learning about something as dry as social media enjoyable.  I can totally see why she has found big success with her other classes and workshops.  But Bri is the epitome of being true to who you are at all times, across all platforms.  And it is she who has really lead me down this path of self discovery.  Remember this post here where Bri came to me in a dream?  It’s like, how many times must she tell me to be myself?  I’m finding that is truly the way to discover what your brand is.  And branding and social media go hand in hand.

The @designlovefest studio is bright and gorgeous.  Duh.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThis class came at a great time for me.  Last month I pretty much dropped most social media in favor of spending more time on my content.  And also because it can feel like a full-time job to make sure you are posting to every platform and see no real benefit.  Bri showed how often and where she posts to social media and it is totally manageable.  I don’t think I have to choose one or the other.  And while there was a lot of basic info, which was great since there was a wide variety of creative types in all stages of social media in the class, I also gained some new knowledge as well.  I also loved that even though the focus was on social media, it was also a lot about personal branding.  The crossover was very welcome and I came away with a new clarity.  I have a to-do list that I made for myself of things I want to clean up or edit.  I have an achievable social media plan, that demonstrates my brand.  And I have a renewed desire to put my whole self in to everything I do.

Donut Snob donuts and polka dots from the @designlovefest Social Media class.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI feel like my content in the last few weeks is getting closer to my style.  My numbers have dropped a little.  It can’t be all about the numbers and I won’t let it become about the numbers again.  The day before this class I had met with a gal who is going to be helping me with a new logo and look.  I’m excited for what is ahead.  And I look forward to taking more classes from Bri.  She’s legit.  My branding and social media feels more real to me right now than ever before.

Seriously, if she rolls out a new series of Social Media classes you NEED to take it.  OH HEY, SHE DID!   This is not sponsored in any way.  Although she did share these radtastic Donut Snob donuts with us.  These are my opinions and just so you know, I can’t be bought with donuts.





5 Blogging Rules I am Breaking

Some rules are made to be broken.  Especially when they stress you out and make you compare yourself to others. I recently came to a conclusion about my blogging career.  It stresses me out too much.  I feel like there are a ton of us out there in this same exact stage.  We have decided to take our “hobby” and turn it in to a business.  But for a lot of us, it isn’t easy.  What once was my creative outlet is now a chore.  And while some of the “rules” are self-imposed (especially since I am my own boss – and trust me, I can be a total bitch), the to-do list to achieve success is never-ending.  After a few months of really spinning my wheels I decided to look long and hard at what the heck I’m doing here.  Things needed to change.  Here are the rules I am currently breaking.  In the name of happiness, I encourage you to do the same.

Sometimes your notebook stays empty a long time when you are deciding on what you want to do with your blog.Your Brand Identity is Everything.

I struggle with the branding for my blog and how to best get across who I am and what I am all about to the readers.  The branding leaders within the blogging realm will tell you that everything needs to be cohesive and well-defined and blanket all media channels.  Each and every thing you post, utter, share should perfectly reflect your brand.  People blog for different reasons.  And all of them are right.  For me, I blog because I enjoy sharing the things I like and what I am experiencing.  I just can’t commit to the idea that when I am on Pinterest I am only supposed to pin the things that perfectly reflect my brand aesthetics.  Guess what?  Not every super delicious sounding recipe comes with a great image.  Of course I want my boards to look nice but I like what I like and I’m not afraid to show it.  Especially for Pinterest, I am breaking this rule.  What “brand” has two thumbs and a home to manage?  This gal.  So if I want to pin a toilet bowl cleaning tip, I’m going to.  If that makes someone not want to learn more about me than so be it.  But guess who’s toilet is going to be cleaner…(Oh! and I found this great article that breaks down the difference between your brand and your identity.)

summer vacation.  girl's trip.  leopard and tans.Pick a Blog Category

It has been said that readers have a hard time following lifestyle bloggers because they really don’t know what to expect in the way of posting topics from day-to-day.  I totally understand that.  But this gal is in to a lot of different things.  All of which I want to share with you.  I get that all of you don’t enjoy Abe Lincoln as much as I do but this is my place to share my love of him.  Some days I want to share what my kids are doing.  Some days I want to talk about cocktails.  And I think that is ok.  I don’t think I have to pick just one avenue.  I realize that may hinder me in some respects (I’m guessing a lot of food companies would love to work with food bloggers).  And maybe a wine company doesn’t want me to post about their wine and then my kids the next day (truth: they go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong).  But I am ok with that.

Fabric floral tassels with gold fringeAnalyze your Analytics

I look at my blog traffic numbers once a day.  And then I don’t do anything with them.  If I stressed about hitting certain numbers I think it would take me so far away from what I want to do that I would eventually hate blogging and want to fight it in an alley.  So I take my numbers with a grain of salt.  While my traffic has gotten me more in the way of  affirmation from other bloggers and more notice from brands, it is not everything to me.  I need to create content that I enjoy.  If I followed what my analytics said were my readers favorite posts, I would be doing crafts all day.  My kids do not allow for many craft DIY style posts.  They are too time consuming and require a lot of pieces and work.  I would much prefer to make a cocktail.  Or something I can eat right when it is done being photographed.  Of course I want to keep my readers happy but I need to be happy too.  The times when I have really focused on my traffic I have been able to grow it.  Then I get burnt out and take a break and they go back down.  What really is the point?

Sometimes we get so caught up in blogging that the world literally passes us by.Blogging is all About the Money

Sometimes you make money from blogging.  Sometimes you pay an awful lot of money to keep your blog going.  When I decided to make a push towards turning it in to more of a job, money was a big bench mark for my success.  Given the number of usable hours I have in a day (I’m useless before the hours of 5 am and after 8 pm plus whatever time my family needs my attention) I found that I couldn’t do it all.  Either I created good content, or pitched new business or updated a social media platform.  I have to choose.  And right now I have to be ok with that.  Those two little boys above are not going to wait for my blogging world to get sorted out.  I literally started to feel like the world was just passing me by.  It can’t just be about the money.  It has to be fulfilling too (in whatever way you deem it so).  At my blogging level, we are encouraged to never work for free, never take a free product without further compensation and ask for triple what you have been getting.  I think it needs to be up to each person to decide what is right for them.  I was on a high horse about this for about a month and then realized I was being stupid.  Once I figured that out the heart palpitations stopped and I felt some creativity coming back.  A few day drinks to help celebrate a friend’s birthday helped too.

a mess of brightly colored macarons.Put your Best Photos Forward

I have loved photography since I was in high school.  I think it is an amazing way to tell a story and is an artistic medium that I feel pretty comfortable with.   But sometimes I think we get so stuck on the fact that something isn’t a “good enough” photo that we don’t want to share it.  The other night I was making a yummy shrimp recipe.  I had already started cooking it when I decided it would be something I thought my readers might enjoy.  With a styled photo shoot out of the question, I took some simple photos of it on my plate – my normal dinner plate not one from my prop closet.  But they aren’t the prettiest.  Do I share them knowing that some folks wouldn’t find them pinnable?  The amount of time it would take me to set up that recipe just isn’t worth it.  Especially since the recipe is a quick meal!  I’m going to share it.  Maybe next week.  It would be dumb for me not to share it because it isn’t styled as pretty as some of my other posts.  That is not a choice that all bloggers will make but for me I think it is right.  I don’t see it as putting out a lower quality post.  I see it as being practical and real.  It would be awesome if all my posts could look perfect.  It just isn’t always possible.

Thanks for letting me share this with you.  I have been really stressing about it for a while and feel like talking about it has let some of the tension go.  Are you willing to break “the rules” to be happier?

Sometimes You Burn Things

dirty-side-of-blogging-logosometimes you burn cinnamon rolls for your kids.  it happens to the best of us.Even though you take amazing photos of delicious looking food to entice readers to come back to your blog you still sometimes burn your kid’s store-bought cinnamon rolls.  And that is ok.

Setting Goals for 2014

setting-goalsI don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  But this year I have decided that I need to set some goals for myself and for this blog.  I won’t put you to sleep with all the boring behind-the-scenes stuff that I want to do.  But I think that if I put these out there for the world to see, I might feel more inclined to hold myself to them.  Do you set goals?  Do you complete them?

Blog Goals:

} I want to really figure out what my “brand” is and redesign the blog to fit that.  I have been talking about it for a year now and haven’t made any headway.  And it is eating me up inside!  I need to make time for this.

} I want to continue to work with brands and produce great content.  I would love to try pitching some projects with companies that are a natural fit for me.

} I want to really focus on my content and figure out how to streamline my process.  Right now I cram all my blog work in to 9 hours while my youngest is in preschool and it is a struggle.  I need to create a studio area where I can create, shoot and move on without wrecking my entire house.

Creative Goals:

} I need to think about what I truly want to share with you and would if money was no object.  And then figure out how to make it happen with no money.  I have concepts and styled shoots aching to come out that don’t.  I need to make this happen!

} I need to work on my creative confidence.  I find that when I am in a group of talented women, I start to second guess my instincts and let others take the lead.  I need to remember that I am talented and have my own strengths.  So my painting might not be as good or I can’t cut in the straightest line, but I know I can do these things and do them well.  Except for drawing.  I’ve accepted that.

} I need to organize my props.  I have some amazing pieces to use in my garage but I can’t find them easily or get to some of them.  If I’m trying to streamline my process, this should be all set and ready to go so that I can get something out and then put it right back where it goes again.

} I need to make time for inspiration gathering.  Inspiration is everywhere and I need to be out in it.  I am a home body who sticks to a pretty rigid schedule with my family and work.  I need to make time to explore new places and see new things.  This will be a positive for the kids too.

Personal Goals:

} I want to take better care of my health.  I need to start exercising.  I need to commit to using sunscreen each day on myself and my kids.  And more.

} I want to really focus on the friendships that matter.  I need to make it a priority.  I want to make them a priority.

} I’ve let myself go, yo.  I hardly ever blow dry my hair and I’ve become used to seeing myself with minimal makeup.  But I feel so much better when I look better.  And while my eyebrows are blond, it is no excuse for letting them look like my Dad’s (no offense, Dad – they totally work for you!)

Dang.  That looks like a lot… But they are needed and important!  Wish me luck!

*This image is of some goal planning letterpress cards sent to me by Bing in preparation for Alt Summit.  I think these are going to help me organize my months and really prioritize.  And they are just SO pretty!  Thanks Bing!

Why I love sponsored posts

*The FTC has made some new rules, one of which is to place a disclaimer at the very beginning of each post that is sponsored or compensated in some way.  While this post is not sponsored, you will be seeing some changes to my blog format which may include a disclosure in this location.

cool whip campaignLet’s talk for a minute about why I love sponsored posts and will continue to do them.  There has been lots of talk recently about FTC guidelines and disclosing when you are compensated for a post.  And about how many of them that you should do so that your readers are not put off.  I have heard people say that they will not read a post if there is a disclosure at the beginning of the post but if they get to the bottom and see the disclosure they are ok with it as long as the content was authentic and didn’t seem sponsored.  As the FTC is requiring us to disclose sponsored posts at the beginning and end of the post, I wanted to share why I do sponsored posts and why I hope you will keep reading my blog.  To clarify, a sponsored post is a post in which you have been compensated in some way.  It might be in the form of money, product, services, etc.

I’ll be frank.  Sometimes I take a sponsored post because I know it will make my kid’s happy.  Talking about you, Cool Whip.

style suite at BlogherThe opportunities that blogging has brought me are mind blowing.  From being able to make a little bit of money to put back in to my blog while still being a stay-at-home-mom to my kids, to behind the scenes experiences with well-known brands and products, blogging is the reason for all of that.  There are TONS of things that I want to share with my readers that are not sponsored but there are also some crazy cool things that are sponsored that I want to share too!  Like when I had my makeup done by celebrity makeup artist, Tia Dantzler?!  The coolest.  She’s done J Hud, The President and, you know, me.  Or that Italian food tour of Los Angeles that Bertolli took me on?  You KNOW you are going to hear every detail about that day.  There is no way that I could attend every event that comes my way due to simple scheduling but I want you to know that I keep you in mind when deciding what things to go to.  Please know that I thought of you during every bite of food at my 7 course tasting dinner at Five Crowns.

hellmans mayoIf you are a long time reader, you know I am a very creative person and I really enjoy a challenge.  I make it my goal to bring you authentic content for each and every post.  I also try to be as honest as possible.  In my post for Hellman’s Mayonnaise, I was up front about not liking mayo.  At first I didn’t want to do the project because of the fact that I don’t like mayo but there were a lot of positives about that campaign.  It prompted me to make a video, which I had been wanting to do but hadn’t really had a reason to yet.  It made me have a dinner party to share the recipes with friends (who doesn’t love doing that!) and it really made me figure out a way to connect with the message I was sharing.

But I am human and we all make mistakes.  Of course there are things that I wish I wouldn’t have posted about just because someone asked me to.  But it is important to remember that new bloggers learn as they go and make mistakes along the way.  We shouldn’t judge them but encourage them and help them to learn.  I would like to think that I make much better choices in terms of what sponsored posts to do at this point.  I have come a long way from my first sponsored post for a BBQ grill cleaner…and let me just remind you that when my blog started I only talked about parties.  It was a bit of a stretch.  And guess what?  We still use and love that BBQ grill cleaner!  I get super excited when I get to try out a product before it is launched and share my opinion.

jr watkins spicesI will never share something with you that I don’t love.  I have turned down SO many paid opportunities and product reviews that are just not a good fit.  But why should I turn down money for something that I would want to share with you anyway?  For instance, I’ve just applied to be part of a TV-based campaign.  While I feel like my month of May and June are full of compensated posts, I will not turn down the chance to share with you something that my youngest son has been totally in to for the past 2 months in real life, without knowing this campaign was coming up.  And I really hope I get it because it is a perfect fit.  You guys, this month I get to do so many amazing things that I can’t wait to share with you regardless of the fact that they are sponsored for instance, throw two parties (um, hello, you know that is where it all began), attend a cool multi-faceted All American event (I also find so much inspiration in a well produced event), support a new local store (that just happens to be a store I am in love with – please remember to read Friday’s post) and watch a new reality show and tell you all about it (WORD TO YOUR MOTHER).

So I hope you will keep reading to see my experiences, see what brands I am creating content for and of course my family and my favorite things.  While this started out as a creative outlet for me, it truly has turned in to something larger, for each and every one of you.