Sometimes having a blog is awesome. When I got engaged and married for example, and so many lovely comments flooded in to say congrats = awesome. When I go to an event and spend an evening with a bunch of blogger babes who I now get to call friends = awesome. When I am lucky enough to get to try something new, be the first to review a product or even travel on behalf of my internet space = awesome.
But then there are days when having a blog isn’t so awesome. When you are reminded that blogging essentially means opening yourself and your life up to criticism from the world. When you realise that the minute you put anything at all on the internet, it can be seen by anyone. When you start to feel like writing your words on your online space might no longer be the enjoyable, therapeutic and fun pastime you originally set out for it to be. When blogging starts to feel stressful, disheartening and one extra weight on your shoulders that you could do without.
Yesterday was one of those days for me.
After a post I’d done for a brand (which admittedly was a new area for me) was retweeted by the agency, I was the subject of various negative tweets and snide comments from the brands regular fan base, who it seemed didn’t take too kindly to someone attempting to give their opinion on a subject they weren’t well educated on. Initially I accepted the retorts, telling myself that the readers behind them were people who, under normal circumstances, would never come across or read my blog, and therefore not my target audience. I told myself that my interests were not their interests, and as they’d probably never read my blog before, my tongue and cheek, sarcastic and witty approach was probably lost on them. I responded politely and took it on the chin… until one tweet which read; ‘I’d rather poke my eyes out with a fork than read that ditzy s**te’ managed to reduce me to tears.
Because here’s the thing. For most bloggers, a blog is a very personal project (even more so if you are a personal lifestyle blogger) and so when someone criticises your blog, it feels like they are criticising YOU. No matter how often we can tell ourselves to grow a thick skin and take the good with the bad, negative feedback on something you’ve worked hard on, spent time on, and attempted to do a good job of, is hard to take.
Even if you write about something totally unrelated to your personal life (I don’t know many bloggers who operate in this way I must admit), the work you publish online is still your work. Your words, your photographs, your thoughts, your opinions and therefore a part of you has gone online with that work. When someone tears that part of you down, like in any creative profession, it can be disheartening.
But the cold hard fact of the matter is, if you choose to share your life on the internet (or indeed a part of it) then you must accept that you may, from time to time, and from select groups of people, receive negativity surrounding that. It will happen, at least once, for every single blogger out there and if you choose to start a blog in today’s blogger world you cannot be naive enough to expect it not to happen to you. I have a bit of an excuse in that when I started this blog six years ago (I know!), blogging was barely even a ‘thing’ and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or what the future would hold. My blog has very much grown alongside my life, and I feel very lucky to have a manageable little community who on the whole are extremely kind to me, even when I pull silly faces in an outfit post or write about frivolous matters. Having worked in blogger outreach for many years I know that there are lots of bloggers out there who experience negativity on a much larger scale, and I’m in awe of how they take it in their stride most of the time.
But no matter how big or small your blog is, and whether you write professionally or personally, it’s important to be prepared for this. And so I wanted to offer up my tips on how to deal with negativity as a blogger, and ensure that it doesn’t get the better of you or your blog. I genuinely believe that we should all be supporting one another, as in the grand scheme of things blogging is still a very new industry, and we’re all still learning as we go. It’s a job/hobby/writing medium (delete as appropriate) that wasn’t around 15 years ago and so the problems, issues and hurdles facing those involved in it now are new to us all and something we need to navigate together. I hope this post is useful to those of you considering starting a blog, or those who might experience negative feedback in the future.
TOP TIPS FOR DEALING WITH NEGATIVE FEEDBACK ON YOUR BLOG
Don’t forget who’s reading
The first tip for dealing with negativity is to be mindful of it before you sit down and write. I’ll let you into a little secret, a lot of bloggers write as if no one is reading. For me my blog is a diary – I used to write in a real life diary and now I write on the internet but I still like to record my thoughts and feelings at certain points in my life. The difference is that no one could read that paper diary and anyone can read this online diary (if they really want to) so this is a tip that I myself could take more notice of. At the same time, however, that is my style of writing and something I’m not willing to give up so I simply have to be aware that parts of my diary are now internet property.
Obviously if you’re The Blonde Salad with 5.6 million followers on Instagram, it would be pretty naive to imagine that you could publish something which no one would read, and undoubtedly your blog would have to adapt to deal with that (that’s the sad thing – the more successful your blog becomes, the less personal you are forced to make it). But if you’ve only got a couple of thousand Instagram followers and are part of a much smaller blog community it’s easy to forget that your words might be read by anyone other than your Mum.
Overall I’d never advocate changing your style of writing, or omitting certain facts or opinions to suit others and I don’t believe writing with others in mind always makes the best read, but it’s important to be aware of how far your words could travel and think twice about what you could be opening yourself up to before you press publish. A successful journalist once told me that if you’re willing to share personal things within your writing, your readers will definitely thank you for it, and I agree with this. Posts which are written in an honest and heartfelt way without the writer worrying too much about what others will think are some of my favourite posts to read, but just don’t be silly about it. Don’t share anything that you wouldn’t happily share with a group of friends over coffee, don’t include names or personal details about other people in your life without asking them first and don’t go on a tirade about one specific person or brand unless you’re willing for them to read it and call you out on it.
If you do choose to write about something controversial (great!) or share a left field opinion that you know a lot of people might disagree with, be prepared to handle those disagreements and offer up a space in which people can freely discuss the matter in hand. For example when I wrote my post on the new curvy Barbie’s I knew that there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t agree with my view point but I was willing to publish it anyway as I thought the discussion was a healthy one to have and something I was keen to weigh in on. There’s nothing wrong with using your blog as an opinion platform, but just be aware that both good and bad feedback will come with that.
Find the source of the negativity (if there is one) and learn from it
Sometimes, when it comes to your blog, people will be negative, derogatory or downright mean, for no apparent reason. They will not know you from Adam and yet will have taken a dislike to you or how you live your life and have no problem airing this dislike all over your blog and social media channels. I once had someone repeatedly comment on my blog for months purely just to tell me how fat and ugly I was, and the ‘trolling’ only stopped when I moved my blog to WordPress and upped my spam filters in my comment section. In these cases, you should ignore everything that is said and not attempt to learn from it at all. Occasionally though, behind the bad choice of words and angry tweets might be a reasonable gripe with something you’ve said or done, and in these cases you can try and find the reason for people’s negativity and learn from it for the next time. The recent case I mentioned at the beginning of this post, where a brands fan base took a dislike to my ability to review something is one such example of this. It’s never nice to have strangers attacking your work or making snide comments about you, (while tagging you in those comments) but at the heart of their annoyance was the fact that I’d attempted to review something I don’t have a great deal of knowledge on. And even though I’d been honest about this fact throughout the post, I can to an extent take that criticism on board.
As a lifestyle blogger, the subjects you blog about are not clean cut. When you write about your life and what happens within it, it’s easy for the lines to get blurred and you find yourself wanting to write about many aspects of your life and share all of the moments, both big and small with your readers. It’s only through six years of blogging about everything and anything that I’m starting to realise not everything fits the aesthetic of this blog, and so when certain posts do better than others I can learn from it. In many cases, going out of your blogs comfort zone and writing about a fresh new topic can be hugely beneficial (take my wedding series for example – not a subject I’d ever covered before but one I loved writing and you loved reading and which has led to me setting up my own wedding website) but other times it doesn’t work, and that’s ok.
If someone critisises you or your work without backing up their critisism with real reasons, ignore. But if there’s an issue you can tackle and ultimately make your work better then do so.
Stay cool, calm and professional
Not always easy to do, but absolutely the most effective way of dealing with negative criticism. Ever heard the saying ‘kill them with kindness’? It really does go a long way. But more than that, staying cool and calm is good for your brand, makes you appear like the bigger person and makes those throwing abuse your way look like the idiot. It’s easy to get riled up when someone is attacking you or your blog in a personal manner but fuelling the fire never brings anything but more flames your way. With regards to those blog ‘trolls’ commenting on your blog, blocking, deleting and/or not replying is the only method which works (which I learned the hard way). The liklihood is they are commenting on various sites just waiting for a reply to pounce on (sad but true), and when it comes to social media things can blow up faster than you think so be cautious. Reply if you feel the need to of course (staying silent can often be more detrimental) and defend yourself if you feel you should, but consider your responses carefully and respond in a way that doesn’t invite further negativity, makes you come across intelligent and reasonable, and ultimately retains your professionality.
Whether you see your blog as your profession or not, it’s a part of your online persona, along with your social channels, and your manner and attitude when conversing online can mean a lot, and go a long way to raising or decreasing your professional status.
Don’t enter into a Twitter feud
Whatever you do, don’t enter into a feud on Twitter regarding your blog. The sad fact is that many people on Twitter are looking for an argument and will relish the chance to enter into one with you. We only have to look at the recent Kim K debaucle to know how quickly things can escalate and get out of hand. Undoubtedly Kim would have done herself and her brand a favour by staying silent, but instead her catty remarks and derogatory tweets towards those who criticised her served to reignite the fire and make her come across in a less than intelligent way (anyone else still convinced Kanye was behind those tweets?). Twitter has, unfortunately, become the social platform predominantly used for negativity and feuds, and is often now a breeding ground for those who want to attack anonymously. It’s easy to fire something off in 140 characters without thinking and then hide behind an online persona afterwards. As such Twitter uses are often much more brazen in their use of words and say things they might never say to someone in real life. It can be an automatic reaction to want to hit back and come up with an equally vengeful response but it really isn’t worth it.
Consider your ‘brand’ at all times
Like I said, even if you don’t blog as a career and see your blog as a hobby, it’s still under your name and part of your online ‘portfolio’ for want of a better word, so it’s important to consider what type of image and ‘brand’ you want to portray. I’ve always blogged very much for myself and in a diary format so the idea of curating a ‘brand’ and making sure all of my online communication fits with this same image, is one I’ve struggled with over the years. This is essentially the type of work I do for brands in my freelance capacity so it’s not that I don’t know how, but I was always pretty adamant that I didn’t want my personal blog to fall into the trap of becoming too ‘business’ like and losing the essence of what made it the blog it is in the first place. Lately I’ve been realising that whether I want it to be or not, my blog is a part of my business (not the whole business but an apsect of it) and instead of trying to pretend otherwise, I should embrace that and make my blog represent the type of freelancer I want to be and the lifestyle I want to portray. It’s a tricky road to navigate, and many of us who own a blog are still on the fence about whether we want it as a career or just as a hobby, but there is no denying that however small your blog is, it is still a brand and therefore still deserving of being treated that way. As a blogger, you are very much the face and heart of that brand, and so how you write, act and conduct yourself all adds to people’s image of you and your blog. Even if you want to throw all the swear words in the world at someone in your own time, don’t bring those things to your blog, to your communication or to your image. Respond to comments intelligently, be open to healthy discussion with those who don’t agree with you and allow others their opinions. Be kind, be respectful and be ‘on brand’.
Be mindful of external brands you may be representing
The same goes for the brands you may represent on your blog, and this is perhaps even more important than looking after your own image as you really don’t want to do anything which could jeopardise the relationships you’ve cultivated over the years. When people started directing tweets my way which were less than positive after my recent post, I knew that as well as representing myself on Twitter, I had an obligation to represent the brand I’d worked with on the review. They’d sought me and my blog out as they valued my writing, my opinions and my influence (which I’m very grateful for) but one wrong tweet could have easily seen me throw all of that away and have the brand never want to work with me again. Your reputation as a blogger is probably your most valuable asset, and believe me having worked on the other side in PR and outreach, it really does not take long for word to get around from brand to brand, agency to agency. One wrong move too many will easily have you blacklisted as a blogger brands don’t want to take a risk on.
Develop a thick skin and accept that you’ll never please everyone
It is definitely easier said than done, but as a blogger (and particularly in certain fields of blogging such as fashion, beauty or lifestyle where you are very much at the forefront of your posts) you do need to develop a thick skin. I admittedly am not very good at this, and take things to heart all too often (which most of the time makes me grateful my blog is a manageable size and I’m not dealing with a huge amount of negativity). It’s a flaw of mine and I genuinely sometimes wish I wasn’t such a sensitive person but I think all of us have a tendency to want people to like us. It’s human nature to want to please but it’s truly futile to try and please everyone, it just isn’t going to happen. If you get ten positive comments on a post and one negative then try and not dwell on that one. Because 90% of the people who read that post and chose to leave a comment liked it. Blogging is a funny artform really. It’s often described as narcissistic and self indulgent (all selfies and ‘look at me!’) but to the contrary most people I know who blog are in fact very shy and self conscious and their blogs are a way to share, communicate and better themselves.
In the same way that it’s easy for bloggers to imagine no one is reading their posts, it’s all too easy for readers to forget that there’s a real person behind a blog too, someone who might take that 140 character tweet to heart or allow those comments to affect them.
On both sides, we need to learn to be more accepting of different people’s likes, dislikes and opinions. Not everyone will share the same interests as you, or have the same opinion, but that’s what makes us all so fascinating.
Don’t let it knock your confidence
It would be all to easy to let a few negative comments get to you and pack the whole thing in. But the truth is that every single creative profession in the world comes with some form of negative feedback which you will have to face. When you do something personal, creative and on show, there will always be people who don’t like it as much as you do, or don’t understand your goals. It would be easy to let those people be a reason to quit, but ultimately if something is important to you and you’re passionate about it, then all that should matter is you. As I’ve said every single blogger will have received nasty comments or snide tweets at some point, but the important thing is not to let it knock your confidence. Last night I’ll admit that for a second, amidst the sea of tweets describing forking your own eyes out rather than read my writing, I did consider that maybe having a blog just wasn’t worth it. That perhaps it was time to say goodbye to Bumpkin Betty, or at least go back to writing sporadically about my life and nothing else, to do away with the stress, and the long nights spent editing photos, and the guilt when I didn’t post four times a week, and simply… not blog. But then this morning I woke up with a million post ideas in my head, eager to sit at my laptop and write and I realised that my blog is just as much for me as it is for anyone else. If I enjoy creating posts and putting together content (and if doing so assists my business in the long run) then I shouldn’t stop.
Move on quickly and come back better
Lastly, when you have had some negative comments or are feeling down about the reaction to your blog, it’s best to move on quickly and start afresh. As they say yesterday’s newspapers are already lining your fish and chips and yesterday’s blog post is for yesterday. A few years back when my blog troll was prolific, I worried that maybe I shouldn’t share so many outfit posts (as these were predominantly what she commented on) in order to avoid her wrath, but why should you change because of one bad apple? Come back bigger, better and even more flamboyant I say. If you’re Kim K, you’ll probably just share another naked selfie, and if you’re a blogger, just keep on blogging. Keep producing the best content you can, and keep creating work that you’re proud of. Really, that’s all any of us can do.
Have you had to deal with negative comments as a blogger? I’d love to hear your thoughts!