I really enjoy seeing blogs blossom, especially blogs that have helped their owner create a successful business or help them in their career. Today I’m delighted to share the story of Móna Wise with you, a lady I met online when she was writing her first blog which was a personal family style blog. It has now metamorphosed into a blog/website and helped her to launch her first book and secure a job as a food columnist for the Irish Sunday Times.
1. Mona, I met you online via our mutual personal blogs some years ago, can you remember why you initially started blogging?
I started blogging when we moved our family from America to Switzerland in 2007. I was spending a lot of time emailing friends, back home in the US, with photos and little stories of what we were up to and how life in Europe was going. I started with Blogger and it was easy and free to get set up on – so I dove right in without really thinking about it. Straight away I got plenty of feedback from mostly friends and family. Note: Feedback does not mean comments. It took ages for me to engage readers to a point of ‘commenting’ on my blog.
2. Why did you change your blogging platform and can you explain how the blog changed and developed in theme/format/content too.
Blogger was easy and free but I was finding it difficult to leave comments on other ‘blogspot’ blogs at times (I believe this has improved now) so felt if I were going to try to engage an audience and get more readers interacting I needed to make the switch to something a little more reader-friendly.
I found WordPress.com (also free and very easy to set up) very sexy. It had very clean lines and once I uploaded a few photos it looked very professional.
I started really working on the photos then too. I had been to a few food blogger workshops, and had seen a lot of blogs with terrible food shots, and it taught me a lot on ‘what not to do’ so I made a conscious decision to only share a photo that I really LOVED. So, I suppose, because I changed ‘how’ I was blogging, that might have also changed ‘who’ I attracted as readers too. Photos draw people in and (hopefully) the stories engage them and the recipes keep them coming back for more.
3. Did the blog help in the writing and sales of your book and in getting your job as a columnist?
If you want to write a book – then I recommend start by writing a blog. Blogging is great exercise for those typing fingers. And on days when you can’t write … you will always be able to blog. It is so important to keep your fingers moving.
The blog is still the primary vehicle for book sales. We track our traffic incoming and outgoing so can see ‘how’ people find us and then if they link to Kennys.ie or Amazon to buy the book. The (very) nice thing about self-publishing is that you have a lot more control over book sales data so you can see who is buying your book.
I am sure the blog also helped me get my job as a columist. These days, employers (if they are smart) study your digital footprint before they even consider interviewing you in person. How often do you Google yourself? Are you happy with the results you find? If you maintain a clean Facebook profile (personal page included) and write a blog that has a professional look and feel to it, then you already have your foot in the door.
I have another social media platform to thank for my job too. Someone at The Sunday Times (who I was not friends with) saw something they ‘liked’ on my (very) personal Facebook page and they contacted me directly. I was not looking for this dream job. I still feel like I am dreaming actually.
4. Do you think your blog has changed significantly in the last few months since the book was published?
Somewhat but probably just because I have been so busy. I have not had a lot of time to just ‘blog’. I am INUNDATED with stuff PR companies keep sending me and do not even have time to run a giveaway – which I love to do – especially when I get something cool to share with my readers. Once the kids go back to school I will be back on the regular blogging bandwagon and I am looking forward to that.
Oh – and I am not sure if this is related to the book or The Sunday Times but there has been a very slow and steady increase in my email subscribers. I get five or seven new subscribers per week and this makes me very happy.
5. Do you have any tips for business bloggers?
Yes. Please let me know ‘who’ is behind the company blog. I hate faceless business bloggers. I know that employees change and you need to keep the business name as the ‘blogging persona’ but I like people. I like to see a smiley face and know who is behind the words or the tweets. Otherwise I find it very hard to trust – and if I can’t trust your business then it is very difficult for me to buy something from you.
Also, if you – as a business owner – want to have a blog but do not feel confident enough to write it, have a little inter-office competition and see if any of your employees would enjoy blogging as part of their job function. Same goes for Facebook and Twitter. I know so many business owners that keep stating they do not have time to engage in social media and I think that they are missing out on a huge HUGE opportunity to drive traffic to their online (or physical) site. Chances are if you find an employee that likes Facebook or Twitter they will enjoy blogging too.
6. Is a related-community important to a blogger in your opinion? ie is it important to be part of a community or niche?
I think, just like in real life, a blogger needs to have friends. You need to find (and meet up with) other bloggers to connect with. My readers, many blogging in other areas of expertise, are all ‘blog readers’ and cooks or bakers. I get more emails from people about recipes and cooking challenges they might have and questions for the chef than I do about anything else. I see a steady increase in the way people engage online on my blog when I read back over the comments. I try to respond to every comment and now see that a lot of my readers, people who have never met each other, are starting to respond to each other – on my blog. Oh – how I love that. It is like they are all sitting in my kitchen having a chat and I am making tea for everyone. Community is very important – but no, it is not important to only be part of a niche blogging community. The world is a big and wonderful place – we should see other people. Lots of them.
7. Do you think that bloggers should use other social media to spread the word about their blog and drive traffic to it?
Online engagement can be a lot of fun. Just do not take your eye off the prize. I find that a fifty-minute work hour and ten minutes of online engagement on FB and Twitter works fantastically well. Facebook readers tend to be way more visual so upload photos a couple of times a week to keep them hooked and when tweeting, share interesting links and RT and share other bloggers’ blog posts.
I think that all depends on what a blogger’s goal might be. If you are trying to generate revenue from adds on your blog then sure – drive all the traffic you can there. If you are trying to sell a book, like me, then yes – definitely have a strategic plan in place in how to get more traffic to your blog.
If you are blogging for business then it is important that you reveal a bit of ‘yourself’ to your readers – who in turn will become your customers. I spend A LOT of time on the internet and trust me, when I am looking to buy a new product or hire someone the very first place I look is my Twitter stream/Facebook page/blog comments to see if I already know anyone that might offer the service I am looking for. I am a consumer after all.
I hope you enjoyed reading our interview with Móna Wise, author of The Chef and I, blogger at Wise Words and columnist with the Sunday Times. It just shows that from little blogs, great things can grow.
If you are looking for a lovely recipe book, complete with the most interesting, intriguing, funny and heartfelt memoir, then do buy a copy of The Chef and I too.