ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN: SAN FRANCISCO

October 24, 2014

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Sometimes social media really makes me question why I am taking blogging so serious. No matter how excellent, professional, or high-quality your blog content — if you started after a certain date and actually want to grow your readership, you have to play the social media game — accumulating followers and those oh so precious “likes.” If that wasn’t frustrating enough — you can have spectacular content, expertly play said game, and yet a huge dollop of sheer luck is still entirely necessary in order to stand out in this saturated blogosphere.

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I have always put in so much time, effort and energy into planning each photoshoot and crafting each post, but this year I knew I had to do more than that. I had to actually get a twitter account (@jmphotography) and even worse, start using it.  I had to start using hashtags on my instagram photos, which I’d always seen as tacky in the past (I now understand how crucial it really is for growth). Some people might love these platforms and be a natural at them (anyone?), but for me it’s a lot of work, and it feels like a popularity contest I’m never going to win.

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Why I would ever want to involve myself in this world of likes and followers makes no sense on paper. I have never been “the popular girl” (nor wanted to be); I eschewed facebook until fairly recently, and even now my 100 or so “friends” or so on there are all actual, literal Friends of mine; when I started an instagram account it was private for the first two years. Just to stack the deck further against me and the potential reach of my blog — I have owned my own business as a sole proprietor for 10 years now and have no colleagues or work friends; went to a community college before that where I made no associations, and when I left the few wonderful people I’d eventually connected with in Southern California behind to move to San Francisco, I knew a total of zero people up here.

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Passion fruit mousse by Andy — even more delicious then it looks 

I met a few people here and there over the years, (one actually in a bar as we complimented each other’s pizza choices; other times I lucked out with awesome neighbors, or a literal friend party) but once I started blogging and — more importantly — feeling confident enough to reach out to other bloggers, my community began to grow much faster. A few months ago I went to a Blog Party where I met some really awesome people also blogging in the bay. I wrote in another post about how grateful I am that blogging has brought so many inspiring, incredible women into my life, and I’ve been saving these images from the blog party until I had more to say on that topic. While hanging out in the loft-like and hip Social Print Studios in June, I met travelers, cooks, ex-pats, traveling mothers, artists, traveling cooks, makers and crafters of all kinds; everyone working hard to tell their story, improve their craft, and do all the footwork that comes with it. I left more motivated than ever to keep up my efforts with all the behind-the-scenes work. I’ll never “win” the popularity contest, but I can embrace the competitiveness in me to not only keep getting better at creating the blog content itself, but to keep working to get my blog out there — for the business and community opportunities, as well as to prove to myself that I can.

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The Blog Party get-together has resulted in several friendships that have been blossoming over the past few months. Just last week I was invited to a clothing swap by the endlessly energetic Ana from Fluxi on Tour.When I tried to host a clothing swap earlier this year, the extent of my plan was to have friends over for drinks in my backyard some sunny Sunday (and even that I actually had to cancel). When Ana plans a clothing swap, it becomes a legitimate event – involving the gorgeous space of a local business, Ampersand, dozens of clothes swappers including bloggers, neighbors, business owners, and foreign travelers, a charcuterie board, and mimosas.

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Obviously there are a lot more things in my life and in the world to be frustrated, concerned, angry or upset over than the fact that I have to figure out how to use facebook better. Without losing sight of that, I’m admitting to you and myself that it’s been demoralizing to consistently put so much effort into something, and to not get the feedback that I want out of it. It’s frustrating — yes — but it’s not the big picture, and that’s what I’m trying to remind myself of by writing this post. It can be tempting to focus on how much better or luckier other people are than yourself, to beat yourself up over how slow your progress seems to be — and more difficult to focus instead on a positive aspect of your career or passion — like the fact that blogging has brought people like Ana, Jamie (who hosts the Blog Parties), Leslie (who introduced me to Jamie’s blog), Sarah and Kelly (fabulous bloggers I’m still in touch with from the event), and so many others into my very insular, work-from-home, transplanted life. I’m going to try to leave my frustrations here in this blog post and think about that instead — a positive note to head into a fresh, new weekend with.

Has anyone else felt frustrated lately — with blogging? With social media? With life in general? Join my pity party  in the comments, and maybe we can help each other find a fresh perspective! Thanks so much for reading, commenting and following — you all encourage me so much to keep going with this strange project. Until next time, let’s stay in touch — you know how to find me =) 

Have a great weekend everyone!

22 Comments
  1. Ana’s event looked like so much fun, what a great idea and she’s such a lovely person. I am also so grateful for the people and connections I’ve made through blogging as well, you being one of them! Keep up the beautiful work and know that everyone loses perspective once in a while. It’s what keeps us on our toes! I’ve loved reading your blogs and I’m so glad we met through Blog Party, we’ll connect again soon!

    • jm

      I’m so glad we connected as well! Thanks for your encouragement Jamie — looking forward to the next blog party!
      xo

  2. Cosign. I’ve had a blog for over 10 years but have always told myself “oh I’m doing it for me, I don’t care if I get hits” but as I’ve been working towards branching off and doing my own thing (via freelance) I really wish I’d been more strategic and focused around my content. And I feel ya on feeling skeezy about hashtagging on Instagram. It takes away some of the personal touch and spontaneity but as much as I wish folks would follow me because I’m just so damn interesting (har har), that is not the reality. Seems silly to admit but it’s one of those ego busting things that is best just getting real about so you can actually make progress.

    This has inspired me to get out more though. I hadn’t really considered meeting up with peers on a similar mission toiling with the same types of uncertainty.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep focus on the positive. No time like the present to grab life by the reins steer the ship into favorable water.

    <3

    • jm

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here Claudia! That’s really interesting about the “ego busting.” It is strange that blogs are such personal representations of self (or can be) and yet instead of just being yourself and not worrying about the consequences, there’s the other aspect that if you want to treat your blog as a business you have to sell this version of your “self.” Maybe that’s where the dilemma comes in — as Melissa pointed out above, about blogging portraying “effortlessness” — as though the blogger is just naturally wonderful, her life is also perfectly, messily, beautiful, and all these people love and follow her simply because of how wonderful she is. How often, if ever, has that really been the case? — though so often in blogging I feel like that is the measure we’re expected to live up to — this complete fantasy.

  3. Oh yes this. I keep thinking lately it’s just me who can’t deal with social media and the high school mentality it seems to have.

    I don’t use the big 3 (Instagram, facebook, twitter) and don’t intend to (nor do I own a smartphone – shocker!) but it does make things much quieter on my blog than it might potentially be. I’ve also stopped submitting my photos to food submission sites; submitting a photo that I love along with an original recipe and having it brusquely dismissed as not being good enough by a team of people who seem to favour brightly saturated photos was getting me down.

    And those recipe sites seem a bit toxic to me, there’s this power play which I don’t like being a part of (mainly because I don’t have any power in that relationship) and to be honest, the minute I decided to let go of all the insecurity and stop caring what people think of my blog content, it’s been very liberating. I’ve started reading more (another passion) and don’t spend as much time on line generally – win!

    One of the reasons I love Flickr so much is how low maintenance and friendly it is so I think I’ll just stick to that and accept that my blog will be seen by a handful of people who genuinely seem to enjoy it.

    I do think if you are monetising your blog though, you need to use social media, I just don’t see how it would work otherwise, despite the fact that I dislike all the phoniness that goes along with that (but then that’s business I guess).

    • jm

      Thank you so much for sharing Emma — it sounds like you’ve had a really discouraging time of it lately! I’m so sorry, and I think I can definitely relate. That’s great that you found a platform you feel comfortable with — I wonder if future content-maker will become more polarized into the different platforms that genuinely appeal to them, rather than the current model which is that you’re expected to be an expert at everything?

      I love that you were able to let go and stop caring about what people think! I wish I knew your secret! I agree that the blogosphere and media can absolutely be too consuming; it’s important to step back, read a book, get off the smart phone, and live a more tangible life =)

      PS: I love your blog!

  4. Oh, Jessica. This strikes a chord!! I think a lot of us feel this way; but because we’re used to performing that sense of ease and creative inspiration, we’re not letting on to what an emotional roller-coaster blogging can be.

    I can also sympathize with you on the social media front– I asked a bunch of blog friends whether they thought a facebook account for their blog (I mean, why?!?!) was worthwhile, before finally creating a page. It feels so pointless, especially now that sponsored posts are taking over anyway. Furthermore, my IG account is STILL private, hah! I think have 11 followers and I pretty much just upload pictures of my food… it’s a struggle.

    Moreover, I think the struggle with blogging is that the feedback is immediate and tangible. How many likes? How many comments? How many views? Bounce rate? It goes on and on and ON. I think the trouble with defining success as attention and approval is that we don’t realize there’s a difference between excellence and good promotion. Having completed a history thesis 6 months ago– where the content was excellent and the reach was 3 individuals– I’m reminded that quality does not always come with a loud obnoxious applause. And yet, it can feel as though without proper recognition or a good dose of popularity, then there must not be any value in our work.

    Also, I published a post yesterday about sponsoring other blogs and what that means. I’m really torn about this whole thing– but I actually found your blog through an ad you had put up a while back, so… :)

    Anyway, I really wish you were still in LA so we could bond over how difficult it is to sell oneself to this generation of technological addicts. ;) Perhaps if you’re in SF for Thanksgiving… I’ll be up there visiting family. In the meantime, hang in there! I love each and every one of your photos– truly– and enjoy your thoughtful and eloquent words. :)

    • jm

      I love all of your points here Daisy — thank you so much for sharing! I think that’s right on about the immediate feedback, and I’ve heard a common lament amongst bloggers that paying attention to stats has ruined blogging for them. And I am really curious to hear the results from your facebook blogger quiz — personally, I am seriously debating closing my profile. It feels like one of those things you have to do as a blogger (have a page), and yet I get way more traffic from instagram, pinterest, or RSS feeds like bloglovin. And the more I hear about Facebook selling our information and the more I see it trending towards sponsored posts, the more I regret ever creating an account to begin with.

      Definitely agree with you about “ease” being part of the problem, as Melissa mentions above. Blogging creates an unfair presentation of effortless and ease that just isn’t realistic — partially due to the curation that just naturally comes along from creating a blog, but also due to the reluctance to blog about anything negative. I understand no one likes a whiner, and there’s a lot of valid arguments out there against using your blog to complain or vent, but personally I think a middle ground could be found. I am fascinated by the “behind the scenes” work of blogging — I love meeting with bloggers and picking their brains about how they do what they do and why. It really irritates me that so many of the really big blogs don’t even have an “about” page, or their page mentions the barest details — when I really want to know (and I’m sure I’m not the only one): how do you manage to travel around the world, or go to these events, or wear the clothes that you do, and how did you get started on this road, what were the obstacles, what is actually your job and how does it work, how do you get paid, etc. etc.. Essentially, what IS a blogger when you’re operating at the really high level? Because if you expect me to believe this blog is still a genuine representation of an attainable life…

      I am super fascinated by Melissa’s thoughts about this being a feminist issue — I’d never thought about it in that way, but that comment has really struck a chord with me. I think a certain level of transparency is attainable, realistic, and appealing — and fortunately I do see that kind of transparency showing up more and more that portrays how hard blogging is, what a professional blogger’s life really looks like, and even how much money they make and why (have you read a pinch of yum’s monthly reports? Soooo interesting). I would love to see this become more mainstream!

      Haha, thanks for letting me know you found me through a sponsor! That’s actually really helpful to know that not only did a get a traffic boost, but I know how at least one new regular reader! I’m looking forward to reading your post about the topic =)

      Thanks as always for your articulate and thought-provoking comments!

  5. Jessica, oh how I can relate! It’s hard not to compare yourself with others or to disparage the quality of your own work, but what I keep reminding myself is to think about growth. Other people get where they are because they’ve worked hard and LEARNED a ton. I’m still learning and it’s OK that it’s not perfect all the time. When we met at Blog Party, it was also my first foray into meeting people in this community, but what I’m finding is that instead of a competitive community of bloggers trying to one-up each other, the bloggers I keep meeting a thoughtful, HELPFUL, and inspiring. And it’s an every day process to get over my “impostor syndrome.” I’m also so thankful for getting to know you and see the progress of your beautiful work! I look forward to our food tour:)

    • jm

      Thanks for sharing your struggles here Sarah — it’s really encouraging to hear that someone doing as amazing a job as you are can actually relate to my woes. Don’t feel like you’re an impostor! You are the real deal!
      While there’s been a few mixed results, overall it’s been incredibly inspiring how nice, generous, friendly and helpful most people are in the blogging community. I don’t want to say it’s restored my faith in humanity — but, maybe it has! It’s really remarkable, and it’s so exciting to be a part of this still relatively new industry — I’m super interested to see how it grows!
      Really looking forward to our food tour as well!! Can’t wait! See you soon =)
      xo

    • The MOST helpful EVER? SARAH. SERIOUSLY.

      (I TOTALLY RELATE. It’s tough- managing SO many things at once and trying to be genuine AND find a path. Hope to see you again soon and we can chat more about it! xo)

    • jm

      I’d love to meet up again Carla! We can sing the praises of Sarah all day together lol ^_^
      Thanks so much for staying in touch!!

  6. I feel the same about social media. I just blog to share my pictures and to keep a diary to look back in the future, and yes I do love when I get comments but then I see that when life gets difficult and I’m unable to comment other blogs my visits fall… so I wonder, why do people come to my blog? I like to stay positive though, I still enjoy posting pictures and I will until I get tired of it…but honestly a facebook page or twitter is too much for me. Too time consuming

    Anyway, keep up the good stuff
    best,

    • jm

      That’s really encouraging to hear you’ve avoided the whole social media dilemma! Maybe I should also shed the platforms I don’t like. I hope you don’t get tired of posting your photos anytime soon =)

  7. I love Instagram, but the rest of social media I just do because I feel like it’s an obligation. My biggest issue is caring too much about how many “likes” a photo gets. It’s such a disease! I try to balance Instagraming with enjoying the moment and sadly enough, it’s something I have to work at! Mrrp.

    • jm

      Mrrp! I could not agree more Kelly!!! Instagram is my favorite, and I care waaaay too much about likes as well. Fortunately it’s still fun for me though; it hasn’t become a chore, or made me feel bad about not being popular or well “liked” — in fact it only continues to inspire me to do better! If only everything could be like that — well what are you going to do =)

  8. Oh this is an interesting topic. There’s a characteristic of blogging (and social media) where it’s not supposed to look like work. “Effortless chic” is positive. “Trying too hard” is negative.
    But I reframe this as a feminist issue. Women’s work is chronically undervalued and rendered invisible. Blogs provide a really wonderful outlet for women’s voices. It’s unfortunate that the message needs to be sanitized of any reference to labor.
    I believe that if you are producing content on a public forum, then you absolutely deserve to have it read by as many people as possible. Those social media platforms are a powerful way to spread your message.

    tl;dr
    High level: don’t let the Man tell you that your message isn’t worth spreading
    Low level: promote the hell out of your posts on social media.

    • jm

      Thank you SO much for sharing this Melissa!!! This is an absolutely fascinating point, and I can’t believe this aspect of the topic has never occurred to me before! I’ve written about your thought here already pretty extensively in some other replies to comments here, so I’ll keep this brief, but I would love to see more blogs bucking the trend of “effortless chic” — especially if it will help legitimize this field into a industry that is taken seriously as a profession. So many bloggers are taken advantage of by working for cutthroat prices or even for free (possibly because they mostly ARE women??) when they’re offered an actual business opportunity through their blog — either because they don’t have the knowledge and experience, or because they don’t see themselves as a “real” professional (and this may be getting too far off topic, but the side effect of this is of course that non-blogging, long-term professionals in the industry now have to compete with these unfair prices due to bloggers who often don’t know any better).

      I’m so glad we were able to speak earlier this month and I’m looking forward to a lot more discussions! You are a seriously successful blogger who has clearly put in huge amount of time and energy planning, designing, executing and maintaining your business, and we all have a lot to learn from you!

  9. I really enjoyed reading this post! I sometimes feel like half my life is spent on social media, but getting traffic to my blog and meeting people like you through Instagram and other platforms definitely makes it worth it! I love the idea of the clothing swap, too!

    • jm

      Instagram is completely worth it to me — I get a lot of enjoyment out of it, I think I’ve actually improved as a insta-photographer, and I’ve met and connected with some really amazing people around California and the world! I haven’t experienced that kind of response out of other platforms — but maybe I need to attend one of your speaking events before I drop them ;-) you are the master after all!
      Glad you liked this post Julie! xo

  10. Wow this is exactly how I have been feeling. I have been blogging since I was 15—I’m 21 now. I have finally reached the point where I feel very confident in my content and confident in myself in general, I suppose. But it seems that blogging has become such a THING that it is somewhat frustrating now. I still love it and totally enjoy taking the photos I do and collecting my thoughts on my blog but wow it is such a crazy game that I was never made to play. And yeah, tagging instagram photos makes me feel super weird but it’s the only way anyone new will see my photos so I have to??? It’s just a weird world out there. Luckily, I have always had creative people surrounding me, but meeting new ones is quite a challenge.
    That being said, I love your blog and Instagram feed. I’m so glad you posted this, because it was exactly what I was thinking as I thought about blogging today.

    xx
    scarlettandgiselle.blogspot.com

    • jm

      Wow — you’re a lifer Jenna! That’s incredible! Thank you so much for leaving this note! Don’t feel weird about leaving instagram hashtags — I definitely did, but it’s how you and I have now connected, and it’s how I’ve connected with anyone through instragram — and totally worth it! I think as some of the other commenters are saying there’s this pressure to look “effortless” — like oh look how many istagram followers and likes I have even though I never hashtag my photographs — and that’s not reality. You don’t grow your feed without those tags, and you don’t grow your overall presence as a blogger without all of these platforms. It’s not really fair, but most jobs have unfair aspects, and blogging is work — we just don’t always perceive it that way.
      Anyway thank you for leaving this note — I’m glad to hear this topic struck a chord with you!

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