[SL] Blogger Support

Why you should choose a niche for your Second Life blog (or even carve a new one)

Bookshelves in Second Life

Nearly 87% of the 1,308 blogs listed on the Blogging Second Life website are about fashion. That’s probably not a huge surprise to most Second Life bloggers, but it’s still a huge number (1,136) of blogs writing about generally one thing.

As part of our project aimed at updating the site’s backend, I streamlined the sub-categories of these fashion blogs, the segments of which you can see in the pie chart here.

Sub-niches of Second Life Fashion Blogs

As I’m sure is also no surprise at all, 2/3rd of the fashion blogs listed are focused on women’s fashion. Sorry guys, only 8% serve your fashion community, unless you consider the unisex blogs, which bring this number up a little – but these tend to lean towards women’s fashion as well.

All of this got me thinking, with so many fashion blogs out there, how does a fashion blogger get noticed? So many fashion blogs often writing about many of the same things – how do you stand out?

I think the way to do it, is choosing a niche, and if a niche doesn’t yet exist, carving it out.

Why would you want to appeal to appeal to a smaller segment of blog readers? Isn’t the name of the game for many to get more views, not less?

Before I continue here, I’m going to make a few assumptions. I’m going to assume that you want some people to look at your blog posts. I’m going to further assume that if you have some people looking at your blog posts, you might want more people looking at your blog posts. Lastly, I’m assuming that if you were only blogging for yourself, then you’d be writing a personal, private journal, not a public blog. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll continue.

Most bloggers find choosing a niche scary. Most generally don’t want to shoot for a smaller, edge market, as is shown by the huge number of women’s fashion bloggers in Second Life. Nearly 9/10 of bloggers out there are shooting for the middle of the road – the biggest market for Second Life blogs – those interested in women’s fashion.

Maybe these bloggers haven’t considered the option to niche, or perhaps they don’t niche because they fear they won’t be able to attract enough viewers by blogging one niche segment in their chosen market. Maybe they have eclectic tastes, and might find it boring to focus on a niche area. The problem with this approach, is that it ignores that there are already plenty of competitors fighting over existing market positions within the core of the market.

By niching, you can expand your existing viewer base because you can “own” an identifiable market position. While this niche may seem on the fringe of the market, there is a much greater chance that you’ll be able to attract people who are interested in mainly that niche. As long as your niche is aligned with creators that are producing quality work in their niche, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding in your niche, than you might in the overall blogger universe.

Here are some reasons you might want to focus:

You can still be first

Every month, bloggers flood Second Life fashion events. These events can be so busy, that it’s typical for many to not bother trying to visit these events until many days after the event opens.

Why? Because so many bloggers want to be the first to find the goodies, and blog them. No one wants to blog the same stuff that 100 other bloggers have already blogged.

In a niche, you can side-step the race to blog the more obvious items. While everyone chases the latest and greatest, you can run the other way and bring more obscure things to the light. Remember that scarcity is a virtue – this is one reason why people covet the rare over the common. Blog about unique finds, and you’ll get on more follow lists, get more engagement, and probably more referrals.

You’re more likely to keep blogging

The toughest time for a new blogger is at the start of their blogging journey. Many will give up after a few posts are received with little more than silence. For some, the silence doesn’t quench their first enthusiasm, and these stubborn souls continue to regularly post until they eventually get a following.

I’d suggest that any new blogger commit to regularly posting about a specific niche for 3-6 months before expecting to get anything but the feedback of their close friends. Of all the bloggers out there, the aspiring fashion blogger has the biggest hill to climb – it’s not only probably the most expensive category, but also the most competitive.

You’ll have a bigger impact

In most markets, there are very few market leaders. You know the Second Life bloggers I’m talking about. These are the bloggers that have the most followers, the most engagement on their posts, and the most pull with creators. These are the bloggers that lead the way, and might even set the agenda as to what to write about, and when. Some of these bloggers are highly talented, and all have been around a long time. Due to this mix of circumstance, it’s going to be very, very hard for most bloggers to have a blog about Second Life fashion that will be as big as theirs.

Again, niching will give you a much more plausible opportunity to make an impact. The big reason for this is because niche blogs save people time. For example, when I want to find something elegant to wear, I don’t want to trawl through all the blogs on my reading list in the hopes that someone just happened to post about something elegant to wear among all the other things they typically post. Instead, I will go to a blog that focuses on elegant fashions as a niche. In this way, I have way more chance of finding something I like from a set of good options, instead of hoping to find my needle in a haystack of blog posts.

You’ll have more power with creators

The relatively few long-term and popular Second Life content creators get inundated with notecards and messages from bloggers seeking to get on their blogger lists. For these content creators, it’s a buyer’s market. They can afford to ignore most bloggers, or make them jump through hoops like regular posting schedules, categorical exclusivity, or maintaining a minimum number of views or engagement tokens. They don’t do this because they’re evil by the way, they do this because they are human. Many of these content creators have their pick of who to go with, and among all the other things they have to do (like create), they’ll take the path of least resistance. Dealing with fewer, more popular bloggers cut the effort needed to work with bloggers.

By niching, you’ll naturally gravitate to lesser well-known, newer, and potentially more hungry content creators. These content creators will be over-the-moon to have you blog their creations. And, as long as you choose wisely, you have considerably more equal footing when it comes to negotiating your terms for blogging – whatever they might be.

You’re more likely to be able to defend your position and stay visible

Should your niching strategy prove successful, you’ll have a much smaller patch to defend against anyone writing about the stuff you now know a lot about. Sure, we all want to work together, but wouldn’t you prefer being the go-to-blog for your niche?

You’ll not only attract more dedicated and loyal supporters of your niche, you’ll draw more engagement from them, and you might even be approached by content creators that focus on your niche. Your followers will be less fickle, they will understand you, and will be less prone to churn if you happen to have a dry spell or do something else for a while.

Future bloggers who might want to write about what you write about might be less enthusiastic to enter your territory, because very few people want to be called just another me-too who writes about what so-and-so writes about.

You can organically grow your niche over time.

Some might argue that the biggest bloggers out there don’t niche, so why would niching work for you? Well, way back when most of these big bloggers got their blogs started, Second Life blogging was a very small pond. Just having a blog about Second Life was a niche in itself, proposing an entirely new way to relate with residents, stores and creators. Like in most areas of life, those who got in early, reaped the low hanging fruit.

One of the main reasons that the top Second Life bloggers are on top today, is because they’ve had the support of a loyal readership that essentially has done their marketing for them for years. These bloggers generate a lot of word of mouth and referral links, even from bloggers that fall outside of their niche.

If you niche, your strong and defined market position can help you build a blog in other segments over time, enabling you to grow beyond your current niche position. Niching will allow you to stay on track with what you post about, grow a reliable and loyal audience, expand your knowledge and connections with a defined and own-able space, and even, potentially, allow you to monetise your blog one day, as some big Second Life bloggers have.

Do I follow my own advice?

Yes, I do. First off, I don’t write about fashion. Obviously, if you love fashion, then I urge you to write about it. I like the practical aspects of fashion, how it looks on me, the buzz in finding something new, the compliments I might get, but I’m not, and will likely never be, a fashionista.

Without even doing the math as I did above, I guessed that about nine out of every ten Second Life blogs were about fashion – and thank goodness, how would I have the faintest idea about how to get dressed in the morning if it wasn’t for their advice?

My blog, however, isn’t one of those blogs. With my first post, I asked myself:

“What can I write about that someone else isn’t already writing about? What can I say that’s different? How can I give something that isn’t already there?”

Three years, and nearly 400 posts later, I think I’m starting to really settle into my niche.

I like to write long-form editorial posts about the social science aspects of Second Life. I like to put on different lenses to see the world from different perspectives. In one post, I might wear a psychological lens to understand how we think about things emotionally and intellectually. In others, I might put on anthropological glasses to explore why we might behave the way we do.

Because I write experientially (using my experiences to inspire my ideas and question thoughts and emotions openly), many of the things I write record my own development as a person in Second Life – intellectually and creatively.

In everything I write, I strive for interestingness. I write about things that engage me, things that excite me, things that hold my unfocused attention and my insatiable curiosity.

Has it worked? Well, in 2012, my first full of year blogging, I had 339 unique visitors and 10,809 views. The next year, 2013, I got 6,545 unique visitors to read my posts, and 14,837 views. In 2014, I got 13,040 uniques, and 26,555 views. So far this year, not even a third into it, I’m grateful to have received 4,960 unique visitors and 9,148 views.

Views and Visitors of www.canarybeck.com

I certainly don’t have the most popular blog out there. There are many, much bigger blogs. But I’m convinced that the reason I get the views I do, isn’t so much because I’m an amazing writer or a visionary photographer. Not writing about the most popular topic in Second Life (i.e fashion) doesn’t help my numbers much either. Instead, I think the reason my blog audience grows year after year is in large part because I’ve been a pretty steady publisher for over three years, and there are still very few other bloggers that write about the stuff I write about. I niched.

I hope that you too can find your niche. Sometimes it happens by design, and sometimes it happens organically. I can assure you that however you do it, you’ll become a stronger, better, and yes, even more popular blogger than you are today.

Skin Fair 2015 and some blogger thoughts and jottings..

Skin Fair 2015 is almost upon us, which means bloggers will be running ragged around both sims discovering gorgeous new skins to write about and share with our readers prior to the mad crush on opening day, Friday 13th March. It can be a crazy time because Skin Fair is always one of the most exciting events that take place in-world, and the pressure is certainly upon bloggers to write and share the very best that is on offer at the event.

Some (but by no means all) of the brands at Skin Fair offer bloggers the opportunity to request copies for evaluation on their blogs.  Like most of the bloggers in this group I have requested some copies for myself to feature on my blog, Kittywitchin’, but I’ve been careful not to ask for too many.  There are so many brands exhibiting at the event that if I endeavoured to cover them all I just wouldn’t make a very good job of it, so I’ve found the method that works best for me is to request review copies from designers that I’m not totally familiar with.  This means I get to feature a brand I’ve never discussed on my pages before and opens my eyes to a new designer that I get to excitedly share with my readers.  Such fun!

A darker thought: It’s interesting to note that when Skin Fair kicks off you seem to find a lot of new blogs appear on the internet. Ones that have remained dormant for a long period of time suddenly seem to spring back to life; indeed people who have walked away from blogging suddenly seem enthused about the topic again. Is it crass for me to assume that some of these bloggers are doing so for personal gain? After all, a quality skin doesn’t come cheap. But enough of such speculation. I can understand why blogging may seem attractive to a rampant Second Life shopaholic looking for an easy fix.  Spotting the latest must have items and sharing them with an audience to effusive praise probably seems like a wonderful way to spend your day, but therein lies the problem.  Blogger success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of hard work and it’s a huge commitment.  There’s a reason why there are so many blogs out there with just a select few being the most notable, most talked about and generally most loved.  These are the blogs that are taken seriously by the people who produce them, who have taken the time to write great copy and possibly most important of all, have created beautiful photographs to accompany the blog posts. Get the balance right and you’re on to a winning formula.

Like everything else in the virtual universe, blogging has changed a lot over the years.  When I first experimented with blogging it was because I wanted to write about my virtual environment and share my enthusiasm for it.  I also wanted to hone my writing skills and use my blog as a creative outlet.   It didn’t take me long to realise that blogging is actually incredibly hard work that presents just as many difficulties as it does opportunities.  That trend continues to this day, but there are changes afoot.

For example, there’s a real craze now for content creators to advertise for bloggers, something that you would never have encountered a few years ago.  Personally I’ve nothing against it;  I’ve applied to a small number of creators myself in this way and I’m sure it’s a great way for them to discover new blogs that they would like to be featured upon. But it’s not without problems.  For a start, when you apply to be a blogger for a certain brand it goes without saying that you are obligated to them. They may ask you to blog a few items every week, or just a few times a month, but either way if they have requirements that you can’t fulfil then it is unfair to willingly receive their goods without any intention of blogging them. Of course, real life intervenes from time to time but if you constantly find you have no time to blog the items you’ve received then it is only fair that you let the creator know.

The other problem with blogging by application is the unwritten rule that you’re going to be effusive in your praise about the items you receive.  What happens if your favourite content creator sends you something to blog that you absolutely cannot stand? What do you do in that situation? It’s not an easy one for sure. I guess in those circumstances you would have to be polite and advise them that you would be unable to feature that item on your pages, but ultimately this could damage your working relationship with that brand.

There can be a lot of unnecessary pressures placed upon bloggers to fulfil requests and meet deadlines and oftentimes this is only possible if blogging is your #1 priority. With that in mind, I urge you to consider your sanity, as well as your work-load, before anything else.  As tempting as it is to apply to every single advert creators publish, I strongly recommend that you only apply to those whose product range fits in with your general blog ethos.  It’s my belief that it’s not fair to request to join a blogging list and then once accepted not blog the items sent.  You should be respectful, and bear in mind that the items you’ve been sent have value.  The whole point of you blogging for a creator is to feature a product, generate a buzz and increase their sales.  I think that this point can easily be forgotten by both creators and bloggers alike!

While we’re on the subject, another recent trend I’ve observed is for labels to advertise that they are only willing to accept bloggers who have achieved a certain number of Flickr views on individual photos, or their Flickr feed overall.  This is a big ask, and I guess it’s a way for creators to ensure that they’re targeting the widest audience possible. Unfortunately this means that a lot of new bloggers will miss out because they won’t fulfil the criteria requested.  This is a shame but it’s a good lesson for all of us to learn; never expect freebies and understand that curating a successful blog takes time and dedication.

Blogging success can be measured in a lot of ways, such as how many hits you have on your blog, how many patrons you have and if you get invited to the right events and parties, but ultimately to be a successful Second Life blogger, your fundamental reasons for blogging are perhaps the most important of all.  You won’t be successful if you create a half-hearted effort just to get freebies.  Designers and creators aren’t dumb and they can tell when someone is blogging from the heart, and with integrity.

So back to the topic at hand. Here are some tips I’d like to share with my fellow bloggers for getting the very best out of Skin Fair 2015:

  • Take your time. Previews last until Thursday (with the event opening on Friday), and it lasts just over a fortnight. Give yourself time to explore both sims fully.  If, like me, you SL in your evenings after work perhaps give yourself one evening to explore the sims fully.
  • What are you looking for at this year’s Skin Fair? Are you the kind of blogger who concentrates on one particular kind of skin? Can you perhaps stretch your own blogging boundaries a little and feature something on your site that is a little unique? For example, do you wear tattoos? If not, there are some available at Skin Fair this year, why not give some a try!
  • But even though there’s nothing wrong with trying something completely new, DON’T go for skins that you normally wouldn’t wear in a month of Sundays. You can’t be objective and give a fair review to something that you actually don’t like very much!
  • Only request blogger packs from as many designers as you can reasonably handle during the event. Do them justice, and you may find yourself added to their regular blogger roll, which would be nice!
  • Don’t rush your blog posts; keep your quality constant. It’s not a competition between bloggers. Give each product the spotlight that you think it deserves.
  • If you spot an issue with a skin why not discuss it first with the creator before writing about it on your blog? In their rush to get ready for the event they may have missed something that they’re only too happy to be informed about before go-live.
  • Be respectful, BUT you deserve to be respected too. If you feel uncomfortable in your dealings with a particular individual at the event then don’t pursue it further. Move on, no drama is needed. Let’s keep it a drama free zone!
  • Most importantly of all ENJOY Skin Fair. It’s an amazing experience and each year surpasses the previous.  I think that 2015 is going to be a bumper year with lots to experience and enjoy.  Remember that there’s a lot of hard work gone into producing this event, not just from the exhibitors but also from  Kira Paderborn and Voshie Paine who are the team behind Pale Girl Productions that produce the event. They’re equally deserving of praise.

Last but not least, I look forward to reading all of your blog posts related to Skin Fair 2015, here’s to a fantastic event that we all enjoy with lots of wonderful new designer discoveries made!

Social Networking: Plurk and Avatar Social Network

asn and plurk - I

In previous articles I have gotten into the use of Flickr and how to use it to expand your audience of your blog and this time I will cover two other Social Networks that are both heavily used by Second Life residents – bloggers, creators, artist and designers: Plurk and Avatar Social Network.
Maybe you have heard of them, maybe you are even active on one (or both), but I am sure a lot of fellow bloggers are not.

asn and plurk - I

Plurk
Yes, it is really named that way. People on Plurk are called ‘Plurkers’ and just like you tweet on Twitter, you well…plurk on Plurk.
Plurk (it is free)  is best decribed as some kind of Twitter, as the updates..sorry, plurks, are brief, usually accompanied with an image, link to a blog or a youtube.  The socalled:  micro blogging.

There are also mobile apps for Plurk, making it a very fast, dynamic environment and depending on how many friends or fans you have it may get overwhelming when not keeping up.

The big difference with any other social network isn’t so much in the stream of updates but the lay out/ook and feel of Plurk.
Plurk, unlike any other social network I know, makes use of a so-called ‘river’ timeline. Your wall, or Timeline (TL in Plurkspeak) does not follow the usual vertical stream but a horizontal one. Meaning, when you scroll, the Plurks do not go down, but from left to right.
This is surely something you have to get used to and you would not be the only one getting discouraged and cross eyed  from looking at it.
But if you will give it a chance and take the time to get familiar with this rather peculiar way of scrolling, you may find Plurk is in terms of content actually quite nice once you have found some friends and fans to follow.

Plurk 2

A screenshot of my Plurk timeline

Lots of creators, blogger and artists (Second life has an official Plurk account too!) Plurk their work, or sneak previews of work-in-progress even, you will see tons of links to the latest events, blogger applications, questions and answers about everything when it comes to blogging, photography, tips and tricks on viewers and photoshop and what is happening in the fashion- home and decorating scene.
Now. I am not saying Plurk is for everyone as there is of course – as in all social networks – another side which you will have to learn to accept or ignore. The drama, gossip and such. It happens. It also, of course, depends on who you follow but it is inevitable that at some point – when active – you will see it. I am not judging and saying this is a bad thing, I am just saying that there is drama on Plurk. Sometimes.
But there is, thankfully, way more fun and things to share and things you always wanted to know, people you will meet, and that makes up for the occasional not-so-nice moments.

So, for the bloggers here..if you are looking for a community, a network where bloggers, creators and consumers come together to share their experiences, their work and yes..their real life too in some cases, you may want to give Plurk a try.
Not by just spamming links to your blog, participation is key – as in all networks!

Avatar Social Network, or ASN

ASN is what the name says it is: a social network designed and set up for Avatars, not limited to Second Life – as the IMVU community has found its way to ASN as well – but by using filters you can limit what you see.
Specially since Facebook every now and then removes avatar-accounts, people have found a safe place to replace their SL-Facebook.
ASN has the look and feel of Facebook, with your wall, a profile banner, the option to create and join groups, the way you do a status update and friending people.
You can add photo-albums and write blogs and there is a forum for discussions and banter which would not fit on your wall.

ASN - 2

A screenshot of my ASN profile page

The big difference with Facebook is that ASN is actively and heavily moderated by the owner of ASN (Arkad Baxton) and a team of moderators. Even your status updates, when not complying to the rules (they have rules, read them here) can be removed even without someone ever having compained about it.
The rules are simple by the way: just keep your ASN presence ‘family friendly’ and play nice.

ASN - 1

A screenshot of my ASN mainfeed

 

If this is not your cup of tea and you love to stir up things and drama, then I would say….nah, don’t go there.
However, if you are interested in shared experiences, blogs, have questions or just like to chat about with other SL residents in a friendly environment (PG and all) then yes, it is certainly worthwhile.
Finding ‘friends’ on ASN isn’t hard, you will see ‘new avatars’ and you will see on the mainfeed (you have your own wall, a wall with your friends and a complete wall) and sending out a friendship request is as easy as on Facebook.
You can login ASN by using your Facebook or Twitter account, or create a new one, it is all free.  There are also inworld parties/meetings in the ASN location in SL and you can join the inworld Avatar Social Network group for updates and social activities.

I will end this post with wishing you lots of fun with blogging and maybe see you on Plurk or ASN, feel free to look me up there!
(Caity on ASN and Caity on Plurk)

Happy networking!

 

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