Why Blog?

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The second half of this year has been a doozy with my marriage ending, my family life changing and getting a full-time job at an agency to support myself. I've shared a lot of my emotions through the process on Instagram, but I have felt lost as to what to do with this blog space. Truthfully, it has felt daunting to try and keep with the blogging pace I had before and to talk about topics that just don't mean much to me in the scheme of this big life shift. 

My blog has always been a place where I write to help others. I love a great before and after reveal just as much as the next person, but what I care about most is changing people's lives with my words and storytelling. So, that's what I'm going to do with this space.

I'm going to take you on my journey of healing, and writing helpful articles on how to navigate divorce, single parenting, brokenness and more. My love of style and home decorating will still very much be present because they are interests that I love. Everything will be a natural extension of how I spending my time and what I passionate about. The big, key change is that emotional healing will be a big part of that too, and that means I'll probably talk about my spirituality and books I'm reading that is helping me through this new season of life. 

I hope you come along with me for this new ride. Happy new year! Let's see where this road takes us!

HOW TO BE AUTHENTIC IN ONE STEP

Why is authenticity hard for people? Why has it become a buzz word and the new marketing avenue? And why when people try to be authentic you can still spot the disingenuousness like it's a knock off designer bag. Why are the legit ones hard to spot?  These are questions that I have been mulling over lately. And what I have discovered is that the reason why it's hard for some and not for others comes down to  one thing. FEAR - being fearful of losing something or being rejected. For me, I would rather lose popularity, clicks, money, etc. than lose myself but this hasn't always been the case.

For most of my life I lived on the side of the coin as a person that was just there - unnoticed, flying under the radar, not bad, not good, not smart, not dumb, not drop-dead gorgeous, not ugly, not super talented, not popular, not a loner - just there. And then the coin flipped over night. I became popular, I became seen, I became prettier (got rid of acne, lost weight, did my hair and learned how to do makeup), I found my talents and I finally had things I never had before - I finally had things to lose that I didn't want to lose. And I felt that fear of rejection and loss start to direct my choices, my business, my relationships and I hated it like it was a plague taking over my body. And I dropped it like a bad habit because I felt so uncomfortable. And that's why I have positioned my blog to an authentic story-telling place about style, home and motherhood. And so the answer to why being authentic is hard and why people want it badly is clear...When the fear of losing acceptance, approval, relationships and money becomes greater than the fear of losing yourself you will find your actions, business and relationships disingenuous. And when you find someone that is ready to lose it all at any moment for the sake of being true to themselves you find authenticity.

It's rare to find online because there is an immediate reaction to every picture and word (like or dislike; follow or unfollow). We experience loss immediately and it's scary is f*** because that equates, for some, to mortgages and food for their family.

And I don't say I'm good now at being authentic to toot my own horn, but it was the craving for the freedom to be authentic online that became so strong over the past year that I was ready to lose it all. So I started doing it more, and thanks to YOU I have been able to be transparent, be accepted and maintain a voice. You have shown me that people will still show up and listen even if they disagree, are tired of hearing your kid is sick, and you don't have cool hair braid tutorials. Thank you!

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

MY CODE OF ETHICS FOR BLOGGING & SOCIAL MEDIA

I had no idea that I would become a blogger and social media influencer when I started AVE Styles six years ago. The idea that people could make a living blogging and pinning on Pinterest wasn't conceivable. In fact, Pinterest just started six years ago. I'm so thankful that I get to share my ideas and thoughts with the world for a living, but with that power comes great responsibility, right? (Yeah, I totally borrowed that from Spider Man). 

Because this industry is so new, how to responsibly operate your business is a bit gray for us. We have Federal Trade Commission guidelines to adhere to and social media platform policies to obey, but how we choose sponsored projects with brands, whether or not we put ads on our sites, using affiliate links to make commission on sales all way down to doing Instagram giveaways to grow our following varies from blogger to blogger. So, I wanted to share with you my guidelines for AVE Styles, so you know what exactly to expect from me. 

1. AVE Styles first and foremost exists to positively encourage readers to find beauty in the messy world me live in. I do not want to cause harm, slander or portray anyone negatively in this space. If I find that any comments are hurtful I will delete them. If comments are simply different then they will remain. The fact that I get to make money as a blogger is amazing, but it comes second the purpose of my business. I only started making a living at blogging three years ago, and I would continue to blog and create even if I wasn't paid. 

2. In 2015, I decided that 95% of the image content that I share on my blog is styled and created with my hands along with my photographer. Any image that I share that is not mine I will cite and credit the owner of the image. I believe in the power of imagery and telling a story, and I plan to keep this value through my time as a blogger. This 95% rule also applies to Instagram.

3. I do not take brand sponsorships unless I personally enjoy the brand/product. All sponsored posts will state they are sponsored in the beginning of the blog post. Any sponsored social post will say it's sponsored in the hashtags of the post.

4. I have chosen not to place any ads on my site because I don't want them to detract from the conversation I'm hoping to have with my readers. 

5. I do use affiliate links when there's a product that is shop-able. 

6. I have chosen not to have any contributors on my blog, so that all words and ideas come from me. I do have an assistant that helps me draft my look for less posts and fashion trend features. However, they are all edited and reviewed by me personally. My assistant will also share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn articles and videos that I find interesting. Again, everything is reviewed and approved by me, personally.

7. I do not use any third party networks to boost my traffic. I do not even paid for boosted posts on social media at this time. The only time a post has been or will be boosted will be at the request of a sponsor using their marketing dollars. 

8. I believe in organic growth on social media, and I have chosen not to participate in Loop giveaways or any other scheme to rapidly grow my following. If there is a giveaway on the blog or on social media it is only in conjunction with a brand partnership. I do have a group of 25 bloggers that regularly update and share what I'm doing on AVE Styles. We often comment and share each other's posts with our communities only if we genuinely enjoy the content and find it helpful to others. 

9. I feel that it's important to be honest and personable with my community. Authenticity is king. I'm still trying to find a balance of making sure my loved ones are protected and letting readers into our lives, but I never, ever want my community to get a false view of our lives. 

10. Blogging is my business, and I strive to do it with integrity. I'd rather forfeit dollars to maintain your trust and relationship than to make money. If you see or read anything that you find annoying, frustrating or distasteful please tell me. I want to know.

There is more to say on this topic, but I wanted to make sure these values and personal rules of operation were written down transparently for you to to know. Please feel free to ask more questions in the comments if you have them. 

PINTEREST'S MOBILE MAKEOVER & YOU

Did you know that 75% of the users of Pinterest are accessing the inspiring social tool using a mobile device (more stats found here).  That means they are seeing everything through their phone or tablet. If you haven't opened your Pinterest app lately you probably should because things look very different from your desktop.

Gone are the days of your cover images. Instead, the first thing that a user sees is your name, photo and your recent pins. Then you'll see the board that you most recently pinned to with the rest of your boards descending in order from what you most recently populated down to the last.

So, what does this mean for you? 

1. You MUST be a good curator now more than ever. If my first impression is a series of pins that have terrible styling, content and photography I'm going to pass on following you.

2. Concise titles matter. Tell me what your board is about in two to three words. Ex: Recipes to Try. People scroll fast, so you need to be able to tell them about your content in a second.

3. Be active. Pinterest tells the viewer when you last pinned down to the minute. If you haven't been active in a week I'm going to pass.

4. Make sure you are pinning to boards that are relevant to the season. If the first board that pops up is your Christmas board because you last pinned to that and signed off, well, that's unfortunate because I don't care about Christmas right now. Sign off on a relevant note. Bonus tip: That said, it's usually best to keep general, evergreen titles to your boards so you can always populate them. Example: HOLIDAY vs. CHRISTMAS. I can pin to a holiday board year round, but I can only pin to my Christmas board once a year. 

Like these tips? See more here and here. Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can get this information before anyone else!

HOW TO MONETIZE PINTEREST

As a blogger and Pinterest influencer, people often ask me with a surprised look on their face, "Do you get pid to pin?" I reply, "Yes, and it's the best job in the world!" But as Pinterest has evolved over the years, you can no longer be given money from a company to pin their products from their site. You also can't use affiliate links to make commission on sales. In fact, if you go about making money on your Pinterest account that way you're violating Pinterest's Terms of Service Policy. Yikes! 

Here are three ways I monetize my account that are well within Pinterest's terms:

1. CREATE & SHARE ORIGINAL CONTENT - Recently, I partnered with Coca-Cola to create original imagery that featured their products. This imagery was shared in a series of blog posts on AVESTYLES.com featuring recipes and style inspiration, and it was also shared on my Pinterest account linking back to Coca-Cola's website. This is acceptable to Pinterest because the content was completely generated by me and has my signature touch to it. It's an organic, non-invasive way of promoting a brand because you're most likely staying true to the aesthetic that is represented on your Pinterest account. 

2. SPONSORED BOARD - It is acceptable to Pinterest for a brand to pay me a sum of money to create a *new* board on my account that states the brand's name in the title and declares it is sponsored in the description of the board. The board can also host a sum of sponsored pins from the company's website. I am currently working with Shane Co. on a sponsored board that features item's I'm crushing on, which also includes 10 products from their site. This is within the terms because you are declaring the campaign to your followers, which they can easily opt out of. Note: It's important that these boards be brand new ones and not repurposed boards. You cannot take your board with the biggest following and change the name and subject of that board to accommodate your sponsor. That is viewed as misleading to your followers that initially followed the board for "x" and is now receiving "y."

3. CURATING FOR A BRAND - I also curate boards and accounts for brands on Pinterest. This would be similar to someone doing an Instagram takeover or guest posting on a blog. Sometimes a company will share an existing board with me and I will curate content for that board for a month. I also have been paid to take over an entire Pinterest account and curate on behalf of a brand as long as I stay within their brand guidelines and style. Not too long ago I did this very thing for Glamour and Woolite where I curated a board on their account all about washable style. 

If you're interested in learning more of the in's and out's of how to monetize your Pinterest account, don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter. That's where you'll be the first to hear about my Pinterest classes, as well as exclusive Pinterest tips.