I always say my absolute favourite part of what I do is the community I’ve built and the satisfaction I get in connecting and sharing ideas. It’s been about 2 years since I packed up my office and abruptly left the corporate sales world. I didn’t leave with a plan or even a to-do list but I somehow found my way in an industry I admired. I found a way to frame all the things I was passionate about and was humbly lucky to connect with an audience. Other men as thirsty for menswear as I was and openminded to a little inspo here and there while they trek through their own personal journeys.
So now I am here. A little more seasoned at the life of a blogger and what better way to say thank you and show respect for the craft then to share my insights. Looking back to my first few months of content to now is a polarizing feeling. Straight up, my content has had some ups and downs and really the only way to progress is through trial and error. One thing I am proud of is I’ve dedicated absolutely all of my energy to it. This was all or nothin’, baby. I am also relieved and thankful that my efforts have generated some really cool experiences and opportunities so the lesson is I suppose, work at it and there will be fruits. I had a lot of bright and talented people around me the last two years so I definitely learned a lot of tricks from them. Tools to use, places to visit and mostly just how to be yourself. Lesson #1, you HAVE to be yourself indeed. It’s the only way that makes digital storytelling natural and quite frankly, sustainable.
You know what? The hardest thing about being a “content creator” is deciding what you actually are going to label yourself. What do I do exactly? It took me a year to explain this to my Dad and while it went over his head for a long while, he eventually not only came to understand the idea of blogging but is now my #1 fan. He’s fascinated by it. Some call themselves influencers…or bloggers…or content creators…and really it doesn’t matter. Personally I cringe at the term “influencer” because that’s not what I set out to do every day. I don’t want to influence another grown man, I simply hope to inspire men the same way so many men around the world do for me almost everyday. To up your style game, try a new look, not skip that workout or take the plunge on a new creative project. Now let’s be transparent here, I do partner with brands and they do sponsor some of my posts. But they are not sentenced upon me. I choose who and what I want to showcase because they are a piece of my lifestyle in some way. Anyways, whatever the F I am or what I am called, it’s been a ride so far and I want to say thank you to everybody who’s connected.
Now I have brainstormed all of the lessons I’ve learned and compiled a short list. Some do’s and don’ts, technological suggestions and even some opinions on the ethics of blogging. Let’s rock n’ roll.
1 | DEVELOP A THICK SKIN
Depending on where you are in your blogging journey you either have blown by the realization that putting your work in the public eye will amount to small does of ridicule, you’re coming to terms with it now or you’re about to learn allllll about it. While bloggers are now everywhere and being much more accepted amongst those who previously didn’t, there will always be “haters”. They’ll call you vain, self-absorbed, childish or in most cases, just bully you because they’re subconsciously jealous in some way. No matter what their motivation, you just gotta say ‘fuck ’em’.
“You just gotta say ‘fuck ’em.”
I remember when I first started posting content, I got laughed at. Some of my good friends quickly became bullies. Guys I grew up with were taunting me because I was choosing to talk fashion and take pictures having coffee. Oh and I got called ‘gay’ about 10,000 times. While that one was an eye-roll, some of the criticisms were hurtful. They made me second guess myself for a minute, but just for a minute. I quickly refocused on what I was doing and realized, I like what I’m doing. Some other people like it too and if you don’t, the unfollow button is easy to find, mother*cker. I never looked back. Some of those guys disappeared from my life and I couldn’t be happier to rid myself of such obtuse-minded neanderthals who couldn’t accept and be happy for others who choose a different path different from their cookie-cutter lives. The cool part though? Some of your friends will surprise you and become your biggest supporters. Shout out to my homies Brent Mangano & Kevin Henderson for always repping and appreciating the work. Real buds.
So with that said, don’t pay attention to the noise. In the beginning it’s awkward getting that picture in front of a crowd of nosy onlookers but you’ll get over it. Fuck ’em right?
2 | YOUR CAMERA IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
It’s taken 3 phones, 3 DSLRs and now a mirrorless camera for me to figure out this part. Let’s face it, if you want to be a blogger and feature great content…you need to capture terrific imagery. I started out using a decent camera phone and while at the time I didn’t think much of it, I soon came to realize how inferior my content was compared to those using more advanced equipment. Nobody wants to see lame photography and one of the most beautiful things about photography to me is field of depth. Being able to focus on something special to make it pop.
Now I did what most bloggers do and graduated to a DSLR. I tried both Nikon and Canon but never quite mastered them the way I had hoped to. Nevermind how cumbersome they are to carry around, it takes training to really get the most out of them and I just never had the time to get my black belt. I consider myself a tech savvy guy but a DSLR has a million and one functions that I just couldn’t concentrate on. It was late last year that I finally found the holy grail of cameras that perfectly fit my lifestyle. Now this is a mouthful…the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark ii. It’s as bad-ass as it sounds. With a vintage look, its easy to carry and it’s an absolute breeze to use. Complete with a digital LCD screen, automatic focus and shutter with a touch of the screen, even my technologically-disadvantaged jock buddies can take my pic when I ask them to. The EM5 still allows for interchangeable lenses for all situations and the wifi capability allows me to even take my own photos if needed by using the app on my iPhone. It’s a God send to have a shooting buddy but they’re not always there so it’s a comforting freedom to be able to get the shot on your own if you need to.
So get the right camera guys. Crisp photography is appreciated by all so you’ll get some love from everywhere on Insta simply because you framed your content well and professionally.
3 | EDITING IS EVERYTHING
This is kind of like the fitness process in the sense that you can workout all damn day but without the right nutrition, you’re doomed. A great image is an amazing start but the right editing can truly bring it to life. The fact is, lighting is a bitch, high quality cameras still have faults and editing tools are now so easily accessible that becoming a pro at using them is crucial to improving your content. While there are many advanced softwares like Lightroom, I am very happy with the apps on my iPhone. There are three that I keep in my holster and they are everything I need.
1 | VSCO
2 | Snapseed
3| FaceTune 2
Don’t focus much on the filters but more so the sharpening and lighting. Shadows can be your best buddy so embrace them. Increase the saturation on those vibrant colours and desaturate any redness wherever it may lie to neutralize skin tones. Oh and when you do choose a preset on VSCO, try to stick to it. It will give your feed a synonymous vibe. Like an online magazine with a consistent aesthetic.
4 | GET FEATURED
This has been paramount to growing my brand. The fact is, the more yes that see your work, the more people that are going to follow your content moving forward. Now there a million and one feature accounts to make it on so do your research. If you’re a menswear blogger, @menwithstreetstyle is the pinnacle. With 2.7M followers, there’s no bigger platform to be put on. Other notable feeds are @ootdmen, @streetfashions, @modernmenstreetstyle.
These accounts are quite simple. Use their hashtag and tag them and hope they post your pic. Of course if your style is solid and the photography is dynamic, your chances are good. Not a bad idea to give them a thank you in some way after and you’ll develop a relationship with the feed operator.
For te ladies out there, @ootdmagazine is probably the gold standard for women’s fashion so that’s your goal. Get your ass on there!
5 | DON’T BE A FRAUD
A touchy subject for some but one I’ve grown tired of being silent on. We all know it by now but there’s a lot of shady things that go down on Instagram and while I truly believe that it’s all quite insignificant in the grand scheme of life, it’s something worth talking about for an article like this. If you’re an aspiring blogger then this is something you’ve likely thought about quite a bit already and you may have a moment soon where you can go in one direction or the other. A fork in the road down two very different paths.
Do I want to build my platform and engagement organically or do I fake it? Well, it’s up to you. I made up my mind in the very beginning and I will never waiver from organic growth because it contradicts the very reason why I started this. To build a community that makes me happy. Not increase numbers at the top of the screen of my Instagram profile. Every single day I am around people that have chosen path A and many who have wandered down path B. While I am not a saint for choosing to rely on hard work and passion, I am proud of it and I admire those who do the same. My advice to you, do it for real, guys. The moral side of this subject is that at it’s core, it’s cheating not to. The logical and business side, it’s unnecessary, counter-productive and 100% not a secret.
You can spot a fake from a mile away. While I don’t invest much time into the business of others, my relatively trained eye can see an imbalance in your following/engagement in a moment. If you have 50,000 followers and your likes are under 300, your audience either hates you or 40,000 of your followers are purchased. Oh, and there is a little app that exists called Social Blade that let’s anybody with a smartphone view the growth of your following. You can quite literally search anybody on Instagram and see their daily levels. Red is your down, green is you’re up. So somebody that is red, red, red, red then green 10,000….uhhh yeah they just swiped their card and bought make-believe support. The app reminds me of the Instagram account @YeezyBusta where he calls out dudes with replica Yeezys. Not a feed you want to be featured on, man.
So the question I ask is WHY!? What did that do for you? Why did you in a blink of an eye choose to broadcast to the world that you’re either too lazy or too inconsiderate to the craft of content creation that you prefer to just buy engagement like shopping at the grocery store. I’m walking a fine line here of minding my own business and being judgemental but this article is about opinion and advice and my advice is it’s a bad business decision. If you’re blogger who eventually wants to collaborate with brands and leverage your platform into a business, they can see that too and I promise you they are getting much more savvy and asking more questions than ever before. And most importantly, they don’t care about how many followers you have, trust me. They care about how engaged your audience is. How connected you are with them. How honest you are and how funny you are. I mean it when I say ‘do what you want’ but I also mean it when I say there is no tangible use to buying engagement. You’re simply showing to your peers, your audience and the people that hire you that you are one to cut corners and that you’re comfortable with being publicly fraudulent with your work. Do the work. Earn the rewards. Be proud of yourself.