posted on 17 May 2013
A few weeks ago I attend the launch of the new Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve label as well as the official unveiling of their upgraded tasting room. The event invitation had promised snacks under the oak trees in front of the Jonkershuis restaurant, a spot of Boules on the lawn and that we shouldn’t forget to bring our sunglasses. Unfortunately the weather decided it wasn’t going to play along – the day arrived and it was pouring. We all met at the City Sightseeing (those red double decker buses) pick up at the V&A Waterfront and had to huddle to stay dry. It was my first time on the red bus and I loved it, must say I felt very nostalgic – the whole thing felt very school-trippy.
Once we arrived at Groot Constantia – which happens to be one of my favourite places in Cape Town, it’s like being in the wine-lands but you don’t have to drive very far. Thank goodness we took umbrellas that day because it was still raining cats and dogs, we ran to the old museum where we were given an introduction to the new wine label and a brief (but fascinating) history of the estate, which happens to be the oldest wine farm in South Africa. After a few drinks and snacks it was time to cut the ribbon to the new tasting room, which was accompanied by even more wine, followed by a tour of the cellars before being taken to Simon’s restaurant where we were served even more wine and food. Good wine, good food, a rainy Cape Town day ended by the fireplace at a beautiful wine estate, fabulous.
posted on 14 May 2013
Initially wrote this post for the brilliant new site 6B Magazine - their brief to me was to write a bit about my eduction and background, how I got into blogging in the first place and how to create and run a successful blog. I’m getting an increasing number of bloggers emailing me for advice, while I love getting your emails, find I’m spending a lot of time writing the same thing out over and over again. Thus was very happy to write a huge post for 6B on the subject. Have a read through this post and then of course, feel free to email me with any other questions, these are the basics.Here it is..
People often ask (normally via email) me, how do you get into blogging? How do you create a successful blog that brands want to work with? I’ve come to the conclusion that there is in fact a formula for creating a successful blog, but as with everything, you have to continually work at it.
A little bit about me, I’ve always been interested in; fashion, marketing and economics – I applied to study at fashion school after high school, but also applied to UCT to study Business Science Marketing, when I was accepted to the latter it was obvious which route I needed to take. I wanted a strong business and marketing background, and wanted to then use those skills and work in the fashion industry. At UCT we had some fantastic lecturers, one of whom was Dave Duarte and in my first year which was way back in 2008 he showed the class twitter, at the time it seemed like an extremely strange social network, but I joined anyway, one of the first South Africans to do so. Twitter for me has been an invaluable asset; they say the people on Facebook are the people you know, while the people on Twitter are the people you wish you knew. Following the right people on Twitter, reading the links they’re posting, keeping up to do date with the latest tech, social networks and marketing news via the people who actually create the news keeps you in the loop and you start noticing trends quite quickly.
In 2008 blogging was new in South Africa, there were probably a handful of bloggers and I decided to dive right in – the problem however was I had no plan, didn’t really know what I wanted to blog about, but I started posting on things that I saw online that interested me. In the first 3 months I probably did 100 posts. The blog however wasn’t gaining any traction, I continued to post, but the posts got more and more irregular, until I just got bored and stopped all together. That blog was hosted on WordPress.com and I subsequently deleted it, the next blog I set up which I still run was Tumblr based and is still online – TalyaWasHere the second blog much like the first was started without doing much research, or thinking about why the first had failed. Tumblr is a platform which is super easy to set up and use, and for me personally, makes one too comfortable with reblogging others content. So I Tumblr’d around for a bit, occasionally creating my own original content posts, but I never really loved this blog, it never really felt very ‘me’. After a while Tumblr’s lack of functionality started to annoy me, and I missed WordPress and how much you could play around and do with it. Whilst I still Tumblr occasionally, most of my ‘inspiration’ photos now come from Pinterest.
In May 2011 I’d had enough of blogging just for the sake of blogging and decided to start taking it seriously. I also reflected on my past 2 blogs and tried to figure out why they had failed and what I was going to do differently to ensure my third blog would not. I also started taking a more business minded approach to the blog, what was it I wanted to get out of it…? And also how was I going to position and market my blog? The main difference when going into starting my third blog, which would become Shades Of Gold, was before I was comparing my blog to other South African blogs, I now started to look at the international blogs and how high their standards were. I had always read a lot of international fashion and lifestyle blogs and that’s where I started noticing a trend and coming up with the ‘formula’ for creating a successful blog.
Whilst I cannot ensure that by following these steps your blog will become successful, these are the tips I had wish I had read when starting mine. The first thing I did was make a list of my top 10 blogs, it may be hard, but whittle your list down to 10 that you love, you visit daily, and are disappointed when they haven’t updated. From my list I then opened each up in a tab and really looked at them in-depth,I thought of why I loved each one, what it was that made it stand out amongst the crowd, why did I keep coming back? The first thing that struck me were the layouts of the blogs, all of them had simple, minimalistic layouts which really let the content do the talking. The second thing was all of their content was 100% original. So often I see blogs rating Oscar dresses, unless you’re Rachel Zoe, sorry to say it, but no-one really cares about your opinion. All of my favourite blogs not only created all of their own content – no copy+pasting – their content was also beautifully photographed.
This was my starting block for my new blog, but first and most importantly I needed to decided what it was that I was actually going to blog about – I settled on being a ‘lifestyle blogger’ as it allowed me to blog about fashion, travel, food, cool places, shops and coffee. The advice I’ve read so often for bloggers starting out is they have to have a niche, and I don’t think that’s 100% true.The blog should be an extension of you, and thus be about what you think and love. You don’t only have to write about fashion, or just food – a great example is Cupcakes & Cashmere, Emily one of the most successful bloggers, blogs about fashion, food, makeup and interiors, Aimee from Song Of Style blogs her outfits of the day and also interiors she loves.I think the most important thing to keep in mind when starting a blog which is based on a few topics, is to create some sort of content plan, something like Monday – fashion find, Tuesday – recipe, Wednesday – beauty, Thursday – cool new coffee spot, Friday – Instagram weekly round up. That way it keeps you on track, as it’s easy to fall into one category and then it’s hard to get back into another once people have boxed you in as a ‘food blogger’ or a ‘fashion blogger.’ Content planning is key.
I believe that if you want to make money, you have to spend money and thus, if you want to eventually work with brands your blog needs to have a level of professionalism. At the time a lot of the South African bloggers photographs were just taken with their iPhone/Blackberry, however the international bloggers were all using SLRs. I did my research on cameras and bought the Canon 500D, the entry level SLR as an investment in my blog. Then taught myself using YouTube tutorial videos – everything is on YouTube. Once I had my concept, and my camera it was time to name the blog. So many bloggers seem to go with the first thing that pops into their head, but I really think a blog name should be well considered. I think Ihad a list of 50 names (it’s like naming a baby) and it took 2 weeks before I came up with Shades Of Gold – this was before 50 Shades Of Grey.
The name should encompass what the blog is about. In my case I wanted some of my name in the title, Talya wasn’t going to work as no-one spells it correctly so I used the first bit of my surname, Gold, the shade bit comes from my love of sunglasses. Shades Of Gold’s other meaning is that gold is first place, and I only wanted to showcase the best places, brands and products I could find.Once you have a name, Google it to make sure no-one else is using it, also if the name is very generic it’s often difficult to Google, so make sure it’s something that will be easily found.
The next step in starting the blog was creating the right look and feel, I knew I wanted a minimalistic 1 column white theme, something super simple and I knew it was going to run it on WordPress (if you’re serious about blogging WordPress.org and self host rather then WordPress.com). It took me nearly 3 weeks of searching the interwebs before I found my perfect theme, and then another week to customize it, add widgets (YouTube tutorials and Google are your friend) and create some content before going live. I also spent time designing the header, and spent more money on my blog by getting stickers and business cards made – you never know when you’re going to need them, but people always seem taken aback when a blogger hands them a business card –HotInk in Long Street are great for printing. I also bought my own domain name (Circle.co.za – R120 a year) – it’s not a lot of money and it’s really worth it in the long term.
Those are my tips and tricks on how to start a blog, things however seem to get trickier as the blogs grows and as more and more brands want to work with you. Literally sit down and make a wish list of the brands you would want to work with, I had a wish-list of 5 and have gotten to work with 2 so far.When your blog starts gaining traction you’re going to get A LOT of emails from a lot of PR companies who want you to post their press releases, add links on your blogs etc. My rule of thumb would be to say no to 95% of brands who contact you – I have been approached by the most random companies, who I can tell have never read my blog,have no idea what it’s about, but my email address has somehow gotten on their list so they email me. If you get invited to cool events, go and network, the more you network the more opportunities will be presented. Events are also great for meeting other bloggers, many of whom you’ll probably get to work with in the future, and a few will also become great friends.
Transparency is key, your readers don’t want to be lied to, don’t tell them you love something, or use a product when you don’t. Look at the bigger picture. Remember the brands on your wishlist, premium brands to work with are hard to come by, and if you ‘sell-out’ in the short term, in the long term they won’t be working with you. So be very selective about who you work with, and make sure that you are getting something out of it in the end.
The most important tip is to continue to blog and enjoy the process, don’t expect fast results, don’t get discouraged – just keep creating beautiful content consistently as that is what will attract readers, and keep them coming back for more.
posted on 12 May 2013
Don’t really know how to start this blog post with anything other than ‘Aah!’ Cannot believe that TGETHER has finally launched and someone out there is actually reading this post. I had the idea to start a blog network all the way back in November, and decided to take this year, post-getting-a-degree as my ‘gap’ year, a year in which I would try to start a business (or two), it was now or never. There were a few rough patches along the way, and it took a lot longer than I had wanted, to get everything up and running, but it was totally worth the wait. What you’re seeing now, is exactly the vision I’ve had in my head the past few months and I’m oh so happy with the outcome.
There are a few people I really need to thank for all of their help and support.. To my parents for playing a round of Dragon’s Den with me – you’re the best equity partners ever! A huge thank you to Lucas, for turning the picture in my head into an Illustrator and then Photoshop file, could not have done it without you. The biggest thank you however has to go to my fellow TGETHER network bloggers – Raya, Aisha, Tanya and Aqeelah, thank you for taking a huge leap of faith, for entrusting me with your blogs and really believing in the now shared vision – TGETHER would be nothing without you.
The TGETHER network launch is just the beginning, there is so much more still to come and I’m so excited to share the journey with you. To my loyal Shades Of Gold readers, you can expect more frequent posts, and I really hope you enjoy reading all the others blogs in the network.
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