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Around the Corner
Normally our “Around the Corner” section is at the end of the article but I felt it would be better for us to address here.
Katie Dillon has done a fantastic job bringing some of the most important lessons we have learned over the past couple months on the Bloggers’ Corner.
An article, post, or even entire blog for that matter is not “final” until you (the author) decides it is. Katie self-admittedly lacks an “elevator pitch”, that in-and-of itself tells a story. Uncertainty is not negative. Like balancing a high-wire act without a net, leaving the elements of change, fear, and uncertainty in the air can force your audience to keep their eyes glued to the action.
The importance of tying photography, video, and other forms of communication to the narrative of the written word is no longer a luxury but a necessity. This necessity serves the synergistic purpose of making all the other variables of a narrative more vibrant and accessible. On the same lines, Katie keeps her proverbial ear to the technological landscape to see how she might incorporate technological change as a source of inspiration in her content development.
Finally, Katie takes a steps back from the numbers, analytics, and external commentary, that some bloggers may tend to obsess over, to view the bloggosphere as a living, growing entity. To sit back on Instagram to appreciate the creative direction of her peers is among the variables that has propelled her to success. If we are seeking only glory or the bottom line, we can too easily lose focus of the fun we signed up to have in the first place. A blog without fun has no soul. The digitally savvy (everyone) is keenly aware of this point and it shines through. No number of “likes” can make up for authenticity and eventually authenticity will naturally create popularity… or it won’t. Would you rather be authentic (as Katie held steadfast to her website’s name) and successful or fit the status quo and achieve some other semblance of success?
Katie Dillon has been able to find the perfect balance of providing her readership with what they want without compromising her artistic morals.
La Jolla Mom – Katie Dillon
Katie: I have yet to refine an elevator pitch and actually don’t talk about my blog much in daily life. It’s a luxury family travel and lifestyle blog with an emphasis on things to do in San Diego. (See? I need to work on this.)
Q: What made you decide to create a blog?
Katie: I fell into it. My daughter was born in Hong Kong where we lived for 5 years (and 2 in London before that). Back then, expats like us created private family blogs to keep family overseas in the loop (back then Blogspot was popular) about baby milestones and daily life. When we decided to move back to La Jolla, CA in 2009, I was a full-time mom. Someone in the industry suggested that I start a lifestyle blog since I already knew what I was doing. We talked about URLs and lajollamom.com was available (the blogs I read all seemed to have “mom” in their names) so I took it.
At the time, I didn’t realize that travel blogging was a thing until my posts about flying long haul with babies–something I did multiple times per year from the time my daughter was four weeks old–went gangbusters. As expats, naturally, we traveled a ton and still do. On hindsight, I probably would have named my site something more travel-related but the truth is that tying my community to my name works very well for me within California.
Q: Was there a moment when you thought, “I could do this professionally”? If so, what triggered that desire/realization?
Katie: This also happened completely by accident. I never thought I’d actually make money. A lot of my success has to do with luck. I got in it at the right time just as companies and tourism boards were seriously starting to turn to blogs to get the word out about products and services. So, I grew as the industry did.
What fuels your passion for creating content?
Katie: My travels. I never, ever run out of content ideas. The list of posts I’d like to write is incredibly long and I just don’t have time for it all.
Q: Are there any blogs or publications that you follow closely? What makes them successful in your opinion?
Katie: I tend to read blogs and magazines with really clean design and good photography. I read Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure I read Four Seasons Magazine and Luxe Getaways Magazine (I write for both). Right now, I also read a ton of points and miles blogs (mostly Boarding Area blogs) to find deals on flights as most of my travel is self-funded. I have a few FlyerTalk threads bookmarked, too, where people post flights that yield great mileage for the money.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in maintaining a successful blog?
Katie: Time. I simply do not have the time to get everything I’d like to done and I find outsourcing challenging at times (though I’m getting better at it). I have a VA do my newsletter and help me gather detail for tedious posts like my San Diego hotel lists. I love Meet Edgar for sending out old and new posts on to Twitter. I have a marketing firm here in San Diego that helps me determine which posts to write and which to update. And, I still could outsource more.
Q: What is your favorite post that you created? Why?
Katie: Having lived there, I enjoy my Hong Kong content the most as it’s fun to write and performs well. Aside from San Diego posts, it’s where I am of the most help to my readers. I would say 18 Things to do in Hong Kong with Kids is my favorite. I update it annually since we return each spring.
Q: How much does social media influence your writing?
Katie: This might be a commentary on the posts you read or the way that you tailor your posts for those channels.
I have the Social Warfare plugin which I can’t recommend enough. It’s forced me to focus a bit more on Pinterest since it has an option to upload a Pinterest-friendly image to each post. I try to take and edit photos now with Pinterest in mind and embed more vertical images as the platform drives significant traffic to my site. To give you an idea, I was on vacation with friends in Barcelona so happened to take a lot of photos with my iPhone inside La Boqueria market. I thought, “what the heck I’ll upload them to the blog.
Take a Peek Inside Barcelona’s Famous La Boqueria Market took about 10 minutes to write (because there isn’t much text), but people loved it on Pinterest and it receives a ton of traffic. Long story short, I’ve decided to do more photo-driven blog posts with Pinterest in mind.
Q: What is your favorite social media channel? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, other? Why?
Katie: Instagram is my favorite social media platform but it is also by far the most frustrating for me. I do not currently use software or follow/unfollow to fight the algorithm and increase my following. My engagement is low in comparison to others who do. I spend too much time on Instagram at the moment trying to figure out how to rank higher but the photography in my feed is definitely inspiring and I like seeing where my blogger friends are headed.
Q: Do you have any last piece of advice for aspiring bloggers?
Katie: Photography is everything. I would highly recommend spending the time and money on fine tuning editing and photography skills before launching your blog. I cringe at some of my first photos! And, I would give this advice regardless of whether you’re shooting with a high end mirror-less or DSLR setup, a GoPro or an iPhone. Take time to learn how to use equipment well because once the blog gets going, you’ll have less time. I didn’t do this and am trying to wedge in tutorials here and there which is difficult time-wise. As an aside, I just switched from a Canon DSLR and lenses to a Sony mirror-less system and could not be happier. The quality is better and my gear now weighs so much less!
Q: Lastly, what is something that you could share with us that we wouldn’t learn from reading your blog?
Katie: We do have a pretty epic case of wanderlust, but we’re very content to stay home. That’s why we live in La Jolla after all. Living here is like being on vacation every day.
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