Say hello to Melanie. She is another Cape Town blogger and we are happy to have his interview. Learn more about Melanie and her blog “www.scribblesandsmiles.com“.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Melanie Chisnall and I’m a full time freelance blogger and writer from Somerset West. I believe in creating moments that make life worth living, and trying to make a positive difference in the world – even if it’s only a small one.
I’m a firm believer in going for your dreams and taking risks. I’m an animal lover, I’m a sushi and brownie fanatic, I’m crazy about my husband, and I have a tendency to kill plants.
How you first got involved in with blogging?
I started blogging three years ago, but didn’t focus too much on it. I stopped blogging for a while, and then picked it up again earlier this year. When I left my job in HR to become a full time writer, I realized how much I’d missed blogging, and started up a new website.
What do you find most challenging about blogging about your topic?
I aim to keep most of my posts on a positive note, and to try and inspire people with my writing. There are days where I’m frustrated, angry, or sad, and sometimes that’s all I want to write about in my blog. But I can’t. So I try and use those feelings and channel it into something motivating.
If I can’t do that, then I add tips or advice that I’ve found to be helpful when dealing with whatever’s bothering me. The goal is to be keep the blog as interesting/inspirational as much as possible, while still being real. We’re all human after all – everyone has their bad days.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working on your blog?
I belong to the most amazing group of bloggers. The group was formed about two months ago and we’re currently sitting at around 70 members. There are roughly 10 bloggers in this group who have become my support system. We give each other advice on our writing, we pick each other up when we’re feeling low, we motivate each other, we talk about our lives, we laugh about silly things all the time.
We’re like a bunch of friends getting together every day to drink coffee and talk about life and writing. It’s great. There are no hidden agendas or dramas here. I feel so blessed and grateful to have met them. Some of them have become friends, and I respect and admire each one of them.
How would (someone) describe your blogging style?
I think someone might describe my blogging style as inspiring and/or interesting (at least I hope so!). I write from the heart, as if I’m writing to someone I know. I try and keep my writing easy to read by using a lot of bullet points and short sentences wherever possible. I also have a thing about quotes or music videos, and you’ll usually find this in quite a few of my posts.
What do you do when you aren’t working on your blog?
I like to read – a lot. In fact, every time I walk into a bookshop, I find myself having to buy a book. I have about 10 books waiting to be read. When I’m not reading or writing, I like to cook and experiment with different combinations of spices and flavours. I blame the Food Network channel for this.
I also enjoy running on the beach, taking hikes in the nature reserve, visiting the animal shelter to walk some of the dogs, visiting new restaurants whenever possible, and playing around with words and images.
What networking do you do that you feel helps your blogging business?
Facebook and Twitter are two of the best networking and social media platforms that I use at the moment. I’m still learning the ropes on a few things, but they’ve both brought quite a bit of traffic to my blog.
How do you keep coming up with material/content for your blog?
On Mondays I write on inspirational topics and usually include clips and quotes, but for the rest of the week I try and touch on what I’m currently doing and link it to something useful/interesting that’s happening. There are so many topics to write about, sometimes I end up writing about a few things in one post. But I never run out of material. There’s so much good stuff out there to write about!
Where do you go for news and information online?
My favourite place is News24. I usually check out their sections for Women, Travel, Food and Entertainment.
Whats your strategy with your blog in general?
I’d like to carry on writing about my life, promoting positive things, and trying to get the message out there on things that are important to me – such as animal rights.
What would you prioritize? Content? SEO? Traffic? Readers?
For me, content is the most important thing. Without it, you won’t have traffic or readers. If you have a loyal reader base who share your work, then you don’t have to worry about things like SEO. My blog is set up so that I can put keywords and SEO terms in, and I do. It makes it easier for people to find my blog, but that also takes time. My main aim is to stick with good content to keep people coming back to read more.
What’s the best thing a blogger can give to his readers?
Interesting and quality content, useful information, and something that’s unique.
What has been your strategy for creating visibility to yourself and your blog?
Social media and the Internet is so big today and there are so many ways that you can make your blog visible to new readers. I sign up to newsletters to read tips on how to do this, and have joined quite a few writing groups on LinkedIn. Other than that, I keep going with what I’ve been doing, but continue to learn and expand as I go along.
What was the most challenging moment in your blog content development process and why?
When I started my blog earlier this year, I distanced myself from my posts. They were positive and offered advice, but they didn’t depict who I was. They talked “at” people.
I read personal blogs from other bloggers and wished that I had the freedom to write about my day, but at the same time keep to what I wanted the blog to be about. That’s when the blog changed to Scribbles and Smiles. I merged the two together.
I knew I’d lose a few followers – and I did – but I’m happy with where the blog is now. It’s not pretentious, and it’s still heading in the direction I saw it going.
Everyone has a favorite/least favorite post. Name yours and why?
This is an easy one. The post is called “An Open Letter to Humans – From Rocky, the Pound Pup”. It’s a post I wrote from the perspective of a dog at the animal shelter where I visit. It’s told in Rocky’s voice and it got the intended message across. It had quite an impact on a few people who read it, and it gave a different point of view. I’m very proud of that piece.
What is the ultimate Goal for a blogger in your opinion?
To connect with their audience. Blogging is all about writing about what people want to read and offering them something interesting. You can’t just write for the sake of writing and hope that people will read what you’ve written. You need to engage with them.
Which one plugin would you suggest all bloggers to have?
An email subscription button at the top of your blog page!
Name some of the bloggers whom you look up to and why?
I’ve just written a post on a few bloggers who I admire! 🙂 There are quite a few actually, and I look up to all of them because they stay true to who they are and what they write about. They also write about things that interest me, and are constantly pushing the boundaries of their writing. I find that very inspiring.
If someone was interested in blogging, what would be a few things you would suggest?
The first thing you should do is decide what your blog is going to be about. You should also try and find out who your ideal audience is. The next thing would be to decide on a blog name. You need something that’s easy to remember, but that also describes what your blog is about. There are lots of websites to help with this. Then you need to decide what platform you’re going to use.
Will it be Blogger, WordPress.com or WordPress.org? An important thing that some bloggers forget about is that the Internet is full of millions of blogs. You need to offer something interesting that will keep people coming back, but not only that, you need to READ other blogs and comment on them as well – all the time.
You can’t expect people to read your blog and comment, if you’re not doing the same. Network and find a blogging support group or forum to help you get started, who can offer you some advice.
A big thank you from Cape Town Active to Melanie for this interview. Please check out her blog at http://www.scribblesandsmiles.com..
If you want to participate, please visit our Cape Town Blogger Interview page at http://cape-town-active.com/cape-town-blogger-interview/