A working mum of 3, Avril Keys began her blogging journey in 2012 and has since gained over 16k followers on Instagram, over 8k on Facebook as well as having a dedicated blog website. Utilising all 3 platforms in different ways, Avril blogs about fashion, lifestyle, food and fitness. A Life to Style has provided Avril with various opportunities of working with large brands as well as partnering with smaller, more independent boutiques.
Recently Avril took some time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with us about her blogging journey so far…
How did you first get into blogging, and how would you describe your blogging style?
I started my blog over 7 years ago before blogging was really a thing. I had decided to give up my communications job because I’d just had twins and the childcare for 3 kids was more than my salary! Frustrated with a lack of good blogs giving realistic and practical fashion and shopping tips to busy mums, I decided to start one myself. It both justified my shopping obsession and fulfilled my desire to write content and keep up to speed with a changing communications environment, especially the evolving world of social media…still very much in its infancy back then.
What do you think is the best strategy that worked well for you to get more traffic to your blog?
Writing good content is key - you’ve got to know your audience and write useful engaging content that this audience wants to read. To do this, you need to be an expert in your area so I only write about what I have a passion for and have knowledge of. I always keep an eye on what’s trending on mum forums, what other bloggers are writing about and what content gets good engagement elsewhere. It’s ok to write about something you’ve seen on another blog and put your own twist on it. In that vein, as a blogger make sure you have opinions and express them. Don’t be afraid to take a stance on an issue and put forward your argument….and equally, don’t take it personally when people disagree with your view - encourage the conversation and respect divergent views. It all drives great engagement!
How active are you on a weekly basis? How often do you communicate with your followers?
I am active on the blog at least once a week - I’m passionate about keeping my URL active and unique and I make sure it doesn’t just replicate social media content. On social media, I would post something to Instagram every other day and to Facebook a couple of times a week. It depends on how busy life is though and I don’t have a schedule or a plan for it - I feel strongly that social media should be spontaneous and in the moment.
What is your biggest challenge?
Monetising a blog in an environment where readers are increasingly turned off by commercial content. I try hard to keep my content authentic and to only work with brands I genuinely buy from myself but many people who read are turned off by too many paid collaborations or gifted items so it’s vital that as a blogger, I get the balance right. It would be lovely to create content for free constantly but the work and time involved would make this unsustainable. Once you reach a certain level of followers, it’s not just about writing great copy, it’s about interacting with followers, answering questions and giving advice so that in itself becomes a full time job - one that has to create some income to reflect some of the hours spent working on it.
What’s your best advice for handling criticism on social media?
I respond to constructive criticism. I get very little negative feedback but often people will comment that they don’t like something I’m wearing or they don’t agree with my view on a product and I welcome this and enjoy probing or challenging it. Sometimes I end up agreeing with them - I don’t always get it right! Very occasionally, there are unnecessary nasty comments that are intended to upset. I simply ignore these. If the author is a faceless, unnamed profile (as they always are), I block and move on. I never refer to it on my channels - I learned early in my blogging journey not to feed the troll. Yes, it garners sympathy from followers and gets a reaction initially but giving publicity to negativity only serves to drive further negativity further down the line. It becomes a vicious circle and ultimately impacts on blogger confidence.
Have you ever worked with any brands/businesses through your blog?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with lots of well known brands on and off over the years - Boden, hush, Next, etc. I have a regular arrangement with M&S as they are one of the best fits with my readers - I spend the majority of my own money there. But probably my favourite projects have involved local small businesses, via my regular try-ons in boutiques all over Northern Ireland. Most recently, I’ve worked with Berlin Boutique, Jude Law Boutique, Alana Interiors and Moi Boutique in Bangor, to name a few. For a relatively low cost (I only charge for my time and mileage), these shops can get valuable coverage locally and their clothes ranges showcased on a relatable stylish person which always translates into sales and footfall.
What is important to you when working with brands?
I ask myself would I shop there myself - would I buy what I’m trying on or reviewing? It requires honesty on my part. I will admit to having featured things in the early days of my blog that I wasn’t 100% about - I was flattered to be approached by the brand and not savvy enough to say no! Apart from that, I need to click with the business - the initial email or phone call is a big part of that. I need to know that they appreciate and value my involvement. Finally, I like to know the back story and their approach to sustainability and the environment - that’s become a bigger criteria for me in recent years and it’s one of the reasons I no longer work with the likes of Primark or H&M.
What advice would you give to a brand/business who want to work with an influencer?
Start by following a few bloggers that might be a good fit for your business and observe their content to see if they have good engagement and interaction with their audience. Don’t be fooled by fake following - make sure their following level translates into an appropriate number of likes and meaningful comments.
Once you’ve found someone you want to work with, send that blogger an email, tell them your story and ask if they would like to work with you. Be open and honest and willing to compensate for their time and efforts. With the right blogger in board, you will get more engagement and return from a collaboration than a half page advert in a newspaper or magazine so be willing to invest. Ask what they charge and negotiate if it’s more than you expected.
If you decide to go ahead, be clear about what you expect from the blogger e.g. social coverage and/or a blog post and the date by which you would like to see it. As a blogger, I like to know exactly what’s expected from me. And don’t forget to feed back if it went well - it’s encouraging to hear that a collaboration has worked well for the business. Perhaps chalk it up to experience if it didn’t go so well but if you’re very unhappy with the content, you should ask for it to be removed. However, this is unlikely to happen if you’ve researched the right person in the first place.
What social media site do you feel is best for you to reach your target audience?
For me it’s a mix of Facebook and Instagram. Because my demographic is 30-50, I have a good spread of followers over both and a large proportion who only have one or the other. I never copy content directly across both but I do post similar images with altered words to reflect the different audience. Nothing worse than Instagram hashtags and handles on a Facebook post…it’s one of my pet hates!