Newbie Challenge: Making Friends When You’re a New Blogger

I was very excited to be part of a travel blogging group.

In my mind, I saw myself walking through a big brown door and meeting old-time bloggers in person, shaking their hands, introducing myself. I’d imagined having long conversations and being privy to industry gossip and secrets.

I already have a draft of questions as conversation starters, in fact.

  • How has writing been to you so far? Have you had writer’s block and what did you do to get past that?
  • Have you ever grown tired of constantly blogging about all the places you go to?
  • Do you have some place you frequent but don’t blog about? Where, why?
  • Do you answer all readers’ messages? How about “lazy” questions?
  • Have you experienced getting bashed for something you wrote?
  • Other things.

I thought about going on trips with bloggers such as myself and know how different (or similar) it is from the usual trip with friends. I wanted to become part of a community.

Barging in through the world of blogging

The first few local bloggers I talked with online were okay, I guess, but competitive. Some dodged answering questions on how to get invited to fam trips* but would gladly reply to everything else. There’s this one dude who turned snob after learning we were also planning to go to a new location same as his group.

I guess this shouldn’t have been surprising, but it still caught me off-guard.

My initial lame attempts at asking to be invited in meetups were in naught. Over time, I got acquainted online with a few local bloggers that I actually like. (I’m not going to name names, but if you read this, you know who you guys are.) Still, there’s this feeling that blogging isn’t really a community experience as I thought it was.

Moving forward. (Photo by Hali)

When I got accepted to a local group that I admired for a long time, I realized that most members have been in the industry for years that they already have their own sets of friends. It’s like transferring to a new school in the middle of a school year.

There isn’t that much collaboration going on as well. I don’t really know why. Once I pitched in about having a link exchange thread and only one responded, a relatively new blogger such as myself.

*Fam trips or familiarization trips are usually free trips provided by tour companies or tourism boards for bloggers to help with promotion.

Finding groups online

Inasmuch as it’s more poetic to write about being a lone wolf or head on to a depressing resolution, I actually found groups that are constantly providing support and encourage growth. My favorite would be Female Travel Bloggers, a group of lovely ladies traveling in different parts of the world.

FTB has regular threads for collaboration efforts and it’s open for various discussions, which range from the technical side of blogging to what-to-do’s in different situations (e.g., experiencing burnout or fatigue from constantly blogging). We can talk about small and huge successes and frustrations, and there is always, always people who would listen and respond.

I’d like to talk about this time when I turned to them for help. A few weeks ago, a tourism board grabbed one of our photos, healed the watermark and replaced it with their own before posting it in its Facebook page. The page admin ignored my messages asking for take-down (Hello Catanduanes Tourism Board). I was in a conundrum because although I want to uphold our copyright, I also didn’t want to offend or burn bridges.

I posted about this dilemma online. Whereas in the local group I got a single reply, I received much more support in FTB. At least two bloggers even posted in the tourism board’s page to protest or get its attention, and before the day ended an official finally replied to one of my messages.

Aside from this active support system, I also benefited from guest posting and link exchanges. I was able to raise our blog’s domain authority enough to rank high in Google in my posts this year. In fact, our stats have more than doubled compared to that from the last quarter of last year.

Have I found my tribe?

I don’t know, to be honest. I guess I don’t want to assume because it would seriously hurt if something happened and I find my ass out of any groups that I like. I’m thankful that I didn’t feel alone, and I can even write a mushy letter of gratitude to all the international bloggers who helped or supported us in one way or another.

I think a part of me still wants to have an online barkada of local bloggers, but maybe it doesn’t have to be the same crowd I looked up to before I started.

Maybe I’ll find my people in my generation. Maybe they’ll find me.

Maybe it’ll just happen.

Who knows?

Right now I appreciate what I have.

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11 Comment

  1. I also love the FTB group so much. As a new blogger myself, this was such an honest and encouraging read. Thanks for sharing your experience and I hope you the best of luck. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts and supporting each other through the Female Travel Bloggers group 🙂

  2. Frank says: Reply

    No, really, there’s not much for you to improve on content wise. I mean it.
    And social media, which includes networking, is something we are all constantly trying to improve.
    BTW: I don’t belong to any “groups”. I like to visit other blogs but have never enjoyed the obligation of being part of something with others.

  3. Frank says: Reply

    Interesting post Katherine.

    I’ve been blogging now for 3 years and we have quite a lot of regular readers as well as “blogger friends”. There will always be competition but being part of the blogging community is more rewarding than not. The blogging world so big that if some bloggers in your small part of the world feel that you’re stepping on their toes that’s maybe because they’re a bit insecure…their problem.

    But a lot of newbie bloggers also don’t get that they have to reciprocate if they want to be part of the “blogging community”. Have a look at my last post where I specifically write about that: http://bbqboy.net/reasons-probably-visit-blog/

    I have to say though that you have excellent content Katherine and you should do well. Like anyone starting out though (in anything) it takes a while and you have to persevere where others quit.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Frank, thanks so much for your input. I read your post and it seems there’s so much we have to improve on our blog. 🙂 Anyway, I hadn’t really thought about reciprocating through visiting or comments, it’s more of a natural thing that I do – which means it can be pretty irregular. I mainly give back by offering help in technical questions related to WordPress, web development and related topics in FB groups I’m in… I probably should extend this way of reaching out in other areas, as you say.

  4. Nah, I don’t really stress myself with travel blogging and joining travel blogging groups or blogging groups. My purpose is to make friends and connect with other bloggers or travelers. Although sometimes nakakainggit na may mga sikat na bloggers always get invited for fam trips but for me, I Chose not to be inggitera coz I am traveling on my own. Although I have personal invitations which is more than enough from a fam trip. Hehehe! Most of the time I’m looking for companies to pitch.

    1. My point in joining groups is actually to connect. 🙂 And di rin naman ako naiinggit, I was just surprised na merong bloggers na, for lack of a better word, madamot sa info. For me the industry is big enough for everybody, though it’s also understandable that some people take competition seriously. We have different levels of investment in blogging.

  5. My take? Join at your own risk.

    I’ve mentioned before that most bloggers nowadays are in it for the fame and freebies. Everyone wants to step on the other person in the race to the top, and only a few bloggers actually have their feet on the ground. From how I see it, the travel blogging niche is among the three most over-saturated spaces (ranking the same in food and fashion).

    And there’s this thing about bloggers you meet in real life. They’re too cowardly (yes, I’m using that word) to approach you in person, yet they claim that you’re just some random reader when you engage them in a civil manner online. Hanggang internet lang, in the Filipino parlance. When you approach, they snob you entirely. Maybe because of the lack of social skills?

    It doesn’t help that most blogging groups have their own little cliques (may sariling mundo), so being a lone wolf is the more reasonable way to follow. However, seeing that you’ve found a welcome niche with a travel group – good for you.

    1. Thanks Monch! I agree that most have their own cliques already… it’s not that I take that against them, it’s just this expectation vs. reality thing where I thought that since there are only a few hundred travel bloggers (that I know of), people would actually be happy to see a few additions. 🙂 I guess I just have to look at it positively, somehow.

  6. Hello Kath,
    It was such a good read. I genuinely love to convey my thoughts about this, but I rather just lock the door and stay in my room and you know what I mean. I simply want to tell you that no matter what happens, keep traveling and writing your travel experiences.

    1. Thanks Lai! I know what you mean. This is one of those topics people don’t talk about. 🙂

  7. We definitely understand your points. That’s why Sheila and I are semi-lone wolves. That means, we are official members of a group (actually two), but we don’t usually join them (semi-active) because most of their invitations are lifestyle, events, and food. For us, we are extremely zealous in guarding our niche (adventure travel) to maintain both our authority in the niche and the purity of our blog posts. In fact, we readily turn down big companies and tempting offers if these don’t match with our niche.

    Just like any other group, being part of a bloggers society has its advantages and drawbacks. You just need to weigh them up and see how it goes.

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