Blogging community: What it’s like to make 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 entering a big brown door and meeting old-time bloggers in person, shaking their hands, introducing myself. I imagined having long conversations and being privy to industry gossip and secrets. I imagined finally having people to talk to about blogging (aside from my friend Andrew, who often says he wants to start a blog but hasn’t done yet).

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 you can feel the heat of competition. This wasn’t what I expected. Some would engage in casual banter, but dodge answering questions on how to get invited to fam trips (familiarization trips are usually free trips provided by tour companies or tourism boards for bloggers to help with promotion). The funny thing is I wasn’t even seriously considering pitching at that time, I was just making small talk. There’s also this one dude who was very friendly, until he learned we were planning to go to a place same as his group. Did he think we’d compete with the “scoop”?

In our first year of blogging, one of my first goals was to get accepted to this local blogging group in the Philippines. I was just disappointed. I realized that most members have been in the industry for years that they already have their groups and, to be frank, a lot of them are snobs.

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

I made lame attempts to be invited in casual meetups (like coffee talks), which were in naught. Over time, I got acquainted online with a few local bloggers that I actually like. Still, there’s this feeling that blogging isn’t really a community experience as I thought it was.

Finding groups online

Inasmuch as it’s more poetic to write about being a lone wolf , I actually found groups that are constantly providing support and encourage growth in the international arena. 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.

Take this situation, for instance. A few weeks ago, a tourism board grabbed one of our photos, removed the watermark and replaced it with their own before posting it in its Facebook page. The page admin ignored my messages requesting for them to take down the photograph (hello Catanduanes Tourism Board, yes I am referring to you). 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 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.

Tikling Beach, Sorsogon
Moving forward. (Photo by Hali)

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 somehow I get kicked out. This happened before — I inadvertently broke a group rule, got no warning whatsoever and was banned. Anyway, I’m thankful that I don’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.

11 Comments

  1. This is so interesting! Actually, i got here when I’m looking for travel guide. It’s so nice to see other local blogs with similar goals. My husband and I also have a shared travel blog that we started two years ago! Same as you do. But, your blog have many achievements and have reached many audience compare to ours. Anyway, I have no idea that travel bloggers also has community. I can only imagine how competitive it is. I am hoping you’ll find your tribe soon! Or create your own! 🙂

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  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.

  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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