Blogger Spotlight – Lydia from Pererro Travel
It’s Social Media Week! Every day this week we’ll be posting an interview with a blogger, to get more insight into how they work, and how they write. Don’t forget that all throughout Social Media Week you can follow what we’re up to by either searching our hashtag #SMWBlogger on Twitter or Instagram, or by following us @TamarUK.
For our first interview, we’re chatting to Lydia Birtwistle-Sawyer, who runs Pererro-Travel, a travel blog that follows her adventures as she travels the globe.
What made you want to start a blog? Was there a particular idea behind it? Do you have any aspirations for your blog? Where would you like it to lead?
It was an idea I had for a long, long time before I actually did anything. I was so worried about how I would come across, it took me about a year before I plucked up the courage to do anything. I spent a summer working as an intern in Berlin where I was forever having adventures. I started thinking about doing a blog about Berlin and the travels that took place in the months afterwards. Every time I thought ‘yeah, I will start it tonight,’ I would find an excuse as to why it was a bad idea. Finally, I told a couple of friends almost a year later when we were having a little break in the Balkans, how I had been ummming and arrring about setting up a little travel blog. They thought it was a great idea so as soon as I got home I wrote up what I did and voila! I was a blogger.
As for aspirations, I have plenty and they change week to week. I want to carry on building a readership and concentrate on the enjoyment of those readers for the next few months and look at where I want to go and write about those places. It’s still early days and it is hard to know where it will lead to. However, I find it exciting that I don’t know.
Do you have another job, or is blogging your main job?
I am actually a student again! I started a few days ago at SOAS in London, where I am doing a masters degree. I’ve kept it down low for a little while as I was quite nervous. Other than the masters degree, I am not working.
Do you have more than one blog you manage?
No, it is just the one blog. I like writing for myself as I decide on my own deadlines and what to write about, but it is a lot of work. I think managing two blogs by myself would be a tad ambitious.
Tell us about your blog/life balance. How often do you post? How do you come up with ideas for posts?
I think about Pererro Travel constantly, which perhaps is not too healthy. When I travel I spend the daytime exploring with a notebook in hand and then go back to my hotel room to write up an article. It can be quite tiring- before I used to turn up in a city and not know what I was going to do, but nowadays I can’t travel without some vague idea. I try to post every day, unless I’m super busy or I am compiling information for a large article. As for coming up with ideas, there are a few different ways I do that. If I am traveling, I just write about what I am doing, either through articles or reviews. Sometimes I just think of random ideas when I’m in the supermarket or on the train, so another reason why I always carry a notebook around with me.
How long was it before you started to notice traffic to your blog?
About six months or so. At first, I would have been lucky to get ten visitors a day. Usually I got zilch. Nothing. Nada. Then gradually it started getting a little bit more attention and then when I was in Tasmania, the articles suddenly started becoming a lot more popular, as were my social media feeds. I think Tasmania just got people clicking on as not many people go there, so it was something different and the place was so picturesque- so the photos on Instagram came out pretty well. Since Tasmania, I’ve had a good, steadily growing flow.
When you first started, how did you promote your blog? Did you use any specific channels, e.g. Twitter, Instagram etc? Where did you see the biggest engagement in terms of social and what was the best thing to grow your community size?
Instagram has been my most useful and enjoyable social media feed to use. It has always been the most popular and I love taking photos. 500 people may like a photo, but only a proportion of those people would like the same post on Facebook or RT it. People seem to engage more with me on Instagram. Saying this, people are more likely to click through posts on Facebook.
How long before you started to get approached by organizations? How did they approach you and what did you think?
About three months. At first I was excited, thinking ‘I got noticed! This is it!’ It was just a one-off article and to be honest, it was quite straight forward so there wasn’t a lot of work on my part. Then I didn’t get approached for another two-three months after that. A lot of the companies were approaching me for different reasons- some wanted sponsored posts some wanted me to try a tour if I was in their country. Slowly, the offers got better and better.
How do you retain your authenticity when working with a brand?
The easiest way to retain authenticity is to write something yourself. Your loyalist readers will notice if there is a change in your style of writing and if you do it constantly, they will go off you. So if a company wants a review or a piece about X, I will just write it in a way in which I am comfortable. If I was asked to review something I believed to be a bad product, I would say no. Never lie- that’s something that some people forget about. If a company just wants a sponsored post with strict guidelines, I will put ‘Sponsored’ at the top of the article.
What’s the worst approach you’ve ever had from a brand or agency?
There’s been quite a few companies I’ve had to say no to. Usually because they want me to be in a country that I just would not be able to get to for months and sometimes I say no because it will be a multi-billion pound company expecting me to do a few hours or work for free with no clear benefits. The worse company I’ve ever spoken to me actually did not approach me – I approached them.
I spent a little while looking through different travel agents finding inspiration and found this company that had hardly any social media following and a fairly badly designed website, but what seemed to be a great tour. I e-mailed the owner with a bunch of ideas for articles after a few days planning a proposal. I had never sent a proposal before, so I was quite nervous. He e-mailed back calling me an array of rude names along with some hurtful accusations. When I have to say no to a company I always am polite about it, so I was completely shocked by the e-mail I received back. Thankfully, a few days later I was approached by a different company with some great work, so I wasn’t down for long.
And what’s the best approach you’ve ever had?
One of my favourite companies to work with was Kiwi Experience. I stayed with them for almost a month, touring around New Zealand trying lots of new things. I skydived, heli-hiked on glaciers and stayed in some lovely places. I was very well cared for and enjoyed every moment. I’ve enjoyed working for lots of different companies, but I think Kiwi Experience stands out because I had wanted to go to New Zealand for a long time and I love outdoor activities.
Do you ever proactively approach brands you want to work with?
Sometimes, but usually it is the other way around. I don’t mind approaching companies, but it is more exciting getting approached- knowing that someone has been reading your work for a while and watching your progress- it is incredibly flattering.
And finally, are there any particular pearls of wisdom you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself before you started blogging?
There are so many things I would have told myself. Firstly, I would have started blogging before I did. I could have covered so many different countries and could have really developed earlier on. I would also probably tell myself not to worry about advertisement too much- I spent far too much time worrying about that. I would finally tell myself that I ought to concentrate on my style of writing more and that things were going to work out.