Courtesy of CandiceVanWye.com
Blogging has become an essential factor for not only creative minds but creative companies in order to further express what it is they’re selling and to engage their audience on a personal level. With content everywhere, one millennial noticed the lack of women of color who are in those spaces and thriving. Candice VanWye, a blogger turned creator, was blogging for a year when she realized there wasn’t much of a voice coming from girls who looked like her, with stories similar to hers. The 25-year-old quickly realized the necessity for that space to be filled. With practice and passion, VanWye created Brown Girl Bloggers in 2014.
Brown Girl Bloggers’ mission is to help women create amazing blogs in a safe and fun environment.
Blogging involves commitment and consistency. How did you get started with creating the Brown Girl blog?
I got started with Brown Girl Bloggers through social media. Brown Girl Bloggers was only a blogroll at first and I listed blogs under different categories like interior design or food and told people to check those blogs out. I would then go on Twitter and Instagram to look through hashtags like #bloggers, #blackgirls, #creatives, etc and every time I came across someone with melanin, I would add their blog to our blogroll and then contact them to let them know about BGB. It was a slow process, but eventually, bloggers started telling other people about BGB and using our hashtag. Now we’re connecting our members with brands, teaching our content creators how to master their craft, and making genuine connections that go beyond blogging.
Brown Girls Blog has close to 70K in Instagram followers, along with 11K followers on Twitter; with so many social media platforms today, how do you go about marketing BGB and making sure that the website’s content stands out from competitors?
I ask our readers what they want to see or go through our analytics to see what they are responding to the most. For instance, I noticed when we post quotes about positivity or anything about the Black girl experience, it invites a lot of comments — which I love. Whenever I want to encourage conversation on our platforms, I’ll do that. This helps our mission because bloggers usually connect with each other through the comments or tweets and it helps our brand because people tag their friends and if their friends didn’t know about Brown Girl Bloggers, but like what they see, they become followers too.
Being engaging helps in the social media climate. Most of us aren’t doing anything revolutionary. We are largely just reinventing the wheel and putting our personal spin on it, which is OK. To stand out, everything you do has to be done amazingly and you need to pull people in with your unique perspective and voice. The best way to showcase that is by being engaging.
This doesn’t apply to everyone, obviously, but I think it’s relevant to those of us coming up. I notice that really popular bloggers or celebrities can have a lot of followers, comments, and even generate sales without a lot of interaction with their audience, but that’s because they’ve already built a loyal following over the years.
I can’t expect people to support BGB, especially through purchasing things, if they don’t know who I am. I need to show my passion for minority women who create content and most importantly I need to show that I am truly like everyone who reads the blog.
If you’re trying to build a loyal following you can’t ignore the people who support you. You have to respond to comments, ask follow-up questions, retweet them, reply to emails, and support the things your followers are doing. That’s going to help your brand more than you know.
Why do you feel it’s important to create a space specifically for women of color?
It’s important because we aren’t always celebrated in other spaces. It’s gotten better, but it’s not where it needs to be. Honestly, I don’t believe other groups will ever support us like we support ourselves. No one can deny how helpful mainstream media is for content creators, but it will never replace the need for our own media and communities. In a community like BGB, you’re learning about blogging with your specific audience in mind, you’re getting real interactions from people who want you to win, and you’re getting the recognition you need to keep creating. I can’t tell you the amount of gratitude I’ve received just because I reposted a blog link or followed a fellow blogger’s Instagram. We want our work acknowledged like everyone else and in our own communities we are the focus and not just the token.
With you helping other women of color to create blogs and ultimately ways to express themselves, what are some common mistakes you see bloggers make when they are starting out?
I see a few big mistakes. New bloggers start out thinking it’ll be easy and that they will be an overnight success. I get a lot of emails from bloggers asking how to grow their audience fast and monetize. My answer is always that they should focus on creating a great brand first and then monetize after that. Most of the time I’ll click over to look at their blogs and it’s clear that they haven’t invested money in a design or learned how to write with their audience in mind, and they usually don’t have any type of consistency, but they want people’s time and money. That’s crazy to me.
I also notice that a lot of bloggers think the only way to be a successful blogger is to monetize through ads and sponsorships and become entrepreneurs. It’s so unrealistic to think that everyone can be an entrepreneur because it takes a special kind of person to do that properly.
Your blog can do so much more for you. It can help you land your dream job, meet your future life partner, or help you make friends. You might simply learn a lot about yourself and have a great time. Everything doesn’t have to be about money. Sometimes, you can blog for the love of it and watch everything else fall into place.
What are three things you personally learned while getting your brand off the ground?
I learned so much, but if I have to think of my top three I’d say …
- Community is more important than everything else. When you build a real community around your brand, you’re going to be successful. The thing about building community is that you’re building a group of people who want you to succeed and will do what they can to ensure that you do. That means putting your community first without the ego and helping them. If you’re helpful, you’ll build community and if you build a community, you’ll build a brand. It’s that simple.
- Always have a platform that doesn’t rely on social media. You need an email list and your own website so that you don’t always have to play by everyone else’s rules. If your business can be destroyed because Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook changed their rules, you’re being lazy and your success is dependent on those platforms. Build your own outside of them.
- You have to trust the process and stay committed. Building a brand is filled with highs and lows. Sometimes everything is going great! And other times, the thing you worked super hard on flops. That’s OK. Nothing lasts forever, so you have to trust the timing of your life and stay committed even when it doesn’t seem like things are going your way. This is why consistently creating is good for you. When you train yourself to be consistent you’ll keep going through the good and the bad.
Are there any women in communications or in the blogger world that you admire?
I admire a lot of entrepreneurs. Myleik Teele, Patricia Bright, and Claire Sulmers come to mind. These are all Black women who have amazing businesses with employees, which I admire. I also love that they are all building empires in their own ways. Seeing Black women do that is inspiring and beautiful, even.
Millennials love their news now. What are three “make or break you” tips every blogger needs to know while having a blog?
- You have to invest in your blog. The people you see that have successful blogs online, invested time and money into whatever you’re seeing. This doesn’t mean you have to put a lot of money in to start, but you should buy a domain, choose a nice theme, and put some effort into learning how to be a master at your craft. That might mean taking a photography class or learning the basics of HTML from Google, but you have to do something.
- Creating content is the smallest part of your job a blogger. Creating content for your blog is probably going to take up about 20 percent of your time, while everything else like marketing, social media, pitching, design work, etc. will take up the rest of your time.
- Although it happens, you probably won’t become an overnight success or a millionaire by starting a blog and that’s OK.
I’ve read that there’s a launch coming soon, what does that entail? Any other future plans in store for Candice VanWye and Brown Girl Bloggers?
Yes! Brown Girl Bloggers is launching a new membership area in May. Our membership area will have original and curated stock photography featuring black and brown people, private forums and a private Facebook group, lots of learning materials to help bloggers create better content, writing prompts, weekly office hours with me, and live Q&As with successful women. There are also other perks like discounts and giveaways. You can sign up to learn more here. I’m also very excited to host live events later this year and next year, in which, our members will hear about first.
On a personal note, I have my podcast called The Creative Millennial where I interview amazing creatives every single week and I’ll continue to do the most on Instagram and Snapchat (@candicevanwye).
What’s VanWye’s definition of the phrase, Black girl magic?
I see Black girl magic in everything from hanging with my high school friends and cracking jokes in the ‘hood to seeing Black women thrive in careers like law to seeing us carve out niches on the internet and get paid to do it. Anytime I see a Black girl prospering I feel like I’m prospering and that’s the magic of being a Black girl. We are magic by default but when I see another Black girl living a life that makes her happy, regardless of the type of life it is, I see a little bit more of our magic.