At the start of the semester, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of content that I’ll have to publish online since this is my first time blogging. The word “publishing” had a serious connotation to me and I used to picture the mundane imagery of book publishers doing monotonous editing work at print companies. As I get to learn how to put up content online with WordPress, I realized publishing is a lot less stressful from what I used to think. Blogging on Half Milk and Sugar has allowed me to establish my online self as a friendly individual and create content that I am genuinely interested in.
I originally created Half Milk and Sugar to blog about cafes reviews so I could justify my unhealthy obsession with sweet drinks and dessert. After a few consecutive weeks of blogging, I realized caffeine and sugar don’t just satisfy my sweet cravings but they also keep me awake and alive throughout the week. With the amount of workload I have for taking 14 credits this semester, visiting and trying out a new cafe each week is a great way to treat myself. These sweet delights have slowly become my motivation to work, how I boost concentration during work, and how I derive relaxation from work.
What I want to share on Half Milk and Sugar is not only ratings for food but also the experience that I enjoyed. This is why I started to develop more content that describes the interior of the places I went. Cakes and drinks may be finished within a few bites or sips, but the spatial enjoyment of a place lasts. As someone who is enthralled by how the ambiance and design can promote a specific vibe for the cafe, I took the effort to research the rationale behind each interior design of the restaurants and strive to share information that goes beyond ordinary food commentary.
Targeting young audience that also derive pleasure from cafe experiences, I named my blog “Half Milk and Sugar” to make it sound like something you’d say when you order at a cafe. This helps me set a fun and conversational tone for my individual online self. To attract more audience on my site, I set up an Instagram account, linked my blog in the biography and posted photos of my food reviews where I use hashtags and tagged the restaurant location. By diversifying the platforms I use to publish my content and incorporating lofi cafe beats into my reviews, my bounce rate for these sites have decreased by 20%.
Looking from my Google Analytics, I learnt that most of my audience are other students from Canada. Although the geographic location expanded to Asia and even Europe after I started writing reviews on popular Asian desserts, the number of visitors from other foreign countries was still under 10. Knowing that there are already copious food bloggers with a large following on Instagram, I kept asking myself why would people want to follow my new account instead of looking at popular foodie pages like Dished Vancouver that’s already on the platform?
I felt quite out of place at that time and I even set my Instagram account to private to test out and reflect on what’s the best way to market my content. Gertz (2015) has however pointed out that we should stop chasing these superficial numbers of following. His words enlightened me to start thinking how I should treat my content and design to reflect my subtle personality instead. He raises an important point that the content we publish should speak to the few people who can identify with our personalities and interests because this is the only audience that matters. His inspiring advice reminded me why I created Half Milk and Sugar in the first place and pushed me forward to continue with my publishing work.
Reflecting on this struggle I had during the blogging process, I think I was restricting my role of a publisher as every other foodie. Thorn (2012) argues in his article that “rather than defining yourself by the medium you create, define yourself by what you offer to your audience.” By sharing honest reviews and offering quiet cafe suggestions for doing work, I am inviting a group of audience from my local community in Canada that resonates with my busy college experience to find comfort and motivation in desserts. Even though I can’t be physically there to support these audience, I think I am providing a kind of spiritual support to them by encouraging them to treat themselves better after a long week of class.
As Van Djik (2013) argues in his article, there is a noticeable change occurred in the organization and architecture of social media platforms where the centre of gravity have shifted from connectedness to connectivity. This suggests that millennials are more concerned about the actual numbers of ‘friending’, ‘liking’, ‘connecting’ and ‘following’ instead of the intimacy of relationships on social media platforms. I realized I should not be blinded by these numbers and focus on delivering relatable and useful content for my audience instead. I’m really thankful that my partners for my peer reviews gave me insightful and in-depth comments for improving the usability of my site. For example, I really took their advice and categorized all my content to just ‘posiel’ and ‘reviews’ blog posts so that it is easier to navigate content and enhance the user-experience for my audience.
I believe this is not the end of my blogging journey. From designing the minimalist theme for my blog to uploading weekly cafes reviews, Half Milk and Sugar sparked my interest in publishing content that I am passionate about. I would definitely continue my dessert reviews on my Instagram and I hope to reach more audience that also rely on sugar and caffeine as their fuel so that we can all celebrate our sweet cravings here together.
Gertz, Travis. 2015. “Design Machines. How to survive in the digital Apocalypse.” July 2015. Available from: https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines
Thorn, J. (2012, November 4). Make Your Thing. Transom. Retrieved from https://transom.org/2012/jesse-thorn-make-your-thing/
Van Dijck, J. (2013, March 14). ‘You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn. Media, Culture & Society, 35(2). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443712468605