Mar 02, 2020
In our series on starting a beauty blog, Jude Chao of Asian beauty blog Fifty Shades of Snail explains the importance of staying true to your voice and standing out in a crowded field.
Welcome back to the very belated second part of our series on K-beauty blogging!
All the way back in 2018, we talked about whether you should start a K-beauty blog and what you need to do so. A lot of time has passed, and plenty of new blogs and K-beauty Instagram accounts have entered the already crowded scene, but what I have to say about authenticity and voice remains the same. So let’s get down to it.
The importance of finding your voice
Why do any of us start our blogs? Even if we don’t have visions of fame and big brand collaborations running through our heads, we want to reach people. We want to communicate our thoughts and opinions, share our knowledge, help our fellow beauty fans.
In order to do that, we need to be found by those fellow beauty fans, and we need to be memorable enough that they’ll come back to us to seek out more of those thoughts and opinions and knowledge. Unfortunately for new beauty bloggers, that’s getting harder and harder to accomplish. Remember what I said about how plenty of new blogs and Instagram accounts have entered an already crowded scene? Standing out among the crowd these days will take concerted effort and a very memorable voice.
That might sound daunting. Voice seems like one of those things that you either have or you don’t. Luckily for bloggers willing to work on their writing, it isn’t. Voice can be developed and refined through effort, and since I spent years in writing workshops and tutoring college students on their writing, I have a few things to say on the topic.
Speak your mind
This might sound obvious, but my time in the K-beauty world has taught me that it actually isn’t. There is a vast ocean of supposedly original beauty content on the Internet, but a large part of that isn’t original at all. Many blogs and IG accounts apparently exist just to feature regurgitated brand materials, lightly reworded press releases, and official photographs either provided to the bloggers or pulled from brand or vendor sites.
Content like that doesn’t tell anyone anything they didn’t already know or couldn’t find elsewhere. It won’t make you stand out. You may get some traffic from people interested in new releases here or there, but you most likely won’t make a unique name for yourself by acting as an extension of brands’ PR divisions. If you want to make a name for yourself, you need to offer something that no one else can.
Luckily, you already have something no one else does: your insight. Your thoughts, opinions, and observations, developed through the utterly unique process of your personal experiences. So let that shine through in whatever you’re writing. Are you covering some new release? What makes it interesting to you — or not? What are your opinions on it? What do you think needs to be said about it? Provide bland product facts where appropriate, but let your perspective take the lead.
One very important consideration as you work on bringing your unique perspective to the forefront of your writing: Don’t be afraid of offending brands.
It’s very easy, especially when you’re just starting out, to fear the effects of offending brands and losing out on future PR offers. It’s also very easy to hold back on what you really think, even unconsciously, so that you don’t upset anyone. So here are some things to remember if you find these fears stifling your voice:
1. Most brands don’t take criticism personally. They’re brands, not people, and even brands that are run by one person should be aware that there is no such thing as a universally perfect product, and therefore criticism is inevitable.
2. Brands that do take criticism personally and either fight back or choose not to deal with bloggers who have criticized their products in the past are trash. You don’t want relationships with those brands anyway. Their response to criticism shows that they lack integrity, and that type of reputation tends to spread.
3. Most brands aren’t actually keeping track of every single blogger who’s ever dragged their products anyway. There aren’t enough interns in the world for that.
4. The bigger your blog or IG account grows, the more offers you’ll get, regardless of who you’ve dragged in the past. And your blog or IG account probably won’t grow much if you aren’t offering your unique and valuable perspective to begin with.
I’m not saying to be harsh to stand out. That’s not a great path to walk, either — perpetually angry blogs get exhausting to read, even if they’re entertaining at times. I’m just saying to be true to your feelings and experiences, whether they’re positive or negative. Let your love or your hate for a product shine through. Tell it like it is. Be you.
Write as you speak (more or less)
Not every blogger is a trained or professional writer, and that’s perfectly fine. As I mentioned in my previous blogging article, as long as you can communicate clearly and mostly correctly, you’ve got the writing skills you need for a beauty blog. But if you want your writing itself to stand out and to carry the force of your personality, focus on developing your own voice.
What I mean by that is, don’t try to write in an artificial style. Blog posts don’t need to be written with the cool, distanced objectivity of serious journalism, for instance, or the peppy faux intimacy of a mainstream fashion and beauty site that wants to be Your Cool Girl Bestie Who Tells You About All The Latest Cool Stuff, Girl. Nor do they need to be serious and academic.
Write as if you’re talking to a friend — naturally, conversationally, more or less the way you’d speak, just structured into a blog post. Let your own quirks of vocabulary and expression come through. If you feel limited in vocabulary and expression, read more widely, both in beauty and in general, to pick up more ways to describe things and more ways to articulate your thoughts.
Once you’re done writing, it’s time to proofread and edit. Here, you can refine your expression further. Read what you’ve written out loud. This will give you a sense of the rhythm and flow of your writing. It can show you where you’ve phrased things awkwardly or where you’ve overcomplicated a concept. No matter what you’re writing, reading it out loud and editing as you go will make it better. And keep writing and editing. The more you practice and the more you produce, the better you’ll get and the easier the process will be.
Voice ultimately boils down to the ability to convey your individual personality through your words. Everyone has a voice, because everyone has a personality. The more you express yourself with authenticity, the more your voice will come through. And if you look at the most popular and successful blogs in this space, voice is one thing that sets almost all of them apart.
Now get to writing!
What beauty blogging topics do you want covered next? Let us know in the comments!
Jude writes as Fiddy Snails at the K-beauty and skincare blog Fifty Shades of Snail and can be found on Instagram @fiddysnails. Named the ELLE Malaysia Beauty Blogger of the Month for June/July 2017 and one of ELLE Magazine‘s 10 Cool Beauty Bloggers to Watch in 2018, Jude loves ginseng, snail, honey, propolis, and tuna fish kimbap, though she generally doesn’t put the kimbap on her face.