Dana Miller is the voice behind House Tweaking, one of the top home, design, and lifestyle blogs that documents her home renovation. Along with being a creative destination for functional design DIY projects and recipe preparations, Dana is especially adept at integrating brands into her content in a very authentic way, always bringing value for her readers on more than a consumer level. In recent branded posts, she offered food photography tips while working with Blue Apron here, ran a high value furniture giveaway while educating readers on how to order custom Interior Define furniture here, and gave a look into her kitchen’s pantry design while giving away NatureBox snacks here. We talked with Dana to learn more about why she started House Tweaking, where she sees the future of blogging, and how brands can succeed at influencer marketing with bloggers.
How did you get started blogging?
I started blogging as a hobby back in 2009 when I was working as a pharmacist. My husband, Steve, and I have always enjoyed making improvements to and decorating the houses we’ve lived in. The blog was originally an outlet for all of my home-related ideas and a way to share our projects with other like-minded homeowners. Once I hit “publish,” I was hooked. Steve bought me the URL I still use today as a birthday gift when I was first starting out.
What was your first blog post?
My first blog post was titled “Tweaking.” It was just a few short paragraphs (no images were included) sharing the purpose(s) of the blog. That’s back when I was still using a double space after each period and referring to Steve as “Handy Hubby.” It’s embarrassing to read now!
What was your breakout moment?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. Early on, Young House Love featured the closet-turned-mudroom in our previous house and it crashed my site. It was exciting to see the jump in traffic and engage a larger audience. But, honestly, I’ve never been one to set blog goals based on numbers. My favorite moments are when I receive recognition from people, brands and websites that I personally find inspirational. Last year, Remodelista and Domino featured my work and it was a little surreal.
Has anything you’ve written gone viral?
I don’t know if “viral” is the right word but I wrote a post about painting over artwork I bought at an estate sale and I got a TON of feedback. Half of it was positive; those readers really liked the project. The other half was negative, threatening even; those readers claimed I had broken the law and were appalled that I had painted over someone else’s art. On the other end of the spectrum, Steve and I created a reclaimed wood headboard in our previous house and I’ve seen that image EVERYWHERE on Pinterest, Etsy and even Craigslist.
I can never predict how a post will be received. Sometimes I post a project or idea I’m really stoked about and all I get are crickets chirping. Other times I write more personal posts that aren’t so much in line with the DIY / decorating genre and I’m surprised by how well they are received. I think readers are more engaged when they can relate to the author.
How has blogging changed since you got started?
Personally, the biggest change for me came after the birth of our third child. I quit my day job to stay home and blogging became my lifeline to the outside world. It was how I stayed productive, sane and contributed to our household income. I think the blogosphere in general has become more vast and as a result more cynical, which is unfortunate. I am all for honesty and constructive criticism but I will never understand people who deliberately judge and hate on others. That just seems like so much wasted effort!
Where do you see blogging evolving?
Quality > quantity. It’s so hard for me to relate to blogs that mass produce content on a daily basis. I leave feeling inadequate and overwhelmed, not inspired.
What’s on your list of daily reads?
Actually, one of my least favorite things about blogging is that I have less time to READ ALL THE BLOGS! Ha! Since we’ve pretty much renovated our home top to bottom (alas, there will always be tweaking), I’m living vicariously through Deuce Cities Henhouse, Manhattan Nest and Make Haus. And I always like to see what my friends at Chezerbey are up to. Also, I’m a sucker for house tours, regardless of the URL. Often times, I find myself drooling over house tours from other countries. I think it’s fascinating to see how people in other parts of the world live and fluff their nests.
How do you keep up with social media?
Um, I don’t? I work from home and my family comes first, so my online time is limited. I’d rather spend that time creating content or responding to reader questions and comments. I try to prioritize my inbox. Nowadays, Instagram is my favorite way to stay connected outside of the blog. It’s quick, easy and I love seeing what everyone else is up to.
What advice would you give to a blogger just getting started?
Just do it! Start where you are and use your blog as a catalyst to grow and learn new things.
What advice would you give to brands looking to build a campaign or partner with bloggers?
Give bloggers creative freedom! When brands allow bloggers to present their product or service in their own way, it’s more authentic and better received by their audience. It’s a win-win-win situation. The blogger creates fulfilling, original content. The readers are engaged and inspired. The brand sees increased interaction and sales. I’ve also heard from readers that they don’t like it when the same brand has a sponsored post on every blog at the same time or within a short period of time. Readers may be more receptive to campaign posts staggered among different blogs at different times.