Julie Fagan readily admits she did not expect her blog, Peanut Butter Fingers, to reach as large of an audience as it now does. Peanut Butter Fingers now ranks as one of the largest and most influential health, fitness, and lifestyle personal blogs in the space.
Instead of creating perfectly poised, polished, and styled photo shoots, a current trend and common philosophy shared by most lifestyle bloggers, Julie’s authentic content focuses more on sharing her experiences in a genuine, conversational matter. Her traditional approach to blogging, and her consistent, relatable content is likely the reason why Peanut Butter Fingers excels as a top destination for readers, and has transitioned into a full-time source of income for Julie.
Not only do brands love working with Julie’s congenial personality, but also her style of sponsored posts, such as this giveaway with custom furniture site Interior Define, and this meal prep giveaway with Blue Apron, both of which perform exceptionally well with her audience.
In our exclusive Influencer Spotlight Series, Julie dishes about her most-read blog posts, how she stays up to speed in the fast-evolving digital influencer and social media world, and where she sees the future of blogging and influencer marketing sponsorships:
I began blogging in September 2009 as an outlet to write about things that interested me and topics primarily related to health, fitness, food, and everyday life. At the time, I was working full-time as a writer focusing on medications and their side effects, so my blog became a place I could turn to for a lighthearted and creative release.
Oh my gosh, I had to go back to look! It’s so embarrassing. Ha! I jokingly shared a pseudo-recipe for “Peanut Butter Fingers” where I tell readers how to dip their finger into a jar of peanut butter.
I’m not sure I really had one “break out moment,” but I did notice that my blog began to develop a pretty loyal following about nine months into blogging and really saw the potential for it to become something more. I tried my best to continue treating it like a hobby but it became increasingly difficult to work full time and keep up with blogging and all of the behind-the-scenes work relating to partnerships, emails, etc. When I began to see potential for Peanut Butter Fingers to become my primary source of income, I started to really focus on growing my blog (all of my blogging tips and tricks may be found on the Blogging page of my blog)!
Random blog posts that I never would’ve thought would gain a lot of traction continue to surprise me! Blog posts I write relating to travel, pregnancy/babies, fashion and weddings always seem to do well. One blog post about what to pack for a trip to Europe is always one of my most popular blog posts month after month… and I published that post years ago! (I think I owe Pinterest a big thank you for that one!)
Blogging today is way more intimidating than when I first started. I always say that had I not started when I did, I’m pretty positive I’d be way too overwhelmed to begin blogging now. So many bloggers have professional photographers take their photos and posts seem way more editorial in nature with a greater focus on perfectly staged pictures and less of a focus on conversational content. I personally love when bloggers seem approachable and post pictures with a mess in the background or a plate of food that doesn’t look perfectly styled. And when they write in a way that feels like they just sat down at the computer to chat with their readers, I’m all in! Yes, I love looking at gorgeous photos, but I crave content over pictures I feel like the less stylized bloggers are the ones I connect to most because they seem like they could be someone I’d be friends with in real life.
It seems like more and more bloggers are gravitating away from conversational blogging and focusing on blog posts that are more “Pinterest-worthy.” I feel like many bloggers are blogging less but putting more time and energy into their blog posts with the hope that one high-quality, SEO-friendly blog post will carry more weight than a series of shorter, less-involved posts.
I usually follow a bunch of blogs but lately I’ve been really into reading older blog posts from some of my favorite bloggers who documented their pregnancies in a relatable way in the past. Since my husband and I are currently expecting our first baby this summer, I am reading everything I can about pregnancy and what to expect when our baby arrives and love that blogs are a way to get a peek into how other real women handled similar experiences.
I try to give myself a bit of a break when it comes to feeling pressure to share stuff on social media all the time. I don’t like feeling overly connected to my phone all the time. It overwhelms me and takes me out of living in the present. I share blog posts and random links to things that inspire or amuse me daily, but I don’t have a big game plan surrounding social media, nor do I schedule social shares ahead of time, though I’ve been told time and time again by other bloggers who swear that’s something I must do to save my sanity. I’ll get there! Instagram is my favorite form of social media since a photo and a quick caption can tell a story in an instant. It’s the most amusing and easy to follow for me!
I would spend more time developing my graphic design and photography skills. And I’d update all my recipe pages (this is on my summer to do list!) so that they would all include thumbnail pictures of each recipe. I know food pictures stand out way more than just the name of a recipe on a blog’s recipe page, so this is in the works for my blog in the future!
My number one tip for bloggers is to write a blog YOU would want to read. You’ll find like-minded readers who share your interests as long as you stay true to yourself.
When reaching out to a blogger, keep your emails short and to the point. Many bloggers receive tons of emails every day (we’re talking hundreds), so a concise email that states exactly what you’re looking for, your budget and your timeline is really, really helpful.