INSIGHT: Blogs in Business with Dating Judges, Charly Lester, James Preece and Amanda Wiebe

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The results may be in, but our judges will continue to share their insight and inspiration right up until after the UK Blog Awards 2017 event. We caught up with and head judge,Charly Lester from the , James Preece, dating industry expert and Amanda Wiebe from who are this years dating category supporters! 

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules. Tell us, what are your thoughts on what will happen in the influencer industry and across social media this year?

Charly: I think more and more Bloggers and influencers will be moving from Blogs and YouTube into business.  A Blog or vlog is a great springboard into business.

James: More and more companies are going to be taking influencers seriously.  Instead of asking Bloggers and influencers to work for free, they'll have larger budgets and will target the best of the best to help with their campaigns.  Attention spans are short so we'll see less written Blogs and more interactive, video Blogging instead.  So the more of an expert you are then the more likely you will be to succeed.

Amanda: Influencers are hugely, err influential and we’re confident that we will continue to see huge growth in this area. We’ve also seen the niches grow and think that we’ll see less general influencers and more specialists as readers seek out content, advice and recommendations based on their own specific interests.

In terms of social media, we see this as a massively important part of our business and are seeing trends change everyday. Of course video is becoming more important and is now almost expected by customers as their preferred channel. Customers want to everything delivered to them in an easy to consume format and video and social are great for that. Exciting times!

How do you think the industry has changed and grown in the last five years and how has your role changed in the industry with it?

Charly: Blogs have become a major concern for businesses, which is great news for us all.  Companies have realised that their websites need Blogs – not just for SEO purposes, but to show clients that they understand their area of expertise.  A Blog gives a company an unedited, up-to-date voice.

I began my career as a Blogger.  It gave me a platform to showcase my opinions on the dating industry, which inevitably helped me convince an entire industry that I had their very best interests in mind when I created a set of national dating awards.  I also now teach Blogging classes for the Guardian.

James: I've been working in the dating industry for over a decade and Blogging has completely evolved over this time.  It used to be that if you wrote an article every few months then that would be enough, but now it's so much more competitive.  You have to constantly think up new strategies and plans – targeting everything for the reader rather than for SEO purposes.

As a Dating Coach, more and more companies have been actively seeking to work with me.  I now write less Blogs for my own site but provide an increasing amount of paid content for dating companies and brands instead.  

Amanda: We’re only 9 months old but we’ve seen influencer marketing go from strength to strength even over this short time. It’s become a key part in any brands marketing strategy and the old mantra of it’s not what you know but who you know really becoming the key. Social Media has helped and Instagram in particular is leading the way giving Bloggers and vloggers a way to instantly connect with their audience.

Why did you accept the role of being a UK Blog Awards industry judge and how many times have you judged for your industry?

Charly: This is my second time on the UK Blog Awards panel, and this year I’m Head Judge for the panel.  I love what the UK Blog Awards do for the Blogging industry – they bring everyone together, provide a unique opportunity to network and get coverage, and are just a brilliant event!  It’s an absolute honour to be named Head Judge, and I’m excited to start checking out this year’s finalists.

James: This is my second time as a judge for the Dating category and I'm delighted to be asked back. It's such an important and growing business and also my way of supporting other people in the industry.  I've worked with thousands of singles and brands, so I know what they want to read.  I love having the opportunity of connecting with new people and helping them get where they want to me.  There's such a huge amount of talent out there.

Amanda: We’re only 9 months old but we’ve seen influencer marketing go from strength to strength even over this short time. It’s become a key part in any brands marketing strategy and the old mantra of it’s not what you know but who you know really becoming the key. Social Media has helped and Instagram in particular is leading the way giving Bloggers and vloggers a way to instantly connect with their audience.

What will you be looking for when assessing the shortlist to crown award winning content?

Charly: I love the UK Blog Awards judging, because it’s so well-structured, that we simply measure every contender up against a strict list of requirements and criteria.  Rather than have to look out for something special to determine our winner, we measure every single criteria, and tot up the marks.  The Blog with the most marks wins!  It’s great – because it takes the subjectivity out of judging and makes us focus on all the key fundaments of a Blog.

James: I believe that a good Blog is mix of education and entertainment. It should make you think as well as make you laugh from time to time.  A Dating Blog should be fun, which is something real dates should be!

Amanda: We’re looking for engagement, someone who really understands their audience and delivers content that interests them. We want to be wowed not just with the title but right until the end and more importantly be keen to keep reading!

Have you ever won an industry award? If so, how has this helped you and what impact do you feel the UK Blog Awards will have on the industry?

Charly: Back in the day my dating Blog ’’ won several awards, and it was great to be recognised for what I was doing.  Blogging can be a lonely and time-consuming hobby.  It lead me to set up my own set of Awards for the Dating Industry, because I realised just how much value awards can have for an industry – both internally and externally.

James: I recently won the Highly Commended Award for Dating Expert of the Year at the . This has already helped me secure some new contracts for 2017 and it encourages me to keep going and to never stop trying to innovate.

The UK Blog Awards is helping to bring Bloggers and influencers from the dating industry together.  This can often be quite lonely work, but the closer we can become the more we can achieve together.

Finally, the theme for the 2017 UK Blog Awards is Heroes and Heroines. In your opinion what makes a true BlogHero?

Charly: I think BlogHeroes are those who really push the boundaries, and do something different.  The thing about Blogging is that you see a lot of copy-catting.  Someone does something good in a particular space, and quickly others copy it.  Real BlogHeroes think out of the box and pave the way, breaking down the barriers for an entire industry.  BlogHeroes inspire!

James: A true BlogHero is someone who is prepared to think outside the box and isn't afraid to say what they really think.  They don't just write want they think others will read, but help, educate and suggest new ways of doing things.

Amanda: Someone who goes above and beyond to genuinely help their Blog friends, colleagues and start-up brands like us! Bloggers and Vloggers are so creative and it’s great when they can bring that creativity to a brand brief to make it more meaningful for their audience and meet brand objectives too!