Welcome to the curious world of the blogosphere: the collective community of all blogs and bloggers as a whole. What the internet is to websites, the blogosphere is to blogs.
Within this strange and peculiar environment lies everything from articles on the latest vegan meat substitutes to the in-depth review of a new lipstick range; politics to parrots, football to fencing, carpentry to cake-making. The blogosphere represents the wonderful range of interests and passions that make us who we are and, in encouraging the interaction between bloggers themselves, promotes positive engagement, sharing of thoughts, ideas and communication between like-minded people who may otherwise geographically distant from each other.
This is a socially-oriented universe that offers freedom of expression and invites a healthy, open exchange of opinions. Bloggers make themselves stand out further in their natural habitat by tagging and categorising each post they publish to increase visibility, maximise their visitors and allows them to fully embrace the interconnectivity of platforms like Wordpress, Wix, Tumblr and Blogger.
"I wanted to start something that would encourage positivity. All to often, Instagram us full of perfect feeds of unattainable goals."
In fact, the level of competition (nay, obsession) over engagement demonstrates the sheer need to be liked and loved within the blogosphere. The simple fact is that without sharing your content on social media and, likewise, interacting with fellow bloggers online, you will ultimately sink to the bottom of a deep ocean of blogs. There are quite literally millions of them, from generic categories like lifestyle or fashion to niche subjects such as artisan cheese or life as a single parent. Ultimately, very few rise to the top, and even fewer succeed in monetising their endeavours.
While many people write about their passions and interests, for others it represents their main source of income and is a far more serious pursuit. For this blogger, logging into Twitter revolves around reaching out to brands in hope of a collaboration; a perpetual hunt for new connections, endorsements and fees.
As a result of this, things can get nasty.
When you reach out to a brand, they are likely to request a media kit; a document containing general information about your website, typically along the following lines:
When your blogging CV and health of your audience engagement metrics could mean the difference between a lucrative collaboration or internet anonymity, competition begins to really heat up and the conditions created for traces of jealousy emerge. Whether it be a particular product to review or a holiday destination to visit for free, envy is a natural by-product of someone achieving greater success than you within the rules of the blogging universe.
If someone has 10,000 followers to your 200, it’s simply far more likely that they will win out in capturing the attention of brands, adding fuel to the fire of the general oneupmanship which can, unfortunately, breed toxicity across blogging communities.
A common technique in this particular arms race is just to buy followers outright in a bid to make an account more ‘brand-friendly’. Outlets that offer the option to purchase an audience on, say, Instagram or Twitter are widespread and, while this can make a blogger’s profile look more enticing and successful, it will likely infuriate others who work tirelessly to grow their social network organically. It is perfectly feasible that a person can pay a small sum to gain 1000 followers overnight where the more principled blogger may toil away for six months to reach half that number.
"Our primary aim was to create a way for bloggers to form even stronger communities."
That said, just because you command a slightly more modest audience doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be automatically discounted: savvier brands will be sensitive to much more than just followers when searching for a blogger to collaborate with and so-called ‘micro-influencers’ are increasingly getting noticed. A smaller following that closely matches the brand’s target consumer may well be preferable than a more substantial - yet, critically, less engaged - audience. In brand perception terms, resonating positively with 100 people is worth vastly more than indifference across a thousand.
Another go-to blogger technique is the classic ‘follow-unfollow’ move on Twitter or Instagram, involving systematically unfollowing any accounts that followed back after a premeditated following spree. Many people don’t notice that they have inadvertently followed a scheming account owner back in good faith, but the fightback is now in with many recently making use of sites such as Social Blade to catch out the culprits.
Some bloggers with a seemingly insatiable appetite for audience growth will occasionally succumb to a bout of pop-ups fever, peppering visitors with a series of increasingly infuriating requests to follow their blog or subscribe to their newsletter. These underhand tactics could well drive followers away and damage longer-term relationships with an audience that in fact supports the entire operation. A slippery slope indeed, then, where chasing followers at the expense of reputation could lead to more severe repercussions in what should, by all means, be a community based on transparency.
Despite these occasional descents into desperation and the catty atmosphere that can sometimes accompany it, there are now several excellent innovations that have set out to redress the balance and bring the blogging community back to a more earnest, positive place.
One particular group came together and created the app ‘Bleet’, designed to help bloggers meet like-minded people in their local area. Whether it be nerves, distance or lack of time, it’s often difficult for someone running a blog to take friendships and acquaintances offline and meet up in person. Founder Lucy Scottow told us: “We started Bleet primarily to create an easy way for bloggers to meet up and form an even stronger community”, whether it be to go on photography outings, brainstorm new ideas or just share experiences with.
While the app is still in development it should launch at some point in the near future and is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of reinforcing positivity, collectivity and cooperation in an environment which can occasionally fall the other way.
Instagram recently introduced hashtag following, whereby content from people who you may not follow but have posted with a hashtag you’re actively interested in are threaded into your standard feed, providing suggestions for profiles which may be relevant to you. One example is #ShinyHappyBloggers, set up by blogger Jemma and used in over 6,000 posts in its first month.
“I wanted to start something specifically for bloggers on Instagram, and something that would aim to encourage positivity. Too often, Instagram is full of perfect feeds and unattainable goals. The #ShinyHappyBloggers hashtag is about making new friends, showing real life and connecting that little bit more.”
Others have set up Twitter chats where a host will ask a short set of questions using their personalised hashtag. These can be about anything and everything from blogging goals to favourite TV shows but, by using the option that hosts usually offer to leave a link to your website at the end, are a great way to engage with others and drive traffic to your sites.
Only a few months after embarking on her own blogging journey, Glasgow based Charlene McElhinney decided to start Beechat in a bid to create a community where all bloggers could come together, find friendships and know there was a safe place within what can often become a disorientating place. Charlene hosts a chat every Monday and Thursday along with a co-host who helps her with the account and, occasionally, hosts the chat.
Already boasting over 5,000 followers, Charlene is delighted and overwhelmed with the support that everyone shows each other. She loves the encouragement and finds the friendships that have been formed so precious. “It’s such an honour to be the creator of such a welcoming, friendly and supportive community; I feel like a proud mother!”
There are also ‘blogger trains’ where someone will issue a notifying tweet to prompt hundreds of people to reply by leaving links to their blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Bloglovin’ profiles. Blogger trains help you to find and follow new blogs from like-minded people who you are likely to relate to and have things in common with, while also helping you grow your own following and improve engagement across your social channels. “We started Bleet because we want to create an easy way for bloggers to meet bloggers around them, forming an even stronger community.”
"Many are looking to redress the balance and bring the blogging community back to a more positive place."
Another positive development in the topsy-turvy world of the blogosphere is Instagram ‘pods’. These involve joining a group chat on a messaging service such as WhatsApp or Telegram where few or a collective of 30 all agree to engage with each other’s Instagram posts with constructive, legitimate likes, comments and follows. Everyone benefits from this arrangement and is especially useful for those trying to grow a blog and their online profile.
In short, despite the propensity for negativity and malevolence to circulate, there are still a host of forward-thinking bloggers who have a broader vision for inclusivity, championing micro-influencers and those with a smaller but no less valid following. Fellow bloggers and readers will soon see through any content centred around gaining views, likes and commercial gain and won’t hesitate to question just how passionate you are about the subjects you cover. The ideal long-term approach is simply to blog about what you love and to take pride in the communities you participate in, something bigger brands could all take heed of. Larger audiences and more impressive stats should be considered a welcome by-product of authentic engagement, not the sole aim of your endeavours.
There are many benefits to managing your marketing internally, but working with an agency can help capitalise on what you have or even spot fatal flaws.
The Assembly is an independent, community-focussed venue that aims to bring the people of Crossgates the bar, cafe and social hub they deserve.
We gathered a selection of journalists and bloggers in London for an invite-only evening of all things cheese, ahead of the 2019 awards.