Blogging is almost as old as the internet itself. After getting to grips with the superhuman ability to transfer information between users on a global scale, we seem to have instinctively put the technology to use by writing about things much closer to home. Keeping some form of personal online diary or 'web log' has long given people the space to indulge in their own niche interests or wider lifestyle trends, nurturing a following through candid, explorative articles on a dedicated hosting site or bespoke domain.
However, with the seemingly unstoppable rise of Instagram and other predominantly visually-led platforms, increasingly more folk are opting to create what are little more than photo blogs, basing an entire post around an aesthetically pleasing image and a simple caption as accompaniment.
What is more, large swathes of these accounts are on a singular mission: to build an audience, gain the attention of relevant brands on the lookout for influencer collaborations and enter thus step into the realm of monetisation.
Platforms like Instagram facilitate a level of exposure and distribution whilst stripping away the administrative burden of actually having to publish articles.
But at what cost to their audience? Where does the boundary lie between appropriate brand endorsements and plain old cashing in? What risks do people run in this shift from traditional spaces to the image-led platforms that now command our time? The pros and cons between the old guard and the new are sometimes subtle, and often stark.
Zoella, one of the most widely-known, successful ‘bloggers’ in the world hasn’t actually updated her blog in over a year. Despite this, she is as successful as ever, thanks to a carefully curated daily Instagram feed of aesthetically-appealing content. This may bring her strict status of ‘blogger’ into question, but audience levels and engagement don’t seem to be a problem for almost 10 million followers.
It may be a more realistic step to debate whether Instagram should be identified as a blogging platform or, alternatively, if blogging per se has evolved into something predominantly centred around photo-sharing social media platforms. Maybe we’re all a shallow bunch deep down…
The truth of the matter is, nobody knows Zoella as a blogger anymore. She’s classed as a very successful influencer and, now, entrepreneur. Instagram isn’t a blogging platform. It isn’t Wordpress, Blogger or Tumblr. It’s a social media platform. The definition of ‘blogger’ is ‘a person who regularly writes material for a blog’ whereas Instagram defines itself as ‘a photo and video-sharing social networking service.’
In this sense, Zoella has evolved into a bone fide public figure, unbound by the limitations of simply writing about her life and experiences and instead marketing her own personal brand. The fascinating aspect of this case study change is that it is platforms like Instagram that facilitate this level of exposure and distribution whilst stripping away the administrative burden of actually having to publish articles. You simply snap, write and post.
A study shows that 39% of active Instagram accounts with over 15k followers are influencers and, in turn, that 81% of all influencers are ‘micro-influencers’ with 15k-100k followers.
If the ad or post isn’t relevant to your audience, you’re risking engagement, followers and longer term reputation.
These micro-influencers are quickly becoming the target of choice for brand collaborations because their content is commonly more natural and authentic, whereas the elite tier influencers with seven-figure audiences are either more likely to be pushing their own commercial ventures or have already established an audience offering a much narrower range of content opportunities.
The best of days start with a smile and positive thoughts. And pancakes. And strawberries. And bottomless tea. My morning routine is now live on YouTube - and while I don't show you my real bed hair (trust me, it's not pretty), I do give you a little insight into how I start my day in a positive way. Head over to my stories for a swipe up link - and let me know what you think! It features my morning habit of rinsing with Listerine Advanced White to help whiten my teeth. @listerineukireland #BringOutTheBold | This is a paid partnership with Listerine.
Where followers of traditional blogs are invested in the topics written about on a more elemental level, someone may follow a social media influencer purely because they find their content visually pleasing and, increasingly, aspirational.
After all, it’s human nature to be curious about those who live a richer, more prosperous or unique lifestyle to our own. However, in the pursuit of cash, some social media influencers make the mistake of collaborating with brands that their audience won’t necessarily be receptive to…
Well-known influencer Scarlett London became the subject of criticism by some sections of her audience for publishing a decidedly over-curated post. A seemingly innocuous scene involving breakfast in her bedroom becomes an altogether more blatant affair when the conveniently positioned mouthwash is spotted on the bedside table and overt reference to Listerine Advanced Mouthwash read in the caption. Like it or not, this is an integral part of how brands and services are now marketed.
The truth of the matter is that some of the Instagram castles built by the newer wave of bloggers-not-bloggers may turn out to be built on sand.
In 2018, the influencer Johanna Olsson was exposed for photo-shopping herself into scenic Paris shots in a partnership with fast fashion brand, Pretty Little Thing. The noticeably doctored images were flooded with comments from outraged followers and other influencers. Ultimately she resorted to disabling comments for that post - an explicit admission of having overstepped the mark and taken her audience for granted.
However, social media is never more than a step away from colossal changes in both user behaviour and the demands placed upon content creators, be it with the flick of an algorithmic switch or a CEO-level change of commercial strategy. The truth of the matter is that some of the Instagram castles built by the newer wave of bloggers-not-bloggers may turn out to be built on sand.
Accepting to write a paid post or post an ad on Instagram is easy when there is money involved and you’re trying to make a viable business from your following. However, if the ad or post isn’t relevant to your audience, you’re risking engagement, followers and longer term reputation.
Social media influencers can make the most out of their following by remaining authentic and staying true to themselves, especially as their reputation grows. An influencer running a fitness-related account may ruffle feathers by agreeing to collaborate with a fast-food chain, but a healthy snack brand could offer the perfect marriage.
Be a Flamingo in a Flock of Pigeons 💕 How is there still no flamingo emoji?! 🤦🏻♀️ Here on Hillgate Place, there’s a house for every shade of your mood! Me? I’m always in the mood for pink 😍 However, in reality do NOT stand in front of the pink house here because the lady will come out and shout at you and you’ll have to move down a couple 🙈 The leg pop here is highly inspired by the babe that is @inthefrow of course! ✨ Also a big thank you to @rosesonlyuk for sending me a bouquet that matches my @chichiclothing coat perfectly (gifted)! 💐 What colour is your dream house? 🌈
However, perhaps the most significant move an Instagram-native influencer could make is to - wait for it - start a blog. Good old fashioned, well-crafted, longer form written articles. Taking to another platform would benefit them on two fronts: firstly, to show another side to themselves, offering more than just the heavily manicured posts and careful compositions; secondly, shift some of their traffic away from a single source and diversify to another space. The combined result may just end up in stronger followership, more traffic and, crucially, increased commercial opportunities.
It may be unchartered territory for people who have relied solely on pretty pictures and fancy filters, but the potential for it pay dividends shouldn't be sniffed at. For those who have never attempted to write a blog, have no inclination to do so and will never attempt it, well, they will continue to serendipitously ride the crest of the Instagram influencer wave, come what may. For the traditional blogger, however, it’s just a homecoming.
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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.