THE FUTURE OF BLOGGING AND WHY WE HAVE TO PROTECT IT FROM INSTAGRAM

It’s an entirely weird industry, the blogging industry.

Despite the fact that I have blogged for four years now, (four years this month, to be specific) and am therefore as much a blogger as anybody else (yes yes, in spite of the fact that this is the calibre of picture I am creating), I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t ~really~ understand it.

Not in a “I’m a 54 year old man who has only just got the hang of my iPhone, have never correctly used a hashtag and although I would never dream of asking a 30 year old MALE city worker how much they earn, I have no qualms whatsoever about asking you how much money you earn, you weird blogger creature” sort of way that so many of us have become so used to.

Rather, I mean it as this:

It’s a new industry, relatively, it is expanding and evolving at an unprecessedented speed. By nature of the fact that it is so new, and so frequently changing, we are hard pushed to find anyone that really understands it, there is no boss, no one has done this before, anyone can do it at anytime, why certain people succeed is unknown, so too are the algorithms. It’s all new and uncertain.

People claim to understand it, god do they claim to. You can’t move on social media for offers on blogging courses, on hacks for improving your SEO, on answer-all-questions email subscriptions, on the secrets to being the best blogger out of all of the bloggers.

And I’m sure they know stuff, these people. Lots of people know lots of stuff. But the future of blogging is anyones guess.

We can speculate; marketing companies, ad agencies, social media specialists, they all make their money from speculation.  And they’re pretty good at what they do, at speculating, and not just because it’s ultimately their decisions that mould the industry in the first place.

When it comes to working out what next Christmas will look like in terms of influencer campaigns, they are the dog’s bollocks, the experts, the people we should all be looking to. They understand the consumer and are therefore able to steer the conversation and, most importantly, the people starting the conversations in a certain direction.

But if Instagram were to disappear tomorrow, I suspect an awful lot of professionals would be left standing with their dicks in their hands. (And nowhere to upload the photos to).

All of us, anyone that has ever made a penny via an online platform, would find themselves up shit creek, without a paddle in sight.

The average blogger, the ‘me’s of the world, we love what we do, but I’m not sure any of us really understand that much about the industry that we been instrumental in building. What we’re meant to be doing, how and when and why.

See, there aren’t any rules, not really.

I mean, there are guidelines that we all adhere to: posting to Instagram at least once a day, writing ‘sharable’ content, tagging brands in outfit photos, maintaining a ‘theme’ on our grids, joining Twitter chats and Facebook groups, using a certain number of hashtags, posting our blog posts at a specific time.

Who came up with them? Fuck knows, but we go along with it.

With no appointed boss, no official leader (at least, no democratically elected one at any rate), we do our best to do our own thing, meanwhile trying desperately to copy everyone around us.

If it works for them, it can work for me. 
– The Secret Thoughts Of A Desperate Blogger, 2018.

Blogging, Instagramming, Influencing. All viable career options now and, to the untrained eye, they’re all pretty much interchangeable, they’re all pretty much the same. The biggest similarity normally being that Barbara, 44, from Wolverhampton is very rude about all of these career options whenever she logs onto Facebook.

To an outsider, the jobs all seem very similar. Even as a blogger the differences are hard to distinguish.

But be distinguished they must.

Because, whilst I am throwing absolutely no shade in the direction of those who’s remit starts and ends with Instagram, I feel incredibly strongly about the importance of keeping blogging alive, and therefore ensuring that its boundaries are defined.

Like that one ancient aunt you have that sends you a £5 book voucher every Christmas and harps on about the importance of keeping old-fashioned penmanship alive, I too will jump up and down to defend the written word. Even if, in this instance, WordPress is perceived as being as outdated as the stamp.

Before I get into it though, I must first distinguish between these professions, for the non-bloggers reading this and for the bloggers reading this who are more confused by the industry than they feel safe to admit (hello, you are not alone).

An influencer’s main job is to influence

Award for pointing out the bloody obvious belongs to me, thank u, next.

Even if this person started as a blogger, ultimately thanks to their Instagram account (and probably their big following), they are deemed ‘influential’ and therefore work with brands often. They realise they are GOOD at modelling clothes or applying makeup and critically, documenting it. Their knowledge of social media is second to none and they harness and finesse their skills perfectly. They make their money by sharing their lives, their perfect, shiny lives, on Instagram.

They get a bad rep and to my mind that is wholly unfair.

Until you have gone seven days out of seven looking a solid ten out of ten in seven different expensive and well curated outfits, either with a friend who has a similar schedule or a photographer you’ve had to pay, to stand in public and pose (in a creative and fresh and exciting way), showing off whatever product it is that you are scheduled to be working with that day, before heading to other meetings with PRs to work on other campaigns, before returning home to pitch for more work and schedule it all and send invoices, planning next week’s work and doing it all again tomorrow YOU CANNOT COMMENT.

If you still want to tell me it’s easy, go out and give it a go for yourself.

There’s a reason my Instagram grid looks shit, why I lose followers every time I post and why I am not securing great brand partnerships. It’s because I’m not very good at it. It’s frustrating, but in the same way I’m terrible at speaking Japanese, I just cannot get the Instagram thing down and it’s easiest just to accept it. I try to get better (you must always try to improve), but it’s not easy.

It’s not easy, to be an influencer.

To make your life look as if it smells of roses every damn day, even when, in reality, shit is violently and repeatedly hitting the fan, is hard work and I will physically fight anyone who says differently.

It works, too, by the way, this particular brand of advertising. I follow influencers and I am influenced by them. I am influenced to buy specific things, to go to different places. I have heard of more things and I have tried different stuff.

They work, it works. They make their lives look great and the rest of us watch and appreciate.

Blogging, I think, is a little bit different.

The main distinction, I’d say, is with our portrayal of our realities and how we share our truths.

I don’t want to make this a THEM and US thing, by the way, cause that’s a load of shit. I think it’s important in any industry that women in particular are not pit against one another and even more so that we don’t turn against one another. I therefore want to reiterate that I am not trying to compete or insult or to imply that one is better than the other.

If you are an influencer reading this and you’re pissed off that I seem to be insinuating that what you do is more shallow or inferior in anyway to what I do then I am sorry and you’re more than welcome to thump me on the head should we ever meet, because that was not my plan.

I am NOT trying to be a dick. I’m trying to explain, what I deem to be, an important distinction.

Blogging is honest.

Now that’s not to say that ‘influencers’ (those who do most their work on Instagram) are not honest, on the contrary, many of them are beautifully so, but the main difference, as far as I am concerned, is what we are putting out there and how we are doing it.

By blogging, you are expressing yourself in long form. Sure, you’re sharing things from your life, often less frequently and visually than influencers are doing, but somehow, by creating a large piece of writing, you are far more likely to lay your insecurities out, to be vulnerable and exposed.

Although there remains a need for specific beauty and fashion related content, it is lifestyle posts that are thriving at the moment. People want to read real things, real, authentic stories of others experiences, of lessons learned. We want to be let in, to feel welcome and included.

The people thriving in the blogging industry are those giving their hearts to it.

There’s often this feeling with social media that we are selling our souls for the ‘gram and, if that’s true, it’s blogging that we are giving our hearts to.

It’s true that as Love Island contestants return to the UK and take thousands of pounds to post photos with a tooth whitening product, people do begin to lose faith in social media and those that use it as a means of making money.

But the idea that the two things are even related is an insult to blogging, to bloggers.

That’s not to be a snob. I’m not insinuating that there is anything wrong with simply influencing, I want to reiterate that.

But it’s a different game, with very different collateral.

Blogging is honest and it’s raw.

It’s not even about talent (although in order to succeed you have to have it by the bucket load, because, contrary to popular belief it’s a bit more than sitting in a cute cafe on a Saturday morning and penning all of your light and fluffy thoughts), it’s about all that is put into owning a blog.

As the industry evolves, the lines begin to blur.

BUT n order to make it as a blogger, you must first take up the role of an influencer.

It’s not enough to provide a beautiful piece of writing, honest and thought provoking, you must ensure that there are people there to read it.

And how do you do that? Why, you must work tirelessly to build up a social media following. In much the same way that an influencer must. Equally, if you want to take the blogging thing full time, you must work with brands (since they are the best source of income), and in order to do that, well you need a following. Just like an influencer does.

It’s not enough ‘just’ to blog. I think that’s what I’m saying.

Perhaps in the MySpace days it was, but things have moved on. As people flock to Social Media (and then away from it at break neck speed when connections between Instagram usage and our mental health are made) the lines blur and blogging/influencing/existing all gets a bit complicated.

It’s bloody hard work to be a blogger. That’s not to say it’s not to be an influencer, I repeat, but blogging needs it’s dues. And the distinction, so that we are best prepared to protect it. And protect it we must.

I’m over simplifying, perhaps, but if you are a able to make more money out of a well curated Instagram account, why add to your workload by writing blog posts?

Why give your heart AND your soul when you can make more for your soul on it’s own?

I sound like I’m being shady, and that’s not my intention.

But my loyalty and love of blogging is such that it would break my heart if it were to die, or to see it fall to the wayside as influencing took its place.

I think people, smaller creators, newbies to the industry, are put off the idea of starting a blog, or pursuing at least, because the market, as it were, feels over saturated.

We are all being squished into a box that, whilst big enough for all of us, makes it impossible for anyone to see the wood from the trees and therefore to carve our own paths.

We. Can’t. Lose. Our. Blogs.

Sales of magazines are on the decline, especially those targeted at teenagers.

I learned nearly everything I knew as a teenager from magazines I probably wasn’t old enough for, but that I loved anyway. Sex, spots, flirting, fashion, flat-forms, I learned it all from those magazines. And to hear that they’re on the way out is worrying.

Thank God then, for blogs. Those magazines, 2.0.

The importance of thousands of women, ranging from teenager to pensioner, penning their experiences and sharing their stories as a means of helping others is going to do more for the world than we realise.

Instagram gets a bad rep and it is often ‘influencers’ that cause that. Although that’s totally unfair to pin the blame onto individuals, the way that the platform works right now is such that it is, for the most part, one type of person that succeeds by doing one sort of thing.

(Here’s a clue for ya. She’s young, thin, white and looks good in a swimming costume).

These girls are the Kate Mosses of the now.

When I was young and reading the magazines, I was seeing Kate as GOD and as what I needed to be to be considered beautiful and I was reading the problem pages in Mizz as a means of knowing that it was okay that I wasn’t Kate Moss.

Influencers are Kate Moss and my fave blogs are Mizz.

Does that make sense??

There is still a place for Kate. WE STILL LOVE KATE. And all that she wears and does. But I need the raw honesty, the vulnerability, the heart AND the soul, the un-airbrushed, minimally edited, long-form, rambling, naked truth.

And try as we might, we aren’t going to find that on Instagram. Kate’s not going to tell me about the time she queeffed in Pilates or the ingrowing hair that she thinks become infected.

We need blogs, more than we know.

And so no matter how overwhelming it all becomes, how depressing it feels for people that love and need their words to seemingly be overtaken and surpassed by those capable of a pithy Insta-caption and posing beautifully outside cafés, how tiring it is forcing the words when it fees as if there are shortcuts to be taken and a dwindling interest from consumers, we have got to do what we can to keep the old fashioned blogging (a juxtaposition, but you get me) alive.

Don’t give everything you are to a platform that could be gone tomorrow.

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