Hey guys! I’ve been wanting to do a follow up post of last years post about blogging for a while now, and finally I took some time to put my thoughts together.
It was so amazing to share with you last week the evolution of this website and how different challenges and opportunities have shaped who I am and what I do today. And, as you know, blogging has been absolutely key to that. I wrote last years post because I felt that, unfairly, blogging was starting to be seen as a dying art as other social media platforms took precedence. As I’ve mentioned time and time again I really dont believe in ever putting your eggs in one basket, particularly a basket that you have no control over. The last 12 months have only reiterated that fact, and highlighted that even though it might be a tough slog, it’s worth investing time in your blog.
You Can’t Control Social Media Platforms
Part I of this post talked about this too, but as time has gone on this has only become more clear. Chances are by now you’ve read the widely shared article about the underworld of Instagram. Basically Sara talks about the various ‘strategies’ being used to inflate follower counts and engagement rates. And when I say strategy I mean tactics that put the onus on numbers and in the process devalue quality content. A few months ago I did a bit of research, basically wondering how it seemed some people were managing to create such an engaged audience and grow so fast, despite the changes to the algorithm. After a bit of googling I found out about many of the tactics that Sara mentions – Follow/Unfollow techniques, Comment Pods and Like Bots and Loops. Basically a focus on numbers that not only set impossible standards but means good content isn’t recognised the way it should be. On the one hand this revelation was rather depressing but on the other it was a relief, finally understanding the reality of the social media landscape. It also underlined the fact that we have zero control over how social platforms evolve – it was, after all, the algorithm that paved the way for many of these techniques.
Putting side the ethical/moral questions involved with these techniques, the promise of numbers regardless of content quality is undeniably appealing (the pressure is real guys!), but ultimately I always felt that the amount of time you would spend keeping up these strategies was better spent investing in your blog, business, goals… and life! Which brings me back to my point. The reason people originally loved blogs and social media is that they provided an inspiring, fresh perspective that spoke to individuals in a different way to how mass media had in the past. Good content rose to the top. But as these ‘strategies’ have become widely used it has been less about creating inspiring work than slogging away to get the numbers up. And seriously, that’s no way to live. In case this is sounding too depressing for you, don’t worry. It’s my feeling that this bubble won’t last forever. As people become more aware of these tactics, social platforms will realise they undermine their whole premise and hopefully intervene (Instagram has recently shut down a bunch of Like Bot companies). Which I really hope they do, considering just how many people there are out there who create incredible, creative content and have fostered an amazing community through blood sweat and tears. It would be sad to lose that! Or, they let it continue this way and things get worse and worse. Either way, if you invest time in the content on your blog, and use social platforms as additional extras (rather than your main focus) you’re on the right path to a community with value that can’t be taken away.
You Can Collect Real Data
OK so when you think about it, most ways that you get traffic on a blog is related to a platform that is controlled by someone else. Instagram, Bloglovin, Pinterest, Youtube, Twitter, Weibo. Even Search Engine Optimisation (something that I wholeheartedly believe in) is a function of Google which is, you guessed it, an actual business that wants to make money. Because of this you can’t rely on things staying the same, in fact what you can rely on is that they won’t, as platforms look for different ways to monetise what they do an reward shareholders. But do you know the one place that you can get traffic that isn’t controlled by anyone than the actual user? Email lists. To this day, email marketing is the most successful form of digital marketing, because you connect directly with people bored in their cubicle or on their sofa. Therefore, every time someone comes to your website you should be trying to get their contact details from them, which essentially will build your data base, give you information about where they are based and create a source of traffic that you can rely on – whether you choose to send an email every day or every year.
Good Content Gets Results (And Traffic)
As other platforms have grown bloggers have naturally dedicated more time to those, which for some has meant less content being posted on their sites and thus less readers. Even I’m guilty of pasting less than I should – although I do believe in quality over quantity… In many ways this has created a terminal loop whereby bloggers post less and less and the decline continues. Which only sees their dedication to blogging drop even more and thus their traffic… You see where I’m going? Although yes reader habits have evolved, I truly feel that if you consistently post useful and interesting content with good SEO, package it appropriately for various other channels so that you lead people back to your blog and utilise your email list, your readership will grow. It makes sense that making sure you don’t switch your focus to a different channel is important for maintaining a community.
And on the subject of sponsored content, marketers are getting increasingly savvy to the various techniques out there for augmenting numbers, with different tools popping up to aid in understanding actual reach, as well as simple eye ball analysis saying a lot too (if it looks too good to be true it might just be). With that has come a resurgence in the value of blog content – where a) a more long term connection can be made with your audience and b) readership is less likely to be faked.
You (Can) Do You
Although authenticity is an overused word, I do think it holds weight. These revelations about some social channels don’t mean all is lost. In fact to me they mean the opposite – if blogging is your true love you should keep on keeping on! And use social channels as fun, enjoyable, artistic and inspiring extras, without getting bogged down in the numbers (or feel you need to augment them). Look at also supporting your blog with other channels that let your authenticity, who you really are, shine – like youtube or podcasting. Blogging has the amazing ability to speak in detail to people across the world who have the same interests as you, and an authentic approach to blogging will always win you readers. And remember, one real, engaged reader is more valuable than one million not-so-real interactions. On the flip side, if the rise of other platforms has meant that you side stepped your blog, now’s a great opportunity for a reboot. Consider how you can authentically engage your audience and build a community that will outlast the various evolutions of social media.
Love to hear your thoughts on this one guys! It was hard to write because my intention isn’t to offend anyone, I just thought it was time we opened up this conversation again. Do you think your blog is as important as ever? xxx
Photos via my visit to Boutierre Girls Studio!