During the birth of the bloggersphere all you needed was the ability to type; the focus was on documenting your life or passions, with little thought for design or visual appeal. We collectively opened up blogspot accounts and set about writing our thoughts, snapping pictures on our rudimentary smartphones and googling for stock images we could insert into our content (probably without permission or credit.) It was raw, it was engaging and it was very real – unlike the slick, glossy and shiny media outlets we were so used to seeing, which were becoming more distant from our own realities. I adored blogging then just as I do now; the focus was on creating your own corner of the internet and using it to express your passion points or insight (even if only a handful of people read it.) Over the last five years or so, however, the focus has moved from chucking up a bit of everything as and when you feel like it, to carefully curated platforms and social media channels that are an extension of the heart of our blogging journey. It’s about a beautifully shot Instagram feed, professionally edited YouTube videos, carefully timed tweets and automated pinning – all with the objective of increasing awareness and engagement.
With the growth of the bloggersphere and increasing competitiveness, it’s no surprise many of us are trying to become superstars on different platforms; it’s no wonder that Instagram has become such a big focus when influencers are raking in thousands just for one snapshot on their feeds, or that YouTube videos are becoming more and more ‘clickbaity’ just to get the required views. But one complaint I’m hearing more and more consistently is that these external channels are preventing content from being seen, are increasingly hard to navigate effectively, and that the knock-on effect is that the bloggersphere is a trickier place than ever to get noticed – let alone make a living. And the one thing that ties all these issues together? These platforms are owned by multi-million dollar corporations trying to make even more money, with the user experience and influencer pay packet the bottom of their priority list.
We can complain as much as we like about the Instagram algorithm or the fact YouTube is hiding new videos from subscription boxes, but the cold hard fact is that nothing we say or do will make a difference. We may be invested in these platforms from a personal point of view, but they’ve got a far bigger agenda that we’re not part of; at any one time they could make a change that sees our content practically invisible, or our follower number cut in half. We have no control over these platforms, which makes them a dangerous play to be so heavily invested in – especially when increasing numbers of bloggers are actually dropping their blogs altogether. I’ve seen lots of chatter recently about whether or not you can be a blogger and not actually blog in the traditional sense, and my thoughts on the matter are this: blogging is about documenting your life in whichever way you see fit and via whichever platform you choose, BUT I think that without your own space you transition from ‘blogger’ to ‘influencer’ (and ‘influencer’ on a time limit.)
Your owned channels (and by owned channels I mean your own website/blog) allow you to tell a story in your own way, without the restriction of big corporations or algorithms. They provide infinite space, endless creativity and the opportunity to create something without boundaries – there’s no restriction on image size, how many hashtags you use, how many characters you can include or what links you can add. They’re the hub of your online persona, a platform on which you can embed every element you’ve created where readers can discover everything you have to offer. Your own site is the one place nobody else can mess with, or decide to shut down one day because you’ve apparently breached their terms and conditions; it’s a true reflection of you as an individual and its importance should never be overlooked – especially within the current climate.
As we migrate into 2018, it’s my firm belief that these channels will become even harder to be visible on (let alone monetize.) I can see that we’re already starting to see a resurgence of the blog, and focus on creating great content that provides a few minutes of escapism when you need it most. In a culture that’s so obsessed with scrolling and not actually engaging, blogs and websites provide a more immersive experience that actively encourage participation – and more so than a quick double click. They provide an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with your reader and give them a reason to keep coming back for more, but they also provide ample opportunity for discovery thanks to search engines; the content only continues to deliver, rather than being pushed to the bottom of someone’s feed within a few moments. From a brand point of view, a blog is still the primary platform of interest and where they want to see their collaborations placed; so if you want to commercialise your site or work on partnerships, having your own platform is a crucial part of that experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore social media and spend far too much time across multiple platforms on a daily basis. But I’m very aware that my blog is a space that’s truly my own. Although curating a beautifully shot Insta-feed is as much hard work as it is fun, it’s vitally important that we don’t forget the ‘blog’ bit in the word blogger.
Let me know your thoughts and how you predict the bloggersphere will change into 2018…
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