AN INDUSTRY THAT’S ABOUT TO CHANGE?
The demise of Instagram, a shift to long form content, a re-focus on quality and engagement. Why now is THE opportune time for micro bloggers …
As with most things in life, we experience highs and lows, whether it’s our emotions, our successes, our finances or simply the industries we’re apart of. In many ways this cycle is only natural, and we should expect and account for things to spike and dip throughout your life – the need to stay relevant and ahead has never been truer.
The same is true for the blogging industry, which for the last three years has been on a huge, seemingly unstoppable rise. From the volume of people starting blogs, to the expanse of brands wanting to invest in bloggers, to the diversification of blogging opportunities. New influencers were being born by the minute, blogs boomed into wonderful businesses born out of passion & creativity, before Instagram bred a whole new generation of ‘short form’ content producers and digital influencers … (hold that thought).
THE RISE (AND FALL)
Blogging was about writers, photographers, real people, discussing and sharing real, inspiring and honest content. Brands wanted the authentic voice, the quality photography, original content and the genuine readership that bloggers could so readily offer. The numbers were competitive to that of publishers, the costs for brands were unprohibitive, the audiences were real, loyal and engaged and the quality and results were undeniable. It was a mutually beneficial situation for bloggers who stumbled into the incredible opportunity and brands who in an increasingly competitive & changing market needed to find new ways to engage and convert with their consumers.
But I personally wonder if somewhere along the way, as the industry grew and instagram blew up, if we started to lose sight of the authenticity, integrity and originality which made this industry boom in the first instance.
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END?
Looking back, significant change has already happened. We all as part of this industry, in some way or another have tried to keep up & adapt with this change. Embracing Snapchat, exploring video more, jumping into Instagram stories, shifting our social strategies, adapting our content based on the current consumer desire. Some of us, i’ll take me for example, were slower than others (if only I bothered trying with Instagram in the early days & not focusing so single mindedly on my blog, le sigh) but overall the industry grew, evolved and before we knew it … the currency of trade started to change.
In the last 18 months especially, success has increasingly started to become a numbers game. It’s not to say quality of content, readership and authenticity of voice have gone (after all we’re still blogging aren’t we?), but the focus shifted …
A NUMBERS GAME? OR NOT …
Brands wanted the big players, the big numbers, the big reach, because sadly that’s what they thought would deliver the results (which in some cases they would of course, but followers alone are a short sighted measure in this industry)!! This in turn has put pressure on influencers, the need to grow our presence and reach was (and is still) tremendous and the monumental growth and shift in focus to Instagram (because it had big numbers) only exasperated the pressures and the shift.
… this shift has unfortunately started to drive an entire lack of authenticity, originality and integrity. The precise things it used to be renowned for.
If you’ve kept abreast with the whole #instagrambotgate you’ll know that fake followers & inorganic growth is sadly a reality for some of the big influencers out there … which starts to raise some important questions for brands & the industry as a whole. Are brands truly buying engaged audiences? Who even are some of these audiences? Are they real people, do they demographically and qualitatively even fit your brand and brand values? Are these influencers actually showcasing your brand? What return is your investment delivering? The debate is live, ongoing and pertinent …
BUT CHANGE IS UPON US
And it’s change for the good. As I said, what comes with a rise, is often a demise. And whilst I certainly won’t be quoted saying instagram is about to die a death, the facts are there and bloggers like myself are increasingly frustrated by the algorithms and lack of visibility of our content, not to mention the dishonesty we can see happening and opportunities being exploited … and brands are starting to get more savvy on true engagement and defining a better measure of success too.
Just like the backlash Google are facing with YouTube and the lack of transparency & safety of advertisers content (which has resulted in millions of pounds in advertising spend being pulled from the platform globally), Facebook and Instagram are probably next in line …
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
It means that numbers aren’t and won’t be the be all and end all.
Quality content and genuine audiences are going to be increasingly important again – hooray (and Googles new SEO algorithm will only drive this further), engagement will increasingly be the key measure of success as consultants like myself continue to educate brands, shifting the focus off big follower numbers. The shift will mean it’s not just about how many people saw the content, but how many of the desired audience saw it, importantly how many actually engaged with it, and critically how many converted? After all this is a business and it’s either sales or brand equity a brand is going to be looking to build.
And finally, the increased awareness around success & defining what success truly looks like (total reach regardless of audience, versus genuine engagement and actual sales etc) is going to continue. As a result we’re likely to see a shift away from big follower numbers as the key determiner for partnerships. And we’re likely to see a shift away from brands investing solely in one or two big ‘digital influencers’ who may expose their brand to a large audience but may not actually drive true engagement, brand awareness, sales, or genuine interest, to investing in a multitude of micro bloggers. Who individually of course offer less reach, but what they do offer in some instances is a more loyal, engaged and active audience, they often work above and beyond to create quality content that truly adds value to readers and brands, and that combined with other micro bloggers offer comparable scale … especially when compared to that one insta post that probably got two seconds of engagement, if you can count a double tap as engagement that is?
Micro bloggers and true digital content producers (YouTubers, bloggers big or small, et al) offer brands a huge opportunity, comparable scale, an authentic and (still) trusted voice, and potentially far better return.
Of course the big influencers, and probably more pertinently right now big instagrammers (who don’t necessarily have blogs or youtube channels) will continue to grow and get business too … but now more than ever, the opportunity for micro bloggers is there, ready for the taking and an opportunity that more blogging networks, brands and businesses will start to tap into …
HOW WILL MICRO BLOGGERS BENEFIT?
How? By leveraging all the things we’re best at …
You may only have 5, 10, 30, 50 or 100 thousand readers each month, but those readers are real, genuine and likely very loyal and engaged. Don’t be afraid of talking about and being proud of your readership, no matter how big or small, real and genuine readers are something you should be incredibly proud of – be sure to pull this out in your media pack. And whilst the big ‘follower’ numbers used to be the sole focus, I can assure you that there’s more to being picked for a campaign than simply that!! Knowing who your audience is, knowing what they love and having a true relationship is what brands truly want (and need) to focus on.
Real people, means real engagement. Your better off having 100 truly engaged readers, who actually read and engage with your content, than 1000 who don’t. Whilst historically the big follower numbers might have been the first point of consideration, moving forward engagement rates, brand value measures and sales are going to be the questions brands are asking for. And that is why now, more than ever your blog is so important. Whilst instagram is great for exposure, the real engagement it offers is limited … think how long you spend on a single image, maximum, a few seconds perhaps?
QUALITY (LONG FORM) CONTENT
I don’t know about you, but I spend hours and hours working on my content, every photo is carefully planned, shot, edited and curated, every blog post is hours and hours of work. And if I work with a brand, it’ll be a brand I adore and want to go over and above for, I will deliver work that I am undoubtedly proud of, importantly content that I know my audience will absolutely love, but also content that I hope the brand themselves will be overjoyed with. The days of poor delivery, limited exposure, 3 second views and minimal measurement are going to be a thing of the past. Focus on quality editorial & photography and your content will shine and brands will see the value you can bring.
Instagram has sent the industry nuts. With no regulations or standards, paying £400,000 for an instagram post is a reality. Madness I know. But even if you’re not Kim Kardashian, accounts with a few hundred thousand followers can absolutely rake in tens of thousands of pounds for a simple image, tag & hashtag. Of course micro bloggers have less reach, but their prices reflect this, and that in turn is attractive to brands and businesses. Through working with a few micro bloggers, a similar scale can be delivered, but ultimately the cost will be significantly lower. The same goes for YouTube and Blogging … that being said when you’re crafting your business proposals, don’t under estimate the value you have to offer.
But most importantly … a brand collaboration should be based on mutual values, a shared passion, the same audience and a love for the product or service your supporting. An authentic voice, a voice with integrity, genuine and loyal readers and a voice which is trusted offers brands incredible value and is ultimately what any partnership should come down to. One things micro bloggers most certainly offer is an authentic voice which will only be more appealing to brands moving forward.
It’s time to be proud of your numbers, proud of your content and proud of your genuine audience as a micro blogger. Whether blogging is your hobby, business or side hustle, now is the time to shine a light on your work, be brave enough to engage with brands, spark conversations and embrace opportunities. It’s time to celebrate, dear friend and content producer, what you and your blog can offer brands, companies and businesses. Because now is the time. The opportunity is upon us! Forget the follower numbers, focus on the smaller more important ones … the engagement rates, the comments, the likes, the email subscribers, your sales conversions, these are the numbers that matter.
Go forth & prosper.
WANT MORE ON THE TOPIC? I RECOMMEND THESE …
The Rise Of The Micro Blogger & What It Means For You, What To Include In A Blog Business Pitch, How Successful Bloggers Get Business & Opportunities, What Brands Look For When Working With Bloggers, How To Make A Killer Media Pack, How To Increase Engagement With Your Blog Content, Why Your Blog Is More Important Than Ever