Inform. Inspire. Innovate

Friday, 27 December 2019

How Blogging and Influencer Marketing Has Changed, And What Should We Do About It


Well first of all it feels very weird to even be typing on this page right now. I haven't really blogged properly in two years, which on one hand feels like forever, and on the other feels five minutes ago. When I think back to those 'peak years' of blogging in 2015 and 2016, I feel so privileged to have worked with some amazing brands, had great opportunities, met incredible people but most importantly for me, I had my space on the internet to write about whatever I wanted. Something that still baffles me as I sit and write this right now is that although I've been absent from this page for a very long time, people are still finding and reading my posts. It blows my mind. The main reason I started blogging was to be able to have creative freedom to write about whatever I wanted from beauty products to travel to working life, and I truly do miss that. So, in 2020, I'm making a promise to myself to start blogging again. I'm not as fussed as I previously was about brand collaborations, making money or followers, I just want my little page back, and to be able to write about things I love and inspire me, in the hope that someone out they will love them too, or feel inspired.

Of course the main reason I stopped blogging was purely down to time. My job ended up getting pretty crazy to say the least, and as much as I love it (did then, and still do), I lost a lot of myself on a personal level to be able to put so much into my career. Having solely focused on that for a couple of years, I'm so ready to be back blogging and am planning to try and spend all those long hours at airports and on planes channelled into something more productive than scrolling Instagram! [On that note, if you haven't read my post on Instagram Algorithm, Shadow Banning and Pods Explained, don't forget to check it out!]

In the time I've been away, I've still kept up to date on all the blogs I love and everything going on in the community but wow has it changed, and some of those changes are really the other reason why I lost my love for it. Don't get me wrong, there are so many good things that have happened for this industry in the last few years and I appreciate all of those, but do they outweigh the negative parts? I haven't been so sure, which I guess is in part the reason for my break from everything.

Blogging in 2014

When I first started blogging, in May 2014, I did so because I loved to write, and I hoped the things I had to say would resonate with someone else, wherever they may be in the world. I wanted somewhere on the internet to share my thoughts, ideas, tips, inspiration and reviews. It was right before the big blogging 'boom', when Instagram influencers weren't really a thing, and the top spots of blogging and collaborations were saved for the likes of Zoella.

I found this wonderful community of people who were doing the same thing as me, for the same reasons, and we instantly bonded over our passion. People were working with brands, but it wasn't the be all and end all. There was a massive focus on meeting other bloggers and great friendships were made, people's follower numbers didn't really come into it, it was about connection and friendship.

In those years I made some really good blogger friends, many of which I am still friends with now, and we laugh about how the industry and community has changed so dramatically in just a number of years. Maybe that's just me and my experience but most of my friends I speak to about this subject say the same thing.

Back in 2014 there wasn't such a big presence of z-list reality stars ruining the authenticity of the blogging community which is a big big reason bloggers are still not being taken as seriously as they should. But we'll talk more about that later.

Collaborations, Income and Awareness

Over the past decade, and more so recently, many brands have had a shift in marketing strategy which has seen them move away from traditional advertising and more towards an influencer based strategy. There's a really interesting article written by Big Commerce on the 10 most important influencer marketing statistics in 2019, you can read the whole article here, but one part to pick out that I find most important for us, is that 17% of companies spend over half their entire marketing budget on influencers and in 2019, 65% of influencer marketing budgets were set to increase.

These statistics are incredible for the many bloggers and influencers who spend hours upon hours pouring their time and effort into their content and want to make a living from it, or even just a bit of additional income. Blogging has now turned into a genuine income generating career path and has allowed so many people the flexibility to live a life more convenient for their family and/or personal circumstances which I think is an amazing thing.

Brands are finally recognising blogging as a legitimate marketing tool and it's genuinely working for them. We are now seeing influencers head up campaigns on TV and in print, launching lines of beauty products and clothes, and becoming the 'face' of worldwide brands. Whilst the majority of us may not be quite on that level, my point is that companies are using bloggers and influencers to head up their campaigns which is a great time to be a part of the community both to work on collaborations and gain additional exposure working with international brands.

I know so many bloggers who have spent years, and many tiresome hours pitching to brands to help them understand the worth of influencer marketing. I have definitely over the years seen more bloggers work on collaborations and I'm talking about micro influencers as well as the big names. I'm so happy to see the awareness of influencers increasing and it moving the industry into a place 6/7/8 years ago, we dreamed to be.

How can we improve this even more? Follow the bloggers and influencers you love and continue to support them. Shine on them, repost their content and don't forget to tell them you love their content!

Diversity

Whilst brands are now becoming more receptive to influencers and willing to work on collaborations, do we really have diversity in the industry? In my opinion, very rarely. This is a totally generalised comment as I know it doesn't apply to everyone, but in general, the social accounts with the most income, the most followers and the most collaborations are the ones of the pretty, skinny people with their designer bags and lavish lifestyles.

I have definitely seen a little more of a diversity shift in the last year or so but it's very slow moving and very minimal at this stage. I know a lot of influencers are calling out for more diversity in the industry but if I'm totally honest, I'm not sure I see it coming - at least not to the level that it should.

But what can we do about it? Keep shouting about diversity and continue to follow, highlight and support those people who deserve the spotlight, not just because they look amazing in their Gucci belt, but because their content is worthy of the world seeing. Brand are going to look to work with influencers who have good interaction and a follower base who trusts them, so think about who you follow and who you interact with. Push people to the forefront and shine on them. Let's keep shouting about needing more diversity in this industry.

Buying Followers and Shady Tactics

One horrible trend I've seen over the years is people buying followers and likes, and playing shady tactics like following 1000 people in a day in the hope they'll follow back, then unfollowing them all. Unfortunately a bi-product of more money being plunged into the industry and the increased amount of collaborations, is that everyone wants a piece of the pie. And some people want to cheat. The influencer industry isn't generally about being so good at something you become an overnight success, it's about hours and hours of hard graft producing content and building followers which takes a very long time and a lot of commitment and persistence.

It makes me really really sad to see people that I actually know on a personal level using these tactics. And even sadder when I see the amazing opportunities they've had from their blog when actually, they really just cheated. I think some brands are becoming wiser to when an influencer's follower base is genuine, but again, I would say a lot are not.

This isn't a subject anyone is going to be able to solve, and I think it'll always be an issue but I personally try and distance myself from these people and not let it affect me. It does make me sad but I usually unfollow them and therefore out of sight, out of mind.

Authenticity and Trust

The main reason blogging got so popular as marketing technique in the first place was because consumers can get truthful opinions straight from the mouth of a real life customer which in theory would lead to an honest review of the product. People didn't trust TV adverts with celebrities putting their name to products they've never used, they wanted the truth from people who have actually used the product or service.

This is something the influencer industry is always going to be able to thrive at, if they want to and their complete unique selling point. Now we don't just see clothes on the 6ft size 4 models on the catwalk, we can find people of our own body type on Instagram and see clothes in real life, on them. It's basically tripadvisor for everything you can think of in life! It has completed changed how we shop and spend, and brands know it which is why influencers are being used more and more.

But how much can we really trust what we read? I would still stand by the fact that the majority of bloggers are authentic and truthful but I have personally seen a massive shift in less authenticity in the last couple of years. The reason for this as mentioned about is purely because of the increased opportunities and income for collaborations. I've seen one particular skincare brand that regularly sends large press packages to lots of bloggers at the same time for a product that is new to the market. For some bloggers, within 24 hours, they have reviewed the product because they want to be one of the first to get it out there. But how authentically can you really review a skincare product within 24 hours? Especially one that takes every day use for a couple of weeks to work.

There are influencers out there who will take any collaboration that comes their way, from baby products when they don't have a baby, to garden products when they don't have a garden, granted, I see this happen more with influencers who are reality stars rather than bloggers but it is still there. I will talk about this more in the TV star section!

What can we do about it? To put it simply, follow people you trust, and like with any media, don't immediately trust every single word someone says. Trust your gut and take the time to get to know their content before deciding for yourself if they're authentic or not. That way you won't be wasting your money on Skinny Coffee crap - more on that later!

Industry vs Mental Health

I guess this topic may be more controversial than others but it's one I really can't ignore. In so many ways, I think the blogging community and social media is really great for people suffering from illness, be it physical or otherwise, as it opens up new communities, allows people to to find other suffers to share stories, raises awareness of disabilities/illnesses and allows people to publish their own words about what they're going through which may help another person.

On the other hand, I have seen a huge number of people, my friends and people I follow online succumb to online pressures of the blogging and influencer world so much so that it is damaging their mental health so badly. I've heard bloggers say they don't feel relevant unless they're wearing the latest clothes so they spend a whole load of money they maybe don't have on fast fashion just to get that one photo for Instagram. Or spend £1000 of their house deposit money on a Gucci bag and belt because they feel it'll make their photos more liked. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for spending money on whatever you want, as long as it's for you. My issue is when people feel like they need to do these things due to online pressure.

I've had friends crying down the phone to me because they don't look as good as the girls they follow on Instagram and then cry more because they're worried their accounts won't be popular or liked because they don't look like that. When I first started blogging I never really came across this issue but as the years have gone by, I feel it's getting worse and worse and I genuinely worry about the younger generation and the power of influencers on them in negative ways such as this. It's easy to forget that everyone shares their best life online and whatever is shown is rarely the complete picture.

I've also had friends crying because their post wasn't popular or their followers aren't growing, sending them into a deep spiral of self loathing due to the popularity of their blog. It truly breaks my heart.

What can we do about it for our followers? Remain authentic, and remain true. I'm not saying you need to spill your personal life, but I would always encourage everyone to show as much of your authentic self as you feel comfortable to. Maybe remind your followers that you had a day in your PJs on the sofa and aren't always dressed up in designer clothes.

What can we do for ourselves?

  • Unfollow people who effect your mental health in a negative way
  • Remember people usually share their best life online and it may not always be as it seems, everyone goes through bad times but may not show it
  • Remember makeup, filters and angles change a lot about how a photo looks
  • Remember we're all on our own journey at our own speed, on our own path. Try not to compare yours to others
  • Take a break from social media if you need one, I would actually encourage one every now and then to connect with the 'real world' for a while
  • Remember the online world isn't the real world. What is true and what is real at the end of the day is what we have in our real life, our friends, our family, our pets, our career etc. This means much more than the amount of followers you have on Instagram
  • The amount of followers someone has, or the collaborations they work on, doesn't directly affect you. YOU DO YOU!

Egos, Attitudes and Press Trips

When I first started blogging, I found virtually everyone I came into contact with to be really friendly and willing to help others. There wasn't such a hierarchy based on your follower numbers, everyone was receptive and welcoming to new bloggers and new followers. This is something I've really seen change. I've had people latch on to me and others when we had more followers than then then when they bypassed us (conveniently overnight in some cases), they were never to be seen again. Others who I offered advice to and introduced them to contacts who then later reminded me they weren't interested in coming to the blogger events I organised any more unless I paid them an obscene amount of money (HA). This is something that probably gets to me most because I really did love this community not only for the sharing content but for the meeting new people and making new connections.

In general, over the years, I have seen the obsession on numbers, followers and (lack of) brand collaborations literally take over people's life. Either they're upset because they haven't been picked for a collab and bash the PR all over social media (ridiculous), or they're being nasty about people who have saying they don't deserve XX product (even more ridiculous), or they're feeling sad because of any of the above. I've been out with people who spent the ENTIRE time talking about statistics and numbers and that kind of thing really grows old quickly for me. I want to meet people who love their hobby/passion for blogging but doesn't let it consume their every thought in a negative way, people who have more to say than how many followers they've gained in the past week. And this is in no was a generalisation of everyone, just some true examples of things I've seen become worse over the years.

I once went on an amazing press trip to Pairs just before Fashion Week, it was an incredible opportunity and we had an photoshoot under the Eiffel Tower. It should have been a day I treasured forever but unfortunately due to the attitude of 80% of the other bloggers on the trip, I felt absolutely awful all day. I knew going in, I didn't have as many followers as everyone else but I was entirely grateful to be included on such an opportunity. However, 3 of the bloggers who had the most amount of followers rarely spoke to anyone else all day and rudely spoke over the brand at the fashion house we went to when they were talking about how they prepare for Fashion Week. We had time in the Eiffel Tower then were meant to meet a photographer at the bottom at a certain time for a professional shoot but 4 of the bloggers were nowhere to be seen and decided to turn up 40 minutes late as they were too busy taking their own photos. During the times we had in taxis or waiting around some of the bloggers seemed to go out of their way to belittle me as I was the only one in the group who didn't blog full time. One said 'Oh, maybe one day you could if you have a lot more followers' like being a full time blogger was the only thing I should strive for. It took a lot of self control to remind her I probably earned more in my job than she did blogging but I kept quiet. She then went on to pity me for not being invited to fashion week or for not being invite to this event or that.

The lunch was then spent having a full on conversation about how anyone could possibly wear anything from Boohoo as their clothes were so disgusting and cheap, really going in on any blogger who had worked with them as they had no taste. Meanwhile, I'm sat there wearing head to toe Boohoo and had worked them with on quite a few occasions having absolutely nothing to add to the conversation and not having the energy nor confidence to stand up to them - although now I wish I had. The PR was so so lovely asking me if I was okay as I was quiet and all I wanted to say was 'Sorry I just hate being surrounded by horrible people'. 3 of the girls spent the whole day complaining about the organisation, the food (we ate in the Eiffel Tower), and anything else they could which I felt was extremely disrespectful, ungrateful and rude. Also, following this event a few months later I saw one of these girls at the Boohoo Christmas party... see what I was saying about authenticity?

It still makes me really sad that I had the most incredible opportunity to go on this trip but I pretty much felt worthless every minute of it being surrounded by those people, (although must say 2 of the girls on the trip were nice). This was actually around the time I stopped blogging so much because being surrounded by people like that at various brand events and press trips was literally numbing my brain and killing my soul.

I have more to my life than the amount of followers I have and I certainly have more interesting things to talk about too!

Whilst the above may be true, I have met some really truly incredible people through blogging and in the last year I have truly kept myself away from the people who I feel don't respect me, as a person or an influencer.  Unfortunately, the bad people and experiences always stand out but I do constantly remind myself of how many great people there are as part of this community. It's just a shame that over the years there seems to be more and more nasty and negative people ready to put others down and shame their opinions and choices.

What can we do? Remember it's okay to unfollow people if you do not agree with their attitude or behaviour. Surround yourself with positive people both on and offline. Do your own thing but don't forget to check your ego every now and then!

Reality TV Stars

So finally, reality TV stars/Z-list celebrities, or maybe actually all celebrities and their increasing social influence. Influencer marketing from this group of people have increased massively in the last decade due to the huge increase in popularity of reality TV like TOWIE and Love Island.

Anyone with a brain would know that these 'influencers' have not tried the hair vitamins, and skinny coffee that they persuade all their followers to buy, and in recent days, BBC Three promoted a documentary to prove just that. If you haven't watched the video on the influencers promoting a Cyonide drink, I highly suggest you watch it and I really don't need to say any more on this topic! You can watch it here.

The fact that people with many hundreds of thousands or millions of followers are promoting products they haven't even tried just absolutely diminishes this whole industry. It is absolutely astounding to me that brands will even work with them but again this is a big reminder to myself, not to take this whole thing too seriously otherwise it will really make me dislike an industry and hobby I love so much.


Well I definitely haven't kept it short for my first post so if you managed to read all the way down to here, well done, and thank you!

I would love to hear your opinion on any of the topics above and how you think blogging has changed over the years for the good and the bad.

Love Lauren xx


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2 comments

  1. I agree with so much that you've posted in here. The blogging world has changed so much since 2013 and it's not necessarily for the better. As more and more people try to earn a living from this, I think we will only see it become more cut-throat (ie people using you for connections), and there will be a decrease in authentic reviews and comments.

    I'm sorry you had to feel that way about the trip to Paris. It sounds like it should have been an amazing opportunity, and something to really enjoy. It's ridiculous that a few people were able to make you feel so rubbish. You've always been a blogger/person I have admired as you were able to get so much done: blogging; organising events; your job. I hope you can find your joy with blogging again, and I look forward to you being back! =D

    Lauren :) x

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  2. Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up. smm panel

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