28 May 2016

Engagers Over Followers

By Vix
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As I scroll through 6 threads on Facebook of bloggers begging for likes and get sent my thousandth Instagram comment offering me 10k new followers, I’m starting to really see how blogging has become a numbers game. I know I’m guilty of getting excited at hitting a Twitter milestone or encouraging people to follow my blog through giveaways, but the more I think about it, the more I think – what’s it all for?

Sure, the bigger following you have, the more chance your content has of being seen. More followers mean that there’s more people that could click the link to your next post. But it doesn’t mean that they will. How do you turn that follower – someone you’ve hopefully piqued an interest in, to engage and become a reader?  Furthermore, how do you engage a reader so that you have an influence on them?

The reason bloggers became influential in the first place is that they appeared to be the ‘girls next door’. The young woman’s best friend. The ones we could trust to give us unbiased advice and who would buy and wear stuff we could easily pick up ourselves.

However, as the bloggersphere has exploded, so has the amount of sponsored posts, gifts and free holidays afforded to those bloggers with the big numbers. Isn’t that an amazing thing? These girls who have (for the majority) worked their arses off are now being rewarded with the most astonishing incentives. It seems that the more exciting opportunities they have, the more their following increases BUT do their ‘readers’ disengage?

What was once aspirational is now unobtainable. The girl who used to squeal in excitement over a Primark skirt that then goes on to sell out, has gained 1 million followers in a couple of years and is now squealing over a week away in Santorini with her new Mulberry bag and is taking away the entire Urban Decay newly released range. Whereas her readers, us, well we’re still in the same jobs, making the same money and still getting excited about the Primark skirt. In my opinion, we are disengaging from those with huge followings in favour of those bloggers who engage us in their lives.

You only have to look at Facebook to see threads upon threads about Instagram like for likes and Twitter follow for follows to see that nearly everyone is playing the numbers game. And why not? We all know that PRs and brands look at a blog’s stats – 1k Bloglovin followers won’t get you to Santorini with your Mulberry bag after all. So why not do what you can to get you on your way to that? Except pay for followers. Nobody likes that shit. Plus when you’ve got 17k followers but your latest photo got less than 200 likes, we all know what you’ve done.

But is a huge following really what you want? Over having readers that are engaged in your life and are influenced by your choices?

But it’s just obvious that a READER is more likely to actually read your review or be inspired by your fashion look to the point where they go and pick up the same product. A FOLLOWER will probably not even bother looking at your blog. So yes, you may have gone on Facebook to find 200 new Instagram accounts to follow in the hope that a portion of them will follow you back. And yes, that may help you hit your next follower milestone, but then what?

There is a VAST difference between readers and followers in my opinion. Followers make up the numbers and the more you have, the more chance there are that your content is going to be seen HOWEVER once your content is seen – how does a follower become a reader?

This is where I believe engagement trumps all. I will regularly flick through Twitter and see tweets from bloggers with followers in the tens of thousands promoting the latest product they’ve been sent or the most recent free holiday they have been on and I will just keep scrolling because I can’t guarantee my trust or interest in that blogger.

In my opinion, I’m not interested in reading about shit I will never afford that has been given to someone for free. IF it’s someone that I’m really not that bothered about. But I WILL stop on Twitter and open a link or picture from a blogger who I really like. Those bloggers that have ‘kept things real’. Yes they might have been given stuff or sent away but they are honest and humble about it. That’s what engages me. It’s aspirational but it’s not gloaty.

So what engages me with a blogger? I can’t particularly articulate it. Maybe they have the same fashion sense I do. Or maybe they do their make up in a way that I know I can achieve at home. Perhaps they share honest facets of their lives – not just the filtered version.

I like bloggers who don’t take themselves too seriously. Ones that will chat to you on social media AND in real life in exactly the same way. Furthermore, I like bloggers who are open about how they work and what they get.

So that’s what engages me with bloggers. But how do we, as bloggers become influential? Once I’m engaged with a blogger, I follow them on all social platforms, I talk to them, I read every post but it takes something else to be influenced by them.

To be influenced, I need to believe they are like me. I need bloggers to get excited by Primark skirts with me. I need to hear their embarrassing life moments and you know what, if they buy a shade of MAC that looks banging on them, I might pick it up thinking it looks banging on me because I like to believe that we’re basically the same person.

Hannah Gale, in my opinion, is Queen at this. She is Regina George (I bought a tropical jumpsuit because I saw Hannah wearing a tropical jumpsuit) without being the uber bitch. Yes she’s gifted stuff and is sent away to exciting places BUT the glossiness which is aspirational is always interspersed with posts on PCOS and spots and feeling bloated which makes her more like us (well me, always bloody bloated).

As bloggers, we can only hope that we gain a following so that we are influential enough to be offered incentives but we need to hold onto who we are as people to remain relatable and just trust that our readers are engaged with us for the ride.

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