We have never spoke as much about bloggers as today. They are trendy, they are smart, they are passionate people and generally companies think they can get cheap/free visibility thanks to the passionate work they do. There are limits in this exercice, so let’s not forget the ethics.
Why Bloggers Became So Important?
Today in the world there are approximately 152 million blogs. These represent 15% of all websites in the world. It means that every day in the world there are 172’800 new blogs created. They became tremendously popular in the late 1990’s. It coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. Before that, you needed to have deep knowledge in html and ftp to publish content on the web. The name blog comes from weblog, web-log. This concept was used the first time in December 1997 by Jorn Barger. Being one of the firsts to get interested about digital content publishing, he created the term weblog to describe the process of “logging the web” as he surfed. The term stayed and was simplified as blog in 1999 by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the sentence we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme,com. These were the beginnings of an amazing trend in which anyone could become a web content producer.
The years 2000 brought the power to blogs and to bloggers. They became world references and were part of the biggest world influencers. Brands would bend to what some of these bloggers would say and eventually would even allow them to market products for them. It was the era of the bloggers super stars. Today things have changed. Companies put in place clever blog strategies, content syndication, video and social seeding are just a few strategies to populate the blogosphere with brand content. “Old bloggers” became professional news editors, new bloggers are embracing social media and SEO strategies and brands have their own blogs that sometimes can be bigger than their proper websites.
We entered an era in which the media landscape became so crowded that visibility is the golden rule. If you are not visible, you do not exist. Companies which embrace the digital era get obsessed by the same question: “is my campaign visible?”. Visibility is key and getting the right visibility can be the path to success. That’s why bloggers became so important. They can provide a strong visibility but with something extra called “prescription”. The two concepts aligned together generates the best advertising you might dream of. Bloggers seek audience recognition. If you write about something, you hope people will read it, be happy with and even consider you as a legitimate voice to talk about a specific topic. This is how bloggers became “influencers”. By providing a certain degree of legitimacy to a blogger, you place him/her as a reference point to a specific domain. This means that the blogger opinion will have an influence on what you will think, buy or share. Companies know that advertising works but has its limits.
“The Best advertising is when it is not advertising“- Jacques Seguela about bloggers
Companies realized that bloggers with a strong footprint among a given audience can recommend and prescript products, services and brands. People will listen and read what their favorite influencers will say and probably follow their lead. If a blogger says “this product is amazing”, probably many people will believe him, as he is supposed to be free to say what he really thinks right?.
Do Not Confuse Socialite And A Blogger
If we think that internet changed the world (by making it smaller), Social Media as probably the most deep and global change that represents a true revolution. It dramatically changed the way people behave, keep contact with others and share their opinions. Some people have so many followers, fans or subscribers, that they could constitute digital countries. Here are the most followed accounts on Instagram, by number of followers.
When we see Selena Gomez (American Pop Singer) who has more than 132 million followers on Instagram, we can imagine that when she says something or when she asks her fan base to do something, this can bring a huge impact in society. Here below the top 15 most followed bloggers on instagram. Some of them became so powerful that even launched their own fashion brands.
With the massive penetration rate of social media, we can say that it is by far the most efficient way to reach a global community. There are 3,49 billion people in the world with access to the internet. This is 46% of total world population. While you might find the web activity important, it is not to compare with the social activity. In average there are 2,73 million blog posts written everyday in the world (Source: Internet Stats and WordPress). It sounds a lot but you cannot compare it with what happens on Social Media every day:
- 60 million photos are published on Instagram
- 500 million tweets are written
- 8oo million snaps are shared on snapchat
- 1 billion pieces of content are published on Facebook
There are 2.34 billion people in the world who regularly uses one or more social networks. This is twice as total China population, which would make Social Media as the biggest country in the world. 78% of total USA population has a social network profile. So definitely Social Media is the new king of cool. During the years that organic visibility was possible on Facebook (mainly before the company’s IPO), bloggers would create their pages and gather million of fans. Since organic visibility on Facebook dropped to 2 or 3%, you need to pay in order to reach your own fans. This has for sure calmed down new bloggers aspirations vis-à-vis of Marc Zuckerberg’s platform. So new bloggers needed to move to other lands, where organic reach was still possible. Visibility is not the only reason why bloggers moved away to other social networks like Instagram and snapchat. A new generation of people is not necessary willing to be on the same social network as their parents and grand-parents. So they choose their own platform to interact. Mobile first and the fact that images and instant messaging are big trends, also helped Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat to shine.
Instagram is an amazing platform and bloggers found the perfect way to express themselves. Quick, practical and relevant, Instagram translated well the current context: mobile, image and video driven, ultra-connected. So nowadays bloggers do not even have a blog. They instagram their experiences and some of those pictures published worth thousands of dollars. If we take the example of Halley Elephante – @the_salty_blonde is interesting. Rather than spending hours managing a blog, she prefers to dedicate her time into her instagram account. She has 353’000 followers and each publication gets between 3’000 to 13’000 likes. As we can see, Instagram became a PR machine for brands to showcase their new products, services and collaborations. Instagramers are new bloggers. some of them might have a website but many others will not bother with a website due to the time consuming aspect of it. A super star instagramer can be paid between 600 to 6’000 USD for an appearance during an event and each post can be priceless.
There is for sure a big difference between a Socialite and a Blogger. The first one is basically the new VIP’s and the jet-setters while the Blogger will bring substance to their readers, something thoughtful about a brand, a product or a service. An instagram picture is not a blogging activity.
The Business of fake, nobody talks about it and everybody benefits from it.
What makes a blogger interesting for brands is the power he will have to reach as many people as possible in a specific audience. You might have the most interesting things to say, if nobody is reading, it means you have no impact. That’s the rules of the game. Companies will seduce bloggers, so they share information about a new product that will be recommended to thousands or even millions of people (the blogger network). So being visible and having a vast number of people under « your influence » becomes the heart of your business, especially if you become a professional blogger. Being visible means traffic in your website, thousands or millions of fans/followers/subscribers across your social platforms, etc. In order to create easy scale, some bloggers decided to buy fake followers and traffic.
In general, it is easy to cheat on your website traffic as nobody can really judge if what you are declaring is true or not. Unless you provide to an access to your analytics, one can always mask number. Social Media is more complex to cheat because anyone can see analytics in your posts (numbers of likes, shares, comments, number of followers….). There is a huge debate about the existence of fake fans or followers within some influencers accounts. Some of them have a large majority of fakes. Did they buy consciously those fans or are they robots liking pages around in order to create activity? We do not know for sure. Reality is here, certain accounts do not have the reach that is promised. Some bloggers are tempted to create scale quite fast. Some digital influencers did bought fake fans and still buy fake likes, comments, etc… A little while ago, Switzerland has published a list of influencers accounts and their fake followers rate. It was quite shocking to see that some of the accounts had more than 50% of fans who were fake. A lot of these influencers declared that they did not know about it. I personally tend to believe most of them. Here is an extract of the top of the list.
You can find the full list and the article here: https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/fake-followers-viel-schein-in-der-influencer-welt .
What should we believe or not? We do not know. What we do know is that companies are not fouls anymore. They will count engagement and even check the health of an account before engaging with one of those influencers. It is crazy to see that some people will do crazy tactics to create quicker a reputation or an online fame. At the end of the day, why pushing this business into this idea? Today several asian companies will propose click and comment farms, so it would be very easy to create an online reputation and start doing some business from it. Obviously, this is all about visibility, no matter that they represent real people or not. It was very interesting to see that since the SRF has published this study there are not so many people willing to share the information. Everyone goes silent as this situation might serve the purpose of a lot of people.
Professional Influencers Have A Value, They Are Not Low-Cost VIP And They Do Not Live From Thin Air
With the development of Influence marketing, Bloggers and socialites are trendy. They represent an efficient and quick way to spread your message. They represent the new VIPs that a company will invite to an event and will sometimes replace journalists in the coverage of a product launch or an event. Bloggers used to run this activity as a side job, or a passion or a hobby. Some of them decided to dedicate themselves to this activity full time, which means they need to live from it. Many brands still hope these professional bloggers will still be able to join meetings, diners, lunches, breakfasts…. in order to discover an amazing product and naturally talk about it. Do not read me wrong. Bloggers still love what they do and are happy to live amazing experiences. They also keep their independence but if at one point they need to make a living from this activity, it means at one point they will ask for remuneration. It is a complex situation because finance ends up defining what kind of activity will drive the blogger editorial approach. Being paid by a brand to talk about something, means that you will not say something bad about it. We might end up like the traditional press that lives from advertising. A blogger maintains his freedom by being able to choose which projects he will work on and which ones he will refuse. Sometimes when you are a journalist you do not have this type of choice.
Blogging and the world of influencers have changed quite a lot. The naive times in which people would get passionate about something and talk about it in their spare time changed. This is also due to how company owners of digital platforms like Facebook and Google operates. Ten years ago, you would post something on Facebook or Twitter or even in your website and thousands of people would see it. Today, only a very small amount of people might have the chance to see your content. This means that you need to dedicate a lot of time to keep your activity running and content needs to be outstanding. It becomes harder and harder to accomplish this if it is your hobby or your extra activity you do from time to time. This requires a deeper involvement, being available to go to places, visit companies, attend to product launches, travel and spend quite a lot of time in front of a screen. That is why some of the new generation of influencers starts their professional careers by becoming a professional blogger. Therefore, they need to make a living from it.
For those who still have the chance to embrace blogger activities and still have another source of revenue, they understand the interest companies have to work with them and some companies expect that you will dedicate several dozens of hours for free to talk about their product, or brand. There is probably an alignment to be found. At LuxuryActivist we believe there is a lot that can be done. The primal motivation tp this exercise needs to be passion and not money. Otherwise you stop doing that extra-mile that will push great content out there. It also mean you stop being a blogger and you start your media business. Advertising is a dead animal now. People have enough of advertising, even though they understand that it pays for qualitative editorial. There are other ways to find funding that should allow all these brilliant people make a living from it. Standard models are dead, we need to reinvent our own models.
Info sourced in different interviews conducted by the author, Forbes, Time, wikipedia, Le Temps, SRF and Euromonitor. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are for illustration purposes only.