At the end of 2016, I wrote a post looking back at the things I’d learned about blogging in the previous 12 months, and this year I thought I’d do the same thing again: partly because blogging is still such a new, and ever-changing industry that there’s ALWAYS something new to be learned, but also because, well, you all know me – once I have an idea, I like to beat it to death. To DEATH.
Here’s what I learned about blogging in 2017:
Even more people are reading on mobile devices
I do most of my blog reading these days on my phone, and I’m not the only one: for the first time ever, more people read my blog via mobile devices than desktop ones last year, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. When I changed my blog theme last summer, I paid particular attention to how it looked/worked on mobile, for that very reason: in some ways I think it’s a bit of shame that the majority of my readers don’t actually see the full site, but at the same time, as long as people continue to read, I don’t really care too much how they do it!
The way we follow blogs is also changing… which could spell trouble for fashion bloggers
Because most of my reading is now done on my phone, I find I rely even more on sites like Bloglovin’ and Twitter to let me know when someone I follow has updated. Remember the days when you used to have a giant ‘bookmarks’ folder that you’d diligently scroll through every day to see whether your favourite bloggers had posted something new (Or was that just me?)? Those days are gone, folks – so, if you’re a blogger who doesn’t at least TRY to make use of social media (I’m not a fan of either Twitter or Facebook, for instance, but I do make sure my blog posts are promoted there), you’re probably missing out on a huge source of traffic.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but this year I also unfollowed almost all of my favourite fashion bloggers on Bloglovin’: not because I don’t still enjoy their content – I very much DO – but because I realised I was already seeing most of it on Instagram, and didn’t need to see it twice. This, I think, is potentially a big problem for what I think of as “pure” fashion bloggers: i.e. ones who ONLY do outfit posts, and nothing else. With those posts, the photos are obviously the most important part of the post, and if the photos are already on Instagram, complete with tags for each item of clothing, and r-Style links which people can shop from, why would anyone need to follow your blog, too? To be blunt, no one really NEEDS to see multiple different photos of the same outfit: most people (assuming they like the look) are only interested in knowing where you got it all, and if they get that from Insta, they’re not going to want to see the same content twice.
Of course, for some people, Instagram is now their main business channel, and they’ve successfully monetised it, so as long as they still have their Instagram followers, they’re not too worried about losing their blog following. Should they be worried, though? Honestly? I would be. Instagram is awesome, but it’s still a third-party app, after all: if it goes down one day, or your account gets blocked or deleted for some reason (And yes, that could totally happen…), you’d be left with nothing. At least with a blog (assuming you have it properly backed up, of course… and if you don’t, go and do that RIGHT NOW, before reading another word of this, seriously…), you own all of your content – which is super-important, if you’re blogging as a business.
As for me, I still do outfit posts, and don’t have any intentions of stopping, because I really enjoy them, but I’d be wary of making them my ONLY content – and not just because I like to ramble too much to be able to stick to just the one type of post!
Instagram is more important than ever to brands, but bloggers are slowly losing interest in it
Despite everything I’ve said above, it’s also clear to me that Instagram is more important than ever – to brands, that is. I’ve done my fair share of complaining about the platform over the course of the last year, and have really struggled to grow my following there, but, despite this, I’m getting an increasing number of enquiries from brands looking to do Instagram-only sponsored posts, much to my surprise. I’m not sure if it’s simply that this is a less expensive option for them than a sponsored blog post, but it’s clear to me that despite its many, many problems right now, Instagram isn’t going anywhere – for a while, at least.
With that said, I also have to note that while some outfit bloggers have let their blogs go quiet while they concentrate solely on Instagram, many more are either leaving the platform altogether, or drastically scaling back their activity on it, purely because they’re so frustrated by the changes to the algorithm. I’m one of the latter: I used to absolutely LOVE Instagram, but, over the past 12 months, I’ve become progressively more disenchanted with it, to the point where I don’t really spend much time there at all these days. I do still post a photo every so often, but I ditched my “theme”, stopped putting pressure on myself to post something every day, and now I just upload a new photo when I feel like it – which isn’t always all that often.
I have to admit, I’m quite sad that my favourite social media platform has gone this way, but, at the same time, it’s one less thing to think about now, which has to be a good thing. There’s only so much time you can spend hitting your head against the proverbial brick wall, after all, and when you keep putting in the effort, without really seeing anything in the way of a reward, you get to wondering what the point is, you know?
Change is good
This year, for obvious reasons, I started following a lot more parenting blogs. This was an area of blogging I’ve never really been interested in, but I found it really re-vitalised my interest in blogging, and made me want to experiment more with different types of content. Changing the direction of a blog is always a bit risky, and feels pretty damn scary at the time, but it’s something I think is absolutely necessary if you want your blog to grow – or even just to survive.
I know I probably lost followers this year because of my switch to pregnancy-related topics, and I know I’ll lose even more over the coming months, as I start writing about life as a new parent – which just won’t be interesting or relevant to some of you. No one ever wants to lose readers, obviously, but at the same time, I also know, beyond shadow of a doubt, that if I tried to stick rigidly to the same topics I used to write about when I started this blog, without taking account of my own changing life/tastes, I’d have given up long ago. For me, blogging works best when I’m able to write about the things I’m most interested in at the time: and those are things that CHANGE over time.
I don’t think there can be many people out there who’re exactly the same as they were ten years ago, after all, with exactly the same interests. The fact is, people change, and bloggers are just people, so we’re inevitably going to change too. If we don’t allow our blogs to reflect those changes, that’s when they start to become stale, and blogging starts to feel like a chore – which isn’t much use to anyone, is it?
For the record, I DO intend to continue writing about the same topics I wrote about before I got pregnant, but yes, I’ll ALSO be writing a lot about parenting – and hoping that any readers I (understandably) lose as a result of that, will be replaced by new ones who are interested in those kind of posts!
And so is honesty
I’ve always done my best to be as transparent as possible on my blog, but my pregnancy – and the anxiety I experienced during it – prompted me to open up even more, and to write longer, more personal posts than I’d been doing up until that point. Although I know the subject matter wasn’t of interest to all of my readers (and I worried a lot about how utterly crazy I was making myself sound!), those posts ended up being amongst the most popular I’ve written – much to my surprise!
The whole experience served as a timely reminder that people generally read blogs in order to connect with other people. It’s hard to relate to someone when you don’t know anything about them, after all, and while there are plenty of very valid reasons for not wanting to share too much online, I know I’d miss the interaction I get from those longer, chattier posts. (And I’d also miss writing them, let’s be honest…)
The bubble still hasn’t burst
People have been predicting the bursting of the so-called blogging bubble for as long as I’ve been blogging (So, over a decade, then… gulp), but honestly, I still don’t see any signs of it happening. Sure, social media has kind of taken over, but there are still SO many blogs out there, and new ones springing up aaaaallll the damn time. I still love it, and I still hope to be doing it many years from now: so let’s just see what my ‘Things I Learned About Blogging in 2018’ post ends up being about!