How to build a career as a blogger on an Internet obsessed with Instagram
There’s been a lot of talk lately about Instagram, and how it’s slowly taking over from blogs as the influencer’s platform of choice, and, a few weeks ago, I added to that chatter with my post asking, ‘Is Instagram Killing Blogs?’
And – spoiler alert – “NO!” was the resounding answer to that question, I’m happy to report.
Most of the people who commented said they had no plans to stop reading blogs any time soon – which is great news for people like me, who have no plans to stop writing them. I don’t for a second think that Instagram will kill blogging off for good: there’s no doubt, however, that it IS taking some attention away from blogs right now, which makes it that little bit harder for bloggers to stay motivated, and to convince themselves they’re doing the right thing by continuing to create content for a platform that people continually seem to want to write off as yesterday’s news.
So, what’s a blogger to do when she wants to keep on blogging – and possibly even make a career out of it – at a time when everyone seems so obsessed with Instagram that they don’t have time for anything else?
Here are a few ideas for you…
Play the long game
One thing I think a lot of people tend to forget is that, if you want blogging to be a career, rather than simply a hobby, you have to play the long game, and think about building a business that will still be around 5, 10, or even 20 years from now. And yeah, I mean, I get it: no one really wants to think about that stuff, do they? I always have, though: I talked about this in my book, but when Terry got ill and had to give up work, we came very close to not being able to pay our bills – which could’ve meant losing our home – and that terrified me so much that my main priority when we started our business was to make sure we were never in that position again.
Because of that, I always try to think as far in advance as I can when it comes to how I run my business. And, I mean, sure, Instagram is hot right now, and probably will be for a while, but I’m not sure I can imagine people still making a decent living from it ten years from now, say. Even if it does remain popular for that long, though, it’s still not something l’d want to base my livelihood on, because if Instagram goes bust, so does your income, if that’s what you’re relying on: and that’s a pretty sobering thought.
Of course, blogs can obviously go bust at any time, too – and many of them do. Unlike Instagram, however, if your blog is self-hosted then you own all of the content on it, and can use it however you like. I figure that, even if blogging ceases to be profitable for me, I’ll still be able to make a living from writing – just as I did before I became a blogger – so I’d rather focus on that, than on jumping aboard whatever the latest bandwagon happens to be. That’s not, of course, to say that blogs should never change or evolve – just that you should probably be a little bit wary about following trends, and think instead about the long term, and what you’ll do once those trends die an inevitable death. Speaking of which…
Write content that’s evergreen
One of Instagram’s main strengths is the fact that it’s instant – well, sort of – and ephemeral. Once your latest upload has dropped down the page, it’s pretty much forgotten about: sure, it might get the odd like from someone who decides to go through your feed and check-out some of your older posts, but, for the most part, those photos you spend so much time perfecting will have a very limited lifespan there.
Blogs, on the other hand, are the exact opposite of that. Yes, some of the content you post on your blog might be time-sensitive, and only relevant for a short period of time, but if you focus on creating evergreen content – blog posts that don’t really date, and which contain information people are always searching for – that content can continue to get traffic for… well, forever, basically.
I’ve written about this before, I know, but some of the most popular posts on my blog are ones I wrote YEARS ago – and would probably have forgotten all about, if it weren’t for the fact that they still regularly get comments from new visitors who find them via Google. Those old posts earn me advertising revenue without me having to do a thing, and they’re one of the main reasons my traffic and income have remained fairly consistent, even at a time when – according to some of the posts I’ve been reading lately – people are apparently abandoning blogs in favour of Instagram.
If you only ever post short, image-heavy posts which date quickly and don’t provide any real information, then sure, people may well prefer to get that kind of thing from Insta, which is the perfect platform for it. If, on the other hand, you post content that’s evergreen, you’ll have a much better chance of riding out the current wave of Insta-obsession: people will always be looking for certain types of information or longform content – and it’s much easier to find that on blogs, than on a photo app, don’t you think?
On the subject of longform content, meanwhile…
Try writing longer posts
I could be wrong (I mean, I usually AM, so please feel free to take as many pinches of salt as you like with this…), but I suspect one of the best ways to survive as a blogger right now is to play up all of the ways in which blogging is different from its main rival: the big, bad Instagram app.
One of those ways is the fact that blogging gives you the ability to write much longer, more in-depth pieces of content than you’ll ever find on Instagram. I know there’s a bit of a trend right now for people to write longer captions on Insta, or to use it almost as a diary (I LOVE this trend, by the way!), but, as I mentioned above, it’s still not the best platform for finding information, or digesting longer pieces of content – so use that fact to your advantage.
We’re constantly being told these days that people are too busy to read blogs, and that they’d rather hit the “like” button than write out a comment in response to a post, but that honestly hasn’t been my experience. I’ve said this before, too, but my longest posts tend to be my most popular, and they’re definitely the ones that generate the most thoughtful and interesting responses. My feeling is that while some people just want to look at pretty pictures (And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, obviously…), there will always be others who like nothing better than to wade into a longer post, or sit and catch up with their favourite blogs with their morning coffee. If you’re a blogger who wants to keep blogging, then THOSE people are your target audience: so give yourself permission to stop chasing the “likes” of the ones who aren’t really in the market for what you’re selling, and focus instead on the ones who ARE – there are more than enough of them out there.
As for those shorter, Insta-like posts, well, you don’t have to give up on them entirely, obviously: they definitely still have their place. In my case, though, I’ve found that things like outfit posts tend to do better on Instagram than on the blog, so I’ve been mostly posting them there, and then doing a blog roundup every so often, too. That way I’m getting the best of both worlds – and if Instagram does go bust one day, at least I know my photos will still be safely stored on my own website, too.
Use Instagram to promote your blog posts
I mostly just use Instagram for fun these days, having long since realised that it’s never going to be anything more than that for me, but it also sends me a fair bit of blog traffic, too. Some of that comes from the ‘swipe up’ links I use in my Instagram Stories (I find the grid really frustrating, because hardly any of my followers get to see my posts there, but I have to admit, I LOVE Insta Stories…), but I also get quite a few people clicking through from the blog link in my profile. I don’t bother to update that link to direct people to specific posts, so it just goes to the homepage of the site, but it does get clicks – so even if you don’t have any aspirations to become an Instagram “influencer” or microblogger, don’t underestimate its power to help you promote your blog – or just to help you kill a few spare minutes – or OK, many, many hours – when you’re bored.