Why I hate blogger contests

Why I Hate Blogger Contests and Awards

First of all, thanks to those of you who submitted questions on last week’s post: I promise I’m not ignoring them, and will get to them soon, but first of all I have a bit of a rant to get off my chest, and it’s a rant inspired by the Bloglovin’ follower challenge that was launched this week.

If you use Bloglovin’ at all, you’ve probably already heard about this, but if you haven’t, it’s basically a “who can get the most new followers in a month” challenge. It’s only open to people who currently have less than 10,000 followers on Bloglovin’ already, and the idea is that you sign up on the site, encourage people to follow you, and then all the bloggers in the contest fight to the death, with the last one alive being named the winner.

Oh no, wait: that’s The Hunger Games I’m thinking of, isn’t it? On Bloglovin‘ it’s whoever gets the most new followers by the end of August. So a BIT less bloodthirsty, then… but not much. You should probably put that bow and arrow down, now, though…

The prize is increased exposure on the Bloglovin’ website, and I’ll be honest, when I first read about the challenge, I was tempted to enter it, because why not, after all? I don’t have a lot of Bloglovin’ followers, but I do get a fair bit of traffic from the ones I do have, and that goes up significantly on the (rare) occasions a post of mine makes it onto the “popular” page. I’d imagine that actually being featured on the Bloglovin’ website would do amazing things for your traffic, which is a pretty compelling reason to enter. Who wouldn’t want more followers, and therefore more blog traffic, after all? Because I would, and if you’re a blogger, I bet you would, too.

Why I hate blogger awards and contests

It’s not popular to admit that, of course. I’ve read a couple of posts about this challenge now, as well as quite a lot of tweets, and most of them so far have revolved around the whole “blogging for the wrong reasons” thing. Yeah, THAT old chestnut. Blogging “shouldn’t be about the numbers”, according to this argument. It shouldn’t be about who has the most followers, and it should be about writing purely for the love of it, and not caring about whether anyone’s reading. Or so the argument goes.

Well, as you probably know by now, I don’t believe there are “wrong” reasons to blog, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the idea that you shouldn’t care about “the numbers” – or not if you’re blogging professionally, anyway. If your blog is a hobby, then that’s a totally different blog game – er, ball game – but if you’re serious about making blogging your career, and you’re burying your head in the sand and saying, “lalala, I don’t care if no one ever reads what I write, I blog for ME!” then good luck with that – you’re going to need it. It’s a bit like opening a shop and saying, “Oh, I don’t really care if I don’t get any customers, I just like arranging things on the shelves!”

But I’ve said all of this before, if course, and at very great length, too, so this post isn’t about me clutching my pearls and pretending to be horrified by the idea that bloggers want to have more followers: that’s not why I won’t be entering the Bloglovin’ Follower Challenge. Quite simply, I didn’t enter it because I have absolutely no chance of winning it. And most of you don’t either. Contests like this, you see, are weighted in favour of bloggers who are already popular. They are won by the usual suspects: the same bloggers who always win the “Blog Awards” that do the rounds every year, and who everyone already knows about. They are not won by the “up and coming” bloggers who Bloglovin’ claim to be trying to highlight through this contest – they’re not necessarily even won by the best writers, the best photographers, the most stylish dressers.

That’s not to say that the people who DO win these contests don’t deserve the recognition, of course: far from it. Those bloggers, after all, are popular for a reason, and the reason is normally hard work and a lot of talent. So I’m not trying to put those people down here, or to detract from their achievements, which are considerable. But the thing is, there are a lot of smaller bloggers out there who ALSO work hard and have lots of talent. And yet they won’t be winning awards any time soon, and you’ll rarely see them on Bloglovin’s “popular” section.

WHY?

Because sites like Bloglovin’, and awards which seek to pit bloggers against each other and scrabble to see who can get the most votes/followers will always be dominated by the bloggers who are already popular – and who therefore least NEED the publicity they win. Think about it: to take the Bloglovin’ Challenge as an example, it’s limited to only those blogs which currently have less than 10,000 Bloglovin’ followers already. Sounds fair, right? That way the REALLY big bloggers don’t get a look in, and there’s an opportunity for the relative unknowns to get some recognition. It’s a great idea, and I’m sure Bloglovin’ were trying their best to be fair when they came up with it, but it doesn’t really work like that, does it?

The thing is there’s a really big difference between someone who currently has 9,000 Bloglovin’ followers, and someone who has 9 – or even 900. The person who has 9,000 followers can still enter the contest, and, let’s be honest, they have a much better chance of winning it, because if you have 9,000 followers on Bloglovin’, you’re not exactly an “unknown” or an “up and coming” newcomer: in fact, your blog is probably pretty well established, and you’re likely to have a decent following elsewhere, too: a following which you can call upon to ALSO follow you on Bloglovin’.

Moreover, Bloglovin’ followers are not necessarily a good measure of a blog’s success. In my own case, for instance, I have just over 2,000 followers on Bloglovin’, but I have 10,000 on Twitter and the same again on Instagram.  That’s quite a difference, and that’s not even the most extreme example, either. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were people out there who have less than 10,000 followers on Bloglovin’, but many times that number on Twitter.

So guess who’s going to win the Bloglovin’ follower challenge, and all of the other “get your readers to vote for/follow you” contests like it? Here’s a clue: it won’t be the brand new blogger who’s bursting with talent and ideas, and who could really benefit from the exposure that winning this challenge would bring. No, it’ll be someone who already has enough of a following to allow them to use their existing followers (on sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, say) to get more followers. That’s the way it works. You can’t get followers unless you have readers. If you have a lot of readers, you’ll be able to get a lot of followers. If you don’t have a lot of readers, because you’re just starting out, you’re not going to win any follower contests – or, at least, not without a whole lot of luck and/or the kind of black magic I can’t even image. (But would love to know about – call me, people who know about the black magic!)

That doesn’t mean your blog isn’t good, by the way, or that you don’t deserve to be recognised for it. It just means that it takes a long time to build an audience, and you’ve only just gotten started.

And that’s why I hate these Blogging Hunger Games that pop up every now and then: the ones that seem like a nice idea, and probably come from a good place, but which ultimately end up being yet another way to say, “Look, everyone, here are the same five super-popular bloggers who always win these things, and who you’ve already heard of!” It’s not that I think competition is bad, or that bloggers shouldn’t want people to follow them, and it’s definitely not that I think the “big” bloggers shouldn’t be recognised: it’s that, as with the actual Hunger Games*, unless you’re reasonably popular already, the odds are NEVER in your favour.

thoughts about blogger contests and blogging awards

They, are, however, always in the favour of the website running the contest. They get a whole lot of traffic, courtesy of all those bloggers signing up for their challenge and begging their readers to follow them. (In this case, the bloggers who enter will presumably get at least SOME new followers too, so it’s not totally one-sided.) It would be cynical to suggest that that’s why they do it, and I want to just add here that I love Bloglovin’: I use it every single day, and it’s basically the Netflix of my iPhone – if it ever closed down, I’d probably cry.

I also think Bloglovin’ have made some good moves lately towards highlighting smaller, less well-known blogs: for a while there I actually stopped even checking the “popular” pages, because they would just be full of posts from the same small selection of bloggers, who apparently only need to sneeze and write a post about it, and they’ll instantly get 8,000 likes. I realise that sounds bitter, and, well, that’s because it IS a bit. It makes sense that if the posts highlighted on the “popular” page are the ones with the most “saves”, then the blogs with the most followers will ALWAYS have the most saves, regardless of the quality of their content, while all of those awesome smaller blogs will languish un-noticed, because no matter how great their content, there aren’t enough people who follow it to propel them onto the “popular” category. So until recently, you got popular on Bloglovin’ by… being popular on Bloglovin’. Huh.

It’s a little better now, though. OK, if you go to the category pages (i.e. clicking on ‘fashion’, ‘beauty’, ‘lifestyle’ etc) you’ll still see the same blogs featured over and over again, with very little variety, but now there’s also the “explore” page, which gives you suggestions of blogs to follow, and not all of them are the ones that are already popular – in fact, I’ve found quite a few smaller, less well-known blogs recently by using the ‘explore’ feature, and I’d like to see more. Not necessarily fewer posts from the “big” bloggers, because as I said, they’ve also worked hard for their success, and I don’t begrudge them it. But I’d like to see some more variety, too.  I don’t know how it can be done (Er, it would be great if I’d been leading up to a solution to this problem, here, wouldn’t it? I’m not, though. Sorry.), but I DO think they’re trying, and I just want to make that clear, so I don’t seem to be just needlessly bashing a site I genuinely enjoy, just because they haven’t found a perfect solution to what is a really complex problem. I also don’t think Bloglovin’ are doing anything wrong by running this contest, or that no one should enter it: as I said, you will likely get some extra followers out of it, and if you DO win it, you’ll get a LOT of extra followers, so I totally understand why people will want to take part: as I said, I was tempted myself.

How DO we help smaller, newer bloggers poke their heads out from beneath the larger sites that always seem to dominate, though? That’s another question for another day. And if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them…

(Finally, it would be pretty stupid of me to write a post about Bloglovin’ without mentioning that you can follow me there, and that I would appreciate that. Because, yes, I like followers, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. I’m not in the challenge, though, so you can follow me safe in the knowledge that all I’ll get out of it are the warm, fuzzy feelings that come from knowing that you care. )

(*The book, I mean. I don’t think the Hunger Games is a real thing. Well, probably not…)

COMMENTS
  • Interesting post. It reminds me of various artist sites where artists can sell their work as opposed to selling from their own sites. It seems to be the same folk again and again who shift work while the smaller ones are overlooked. Which, similar to the point you make about the popular blogs, isn’t to diss the excellent artwork that is noticed and sold. But the sites – understandably as it’s a business – promote the artists who are selling as it means more traffic coming in to the site. It can be hard to get a look-in and you need to be prepared to do a lot of promotion yourself.

    August 9, 2015
  • This post made me totally exited about the thougt to open a small shop and then let anyone buy anything from me. Ha! It would have shelves filled with pretty arrangements of small succulents and a lot of photos of cupcakes. And maybe some cute books. And everytime someone would come in I would be like; “No you don’t want that one. No that one isn’t for sale. No that one is mine. It is all mine. Now leave.” And then my store would fail.

    Bloggings should in no way be a contest. To wiew other bloggers as rivals would do anyone any good. Of course we all want readers and thats why we should encourage our readers to read blogs, not only only our own blog. Thats what everyone will benefit from /love Ida

    August 9, 2015
  • Gem

    REPLY

    So the Bloglovin’ idea works in theory it just needs narrower categories. Say under 100 followers, up to 500, 500-1000, etc.

    Now I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. How do I tell Bloglovin’?

    August 9, 2015
  • Completely agree with everything you’re saying in this post – and it didn’t take more than about 0.25 of a second for me to realise that entering that Bloglovin’ contest would be the quickest way on the planet to feel rubbish about my blog and life generally!

    August 9, 2015
  • I think that challenge doesn’t recognize any sort of talent or authenticity with lesser known blogs. It comes down to who can shill and spam for followers the most.

    August 9, 2015
  • Everything you said is so true. And, after I got the email I immediately refused to join because if I’m going to get people to follow me, it’s going to be for me – where I have their email and not for the sole gain of another site where I cannot personally be in touch with my followers. In the end, the entire purpose of this contest is to not really even help the bloggers, it’s completely for helping bloglovin’ grow their own following.

    August 9, 2015
  • As usual, you’ve hit the nail on the head with this!

    August 9, 2015
  • So true. I don’t care about contests like that cause I want people to follow me because they want to.

    August 9, 2015
  • Nicola

    REPLY

    I do find it a very odd challenge. I think 10,000 followers is a particularly high number – 1000 would have made more sense to me. As you say, someone with 9000 followers (which I’d already consider to be a very big blogger!) will inevitably have a huge twitter following or following on some other site so it wouldn’t be difficult at all to get more people over. Those with around 1000 followers may see an increase in about 100 if that.

    Nicola // pink-confetti.co.uk

    August 9, 2015
  • HI Amber, i saw that on bloglovin and decided to also give it a miss. I hate HATE Leicester awards as it nothing more then a chain letter, i still get loads of requests but I always turn it down.

    August 9, 2015
  • Great post and debate! I don’t really think too much about followers but I should do and I would be upset if I was writing for no-one anyone would be lying if they said that was true, but I definitely wouldn’t have a chance when as you say people who already have 9,000 can enter! xx

    August 9, 2015
  • Suze

    REPLY

    I love Bloglovin but I totally agree that it gets soooooo tiresome seeing the same old ‘big’ bloggers being promoted all the time when I’m always on the lookout for something new (especially when bloggers are being lauded for posts which appear to have taken very little thought/effort).

    Do you have any tips for discovering new blogs? I reckon my Bloglovin ‘Following’ list could do with a bit of a cull. (I won’t be ditching Forever Amber though, obvs!)

    August 9, 2015
  • Hello Amber,
    I have been following your blog since April 2015.  I adore your photos, your posts, your tips…. Actually, it helped me a lot when I created my private blog.
    Usually, I never leave a comment, but this time I do because everything you said is SO true. 
    As a private Blogger I cherish a genuine relationship with my readers from “home” and abroad. I have a small group (growing fast) of followers – I have their email and can personally be in touch with my readers. I am not interested in the figures. The benefits are the pleasure I get to know that they like my articles and talk about it in their circle. Me, from a small village having followers from other countries is just amazing.
    Have a lovely week dear 🙂

    August 9, 2015
  • I feel similarly! I have 150 followers on bloglovin, so I don’t really have a hope to get it – not without being annoying and mentioning it endlessly on social media and my blog. I feel the same about the bloglovin awards – so many of the bloggers are actually media companies with lots of paid staff! It’s not really the same thing as personal bloggers.

    August 9, 2015
  • You’re so right about a lot of things here. When I started out, I did try to maintain a fiction with myself that I was just blogging as a creative outlet; it’s not that that’s a lie, but I do also want people to read it. Who doesn’t want to be popular? That’s kind of the dream, getting sponsorships and cross promotion from bigger brands, having thousands of people read your words and see your photos.
    You’re also right that there are a lot of people in this contest who have a serious head start. I’ve only got about 30 followers, so people with a few thousand are miles ahead of me. I can’t fault Bloglovin’ for doing it that way, but it would be great if they did a contest or offered some way to promote the genuinely small blogs out there.

    August 10, 2015
  • Fantastic post, Amber. You make a lot of great points, as always, and they really made me take a step back and look at my own biases when it comes to these types of competitions.
    I echo what Gem and Nicola have already said. The only way I can think of to bring more attention to smaller bloggers (other than for popular bloggers to host some sort of “Nominate Your Favorite Blogger” challenge – like Catherine Summers just did – I nominated you, by the way ^_^) is to categorize these contests. Subdivide them, if you will, into smaller numbers so that more people have a chance of winning their “category”. It could be in groups of hundreds of followers up until a certain point, and then in the thousands. At the end, Bloglovin’ in this case, could do a write up on the winners of each category, or just a big announcement, whatever works.
    Like Raisa said, this doesn’t really account for content though, it’s still just a numbers game. Not entirely sure how to get around that part.

    August 10, 2015
  • A brilliant post and you are so right. As a new blogger I am really struggling to get exposure (more so now that my email notifications appear to be broken! grrr) but as you say something like this, and a new platform I have to learn… I just don’t have the time!

    August 10, 2015
  • I use Bloglovin (came here from there) but didn’t realise that the “popular” page was just the most saved posts. Doh. I’ve never really given it a thought tbh but as it was always the same old same old massive blogs that are of no interest to me I never ever look at that section anymore!

    One thing that does puzzle my is when I’m logged in on the PC, under the list of blogs I follow is a recommended for you section; I’ve no idea who I follow that Bloglovin creates the algorithm based on but on what planet am I interested in Pink Peonies, Ivory Lame or Cupcakes and Cashmere?! Unless that box is also really just a sneaky promotion too – purely for the bigger bloggers, as come to think of it I get Girl Meets Glam a lot and just chuckle and say nope.

    Anywho I’m not remotely interested in entering this competition either and 10,000 is way too high a bar as you rightly say. At 1000 it might actually throw up some lesser known blogs I’d be interested in.

    August 10, 2015
  • I wouldn’t be concerned about Bloglovin followers. I did just set up an account and follow your blog, but then discovered the site itself to be useless. And because it won’t let me remove my account my email is stuck there for all s(c|p)ammers to steal.

    Anyway, the point I was going to make is, does the number of followers even matter, if it doesn’t translate into readers?

    August 10, 2015
  • Noone I know writes AND publishes without caring an ounce about whether anyone reads their important thoughts or not. Of course. That is the whole idea of publishing and that is why it is called publishing and not hiding your great ideas in a tiny little hole. Could not agree more and it is a long way to fame and fortune. If you are famous you are much more likely to win a prize or award. Because you make the awarder look good. Unless its some “newcomer” thing….well, keep calm and let’s blog on! One way for some more exposure are link-ups with other fellow bloggers and I have connected with some amazing people. I am co-hosting one today and anyone is welcome to share their post! xo Sabina | Oceanblue Style

    August 11, 2015
  • Selina

    REPLY

    Exactly my thoughts in the competition. The little guys rarely if ever get a look in. Same with Lookbook.nu, only the same old people on the hot page are worth the attention apparently

    August 15, 2015
  • I know Kate’s already said it but i completely agree that you have hit the nail on the head. It seems like the popular get more popular and the ones that aren’t get to stay in the shadows of the limelight. I think they should have a section which is randomly generated of blogs or blog posts that they feel should get more attention. There’s so much talent in this industry that goes un-noticed because big bloggers are dominating the limelight (which i’m not bitter about, i’m so proud of them – i just think that the internet is big enough for a whole lot more people!) xo

    August 16, 2015
  • So what is the answer?
    All you write is so true and I agree with all your points!
    However, I am in the ‘amara interior design blog awards’ this year
    (diy and crafts category) I am still going to give it a go even though I stand no chance up against the other blogs in my category, they are huge with huge followers and I am lower middle!
    What would you do?
    bestest as ever
    Daisy jones X

    August 16, 2015
  • You hit the nail on the head here, Amber. What an excellent post. I like the way you always look at stuff from different perspectives and talk about nuances –I find not many bloggers go to the trouble of it. I guess it’s easier to just stick to one point of view and keep other possibilities shaded and unmentioned. Being authoritarian is something that a lot of bloggers seem to like doing. And it bugs me terribly. That’s also why I like to read your articles. You do not force your opinions on others, you just share your thoughts in an interesting way.

    But what I really wanted to say is that I was thinking the exact same things you wrote. It is so goddamn hard to grow a blog and I don’t think contests like this one are helping it. I’ve been blogging for two years and kept things serious for the last few months –posting almost every day, taking good photos, writing interesting stuff (I have a style/sewing blog and that’s a good combo to write about) and honestly working hard. And still, on Bloglovin’? About 150 followers. I mean, I don’t mind that normally, I’m happy that this number is growing, I don’t really care for the speed. But it’s all good until I see a contest like the one that Bloglovin’ just threw at us. That’s when I feel helpless. That’s the moment I see how lousy a blogger I am (I’m not, really, but you know, according to numbers I’m not that great and they say numbers don’t lie). There’s no way I could come close to being recognized. I probably don’t have a mindset of a winner, though, so maybe it’s for the better that I stay hidden and small.

    Anyway, thanks for this post! I felt like I wasn’t alone in this.

    August 18, 2015
  • I had the same thought when I saw the email about this contest. As an “up-and-coming” blogger with only 53 Bloglovin’ followers, I’m already trying to increase my followers (without totally spamming my social media accounts). But there’s just no way I can compete with someone who already has 9,000 followers.

    August 21, 2015
  • I find Bloglovin’ a particularly problematic platform. Its not transparent at all, and like you said – absolutely does not encourage new bloggers although they claim to. I actually joined Bloglovin with lot of hope and was very disappointed.

    July 7, 2016
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