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.
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.
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.
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…)