Why Blogs Are Still Great & Instagram Kind Of Isn’t

But, ohhhh it was all fun and games on Wednesday night wasn’t it, when the whole bloody app went down. Cue me furiously refreshing the app, trying to get it to work on my phone, desktop, incognito tabs and my ancient iPad. (I really needed to take a screenshot of my Instagram grid for a guide I am, ironically, putting together for ‘the most Instagrammable spots in Milton Keynes).

I was a very late comer to Instagram. HELLO, I was an Android user (still am, and proud) and they didn’t release an Android app for a very long time. I had to wait for a very long time to join the club and what a little club it has become, eh? White walls, perfect flatlays with strategically placed sunglasses, omg, look at my cute dog, today’s outfit – oh #ad. Safe to say the platform has boomed in the last few years giving way to the professional ‘grammer, social media stars and me, mindlessly scrolling at 11:30pm wondering why I’m not on a beach in the Maldives right now.

One thing was made very clear to me during the whole debacle. And it’s something that several hundred people seem to agree with me on (let me bask in the glory of my first sem-viral tweet plz)

We are obsessed with Instagram, a third party platform that we have very little control over.

WE ARE OBSESSED. As bloggers, as consumers, as influencers – it has somehow become THE platform to be on, THE platform to focus all your efforts on and THE platform to start your business and become #Instafamous. And I salute all the women and men who have been able to build that empire, because it’s no mean feat. Unless you’ve bought Instagram followers to fake it and in which case, I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself.

Everyone – me included – is looking to that next 1,000 followers. We are desperate to hit the golden 10K so we can have the swipe up feature; we want to reach as many people as possible and we drip feed ourselves likes and engagement percentages like we need them to survive.

And for many, many users, it works. Bloggers have continually turned to the platform as their primary social platform of choice and in most cases, it’s become a main source of income working with brands left right and centre. We live in an age where there are agencies literally dedicated to managing talent on Instagram and matching brands up with influencers. I sent my details to an agency the other day which literally couldn’t give two flying hoots about my blog or what I posted on it – they only wanted my Instagram numbers.

I love the app, I really do. It has brought me so many opportunities and opened up new connections. I love receiving direct messages I get from people telling me I’ve inspired them to try something new in Milton Keynes and generally, I really love the creativity of stories and posting my life’s highlights in those little squares.

But I also love to hate it. It can be so hard to grow. I’ve only just hit 3,000 followers and it’s only because I’ve invested a lot of time and curated a feed that’s attractive. Yes, it generates me blog traffic, but direct search and Facebook continually gets me more. It also stretches my photos in weird ways and decreases the quality OH and goes down unexpectedly. Not cool guys, not cool.

SO WHY ARE WE SO OBSESSED?

We have no control over Instagram and this is why I think it kind of isn’t great. It is so easy to forget that it is a third party application that we all use to create our online. So is Twitter, so is Facebook, so is YouTube. But what about platforms we do own?

Our blogs. Our email lists.

It’s a very valuable lesson i learned from Vix Meldrew. Picture this: An influencer with 100,000 followers on Instagram who works with high profile brands relies on these collaborations to make a living. Her account gets hacked, she loses everything because Instagram refuse to install it and she has to start from 0.

It sounds like a horror story but I know people who it has happened to. And Instagram hasn’t always restored the accounts.

“In an industry where we have become so obsessed with numbers, we’ve lost sight of real engagement.”

So are we investing way to much in Instagram? In my opinion, yes. I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that its quite unstable and that these outages could happen again if they don’t get their shit together.

We should be thinking about contingency and balancing our online presence across multiple platforms, not just one. We own our blogs. We own our email lists. Yes, social media helps you get out there, but your circle of influence, the people who are your super fans, usually only extends to a few hundred, even if you have tens of thousands of followers. And I’d rather have people who engage properly with my content like subscribing to The Squeeze, commenting on my Instagram and blog posts, than those who mindlessly double tap. In an industry where we have become so obsessed with numbers, we’ve lost sight of real engagement.

This is why blogs are still great. And I feel 2019 is the year that this realisation is hitting the mainstream. My blog has always been at the centre of everything I do, but I naively put my Instagram first for a few months last year. I saw no return on it. On the other hand, I’ve developed on my blog over the last few months, and I am already seeing more return – I’m working with bigger brands, my traffic is increasing, I’m getting more direct referrals and as a result, my Instagram is growing. Win win! It’s possible to grow an online presence primarily through Instagram, but it shouldn’t be the be all and end all because it could easily be discarded (look at Google+) and what if it goes down and it can’t come back up again? You can wave goodbye to all your photos and followers.

Okay, so people kept telling my blog could still go down. Fair point, but I’d like to think that because I back it up all the time it’s something I can remedy and fix. There ain’t no backing up my Instagram page and getting those followers back.

It’s the same with an email list. I can still drive traffic to my website because I have over 200 subscribers to The Squeeze. People will still know I exist. An Instagram account can be wiped off the fact of the Internet and people will just find another account to follow.

Blogs and long-form content still reign supreme in my eyes. I cannot convey the same stories like I can on my blog. I curate how my posts look, I curate how they are presented and I can put it right in front of my audience – I can send it to them directly if I wanted to. Instagram is exactly what it says on the tin: It’s instant. I’m very lucky if I still gets like on a post from a few days ago. However, I STILL get traffic and engagement to blog post I wrote a year ago. Sometimes longer. The longevity of evergreen, long form content is impossible to contest and it’s something that I am continually surprised that some brands who work with bloggers and influencers dismiss.

So I think what I am trying to say is that we shouldn’t be investing solely in one platform, especially if you are trying to build a business. We own our websites and email lists, but only investing time in third party apps that can’t keep themselves online, delete accounts with no warning and see speights of hacked accounts is dangerous. It’s a reminder that we must create a broader online strategy and not see Instagram as the be all and end all. Invest time in your SEO, build email lists, get Pinterest-ing (love u Pinterest), spread the word about your content in different ways and people will find you. Then you have something to fall back on should #InstagramDown last longer than a day.

That is, unless the internet breaks. I have no comeback on that…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

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