Why have bloggers become extensions of brands, spitting out nonstop marketing content and affiliate links?
I had reserved myself to no longer blog about blogging, because I was informed that no "big time, career blogger" talks about "how to blog." I was told not to blog for other bloggers, but instead to try to reach the general public. Article after article and professional resource after professional resource will tell you this, and it makes sense. Bloggers make up a small portion of the population, and if you really want to "reach" people and make a career of blogging, you have to think bigger. "Niche down!" They say. "Only talk about your niche so people know what to expect and you become the expert in that area!" Well, I'm here to call bu**sh*t on that. All of that hoopla is ruining the state of blogging, if you ask me.
I don't mean to say that those recommendations aren't the recipe for success. Maybe they are. But it also ruins your blog. Why? Because it makes you BORING.
One of my former favorite bloggers and the true inspiration I had for creating my own blog easily makes six figures a year blogging now. At first, I liked her because she was funny and genuine and was passionate about what she was writing about - hair. Yes, even me - the anti-beauty blog - got into blogging by reading a beauty blog, she was that good! I looked forward to pulling her site up everyday on my lunch break to see her personality come through in her video tutorials or a life update post. She talked about date nights with her husband, the struggle she had trying to conceive her first son and the shock she had at her surprise second pregnancy a few short months after the birth of her first baby. Of course, there would be hair and style posts scattered in there too, and I bought clothes off her links more than a few times.
I felt like she and I would be best friends, if we only lived in the same city! And ummm, you know, if she knew I even existed.
Today, I no longer read her blog. I check in every now and again, but it just makes me sad. She has entire posts created for the sole purpose of pushing her affiliate links on her readers. "Gift guides" and "makeup must haves" posts have replaced her likable, relateable posts on her life and family. She landed some huuuuuuuge contracts with Ponds and an eye wear company and had a post a week on how great those products were. It was forced content and painful to read. It was the same post, chewed up and regurgitated week after week with a "different angle." I officially stopped reading her when her videos began lacking her fun and playful personality and started to be more about the products and tools she was schlepping.
It's a bizarre thing to admit, but it was like the loss of a good friend! A friend who wouldn't know my name if she saw me on the street, but a friend nonetheless.
And here's another thing painful to admit: More and more of my blogging friends are dropping like flies, abandoning their fun personalities and lovable quirks to push affiliate links and sponsored content, talking about one subject ad nauseam. Now let me be clear - I have sponsored content here. I also have affiliate links. But I don't create posts for the sole purpose of including those links, like a makeup gift guide or promoting the Nordstrom sale. That doesn't make me better than anyone (hell, I'm not making a few grand off the NSale like some of my friends - I'm lucky if I can pay my phone bill with my Amazon link income!) But ladies... I wish I had my friends back. I wish I still enjoyed reading your blog for your personality, life updates, funny stories involving your husband or dogs or your kids. But all that has been replaced by "niching down!" and "becoming the expert!" and making money off promoting sales and products.
I went to check out a few new blogs from a blog support group on Facebook. Many of the bloggers are young and fairly new to blogging, so I thought it would be refreshing to read some posts from people who are just getting their feet wet and still blogging about what they're passionate about. My expectations were sadly mistaken. Even from bloggers who have been at it for 6 months or less, the posts were developed solely to push the affiliate links from the programs they've signed up for. One post had a great title on something I was interested in, but the post was completely the opposite! It was supposed to be low key beauty but the blogger listed (and linked) about 30 products she uses for her "low key" look. Ugh! Why?!
Besides nonstop affiliate links and out of character sponsored content, the other thing killing blogging is this drive to ALWAYS be engaged. "Reply to every comment on Instagram!" "Build a community!" "Always offer your reader value!" "VALUE ADD VALUE ADD VALUE ADD!" "Engagement is king, nobody cares about your follower count anymore! Engage engage engage!" Y'all, the social media component alone is enough to drain a blogger! I could easily spend four hours a day on Instagram, "engaging." It's insane. And right as you think you've built an engaged community, Instagram changes it's algorithm and your statistics drop. There's nothing quite like counting your worth (as a blogger, mom, woman, etc) in terms of the number of likes a photo gets, eh? *insert major eye roll*
I've taken a huge step back from sponsored content this month. I wanted to take some time and really focus on why I was so bummed out with the state of blogging, and what I planned on doing about it. I needed to figure out if I was going to continue participating in some of my blog groups, or if it was time to let them go. I had already let my first 'blog crush' and inspiration go, because she was no longer inspirational. I need to be excited about using social media again, because right now it feels like a big, dumb chore.
Niching down can go straight to hell. I get that my classification is "mommy blogger" and that's cool - I work from home and hang out with my kids all day. It would be weird for me not to talk about them! But I love DIY beauty and I love decorating for the holidays and I love to cook. So I'm going to write about that, too. And no, they're not kid friendly recipes, have you seen my toddler?! That kid will eat cheese, crackers, fruit/veggie pouches and the occasional fish stick. If I only cooked "toddler friendly" recipes, we'd be malnourished over here.
This post isn't intended as a rant against bloggers who've decided to monetize. Hell, this blog did it too. I think I've just reached my threshold with the state of blogging. It's become one massive blogging blob of consumerism. Bloggers use and reuse the word "obsessed" and "crushing on" and "this needs to be on your radar" because they have no other way to describe the links they're trying to get you to click and the crap they want you to buy. And in terms of social media, if you leave me a meaningful comment, I'll certainly try to get back to you! I love getting them. But I can't be on my phone all day anymore. It's bumming me (and my kids!) out.
I say, write about what you're passionate about, let your personality shine through, and stop hustling your affiliate links and brand partnerships so hard. If you only talk about beauty, or only talk about fashion, or only talk about motherhood, you're limiting your audience... And quite frankly, you're most likely pretty boring. Posts purely for links are the WORST. It's not genuine. It's painful to read. I'll readily admit that this blog perhaps became painful to read at times. But I intend to fix that. I'm bummed about the state of blogging but that doesn't mean I need to be bummed about my own blog. I'm going to let profit margins take a backseat and focus on the things that I love an enjoy. Hopefully that love shines through in my posts and hopefully, more bloggers follow suit. We as bloggers can change the state of blogging, even if brands and marketers are trying to ruin it.