I strive to make Cort in Session an upbeat, positive space, but lately I’ve felt like the influencer community is in a bit of a funk and I’m compelled to do a brain dump here to get these thoughts off my chest. It goes without saying that these are my own personal opinions. Everyone runs their business differently and this post isn’t meant to admonish anyone. I guess I’m just writing this to pull the curtain back on the industry and continue a conversation on how to improve it.
I’m also writing this as a lengthy answer to the girls who reach out to me for advice on starting and growing a blog. Many people assume that success in this field can be achieved quickly because that’s what they see splashed across their feeds. The truth is that I started this blog over five years ago, in September 2013, completely unaware that there was money to be made. I had a passion for graphic design, fashion, and photography and saw an opportunity to share those passions with like-minded individuals. I poured my heart and soul into this space for years before making a cent and I’m still learning and growing on a daily basis. There’s no guide book, y’all!
Unfortunately, though, I feel like many bloggers have it all backwards lately. Instead of investing in their photography or spending time creating unique content, their time and money is going to giveaways, comment bots, and engagement pods. Don’t get me wrong, time invested into search engine optimization and growing your email list is time well spent. But page views and genuine readership are much different and are vitally more valuable than your Instagram follower count. Remember – the only thing you have real control over is your website. Social media sites can change or even become obsolete.
I’m certainly not perfect… not even close! I have a LONG way to go in educating myself about my DSLR, photo editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop, photo composition and more. I I have also been guilty myself of neglecting this space in favor of focusing on my Instagram account. Those are the visible numbers and anyone at any place in their blogging journey can get hyper-focused and hung up on these stats.
Honestly, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gauge whose following has been manipulated. And I wouldn’t take issue with bloggers padding their followings if it didn’t negatively affect those of us who don’t. I haven’t whined about Instagram’s algorithm in the past and I’m not about to start today; that won’t get us anywhere. But because of the algorithm, these accounts are rewarded with higher visibility and discoverability.
What sparked me to finally press publish on this post were a few things I’ve noticed over the last few months. Just the other day, I saw a blogger say on her stories that “giveaways are a way for us to give back to our followers”. I honestly laughed out loud. If you were wanting to give back to your followers, you wouldn’t require them to follow 50 accounts for a 1 in 10,000 shot to win a Starbucks gift card or a Neverfull. While I have never nor will ever participate in a loop or combined giveaway, I’m fully aware that they work. Bloggers can pay on average $30 and pick up about 1,000-5,000 followers. Though it’s a smidge annoying when my whole feed is the same photo posted by 30 influencers, I understand that the majority of the community uses them as a tool and I’m okay with that… as long as readers understand the motive.
Another thing that blew my mind was when I tabbed over to the feed on Instagram that shares the activity of those you follow. I was just casually scrolling through when I noticed a trend – many of the influencers I follow were almost exclusively liking posts from spam accounts. Now whether it was actually them doing the liking or they paid a bot to like these photos for them, the purpose is the same – getting those random accounts to like and follow them back.
I get it – it works. Your follower count grows, as does your engagement. But are these accounts converting? Are they purchasing the products you share and are they visiting your blog? Or are you just selling these inflated numbers to brands as “influence”? Influence and follower count are often vastly different. That’s where the rub is for me.
There are also the more traditional methods of manipulating your follower count like follow/unfollowing and purchasing followers/engagement. But luckily, there are now websites that track and plot these gains and losses on a chart to make any shadiness crystal clear. As for the other methods, there are a few emerging programs for gaining a better idea of someone’s legitimacy.
A great resource is Similar Web. This site allows you to compare your website’s traffic to other influencers. Simply type a blog into the search bar at the top of the page to see where it ranks globally, nationally, and within its niche. Then click “compare” and you can add another blog to see how your traffic measures up. This is an easy way for brands to gauge which bloggers will get more eyes on their product!
Secondly, and this applies specifically to fashion bloggers, you can now see how many followers a blogger has in the LikeToKnow.it app. Because it is impossible to alter this number, you can get a pretty good indication of how well their followers are converting to buyers. I hold out hope that this list of resources continues to grow so that brands can work more confidently with influencers and allocate their marketing budget wisely.
Phew! If you’ve made it this far – thanks for bearing with me as I share my feelings 🙂 The purpose of this post wasn’t to whine, complain, or stir the pot. I guess I’m just hoping that we can collectively steer the industry back to the content that built it. And to those of you who are kind enough to reach out for advice, the short answer is if you build it, they will come. Please, please, please don’t get caught up in the comparison game… especially when you have no way of knowing who is playing fair. If you have a passion for what you’re sharing, create quality content consistently, and remain unique and authentic, you should have no problem building a community.
When I started this blog five years ago, I wanted a little corner of the web to share my thoughts, my love of fashion and beauty, and travel diaries. So while I come to y’all with my highest highs, I also want to be able to share my lows as well. I sincerely appreciate you sticking with me for all these years and allowing me this creative platform to discuss my life and passions.