SLIDER

Hi, I'm Holly.



A 32-year old Scottish Lass with a love for highlight, heels and homeware.

hollysturgeonofficial@gmail.com

NEWSLETTER

A serious chat about Blogging

Hi everyone, 

Bear with me, I feel a wee bit like I'm in a nightclub. Not only am I a fish out of water, but everywhere I look there's people at least a decade younger than me! 

How Chris & I feel about Blogging right now - LOL!

I'm 33. I've been a Blogger/Content Creator/Influencer/WhateverTitleYouWantToGiveUs for ten years. I am an 'OG', which, obviously, I'm too old to know what that even means. Blogging is my 'thing' and I know it inside and out, yet right now, I feel as if I don't know it at all.

I first started blogging back in the prehistoric days when there was no such thing as 'buying followers' or 'For the Gram'.

Picture the scene - people just wrote down their thoughts on life and shared their opinions on products so people knew what was worth the £. Makeup tutorials invariably didn't contain an affiliate link, they were usually made, simply to share tips on application, styling and technique. Mental health was openly discussed for the first time and it became a 'safe' (or as safe as the internet can be!) place for people who needed to know they weren't alone. It became a place to share opinions and be heard without using traditional media.

As with errrrrything in life, where there is a platform, there is an opportunity to monetize or benefit from it. Brands saw that people were being influenced by what bloggers/youtubers/whatever recommended, and so began kindly sending out products to us to share our opinions on.

In those beginning days especially, we would receive hundreds of requests to review specific products. People began seeing us as someone they could rely on to let them know if something is worth their dosh. Keeping up with buying so many products to review or swatch became impossible, so the fact we were all being so kindly sent products to feature was, to us, an ideal way to continue doing what we loved without the added expense.

I remember using BlogLovin', which a lot of you won't even have heard of, and 'amassing' 500 followers. Back then, this was enough for brands like Clarins, Clinique, Nars, Revlon and dozens of other brands to send me products to review. In fact, in most cases there was no 'PR contact' or PR agencies. If we wanted to approach a brand, we invariably emailed them or (Gasp!) phoned them.

At this point, the influx of new Bloggers started to creep in, because they, understandably, saw the opportunity to get 'free' products from huge brands. Brands started to create guidelines on who they can send to and invariably, those with the most experience, or who offered the best photos of their products, as opposed to those with the higher follower numbers, were the people that they opted to work with.

I would say the 'innocence' of it went on for a good two or three years before the industry became an 'industry'. The balance between talking about everyday life and talking about products became more product heavy, because bloggers, including myself, began doing more for brands to keep them 'in' with them and to ensure we were chosen to receive their products (again, invariably not just because we wanted the free stuff, but because we wanted to continue blogging without the added expense and trying new products was exciting to be a part of). Being chosen to work with, made me personally, feel important and 'heard' which is something I had never experienced in my life. I was always a very small fish in a very large pond, but blogging made me feel the opposite way. Self indulgent? probably. You'd be lying if you think you wouldn't feel the same.

Ontop of all this, I really felt like I was part of a 'community'. I used to chat regularly to other OG Bloggers (WhatIHeartToday, ViviannaDoesMakeup, Pixiwoo, SprinkleOfGlitter, Pixi2woo, Zoella and so many others) in the comments of our blogs, on Twitter (which was new at the time) and Youtube. Lush bath bombs, Jodie Kidd Light As Air Foundation and Bourjois Chocolate Bronzer were invariably the top of our discussion points. It was really nice feeling like I was part of something.

Before we could count to 10, huge events like vidcon and meet and greets were taking place which brought on a side of blogging that became about more than getting 'free' stuff. It was about recognition and fame. People were flocking to the events to meet some Bloggers, but mainly youtubers. Youtube was really starting to take off in 2012 and narrowed that bridge between what we see on screen and the those watching it. I could watch a Tati video and feel like I was her friend, like I knew her and if 'normal' (whatever the hell that even is!) people could be heard on this big platform, then so could everyone.

The problem with this is that we, bloggers and youtubers, all started to be more aware of what we shared on the internet, knowing that millions of people could see it. I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I began selling a version of myself that didn't really exist. I would take all the best angled, well lit, selfies.  Show myself using products from brands that without being sent it, would never be able to afford otherwise. It became less about having 'real people' being relatable and more about people feeling as though they had to keep up with what we were using, what we were wearing, buying and even the lives we were living.  With that comes a lot of pressure and for me personally, with every negative comment under a video or blog post, came this overwhelming 'need' to improve what others saw of me.

As this was ongoing, Blogs were being featured in traditional media, like magazines, radio and television which further painted this picture of an ideal life to consumers. More and more new blogs were being created and before we knew it brands were vying to work with us. Bloggers were becoming Brand ambassadors and were invited to red carpet events. I, with my 1000 followers was being invited to meet with celebrities and brands to promote their products. I was asked to go to festivals and award ceremonies. Bloggers were loathed and misunderstood a lot by traditional media. I remember being called a 'leech' at one stage because we weren't 'qualified' like typical journalists.

At this stage I, and many others, started taking things like SEO, social media & promoting really seriously, knowing that the more people saw our content, the more we benefitted. We could work with all the big brands, meet the celebrities and walk the red carpet if we just kept on creating content. It sounds all so self indulgent but bear with me, I can explain!

Understandably, as more people started seeing Bloggers in the press, many others flocked in their droves to start their own Blogs and email brands asking for products. This is when brands started to become much more strict with their product placement. I do completely understand this and in my heart, whilst I always hoped that Blogging wouldn't turn into an 'industry', I always knew that it would. I can't blame people for wanting their chance at the same opportunities and seeing what we started, become something that people aspire to do is something I am proud of.

Advertisers and brands began creating strategies to work with us. At this stage, our 'readership' (follower count) was, primarily, what brands focussed on. The more followers you have = more exposure for the brand = more sales = more money. It makes sense, and in their position, I am certain that I would do the exact same, but this is where the 'industry' began to be resented and cheated.

We went from having less than a couple thousand bloggers worldwide in 2010, to now having millions in 2020. I, and so many others, started to feel like a very small fish in a very big pond but there were sharks in there and I must admit, I never saw what happened next coming.

To support each other, people began creating groups where creators could follow each other which would boost their follower number and therefore boost our profiles. I liked this idea and I'm not ashamed to admit that even to this day, I like to do this. I am all for supporting each other honestly and fairly. If a brand asks if I participate in these groups, I am very happy to admit it.

Moving forward from 'support groups' was the beginning of the dishonesty in the industry and something I will never be a part of.  Services became available to grow your platform, thus making you stand out to brands and advertisers. There is a service for everything, you can 'buy' followers, likes, comments, subscribers and even a better DA.

I get that using services like this is tempting. I have looked at growth platforms in the past and whilst I'm proud to say I didn't use them, I have paid for advertising before, where I promote myself via google adwords and other online platforms, which in my opinion increases the likelihood of growth in a genuine, relatively organic way.

It's hard to resist being able to get 10,000 'real' followers for £25, but in my opinion, if it seems too good to be true, it's because it usually is. These followers are not real and whilst you may look impressive to brands etc the bigger picture shows that these people are scamming you and YOU are scamming your readers, brands and advertisers with fake stats.

Your readers are the people who will be here in five years. I might have 4100 odd followers on Instagram, but I can guarantee they have all interacted with me since following - not on every post obviously! I wish!

Surely having 4100 followers who talk to me, like my posts, share my work, shop through my links and enjoy being a part of my life is better than having 41,000 followers who don't interact with my content at all.

This imbalance has caused so many problems. I went through a phase of being bitter and shaming everyone who I came across that was using these 'get famous fast' schemes. I felt cheated. It has taken me 10 years to get to where I am today and because of people who cheat the system, people like me are on the brink of doing something else.

I can't tell you how many times I've sat at my computer and sobbed my eyes out because another brand who I've proudly worked with for all those years adopted a new 'blogger outreach system' that meant I was surplus to their requirements. Brands who used to send me products every month and who I did a lot of work for - free of charge in the majority of cases - until 2 years ago when they decided I was no longer worthy of a Lipstick and instead had to take a back seat to those who cheat the system.

It's also worth noting that two brands pointed out that my age (33) is 'outwith the age aesthetic of their brand' but that's a whole other story. Ageism is real in every industry!

I pointed out to all of these brands that I valued our working relationship and asked for feedback on why they no longer wanted to work with me. I wasn't responded to in some cases and in others, I was told clearly that my audience doesn't compare to the whippersnappers who are 'new' to the industry. I've come to realise, sadly, that there is very little loyalty in this business. There is only 'what can you do for me?'.

I can hear a lot of you thinking I'm behaving in an entitled way. I'm not. I would go to the end of the world and back to prove myself and I know that I am owed or entitled to nothing. I'm just so sad that it's come to this.

A lot of people will be thinking that PR's an advertisers are able to determine the difference between those who are 'fakes' and the genuine ones. Believe it or not, in many cases they just choose not to. As far as some (not all) are concerned, as long as they stick to their guidelines (follower amount, age, demographic) then that's all that matters. If you're one of the ones who do care and you're reading this, there are also ways for 'influencers' to trick you - you can buy a good DA score, you can buy a good CTR, you can buy a UK demographic even if you're in Croatia, there are so many ways to cheat the system and I can't blame you if you're being fooled by it. I was too for a long time.

It might sound like I'm telling brands to only work with the OG's, I'm really not. There is room in the community for everyone, if everyone grows organically and honestly. My advice to PR's is to look for the individuals who talk about their life. You'll usually find the 'honest' ones aren't ALWAYS trying to sell or promote, and instead are trying to engage with their audience. If you want the best for your brand, ask for recommendations from others and be open to working with smaller audiences. I'd rather give my product to someone 'smaller', who engages with their audience rather than someone with a large following who posts about it and has to pay to be interacted with.

Yes, shade is 100% intended. I'm not sorry anymore. This has completely ruined everything this started out to be. I've spoken with so many others in my position, some who are suffering with depression because they created a business from their blogs, like I have, and no longer stand a chance. I've even had chats with someone who is suicidal because they have gotten into thousands of pounds worth of debt just trying to keep afloat. I've had my friends permission to mention this in this article because they, like me, think it's important to talk about it.

The saddest part of all of this is the inability to engage with new followers as easily. Gone are the days when I could ask if anyone knew how to flip an image on Twitter and could chat away to some likeminded people. Nowadays, If I ask for advice I'm sometimes given a link to purchase help which pretty much sums up todays blogging industry.

What does the future hold for me? God knows. I don't even know if the industry will survive and I really don't know what else I, or others, can do without cheating the system. I'm not willing to compromise myself or my integrity for anything, but it's tempting when you see how easy it would be.

If you're cheating the system, just stop. Please. Start doing things more organically. If everyone does the same then the work we get would be based on the work we put in and that, to me, is a fair and equal way to get ahead.

If you're a brand, a PR, an advertiser or another professional in this industry, please know I am not blaming you. I'm not shaming you. I'm desperately, DESPERATELY, trying to make a change.

I'd appreciate any comments on this matter with your own personal experiences. If you want to talk about your experiences or you have somewhat 'cheated' the system but would rather do it anonymously, please email me at hollysturgeonofficial@gmail.com - I will publish your comment anonymously (guaranteed).

If you're another blogger like me who wants to share support for one another, my links are below to follow - please leave me your links too :)

www.instagram.com/hollysturgeonofficial
www.twitter.com/hollysturgeon
www.facebook.com/hollysturgeonofficial

All My Love,

H x

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