DISCLAIMER | The glasses I'm wearing in these images were gifted as part of my PAID COLLABORATION with Silhouette here. More info, if needed, can be found on my DISCLOSURE page.

Are We In The Year Of The Blog?

If you read two or more posts on the same subject, does that officially make the thing you're reading about, well... officially a thing? I recently happened across a couple of blog posts and a few Instagram conversations too about why people have been returning to blogs in 2019. It's a sentiment I heartily applaud as, no matter how much I love Instagram and the opportunities it affords, blogging is my first love. And it always has been.

Why? Because it's long form, slower and demands much more than a glance or a hasty tap to allocate a like. It requires effort both to create and to consume. Call me old fashioned if you like but quality over quantity is where it's at. I'd rather read one meaningful blog post than scroll through a hundred images with little absorption or reflection. Don't get me wrong - I think Instagram is brilliant. Over the past year or so I've had more brands than ever before ask if we can work together on an Instagram basis alone. And if the subject matter and campaign is more suited to that particular platform, there's no objection from me. But with blog content, I feel you really get the chance to tell a story... on a much more permanent and reusable basis too. Evergreen content anyone?

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The key word in Instagram is after all, instant isn't it? One scroll, a tap (and a comment if you're lucky) and then it’s gone. Forever banished into the ether with just one hasty upward swipe of a finger. Personally I'm a sucker for the long form of anything. Give me words, a series of beautiful images and a carefully thought out story that draws me unconsciously towards it and I'm hooked. Like I said... old fashioned.

I wonder if brands will come full circle and begin to choose permanent over instant once more? Maybe it depends on the blogger and where their following is strongest. I'm willing to bet a considerable sum that my blog readers are way more invested than a lot of my Instagram audience. But if a brand is working with an influencer in the twenty to thirty age bracket, it's likely that it’s their Instagram following that will be the most engaged group. Meaning that a one-size fits all influencer marketing approach isn't necessarily the way to go and I salute any brand who cottons onto this and works accordingly. And talking of things that go full-circle, my own evolution began in the world of blogging, sashayed through social media and has come right back to blogging too.

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First came the blog. A place to write as much as I like - cue  unbridled joy over here! Here's how that journey began if you've not read the story before. Then next for me came Twitter. Now I must condense myself into 140 characters. Be witty. Be sharp. Be enticing. A tall order most days! I remember being adamant with my brother in law (because he asked me if I was doing "the Twitter thing"), that No... I refuse to go on Twitter. Why try and say what I want in 140 characters when I can rattle on for 1,400 words plus on the blog?

Later on when my curiosity got the better of me, I succumbed to the lure of the little white tweety bird and loved it for the longest time. It really helped me to grow a decent blog audience. I met people IRL that I spoke to on there regularly. It even brought some much needed mainstream press coverage my way over the years. At some point (I can't pinpoint when exactly), I noticed it became a lot more shouty… more aggressive. Later on, Twitter kindly provided us with more characters to use so that we could shout at each other a bit more.

Some actively seek the "banter" on Twitter and thrive on a disagreement or exchange of heated opinion. Not me. I choose not to get involved. I choose the quiet life and the (mostly) calmer waters of the Instagram community. I've never been the type that thrives on a "healthy argument" and I feel no need to apologise for that. Just because you don't shout your opinion from the rooftops doesn't mean you don't have one. But that's the beauty of social media - you can choose your favourite place to hang out and invest your efforts where you feel happiest.

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FaceBook. If you write a blog, you must have a FaceBook page they said. "But I don't like FaceBook!" I wailed. But I did as I was told anyway and made one. To which I do little more than publish blog post links and auto hook it up to my Instagram feed. BAD FaceBook user!

"It's no wonder you haven't grown much of a loyal audience over there!" they said. "I don't really care" I retorted. Can you tell that I'm getting more  bumptious with age?

Lo and behold, a few years later, I finally got into Instagram. I fell in love. I posted with some scarily bad angles and filters. I learnt what a flat lay was, why coffee was so popular and why peonies can quickly become a cliche. I strategised. I got geeky about editing. I scratched my head. I stressed out about algorithms,numbers and growth. But I recently learnt that occasional brand work opportunities can still come along anyway because they like the content, engagement and aesthetics that I’ve worked hard to cultivate over the years and that the numbers aren’t the be all and end all.

So now I'm learning to love Instagram in different ways. But mainly for the creation and connection elements because they really are the best bits to my mind. If you ask me (when I'm 90 and still 'Gramming) what the one thing that I always loved Instagram for is, my answer will be this. It made me realise that I am creative.

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Now let’s not forget Pinterest - funny one this. And it’s worth mentioning my old mate Tumblr at this point. She (he?) was my original Pre-Pinterest before Pinterest was invented - a place to collate beautiful images. That quite frankly, turned out to serve no purpose other than to cultivate a desire to want to crawl inside said images and live out life in black and white... peppered with the occasional muted neutral.

But I digress... back to Pinterest. Virtual mood boarding? Excellent! Gimme! In the first instance, rapidly and randomly, I created boards and pinned happily for hours. Hours which, in hindsight, would have probably been better spent producing blog content. Then came a plethora of articles about the powers of having a Pinterest strategy. Hmmm... that bloody word again! I would consume stories of how a viral pin could drive traffic to blogs on a continual basis. Good old slow and steady me could do with a bit of viral action let me tell you!

Create boards that represent your brand. Fill them with ideas and inspirations that in all likelihood, you and your followers will probably never get around to because you're all too busy pinning. Use keywords - and don't even get me started on SEO - it gives me the creative heebies! Wait... now you can schedule your pins to appear at the optimum time for eyes on. You'll have to pay for this though.

There are rich pins. Pins that are the optimum shape and size to get noticed and re-pinned. Pins with graphics. Pin your Instagram images… ARGH! Now I’m pinning so much, I don't have the time to pee anymore! Honestly? It never worked for me. After dutifully carrying out my new Pinterest strategies and faithfully scheduling pins for a year, I checked in hopefully with my Google Analytics. Nada. Zilch. Nope... there was to be no viral traffic for me. Maybe I was doing it wrong but... having lost the will to live (and the time to pee), I recently stopped pinning with a plan and instead, I occasionally dip in when I feel like it and am craving an inspiration hit. I like it this way much better. Contrary to popular belief, the world didn't cave in and neither did my business.

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Here’s Why Blogging Is My First Love And Always Will Be

It came first and they say you never forget your first love. And it came along just as I was embracing turning 40 - I'm a firm believer in things coming along at important junctures for a reason. Online stylist blog was the seed that grew into a business that became enough to sustain small income and keep me motivated on a daily basis.

The blog is mine. I own it. It gave me a voice and it was created by me. No social media behemoth is able to come along and stick an algorithm on my blog. Suck it Zuckerberg!

It requires way more attention than the quick-fix scroll of Instagram. It demands the commitment of reading and absorbing posts. A blog post is the (insert plethora of slow living hashtags) read to Instagram's goldfish attention span scroll. There's no limit on what I can write or create here. Well... apart from the one imposed by my time. See point above about stopping all the pinning.

My blog isn't always judged by its number of followers or comments. It's generally judged on its content and the heart and soul that goes into creating that content. And some of that content can be continually valuable - being rediscovered by new audiences again and again. Providing I work hard enough at creating it and retain the ability to hit on a topic worthy of discussion that is.

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It can be whatever I want it to be. I can reinvent my blog any number of times and have indeed done so. With this incarnation of simply START living being my most recent and as such, the most reflective of the current life stage that I’m in.

Blogs encourage realness and vulnerability. They make us relatable and help us to relate to others... possibly a lot more than Instagram does in some cases. Also, as a business model, I'm not comfortable putting all my business eggs in Instagram's basket. I am however always willing to invest in the blog.

In the grand scheme of things, blogging is still very new. Lots of people are still starting out and still wanting to learn about the art of blogging. There is nothing quite like the feeling of sitting down to write a blog post and feeling that sudden rush of words that somehow manage to make their way out of my brain and onto the page. Fingers fly across the keyboard and important sentiments and feelings are shared with whoever wants to partake. Sometimes you start off on one path and by the time the post is finished and been edited a gazillion times, it becomes something else. Er... a bit like this one for instance.

So all of that in a (somewhat long-winded) nutshell is why I love blogging first and foremost.

It's creative freedom and it's mine. And like all good things with a serendipitous quality to them, I happened upon it quite by chance. Without a smidgen of strategy in sight…

Photography by: Charlotte Bryer-Ash