I’ve been trying to pin down this strange social media mood that’s more shape shifting than any mythical creature for such a long time. It’s hard to really say quite what it is, but I can say that many of us are feeling it. One minute I think I have it and then it slips out of reach again.. so I’m giving this a go but may not be able to reach any conclusion!
Everyone is Shouting
It terms of evolution, social media feels like it’s going at the speed of light. But, if you’re right in the middle of it, it isn’t really. It’s going very slowly for us behind the screen while everyone else front of screen is beavering away trying to find different ways of ‘engaging’ us. Blogging is my predominant social channel so I’ll use the word ‘blog’ but it’s across all channels. Media and marketing agencies, PRs, digital gurus, agents, advertising agencies – you name it, everyone is blue sky thinking, accelerating, social graphing, cross-channeling, relevance analysing, looping back and taking ideas showers. Here at base camp, we’re just doing our jobs. The outside space is very, very noisy, and nobody likes continual shouting so the temptation to stay away is alluring. Which leads to my next point.
Full Time Blogging/Vlogging Or Insert Social Media Channel Here
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Full time means different things to different people. For some, it’s posting a couple of videos a week or a few detailed posts and that’s it. My style of blogging is to offer a number of posts per day that don’t go into full detail, but are more of a beauty snack. But, no matter how you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it on your own most of the time. I’ve had any number of conversations with fellow socials about the fact that it’s quite a lonely job. Much as I never want to work in an office again, neither did I expect to be on my own as much as I am, with all motivation, decisions and ideas coming entirely from my own head. Too much time in your own head isn’t healthy, but it’s a vicious circle. The work doesn’t get done unless you sit down and just get on with it, while heading to the opening of an envelope brings you in contact with others, it’s then quite hard to catch up.
Blogging Was Easier When It Was About Reality Not Fantasy
Instagram is notorious for making life look sweet. But, perfectly curated pictures on any channels don’t really represent what’s going on in real life. I have one tidy corner of my kitchen and some white boards. The rest is real family life with towels on the bathroom floor, pans unwashed and a massive pile of ironing. The white boards represent less than 1% of my living environment and the other 99% is irrelevant to all of the above agencies washing through their ideas in that flipping shower in their creatively soapy suds. You can never be a whole person on-line.
Everybody Wants Something
Still, bloggers get well and truly caught out on this one. I still do, although I kick myself harder for it and am super-super wary. It’s like every magazine editor over the years that’s ever found themselves with all their discount cards cancelled and literally not one invitation when they leave their job. All their industry ‘friends’ literally disappear. That sounds like an entitled example, but it has happened and will continue to do so which is something of a nasty shock when you thought the world was at your fingertips. The lesson there is that you are only as good as your title, in print or in digital. What all the above mentioned agencies in Everyone Is Shouting want is access to your audience. Not actually you. So, you have to be a rather robust person to withstand the flattery, the trips, the compliments and the whole fandango without thinking it’s all about you. Everyone has that friend that only ever phones when they want something.. well, that. Only all day every single day. Which actually translates in blog world to treading carefully with every footstep. We have ALL been burned on this one. The best advice I was recently given by a very experienced blog friend is to learn to enjoy people’s company without becoming personally attached.
The Assumption There Is No Skill
There’s a huge assumption that anyone on social media is a somewhat lucky talentless person who bought an iPhone and the world just fell at their feet. With one or two very rare exceptions, this is simply not the case. I can barely learn Snapchat (and yet somehow I managed Weibo in Chinese so don’t even ask how that happened!), so how it is that everyone thinks that running any kind of channel doesn’t need some kind of skill and ability? I think younger bloggers are hit particularly hard with this stick but you rarely earn your place in this world without some very fast learning and a steel core of determination regardless of age.
The Truth and the Filter
I’ve touched on this in another post so it doesn’t all need re-saying but most bloggers are really, truly tired of just how easy it is to pretend about everything on Instagram. Never mind the filtering, how about the buying of followers and likes at such a prolific rate that in a few weeks you can leap by literally thousands of followers? And then the agencies that sign up the said Instagrammers based on followers that don’t really exist. And then the brands that immediately believe the numbers without doing the most basic checks. You will find that on the inside of social media, most people know who is real and who isn’t, and yet a brand or a PR agency cannot seem to run the most basic of checks. Or they don’t care. Either way, it’s a running agenda that loses influencers, agencies and brands credibility and respect by the day. And, yes, those of us doing it the hard way are really, really angry about it.
Competition is healthy, isn’t it?
It would be a very bold lie to say that everyone gets along just fine and dandy in social media world. It’s the same as any other only rather more super-charged because being online makes you braver than you might be in ‘real life’. Hence hate and shade – too easy to throw when there’s no real consequence but intensely damaging. One of the bigger issues is commerciality. Of course people should be paid for their work; of course if brands want access to an audience, then the person who built that should be compensated. At the same time though, the person who built the audience should take responsibility for what they’re saying and who they’re actually speaking to. Words falling out of your face doesn’t necessarily equate to relevant content – it’s just contributing to the already too loud noise. If someone has no sense of responsibility and brands collude with that, again, respect is gone. Good stuff gets harder to find. Those of us working in this sector are like early warning systems – we’re doing it ALL of the time and if we’re feeling something, chances are it’s a genuine reflection of the internet zeitgeist. There’s a huge trend for showing all your *insert bags/shoes/holidays here* which only displays that someone thinks what they have is what they are. Massive no, massive misunderstanding of responsibility. Massive misunderstanding of audience. Massive misunderstanding of life and I would refer you up to the cautionary tale of the magazine editors. Don’t mix display with products that bloggers are sent in order to do their job. Different thing.
So, I hope in some way I’ve managed to put my finger on the strange cloud that’s hanging over internets. In a nutshell, lack of clarity, no rules, little respect, always having to be on your guard, too much time alone, too judgemental, too everything. But mostly, way too much noise. Too many people trying to decide what we need to be and rapidly helping us lose any sense of who we were being in the first place. Mostly, it was just ourselves.
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