food for thought Opinion Personal

Opinion | On The Difference Between Bloggers And Influencers

17. March 2018

 

There’s no denying there are two very visible types of people offering content through Instagram or blogs. Whether ‘celebrities’ or ‘creatives’, I’ve summarized what I consider the main difference between bloggers and influencers.

 

“Define your content in one sentence” is the question one magazine asks one of the most successful influencers in Germany with over one million followers made in record time compared to well-known and established veterans in the blogging world. Her reply “[My content] is a diary where I lead my followers through my everyday life. I also inform them about it on my Instagram Stories Live, so I can entertain them and inspire them. My content is my personality, which takes form through my environment and work. ”

I would like to point out that despite the fact this unnamed influencer also happens to run a blog, personally I wouldn’t call her a blogger.

Intro: The Rise of Influencers And The Successful ‘Grainy Picture’ Courtesy of Instagram’s Algorithm Change

Being professional to make a living out of social media is no longer required, since the algorithm has enabled just about everyone with an iphone camera to profit in the same way a blogger did in the past, the difference is that the former does not require any kind of experience, talent or skills. Grainy pictures suffice.

Since and due to the implementation of the latest Instagram algorithm, social media has seen the rise of influencers or what I like to call ‘mini celebrities’ in the past couple of years and consequently a big shift in the blogging industry has taken place. The algorithm has affected negatively people posting professional content and it has enabled a lot of amateurs to earn a big following in record time by only counting with an Iphone camera and  who are hell bent have the will to become rich, famous, and gather followers.

The reason? The algorithm evidently favours phone pictures and seems to target negatively accounts registered as ‘Businesses’ (i.e. the ones who are expected to pay Instagram for ads and promotions) and people posting professional pictures (Eva Chen herself practically advises you to post ‘grainy’ pictures). All in all, it does not seem to affect much private users. At least this is what I think and seems logical. In fact, average users seem to have been, if anything, favoured by the new algorithm. Very differently to that, for most professional bloggers who registered their accounts as ‘businesses’ the algorithm change has been devastating, since their professional content consisting mostly of DSLR or professional pictures, i.e. the same kind of pictures brands and shops use (a.k.a. the users the algorithm intends to target negatively) has seen a severe lack of engagement due to their content not appearing on a vast majority of their followers’ feeds as well as not being promoted  in the Discover Feed leading to loss of followers. On the other hand, the algorithm has evidently favored Iphone and grainy pictures aware that this is exactly the kind of picture you would expect from the average Instagram user unlike shops and brands. And this, ladies and gentlemen is not coincidentally the prevalent and preferred choice of pictures by most influencers as they are aware it will bring them more likes and consequently followers, i.e. their motivation.

In other words: Being professional to make a living out of social media is no longer required, since the algorithm has enabled just about everyone with an iphone camera to profit in the same way a blogger did in the past, the difference is that the former does not require any kind of experience, talent or skills. Grainy pictures suffice.

This is my personal opinion on the subject of what and who the algorithm favors though mostly based on observation, mainly because regardless of what Instagram officials are saying about it, a lot of it is utter and blatant bullshit. Of course, they do not want to appear as the ‘bad guys’ and piss off the general public and consequently make them flee to another social media platform.  Instead they will naturally make themselves look good. A lot of their explanations can be reduced to marketing talk in order to sell a positive image of themselves. For instance, when Instagram first announced the implementation of the algorithm, the company officially justified this change with the argument that, “On average people don’t see 70 per cent of what’s in their feed” (doublespeak, anyone?). Well, now I cannot even see 30% of what I used to see before it and I think it is like that for everyone. Instagram insiders swear by the ‘fact’ that the  algorithm was designed to promote ‘relevant’ content with users you have had previous engagement with. However, no matter how many ‘likes’ I give or how often I comment on my favorite bloggers’ content, commercial content is the one that drains my feed, not theirs, even if I never ever liked a single picture of those businesses.

Furthermore, Instagram officials are very insistent in stressing that the algorithm simply promotes what the general public prefers and according to them, the general public prefers ‘grainy, iphone pictures’ since they seem more ‘personal’ and ‘authentic’. Is it really so? Why weren’t Iphone pictures receiving the most likes before the algorithm? What really came first, the chicken or the egg? Do people really prefer Iphone pictures or is it just that phone pictures perform better because they are promoted and exposed more by the algorithm and are seen by many more people in the first place? And like mentioned before: brands and shops, the entities that are expected to pay for ads, won’t ever use grainy and amateurish iphone pictures, but instead professional, DSLR pictures. Wouldn’t it then be absolutely logical if your aim is to make money from ads to target negatively accounts that use DSLR or professional pictures?

The main problem I have with Instagram officials repeatedly equating grainy pictures taken at home in poor light to ‘authenticity’ is the fact that they are suggesting that grainy, phone pictures can’t possibly be as staged and calculated as professional, editorial pictures. This statement couldn’t possibly be more false and misleading. Grainy pictures don’t necessarily mean authenticity or reality. Additionally, it is also wrongly insinuating that people who do in fact post professional pictures are not being authentic, when there are many of us who see the creation of content solely as an authentic artistic expression. At the end of the day, we all choose what we want people to see, whether through a phone camera or a DSLR and it’s a fact that whether shown in high or low, grainy quality, all content is being calculated or edited. The difference is that bloggers post content in order to create and achieve something visually aesthetic or pleasing and many influencers are posting content solely to gain attention, likes, followers,  and ultimately — money and fame.

Lastly, besides seeing most influencers posting grainy Iphone pictures standing in basically the same exact fail-safe pose to earn likes that have already become a cliché, it is rather strange that Instagram officials advise to avoid clichés and name as examples ‘avocado toast and lattes’, when there are in fact other fairly successful clichés currently taking place (pretty blonde girl photographed with a phone camera ‘candidly’ with a latte cup/water bottle/ice cream in front of her face, anyone?).

So, what is the difference between bloggers and influencers then?

1. It’s about the type and quality of content being offered.

Many bloggers are well-versed and experienced not only in photography, fashion, and styling, but also in other fields like graphic design, art direction, journalism, interior design, and fine arts.

Even though a blogger can also be an influencer, more often than not an influencer is by no means a blogger. The word ‘blogger’ suggests a person runs a blog, which means said person invests time, effort, and money on maintaining a blog and creating content for it. This content, unlike Instagram content, is not limited to simply posting grainy pictures with captions and emojis, but it consists in creating, designing, and writing thoughtful blog posts that offer an audience more than simple entertainment.

Many bloggers are well-versed and experienced not only in photography, fashion, and styling, but also in other fields like graphic design, art direction, journalism, interior design, and fine arts. On the other hand, all that is required for influencers is to post pictures, particularly of themselves (not to be confused with beauty bloggers, whose main aim is to show how they achieve their make-up looks through artistry).

Furthermore, bloggers spend a lot of time on research, post-production, and the conception of content instead of informing ‘fans’ in real time about their every step. What you see in blogger outfits or pictures is –more often than not– not limited to the product of a whim or ‘casually strolling down the street being fabulous’ captured by an Iphone lens, but instead it is the product of a daily process of updating and informing one’s self about the latest trends, designer or high street collections, and events in the fashion and blogger industry. This ranges from reading magazines and blogs on a daily basis, looking at all the latest pieces and designer collections, fashion editorials, and much more work behind the scenes you cannot see and less use for the sole purpose of ‘entertaining fans’ in order to place it on Instagram Stories Live.

 

2. It all comes down to why and how social media is being used.

Influencers are more like reality TV stars broadcasting their show through Instagram pictures or Instagram Stories and Live videos.

Bloggers who are also influencers do not use social media as a main platform to publish their content, but as a tool to gain exposure in order to diffuse their content. Influencers, on the other hand, will use Instagram (the most common example) as their main and ultimate platform. However, there are exceptions to the latter, since there are influencers who do not have a blog who post high quality or in the very least, very inspiring, aesthetic, and creative content even done with Iphone cameras. These are nevertheless a minority.

Viceversa can also be the case. For instance, I have seen bloggers who dedicate lengthy weekly posts or (not so) humble brags boasting of enumerating all their latest sponsored trips, collaborations, gifted items, press dinners, read: achievements. These lengthy self-glorifying posts indicate that the intention behind them is far from solely posting creative content, but more about vanity and ostentation, more about ‘fans’ following their ‘fabulous’ lives through a (grainy) lens. Influencers are more like reality TV stars broadcasting their show through Instagram pictures or Instagram Stories and Live videos. This leads me to the third and final indicator of what I think is the main difference between bloggers and influencers:

 

3. Mini ‘celebrities’ vs creatives: It’s ultimately all about intention, i.e. the ‘Why’ you are posting content.

Bloggers consider their audience ‘readership’, whereas influencers will refer to them as ‘fans’.

Granted, there are many cases where influencers can also be creative and I do not intend to conceal this fact by everything stated above. However, creativity is not their end goal, but the means.

The past has seen celebrities such as Paris Hilton being famous not because of any particular talent or skill (e.g, singing, acting, painting, etc), but because of simply being a ‘socialite’ and the heiress of a multi-million company.

In a similar fashion, for influencers the main focus is the celebration of their ‘personality’ (or online persona) and their ultimate goal earning followers or ‘fans’ to follow every step of their fabulous lives, whereas bloggers’ ultimate aim is creativity and the production of high quality and unique content. Influencers will therefore commonly describe themselves as ‘public figures’ while bloggers as ‘visual artists’ or ‘creatives’.

While both count with ‘followers’ provided both run an Instagram account, bloggers consider their audience ‘readership’, whereas influencers will refer to them as ‘fans’.

The motivation behind creating content is what ultimately defines the difference between bloggers and influencers.

I will not deny that I may seem like using a negative undertone towards influencers, but to be very honest, I do find very unfair that people who are only interested in their own glorification without very often warranting in the minimum their success to raw talent and skills have gained the same access and even more opportunities to earn a living than someone who does it out of the passion to create and who have taken many years to build their brand of personal style. Furthermore, there is something terribly disturbing about seeing people who are not professional nor ethical in what they do getting the same kind of respect and acknolewdgement than someone who has worked hard and who has earned everything organically and not by being favored by any algorithm of any social media platform.

At the end of the day, you will see many doing literally anything –regardless of whether it is ethical and professional or not— to grow their follower and bank account. Some of these examples are posting only sponsored and paid content, which is already the biggest evidence that everything is motivated by money. Another example of this lack of authenticity and ethics is accepting collaborations that have absolutely nothing to do with their field or tastes, e.g. with detergent companies and you get my drift. I stress the latter to highlight the fact that the motivation behind creating content is what ultimately defines the difference between bloggers and influencers, or at least that is my opinion. Moreover, you will often see this kind of influencers making pictures together in a very particular fashion which is very intentional in order to inject each other followers. Sometimes these cliqués shooting pictures together will remind you of the ‘popular girls cliqués’ in teen highschool comedy films, some going as far as color-coordinating in pink (not a Sex-in-the-City-moment, but more like ‘Mean Girls’).

While I have nothing against communities, solidarity, and friendship amongst colleagues, as well as niches, but the opposite,  I am simply wary and suspicious of  the whole intention behind the aforementioned ‘squad goal’ pictures, particularly because the aim and ultimate goal seems solely to expand their respective followings. In a lesser degree I feel similarly  about influencers who’ve basically grown their following by paying popular inspiration fashion accounts with an enormous following to feature their posts (it’s no secret that the people who run these accounts live from the fees they charge alone for paid promotions). On the other hand, it’s a difficult topic, because the Instagram algorithm has left many without any other option to diffuse their content.

Why not celebrate and reward experience, professionalism, ethics, talent, skills, or abilities instead of ab/squad/brow ‘goals’?

Perhaps it is a thing of my generation, but I always thought that doing something solely because of narcissism and self-centredness feels just wrong and shouldn’t be celebrated, applauded, or endorsed, it should be something to be in fact ashamed of (and no, I am not referring to self-esteem and the celebration of one’s self, I am referring exclusively to egomania). However, the current Instagram culture seems to glorify this phenomenom instead of disapproving of it. Why not celebrate and reward experience, professionalism, ethics, talent, skills, or abilities instead of ab/squad/brow ‘goals’? I like to think it is due to the fact that most Instagram users are as a matter of fact extremely young, most much younger than 25, hence they might not yet know better. Nevertheless, if I were a teenager I wouldn’t have ever liked to follow the mean and superficial popular girls at school, I would have instead followed my favorite musicians, artists, writers, or actors and actresses. Then again, that might just be me, but I surely don’t hope so. Believe me.

I believe in empowering and supporting other women, but that doesn’t mean that other women are immune to wrongdoing and therefore, to criticism.

I will end this post by clearing out  that I do not intend to bash anyone or be negative, but I think we cannot turn a blind eye to many of these unacceptable and unfair things things that most bloggers seem scared to point out due to the fear of appearing  ‘jealous’ to the public eye. I believe in empowering and supporting other women, but that doesn’t mean that other women are immune to wrongdoing and therefore, to criticism. On the other hand, maybe I am not entirely criticizing other women or collegues, but society in general and what is that it puts on a pedestal.

 

Criticism has been vital to evolve and improve and I am not afraid to express my thoughts on this topic, despite the huge possibility of looking ‘bad’ or ‘negative in many people’s eyes.

Please do not hesitate in commenting your thoughts. I believe that conversation always leads to fruitful conclusions.

 

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