First things first, buckle in because this is a long one. I’ve had so many different thoughts about Instagram over the last few years and I just felt the need to get it all out of my system. Go get yourself a nice cup of something hot or something cold (no judgement) and settle in.
I feel very much like Instagram has it’s place so let’s just start with that. But the fact is that I’ve been blogging now for 9 and a half years. That’s a long time chatting about your own life online – long before Pinterest really took off, definitely long before Instagram was a thing and during a time when blogging wasn’t seen as any kind of a career and ‘influencers’ wasn’t yet a label bourne from marketing which filled people with dread and vitriol.
In the years before Instagram was big on the scene, I used to use my blog almost like a diary. I still do in some ways because it’s always been a catalogue of the work we’ve taken on and the things I’m inspired by and an outlet for my creativity. But times change and people now use Instagram to keep up with their favourites, choosing that over blogs as the day-to-day following of their favourite creators.
And so now, instead of sharing the little day-to-day rambling thoughts or little jobs we do here on the blog, I’ve been using Instagram for that instead and maybe that’s not the best thing to do… and so, as a result, I’m a bit torn.
Why am I still blogging? Why not just do Instagram?
It can easily take me an entire day to craft a single blog post – considering how I want to approach a subject, scheduling my week around a shoot, setting up the camera, taking the pictures and editing them, crafting the writing of the post for it to flow and make sense. Ensuring I include value within it – takeaways for those reading – so that they can come away from it feeling that they’ve learned something, were inspired or simply entertained. I adore that process, it keeps me going, it’s what makes me love blogging because crafting a good blog post takes time and investment. It’s certainly more work but for me, it’s worthwhile.
I love the fact that sometimes years after I’ve written a post, I’ll get an email from someone saying how they found my post after searching something on Google and how helpful it was to them. I think about how often I have searched for an answer to something myself and found it on someone’s blog via a post they had written long ago but still proved valuable to me.
And ya know, with that comes a big realisation… the fact is, I feel like my blog actually HELPS people, it provides value because so many people over the years have graciously told me that.
I just don’t feel that way about Instagram because there are limitations to how much I can do there (both in terms of my time as well as the limitations of the platform itself), I find myself using it as simply a place to inspire with my own style but, sadly for me, it rarely goes beyond that. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t do more with it but I rarely do – and maybe that’s part of the problem.
Following someone on Instagram vs Following someone on their blog
The trigger for talking about this here is that I had a brief conversation on Instagram DM last night with a really lovely lady from the US. She used to read my blog a few years back but when we moved house and I had to temporarily slow how many posts I did every month, she fell out of the habit of checking it, then discovered that I was on Instagram and continued following me from there – and as she admitted, ‘sort of forgot about the blog’!
I know life changes over time (and I know she’s followed me for years so I’m grateful for that no matter what platform she decides is easiest for her) and while once I used to start every single morning catching up with my own favourite blogs, I am just as guilty as simply checking Instagram Stories for a daily dose of my own favourites.
In our brief chat over on DM, she was asking me questions about the house – what are our plans for the old kitchen? how does the layout work again? Is the house all on one level or on two? – and so I was catching her up on everything going on here, intermittently sharing the links of a few posts where I discussed those things.
Of course, I didn’t mind doing that. In fact, I very much enjoyed our chat as she’s lovely and was curious and so sweet. But it did get me thinking about how much things have changed in terms of blogging and the impact that Instagram has had on blogs.
Let me just say at this point, I do get it. I really do understand why it may be easier to follow me on Instagram rather than my blog. I mean, I’ve already written more than 800 words here. That’s far more than I’d ever been able to fit into a neat quick Instagram comment. It takes longer to read, there’s a bigger time commitment requested. Everyone’s pressed for time these days and endlessly distracted so sitting and reading a 2300 word blog post is a big ask.
Instagram is meant to be quick, you’re meant to take in as much as possible in whatever short amount of time you’re scrolling, taking in the lives and details of 50 different accounts in a few swipes, probably missing so much in between. The algorithm decides you don’t seem to be engaging quite as much with someone and so drops them completely from your feed.
It’s a sad circle of Instagram by the way… a self-fulfilling prophesy that the less you engage, the less of a creator’s posts you’ll see. Instagram will just continue to deprioritise someone’s posts from your feed which means there’s less to engage with and as a result, you engage less. So Instagram takes your lack of engagement as a signal and so on and so on… until you simply don’t see them at all anymore.
And when you’re following 500 different accounts (which is probably a very low number on average, I’m just using it as an example), there’s no way you’ll be able to follow the ins and outs of that many accounts, of that many lives being lived. So your memory fades, you forget to check their account, you’re more than busy keeping up with probably only a handful at best and even those you may be genuinely curious about? Those simply get forgotten.
Then they turn up on your Instagram, remind you how much you used to enjoy them and suddenly you’re asking, ‘Wait… what happened to your utility room?’ ;)
This rarely happened with blogs. You would have maybe a handful – for the hardcore readers maybe a couple dozen – which you would check periodically through the week. You could catch up with everyone’s lives, leave a comment, engage with their posts and feel a weird sense of satisfaction when you were all caught up.
I never get that sense of satisfaction anymore with Instagram. There are always people I’ve missed, there are always stories and feed posts I have never seen and so Instagram traps you into the idea that you’ll never catch up, you’ll never see it all so you might as well stay there on their platform, scrolling and scrolling endlessly through hundreds of images or dozens of Stories until you just give up or get bored.
Does Instagram Offer a Better Community than Blogs?
I’ve heard the word ‘community’ bandied about so much on Instagram over the last few years. Mostly by larger accounts who never really had a blog – who concentrated on that platform first and built up a following there. I smirk as they talk about the fact no other platform has ever done that before, has connected them with so many other people. How Instagram has given them a sense of community and they’ve discovered people to follow, created friendships, met up in real life and isn’t it just magic?
But the truth is that community always existed in blogging. I have had that sense of community for so long and ya know, it was so much more personal then. You really felt like you got to know other bloggers in your niche because you’d spend time reading their blogs just as they were reading yours. I don’t get that sense with Instagram personally – and that’s likely because I simply don’t have enough time to spend on there. So perhaps that’s my own fault.
Ironically, I was reading the blog of someone who’s made it quite ‘big’ on Instagram (with a following in 6 figures) who was saying she currently spends on average around 4 1/2 hours every single day on the platform. That’s before she takes pictures, answers emails, attends events, plans content, works a part-time job, takes care of her family. I respect her commitment and she’s a lovely person so it’s clear how she’s managed to do so well on the platform.
But I don’t want to spend 31 hours a week looking at my phone on a single platform. And if that’s the only way you can ‘make it’ on Instagram, it means me sacrificing so much to do that. It’s probably why I only really post sporadically there rather than every single day or multiple times a day as they recommend. I just don’t have it in me.
Is the low barrier to entry good or bad?
In the past, I’ve likened blogs to a good meal, Instagram as a quick snack. But are we forgetting how much nicer a good meal is? Have we filled up on the snacks so much we’ve forgotten what it’s like to really enjoy something that someone has poured their heart and soul into?
This is not an ‘I hate Instagram’ post so please don’t mistake it for that. There is a part of me that really enjoys it. The quick hit of inspiration you can get, the joy of discovering someone really inspiring to follow, the ease with which to respond to comments and DMs.
Starting a new blog is seriously hard work, especially these days. You need to know so many different things about the background stuff (HTML, design, SEO, UX, WordPress etc and let’s not forget the costs of hosting and maintaining a website) but in comparison, it’s so easy to just start an Instagram account. It’s levelled the playing field in a lot of ways, it’s easier than ever to find people who share your own values or your tastes because so many people can just pick it up and run with it. The ‘barrier to entry’ is incredibly low in comparison to starting a blog.
The problem of course with that is that everyone has an Instagram page these days. Whereas in years’ past, I pretty much knew everyone in the UK home interiors niche of blogging, there are literally thousands now on Instagram – there’s no way I would have met so many people I know now and developed friendships with, especially those who’s styles are so different from my own if that hadn’t been the case. The sheer numbers on Instagram make that impossible.
Are we ignoring the benefits of long-form content?
And then of course, because Instagram is the shiny new toy on the scene, many marketers have seemed to forget entirely about blogs. They don’t care that it’s taken me years to build up an audience of around 90k visits a month and a Domain Authority of 52 here on Swoon Worthy. That a post I do on a brand can generate hundreds of thousands of views over the course of a year or over a few years.
That long-form content, well-placed SEO and a Google or Pinterest search can bring many more eyes to their brand then an Instagram post which will only get eyeballs on it for a day or two until people have forgotten about it. They only care how many followers I have. It just all feels so short-sighted.
The Rise of the “Influencer”
Add to that the rise of the ‘Influencer’ (hang on, just got a little sick in my throat typing that) where everyone just gets lumped together… I mean, what on earth do I have in common with someone who was on the first season of Love Island or the Kardashians? And of course, there are so many people on there who are cheating the system buying followers, likes and engagement or misleading their followers by not disclosing ads or accepting money to shill products they neither use nor love. They give the entire industry a bad name. This post is not about that (I actually talked about why I hate the phrase here) but yeah, that makes the entire platform just feel a bit… icky.
So what’s the answer? Do I spend more time on Instagram as that’s where the audience is? Do I continue blogging because that’s where my heart really is? Do I just do what I do now which is spend nominal amounts, splitting my time between each platform? I’m not sure.
I do know I don’t want to give up my blog. With the changes in the algorithm on Instagram hitting everyone hard, it seems foolish to put all my eggs in what amounts to someone else’s basket. I’m seeing more and more Instagrammers starting their own blogs, a sort of insurance for any possible impending fallout.
Maybe in a few years’ time, things will change again because it’s inevitable. I’ve been around long enough to know that it always does. People have been saying ‘blogging is dead’ every single year I’ve been blogging and that’s not happened yet (clearly not if you are reading this, right?) so I am not ready to give it up.
I’m just debating at this point where to go from here and I’d love to know how you feel about Instagram or if you prefer it to blogs. If you feel happy to keep up with both, do you have a preference and why? If you are a creator, what’s your personal preference? Let me know in the comments what you think (so old school, right?)!