Unlike the Pat Flynns’, Brian Clarks’, and Tim Ferriss’ of days gone by, very few people or brands will ever blog their way to the top again — at least in the traditional sense of the word.
Gen Y and Gen Z no longer have the stomach for long-form opinion pieces and gritty social commentaries. Instead, they want sharp visuals, snappy videos, and rapid-fire memes that fit in seamlessly with their fleeting moods and flaky lifestyles.
It’s the reason why tour companies that pay travel bloggers huge sums to promote their offerings are seeing nothing in return. Why there’s no clear relationship between a blogger’s social media follower count and their level of engagement. And why users are moving in their droves from RSS feed style content platforms to more visual and bitesize sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vero.
So instead of getting on board with old-school bloggers who’ve already been around the block and back, brands are partnering with fresh new social media personalities who are barely older than their kids. These are the so-called influencers and ambassadors that charge fortunes for taking selfies while drinking protein shakes or posting in-action photos of them ‘naturally’ using an accounting app.
What’s going on here; are we finally seeing the last days of the traditional-style blog?
A world that’s outpaced blogging
Life moves too fast to package it and put a label on it. It’s difficult enough to sit down and churn out a 5,000-word article that isn’t redundant by the time of its release, never mind strategise and build a whole blog dedicated to one particular niche.
So, like everything else, the niche interest blog was never going to stick around for long. However, that’s not to say its driving forces have gone anywhere. The medium has simply changed and the terminology evolved from blogging into posting, tweeting, snapping, and doing it for the gram.
Unlike bloggers who are known for a specific subject matter, say like Pat Flynn and making money on the side, modern-day brand ambassadors of Instagram and SnapChat are known for their personalities. Rather than letting words do the talking, they make their faces and voices the stars of the show. This instantly breaks down the barrier between what they’re selling and how they’re living, making the common claim, “I don’t promote anything I don’t use myself”, a lot more believable.
Brand ambassadors may not target one specific customer or user group, but they do reach a particular type of person. This is a blessing for brands: if they find the right ambassador to promote their product or services, then they don’t just tap into a market but deep personality traits that mean they’re much more likely to find loyal and engaging customers.
Visuals don’t lie
Why spend your spare time traipsing through Google and media sites to find an article worth reading, only to later discover — if you do find one — that none of it was even true?
Worse yet, you never find out if it was fact or fiction. This is the dilemma people are choosing to avoid altogether by abandoning the unaccountable written word and opting for unequivocal, smack-in-the-face visuals instead.
When you compare a platform like Instagram to a blog, users get infinitely more value for a fraction of the effort. For example, a typical blog post ranges from 500-3000 words. According to the old adage that a picture speaks a thousand words, that means a blog post is worth three pictures at most. As such sites are also focussed around video, a minute of which has been calculated to be worth 1.8 million words, in a few minutes of scrolling, Instagram users are getting the equivalent value of hundreds of blog posts.
To add to that, with visual and social content, users are less likely to hesitate and question its authenticity and are therefore more likely to get involved. Rather than vaguely evaluating the credibility of a stand-alone blog, the surrounding conversation acts as social proof and a welcome invitation to join the conversation — whether it’s with a clap, Like, heart, comment, share, or whatever.
All this doesn’t mean the blog is dead. Blogs are great for gathering information and supporting the rational part of the decision-making process. But as marketers have known for a long time, emotion is what drives users into action. And this is exactly what such emerging social media platforms are built to evoke.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Find him on Medium exploring remote working, technology, meditation, and everything in between.