Blog Trends + Exclusive Content
It's time for another Blog Tip post, this time I want to talk about the importance of sharing, linking, pinning, reblogging (no, it's not a cop out if you do it right) or whatever else you'd like to call it, the point is we have to keep the conversations going for blogs to survive and thrive! Caroline from 91 Magazine recently sent over a bunch of questions for me to answer regarding craft trends and only a tiny bit of it was published since she didn't have a lot of room and I wrote a ton about it (hey, it's a subject I'm passionate for) in their Spring/Summer issue. I thought I'd share a revised copy with you today (below) because I a lot of this will really spark ideas for bloggers but most importantly, encourage you while also helping you to see why I think certain things are important about how we blog and why we blog - I get really opinionated in this piece but I felt like some of this really needs to be said.
This is a really long post, so bear with me!
A growing concern to trend forecasters, whether they be individuals, companies, magazines, etc. is to lose their "edge" to those online, like bloggers, who can quickly spot and write about trends and feed that information to thousands of people instantly. There are people who are hired to start and to predict trends and they do so by detecting patterns in thinking, spotting the beginning stages of a movement, noticing a shift in mindset or opinion, etc. Noticing what people value both more, and less, plays into this. Those who have been trained as trend forecasters use an array of techniques to understand emerging and current trends - including psychology, scenario planning, etc. Their investigative research is highly valuable to companies who lack time and resources to watch for these things on their own. You even have companies like Pantone who dictate color trends - and their color forecasts influence entire markets, particularly fashion and interiors.
One additional point worth mentioning is that a trend isn't always a product or something tangible, like a color palette. It can be a trend in thinking, emotional trends, spiritual trends (yoga is trending in western societies), food trends (juicing and green smoothies are popular), etc. Many trends in thinking and in lifestyle ultimately dictate the products that are being sold. A trend in yoga means more companies manufacturing yoga mats and a green smoothie trend will definitely result in a higher volume of sales for juicers as well as more manufacturers stepping up with new and improved models.
Are bloggers trendspotters? Since so many bloggers are constantly on the look out for the latest thing, it's not uncommon for them to be considered early adopters of what could become a trend. Their predications are largely based on observation - bloggers see and hear it all - we are the fly on the wall. Bloggers and anyone online spotting patterns are definitely helping, in some cases to spread and develop trends and in other cases, to kick-start new ones. Blogging itself can be called a trend; but to me, it's more of a movement because it has become "the" way to connect online for thousands of people globally. Blogging ties all of us together. I've spotted many things first on blogs and a year later, every magazine was showing those things like they were brand new – but my blogger pals were showing them first. The thing is, until a magazine editor says It's A Trend, it may not become part of the mainstream.
Can one blogger alone start a trend? Few bloggers have the ability to influence mainstream trends singlehandedly – maybe a handful could, but very few and honestly, I’ve not seen this happen and I’ve been blogging for nearly 8 years. For instance, if I blog about plants being hot decorative accessories in the home, the entire world isn't going to run out and start buying plants and it won't automatically become a trend. BUT. This doesn’t mean my opinion doesn’t have weight, reach or influence. A few top editors may read my opinion, then a few large companies, and they may think that I'm onto something because they know I am very in tune with what people are thinking, doing, talking about online… Later, when they see more bloggers talking about plants because they are reblogging or pinning what I wrote or simply thinking more about plants now too, they may decide to pay more attention to plants - so perhaps in their magazine they write a piece about plants in the home. In most cases though, unless an influential magazine or trendsetter or trend show clearly states that plants are the new black, my post won’t like cause the idea to go mainstream on its own. Alone few of us have power. If no one bought Apple products, Apple would have no value, no power. We are not islands, we all need one another, we are all part of the big picture. I think we forget that there is no such thing as independence in blogging because in this arena, it's all about interdependence.
Who can quickly start a trend? In many cases, the people with the big power are those at the time, the Anna Wintour's of the world, and the celebs. The moment a “name” wears a designer bag, it's suddenly trending and everyone everywhere WANTS. THAT. BAG. Until then, bloggers may have been talking about the same bag for 10 months, but the second that celeb wore it and was photographed, that celeb singlehandedly had the power to turn it into a trend overnight. Funny thing is, she may have discovered the bag on her favorite blogs but we’ll never know… The point is, unless you are a blogger with a certain celeb status, you most likely cannot influence mainstream trends BUT together, oh together my friends, we are a mighty, mighty bunch. Ka-pow! Let me explain why.
Do bloggers have influence? YES! Those on the "outside" who recognize our influence pay attention and tap in to what we are doing continuously. I personally know magazines that pay their staff to surf Pinterest all day and read blogs to find story ideas. Big, major magazines. I know trend forecasters who comb Pinterest for ideas for upcoming collections - which, let's face it, most likely was pinned from a blog. I know craft authors who use Pinterest to find projects for their books. Blogs are influencing a lot of what we see in mainstream culture - trust me - our opinions matter because we are ultimately the consumers and so naturally companies want to tap into us because we are their customers.
Why ALL bloggers MATTER: All of this (and more) is why I feel so strongly that bloggers should really take their role seriously - so many downplay their blog posts like their opinion doesn't really matter because they're not part of the "big" blog posse out there. Not true! Just because you’re not [insert pro blogger name here], doesn’t give you a free pass to not care about your blog content or to complain that your blog content doesn’t matter because you only have 500 readers. You rock with 1,000 followers or 100,000 - trust me, there is strength in numbers when it comes to what becomes popular online (or not). While one blog may not be able to launch a trend alone, if lots of others in the blogging community re–blog that post with their own opinions, talk about it on Twitter, Facebook, etc, share it on Pinterest, then together we have influence and that can cause real change to occur – yes, even in the mainstream.
Why does sharing matter so much? I've long been a champion of sharing and not so much in support of this new idea that every blogger must only blog custom content with projects and photos produced by them. Some blogs only accept exclusive content. Other blogs won't share what another blogger posted no matter how much they loved it because they are scared to upset someone or appear like a copycat. I've been teaching blogging classes online and workshops for over 4 years and most of my students are terrified to blog about something if another blogger already covered it. This can ultimately lead to the death of blogs as influencers and early adopters. Really gang. While I'm all for columns, exclusive stuff, taking your own photos, etc. I think balance and caution is needed.
How can we influence something or adopt it if we fear writing about it because another blogger already covered it? How can we discuss trends if no one has images to share supporting those discussions unless they take these images themselves – and because they don’t have the images they clam up? While it's important to get permission from photographers and to link back, credit sources, etc. These discussions need to take place and should be taking place for the sake of our community. Many voices combined can start a wave of change; launch a new idea, etc. To be innovators, we have to share our ideas with our tribe and our tribe, in turn, must share with their tribe, and so on. This is how popular trends are kick–started.
What made us strong should be embraced still: This is why blogging became popular in the first place. We talked, we shared, we made noise. If we all become fearful or run our blogs like they are magazines where only exclusive content is featured and we refuse to share something another blogger covered, what will that mean for blogging?
We aren’t magazines. We don’t need to be. We are in our own class and that is how it should be because we can spontaneously share and create a very specific energy that can only be shared spontaneously. Planning out every post, organizing shoot days and complicated videos for every single post, and constantly stressing over “exclusive content” and “columns” can really hold lots of bloggers back. If you can do it, great - I am aiming for sharing 30-40% decor8 content and the rest from the products and people I review here. If you can blog 100% exclusive content photographed and written by only you and your contributors, great - but let's not force others into thinking that our standard should be the only way to blog because there are so many types of bloggers and levels and topics, there is no ONE way to do it. I'd say that in the end, we should strive to share in a way that is considerate and fair to others while also opening up the way for conversations can take place. Link back, credit photographers, credit the source if you know it, shoot your own photos if you can but use others with permission when you can't, talk about topics others may be talking about. SHARE! I hope bloggers really think about this more and value not only their contribution online, but also value sharing what others are blogging about too – we have a pretty responsible position when you think about it.
In fact, SHARE this post - I'm happy for you to talk about this on your blogs and leave your links below in the comments section.
You can also join the conversation here on the Patchwork Harmony blog, too. I WELCOME your thoughts and opinions below, so please leave them, okay? No one will bite ya!
So what do you guys think about all of this?
(image: 91 magazine)