Interesting questions (says the person posing them on, ahem, a blog).
Obviously, we think so, but I had a meeting the other week, chatting to a brand about working with them (in my other role as a content editor/strategist), and they were almost exclusively focused on Instagram. A blog post would be a nice extra, but Instagram was king. Does anyone still read blogs, they enquired, idly.
There’s no denying that the landscape has changed since Alex and I started W&W. Then, it was so much about the blog that not having one could throw you into an existential crisis (I blog, therefore I am). And this suited us perfectly. Journalism is our background, words are quite literally our currency, and we started blogging as a way to talk about things which mattered to us. We spent our working days writing what other people wanted – this was a space for us.
This is probably the moment to give you a little bit of background (please skip if you’ve heard it all before). Alex and I met at InStyle magazine, where we were both assistants. Alex left to freelance, specialising in lifestyle and travel (cue possibly the best job ever: travel editor at Brides. Yes, she went on a lot of honeymoons). I became Senior Editor at Easy Living, overseeing the covers and celebrity content, before moving to Glamour, where I job-shared the role of deputy editor. Between us, we’ve written for pretty much all the broadsheets and glossy magazines. Now, Alex is primarily focused on producing copy for commercial clients, and I work with brands on their editorial strategy and content. (Although we occasionally dip back into journalism now and then.)
As you might have guessed, we love the written word. So much so, that we were ridiculously, hilariously naïve about Instagram. We didn’t start an account for ages, and when we did, posted on it with no discernable pattern, subject or quality – let alone a strategy. It was haphazard and we hated pictures of ourselves. Early adopters we were not. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we realised Instagram had become this behemoth and we were being left behind. That people who had been bloggers were now – more often than not – primarily Instagrammers – or rather, influencers. Some of the didn’t even blog any more. It was all about the ‘gram.
There is no denying Instagram’s appeal. It’s easy, immediate, infinitely scrollable, and a lovely place to hang out. It’s more than picture sharing, it’s an online community – friendships are born there; it’s a mine of information. And, personally, I find it a font of inspiration. It feels a little like people use as they would a magazine: doing up your bathroom and need décor inspiration? Search this hashtag. Want to update your wardrobe, but can’t be bothered to trawl the high street? No problem, just find the people whose style you love and let them do the legwork for you. Hence the shoppability function – and the messages we get as to how something fits. I still adore magazines, but you can’t ask your copy of Vogue if a dress comes up big or small.
As Instagram has grown, so too has the industry around it. There is a lot of money to be made from Instagram these days. There’s also a lot of confusion and a lot of noise about gifting, #ad, #spon and the like.
It’s worth taking time to say here’s where we stand on the Instagram content we produce:
It’s a place where we can share snippets of our content and ourselves. We take our time over our pictures (mostly – unless I have enlisted my seven-year-old photographer, who is (un)willing to take a very limited number of pictures) and our captions. We like to think you can really hear our distinctive, separate voices in the captions. They’re like mini editorials.
We are tiny – and I do mean teensy – players. I shy away from using the word ‘influencer’ to describe myself. (I’d rather be described as a ‘writer who likes to share what she loves’ but that’s an overly cumbersome moniker and I don’t think it’ll catch on.) However, we always play by the rules. We declare every ad and every sponsored post. (The different between the two? Both are paid-for content, but an #ad indicates paid-for content over which the brand has had some control; a post is sponsored when the brand has no control (or approval) over the final product. This post from One Roof Social is a useful reference point.)
On occasion, we are gifted by brands. This has to be something we truly love and would buy or use ourselves – we say no thank you far more than we say yes please. There’s an understanding with these gifts that, if we like them, if they fit with our aesthetic, we will give them coverage in exchange for the product (and say so). (Believe me, if it doesn’t work, or we don’t love it, then we won’t feature it – and we’ll send the product back.)
But sometimes we feel the pressure. To post, to get the likes, to grow our numbers; to get the right invitations to the right events; to be on Stories. We’d be lying if we didn’t admit to feeling it sometimes. Maybe we’re under siege with work/kids/life; or we’ve spent the whole day wearing a thoroughly uninspiring #ootd; or we simply do not have the time or inspiration to create content we think it’s worth posting. It can feel a bit overwhelming; a little like ‘but everyone else is doing it, we have to, too!’
That’s when I remind myself why we started W&W: to write and share what we love. (You might have noticed that we post about interiors and travel as well as fashion on our Instagram feed – that’s because it’s a reflection of our experience, our passions and our blog.) For me, this is where blogging fits into the landscape.
But if we treat Instagram captions as mini editorials, doesn’t that render blog posts redundant? No, no and no! The blog is where we can expand on the passions and themes we mention on Instagram – each feeds into the other. Here we are wearing midi dresses (yes, we’re obsessed) – and here’s a round-up of our favourite autumn dresses. Here’s a snapshot of an amazing room – now hop on over to the blog for a tour of the equally fabulous home. Here I am en route to the Chelsea Flower show – and lo, a post about how to zhuzh your tiny garden. Here’s an amazing hotel bath – now read the hotel review.
Blogging gives us the chance to ruminate, discuss, show you four key looks rather than one, to round up the best reads of the summer, to really delve into a subject (like parenting or small business secrets). The lovely* Rebecca, who blogs at Roses & Rolltops and is found on Instagram as @rvk_loves (her house is The Dream) recently wrote a blog post about being teetotal (which is v interesting indeed: you can read it here), and said on Instagram that direct messages (and, come to that, comments on Insta posts themselves) “don’t always create a whole conversation”. I love that – it sums up how I feel about blogging: it’s a chance to have a proper conversation and gives ideas the space to breathe and expand.
*In fact, I have yet to meet her, but she seems utterly lovely – and is one of those chatty, friendly people who make such an effort on Instagram – not just producing beautiful pictures, but writing thoughtful captions and replying to messages and comments.
It’s also a less pressured environment. When a blog post goes live, we’re not hovering over it (the Instagram algorithm demands that you’re active before and after the time you post – which can be tricky if you also have to do the school run/bath and bedtime…) – we can leave there to be read, contemplated, reflected and commented upon – or just enjoyed. We’re totally happy with that, too.
Yes, on occasion we collaborate with a brand to produce sponsored blog posts; and, yes, we use affiliate links (which means that if you click through and buy something we get a tiny – and I do mean tiny – percentage of that sale). We’ve read a lot of opinions on the subject of affiliates/sponsored posts, to which I would only say that, like most bloggers, we produce the majority of our content for free. And it takes a long time to research, write and – if required – shoot a blog post. This is time we squeeze into evenings, weekends and breaks from the day job. We put as much effort into blog posts as we do anything we write as journalists (i.e. when we’re paid by the word). Those sponsored posts and – to a lesser extent, affiliate links – allow us to keep producing W&W.
So, why bother then, I hear you ask (possibly rolling your eyes). If it takes that much time and you could be writing for profit, instead, and isn’titallaboutinstagramanyway? Which brings me – rather neatly – full circle to the ‘why blog?’ question.
Well, firstly, because it’s a point of difference. Our Instagram feed is primarily style-based (although we love interiors and travel and will keep on posting those, too) – and there are a lot of other voices singing the same tune. Blogging gets us back to our roots: we’re not (you noticed, right?) clothes horses, we’re writers. Who happen to love clothes (I’ve worked for fashion magazines with ultra-stylish women for 20 years – it’s hard not to be infected…), but we’re also fascinated by interiors, travel, the wisdom of other women on parenting, life and work.
But also because we love and believe in words – and the joy of communicating ideas and passions; in the connections and community it fosters; and the sharing of ideas. Also – and this is entirely selfish!- I love the sheer creative pleasure of writing. As I told my seven-year-old this weekend when she was doing her homework: the process of writing exercises your creativity and makes you a better writer. (As does reading, btw.) I hope that, in a culture of captions and bite-size content, there is still space for something a bit longer, more detailed, more thoughtful. Because life is such a rush – it’s nice to slow it down sometimes. (Although I’ll keep Instagram, too. Hey, who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?!….)