Ok, here goes…a post I’ve been wanting to write for quite a while. I’ve chickened out of doing this post on so many occasions, but it’s finally time. Back in December, I opened up my emails one morning and saw that there was an anonymous email (I didn’t even know you could do this!?) with the title , ‘Find out which bloggers are buying followers on Instagram’. Initially, I just thought it was one of those spam emails but as I started to read through it, I realized it wasn’t. It was all very very real.
I knew straight away that it was definitely somebody here in the US who had sent it because all the bloggers that were mentioned were US-based. I will NEVER EVER name names here on Retro Flame, it’s just not my style, but basically there was a list of people who had ‘allegedly’ bought followers and a list of people who ‘allegedly’ hadn’t. There was also a link to the website which allows you to check. The website is called, ‘Social Blade’ – some of you might already know about it, but it was my first time hearing about it. I’m not going to go into the specifics about how it works, that’s what google is for, but it basically shows you how much a blogger is growing by each day. Sounds pretty tame, right? But the catch is in the fact that some bloggers are growing by quite the suspicious amount on certain days and even going DOWN followers on other days (BIG question marks here).
So for example, if a blogger is growing by a steady number of say 100/ 200/ 300 followers per day for a week but then all of a sudden on the 8th day grows by 1,300 and then on the 9th, 10th & 11th, it’s back down to 100/200/300 again…it’s pretty clear that this person decided to treat themselves to an extra 1000 followers on the 8th day of the month. Very convenient. I even saw one blogger give themselves a 10,000 follower ‘treat’ one week and literally had to laugh. I’m pretty sure the max it shows is just the past month, so it may not always come to light if the blogger has bought before this, but if they have been doing it in the last month, Social Blade will point it out pretty clearly. Finally, a pretty decent/reliable way to catch out people who haven’t been playing very fair. I totally understand that this might not be the most reliable thing in the world (I feel like it’s only the starting point for more advanced tools) but what it does do though is point out the VERY obvious cases. Of course people can fluctuate a couple of hundred from day to day ( it all depends on following), but when it starts to be a big difference, that’s when it gets suspicious. Oh and another thing to note is that of course, if a blogger runs a big competition or is tagged by a big account, this may explain the jump…but it’s when there isn’t any explanation, that’s when there’s a need for questions.
I guess all along in the bloggers head, he/she figured that no one would notice, but the industry is getting tired of it, people, and things are changing. I’ve had this exact conversation with so many of my close blogger friends and we all feel it’s just getting a little bit old now. Social blade is only one tool that does this and apparently there is a lot more new technology on the way too. It really was only a matter of time.
So why has this bothered me enough to write a post about it? Well there are two main reasons.
The first is in relation to the brands that work with the bloggers who chose to buy followers. At the end of the email, there was a line that read , “It’s not fair on the brands who are paying influence imposters – who only ‘influence’ their audience of bots. They ruin the authenticity of the industry and take advantage of brands.”
I have to say that this was the part of the email that resonated with me the most.
Obviously I’m a blogger, but I think why it struck me the most was because I used to work full-time with a brand here in the US who worked with influencers on a paid-basis. I couldn’t help but be mad that maybe some of these people we worked did not deserve the money they were being paid. So many brands out there are scraping from the bottom of their marketing budget to pay bloggers huge sums of money in accordance to their followers, and are getting absolutely nothing back in return. Surprise surprise. So many brands are totally new to influencer marketing and are genuinely been taken advantage of left, right & centre. So being someone with a huge interest in digital/influencer marketing and experience in that field, nothing annoys me more than when these ‘big’ bloggers are conning their way into deals.
This sounds crazy but my annoyance at all this genuinely all comes down to growing up playing sports. I was always taught to play fair and that the harder I worked/trained, the better I would do. I’ve carried this work ethic and ethos right through to my career and to this day, I really really really don’t like when people cheat.
Back when I started blogging, it really was all for a bit of fun. Retro Flame started as a hobby while I was bored in university. Back then, I had absolutely zero idea it would eventually turn into a business and my full-time job. I’ve been blogging for over 5 years now and it’s been very interesting (and sometimes on occasions like this, annoying) to see how the industry has changed. Quite frankly, people got greedy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s business. I understand you have to do whatever it takes to do well but personally, I genuinely believe there are smarter ways to do so then buy your way (fakely) to the top.
And then for the second reason and coming back to the title of this post – “Why I don’t compare myself to other bloggers” – another reason this fake-follower revelation has struck a chord with me is because of the ‘comparison-obsessed environment’ it has created. We live in a world where everyone compares and this recent dishonesty isn’t helping anything. I get emails from so many young followers every day asking about the tips and tricks to gaining a following fast and asking me why they aren’t growing as fast as x & y even though they are doing their best and my answer is always STOP COMPARING. This industry almost has us programmed to compare and I’m just sick of it. So why have I decided to not compare myself to other bloggers EVER? Simply because you just can’t believe everything you see – something we’ve learned from the start of this article.
I’m really lucky in that I was brought up in a way where my biggest competitor was always myself. I’ve been forever just trying to do better than I did yesterday and forever trying to improve. But even with a strong mindset like that, every now and again I would catch myself comparing my work/followers to others. Every time I would do it, absolutely not one good thing would come from it and as time has gone by and things like Social Blade have come to light, I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t waste one more minute on it. So next time you go to compare yourself to that blogger you look up to, be sure that they’re worthy of your time & praise. “Comparison is the thief of all joy” – you have absolutely no idea what’s going on behind somebody else’s doors, you have no idea how they are doing things – so please just wake up every morning instead with the aim of being better than YOU were yesterday. It may sound a little cringey, but a few years ago when I started to do this, absolutely EVERYTHING changed. Remember, slow and steady always win the race.
And the end of the day, something I’ve always believed is that ‘if you’re good and you work hard, you will eventually be great”. When I moved to the New York, I really was just a small fish in the blogging sea over here. I knew I was a tiny blogger in relation to the rest but at no point did I think, “Oh let me just go and buy an extra few followers and that will surely make me better”. NO that is not going to make you better!!! Even if you have a million followers but the content you’re putting out there is absolutely CRAP, nobody (nobody decent anyway) is going to care about you. What I’ve learned since moving over here is that no matter how ‘small’ you are, if you’re truly passionate about what you do, produce valuable content that the brand knows you put your heart and soul into and are genuinely just a nice and honest person – YOU WILL STILL DO WELL. Two recent event jobs I’ve done here in New York have been with bloggers who have about 20 times my following. So yes, I’m a tiny blogger in comparison but the brand doesn’t care about that. The brand still wants me involved because despite my smaller following, they still trust that I’m a right fit for the brand and that I will produce good content. It baffles me when other bloggers believe that it always comes down to the number of followers they have. Working full-time for a fashion brand before going full-time with my blog taught me A LOT of very valuable lessons that I’ll always be grateful for.
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the most controversial person out there, the content you see here on Retro Flame is always usually pretty tame, but when it comes to something like this, I had to speak up. I guess the whole thing got me thinking and made me feel like I really had to start talking about it. In the blogging world, we all know this is happening but so many stay quiet (I guess, we know the reason why so many of them do) but I just couldn’t stay quiet anymore. I genuinely have no idea what kind of reaction this post will get, but if it does nothing else only makes those of you who work with brands reassess the bloggers you’re working with, those of you who are start-up bloggers to stop being disheartened by those ‘bigger’ ones who may have conned their way to the top or just those of you, bloggers or not, who are victims of a little comparison every now and again, to always remember that there’s more than meets the eye. Oh and always always always be supportive of the people who are doing things the fair way. Surround yourself with those kind of people, ignore the rest and I promise you will go a long way.
And as I always say, ‘Trust no B*tch ;)”
I’d love to know your thoughts? Snap me @retroflame1 or head on over to my Instagram @retroflame and let me know.