Why I Am Over Faux-Authenticity, And You Should Be Too
Wow, it sure has been a while since I’ve posted here on the blog! And even on social media I have been more absent... This break was unplanned but, honestly, probably expected. Starting last year, Maggie à la Mode slowly morphed from a fun side hobby to do in my spare time, into a regimented "job" that took up all my time and my joy. It took me a while to uncover why – I love my blog and the opportunity to share what I love with the world, but my passion had simply slipped away. At the day, I think I felt faux-authentic with what I was writing and what I was posting, and you guys (my readers) can always see right through that.
Creativity should not be forced, and I want to be able to product genuine content that would resonate with you, my readers. I shouldn't produce content just for the sake of producing content, and I shouldn't be doing something just because it's what all the others bloggers do. There is a faux-authenticity to functioning like that. What I mean by faux-authenticity is that, yes, technically everything is your own voice and your own opinion, but everything that backs it is not authentic. For example, if you are part of a "comment pod" on Instagram, that is why you comment on someone's post - not because you would have if you passed it on your feed, but because you have to. Of course there are always exceptions, but the intent is the same. I will openly tell you that I have tried doing these types of things for years, hoping and wishing it would pay off eventually. But these past few months of "blog-soul-searching" have made me re-evaluate my strategy and my integrity in the blogging world.
I have had a moral dilemma around sponsored posts for a while. On the up side, they bring some extra cash for my blog, I get to work with cool brands, and get some really awesome stuff. But for all of times I said all thoughts were my own and it was my opinion and my writing, a part of me will always fluff the piece because at the root of it all, I was paid to. I could have liked the item and meant the nice things I wrote, but the post was purchased and will never be my own. Would I have said these same exact things without that money or relationship? Would I have posted about this item at all? I can't answer that. And I guess that’s why there is always disclosure and upfront transparency, but here it all ties into being faux-authentic.
Have you heard of native advertising? It's exactly what I just described - "native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed." In other words, a sponsored post. And it's all over the media. The current state of online journalism as a whole is riddled with native ads. It spreads far further than the blogging world.
First, I want to clarify that there is a difference between hiring someone to help with your business or provide services that you don't want to do, and buying followers or engagement. False engagement is just dishonest. I understand getting around "the algorithm" and trying to get your posts seen by as many people as possible, but at the end day, would I have commented or liked or tweeted it on my own? Again, I can't answer that, but that was something that bothered me for a while. I held out in my Comment and Like pods on Instagram for a long time, mostly because I was scared of a drop in engagement if I stopped. I would compare myself to other feeds with similar follower counts but significantly more engagement, and couldn't bear that number of mine dropping even more. And that is such a toxic way to think! Engagement does not equal good content, and I should not base my worth on that. Instagram is one of my lowest referrers anyway, so why waste my time? Additionally, Facebook has become something I never liked to personally use anymore, and over time they force you to pay more and more money for any of your page posts to be seen. So the other day I deleted my personal Facebook, and in turn my blog's Facebook page. Who knows if it will be permanent, but you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter if you want to engage with my social media. For now, I am content with having one less thing to keep up with, and a lot more free time (and money) on my hands!
One thing my husband always tries to hit home with me, especially with internet content, is that if you make good content, they will come. It may take more time that I'd like, but it will happen. If my content is truly good, then it will be seeked out and shared and found. And even if it doesn't, that doesn't mean it isn't great or loved by the few that do read it. I can say that I kept my integrity on this journey, and that's worth more to me in the end.
I have met some amazing girls throughout this blogging journey - girls who will do great things whether it be through blogging or not. This is a community of creative and strong women that I am happy and proud to be a part of. Though I am part of a few Facebook groups for bloggers, and it’s definitely a different world. Calling everyone “babe” and over-using the heart emoji is much different than the male-dominated engineering world I've been in for the past few years. However, these Facebook groups have had their fair share of drama. The disconnect of being over the internet can bring out the nasty side in some people, and, more importantly, the fake side. People consistently post comments about how all bloggers should “know their worth” and how “we have to stand up as a community and be compensated for our work and time." But then someone posts in the group about their new online boutique that wants to work with bloggers but can only gift product, and it garners 150+ responses from those same people. People have had other people kicked out of groups for petty reasons, and more. It's no secret that women can be catty, but all it does it bring down other women instead of lifting everyone up. I'm sure I'm not innocent in all of this, but sometimes it's hard not to let the competitive side of us win. There is plenty of room for everyone to shine and run their blog or business the way they like.
Marketers use many little tactics and manipulation techniques to get you to engage with their content or buy their products. As an influencer, I have to market everything I do and post; I have to market myself. But I never wanted this blog to be about "me" more than good fashion, things I love, and a place to find a reliable voice that you want to hear from. I don't want to manipulate you into buying items or reading posts that aren't relevant to you. Clickbait is one of my least favorite things! So many times I will hear of people who won't tag or reveal brands for items in photos on social media so you have to go to their links to find them, or people who won't link to brands that aren't "affiliate friendly" (i.e. Zara), even if it's still in stock. Reader manipulation spans far further than just the blogging community - the entire world is like this. But as long as we understand how people are trying to manipulate us, we can then stay true to our own thoughts and intentions.
As part of this break, I sat down and analyzed the bloggers that I personally follow, and what I love about their content and voice. Why do I, as a reader, keep coming back? At the end of the day, it comes down to these bloggers producing content they can stand behind and truly, fully love. Passion is contagious! I have a tab with about 20 blogs on it that I routinely visit, and not all of them post regularly - they range from every day to only a few times a month. However, I will either check in every once in a while or even sign up for email alerts for when they do post. It's not the frequency of posts that I want, but the quality.
So after the New Year, I wanted to fully take on this mentality. Anytime I went to write or finish a post but that *spark* wasn't there, I would move on for a while. There is already so much in life that we have to do, and a hobby like this should be fun! It should be my release at the end of the day and something I look forward to. I won't be treating this like a job, because to me it's not. It's a hobby I love and get to share. I won't stress about how often I'm posting and so I won't be posting every day but just when I know I can create quality content. I want to be clear that I am not criticizing people who use these processes to help their business and blog, but for me it never felt right. I know some girls who have gotten big boosts from these techniques, and I applaud them for their hustle and success.
So, what now? Am I completely writing off sponsored posts? Not necessarily. But for the time being, you can come to Maggie à la Mode knowing that what I am posting are honest posts without extra bullshit or fluff. If you want to follow along on this new ride of mine, you can subscribe to my mailing list to get an email update for new posts and some exclusive content! Thank you for your support along this journey and I hope you continue to follow along!