This isn’t going to be unique to travel bloggers at all but these are my observations from my experience over the last few months.
It’s coming up close to about two months since I started a new Twitter account (Mark’s Travels) to act as an additional driver to this website beyond that I share to friends from my personal Facebook account and that which trickles in organically from search. The original purpose of that additional social media account was simply to provide links to new and old posts for anyone using Twitter search as their source of content that might find what I post interesting but because I didn’t want it to just be a self-serving link farm I also started following a few travel and travel photography-related Twitter accounts so that I could share their good content too and also interact. I’m pleased to say that some followed back but I’ve had a website for more years than I care to remember and interaction and reciprocation together were the big things when I started producing content and things have clearly moved on in what I consider a colder direction. It will be interesting to see whether there are notable differences when I resurrect my dormant Google+ account and try the same experiment there soon.
Amongst the Twitter accounts I have followed since September it hasn’t taken long to spot some patterns in the user types:
Pretty Photo People
Sometimes I’ll take the time and really process a photo to turn something nice or okay or real into something a bit more impressive for impact. I like pretty photos. I like pretty photos that people share… if they’re by that person or they’re credited. Too many accounts are posting photos clearly by other people, probably lifted straight off a Google images search, but with no indication that’s the case. Two accounts that followed me were like that and that’s all they were; posting photos of places that are nice to look at but there was no interaction. I immediately did the old Twitter bounce block trick (block the user, then unblock them) because having them follow me does nothing except inflate numbers and I don’t care about that (more on that below).
There’s probably some overlap here with the previous one. A lot of accounts are using some kind of app or bot to automatically schedule posts. I have no problem with this in principle but the frequency when compared to the amount of content they’re sharing in rotation means you see the same post over and over and over again. I get that people are trying to promote visitors because it’s what I’ve been doing too but there’s a difference between a tool that helps you with what you love and a tool that transforms what you love into nothing more than a factory job. One account I was following, for instance, posted links to its site with a picture and description. I clicked one of the links and realised the link had an error. I found the actual content it should have been linking to on the site, read, liked it, replied to the original tweet that I liked it, and pointed out there was a link error. Nothing. Barely 36 hours later I saw the same link going through. Unfollow.
Sad to say but some things never change and the old problem of the numbers game rears its head on Twitter even in a niche section such as travel bloggers from my experience. People with higher follower numbers or with Instagram accounts or Facebook groups that they can boast about numbers seem to think they’re more important than other people, consciously or not. Not everyone, of course, but taking a look sometimes at some of the accounts with thousands or tens of thousands of followers shows very poor interaction with people outside a close circle of regulars. I’ve seen several instances where a person will post something and get a dozen replies more-or-less saying the same thing but respond to only one of them; check some other posts and see that not only do they do the same thing there but the responses are with the same person or small section of people; not exclusively, but follower numbers seem to be the key factor. Interaction outside the clique tends to favour passive or self-promotional responses, sitting back and waiting for praise to retweet it, for instance, or engaging after being engaged with but very rarely instigating it. Again, it’s not a new thing – I remember the same things happening back in the early days of the blogroll (ah, memories!) – but it’s a little disappointing to see it still so widespread. Accounts with highly unbalanced following/follower numbers or ones that simply post or retweet but don’t converse with anyone else are soon unfollowed if they’re ever followed at all, and accounts that mass-follow people (using Tweetdeck allows me to see this user activity in real time quite nicely) are treated in a similar manner.
Quantity Over Quality People
This ties in with the previous issue, of course. Quantity – how many posts can be tweeted, how many followers, how many driven interactions – over quality – how different, how useful – drives so much of what I see. There’s a website that works a bit like the old blogrolls in that bloggers can sign up to promote their sites, and it recently arranged a “blog camp on board” so the travel bloggers I follow brought it to my attention. I took a look at the site and immediately saw that there was a ranking system based on quantity again. Despite saying “measuring your enjoyment of your own blog by numbers is almost certainly not why anyone started blogging” the ranking is calculated from page impressions, unique users, inbound links, numbers of followers on Twitter and Instagram, and YouTube video views. That’s exactly the thing that will corrupt a person. I ditched quantity when it became the thing that I was starting to fixate on; popular posts with hundreds of comments (and hundreds more I could have allowed through) were deleted and I got rid of a site that at one time was attracting over 10,000 visitors a day because there was no joy in that any longer. The automation that people employ now to get around that inevitable fatigue is worrying because it indicates we may never get back to the golden age of quality. Listen to old man me reminiscing about the old days again.
I’ve already reduced the number of accounts I’m following (and following me by bounce blocking) from my travel account after viewing how they engage (or don’t) and that trend looks set to continue but I’m still looking out for new, interesting, interactive accounts related to travel and travel photography all the time too. A similar thing is happening on my main account too. As I’ve said at the start I plan to restart my Google+ account soon and see how that compares and if there’s even anyone interested in travel photography and reviews who uses the site. I used to have an awful lot of good interaction and criticism there back when I was doing mainly street photography although it does seem horribly overrun by spam accounts these days (but certainly no worse than Twitter I’d imagine). Hopefully, what I’m occasionally posting will be just what someone’s looking to view with just those words they’ve searched with at just that time I’ve posted with just that description I’ve used but the bottom line is that I’m concentrating on doing this mostly for me because trying to compete against the saturation of information that now flows is Sisyphean. It’s interesting to think that I’m still in touch with a number of other bloggers decades after we all had sites running together on a variety of subjects; I don’t see those sorts of relationships developing so much these days because of the very transient, very momentary, very impersonal nature of social media promotion and that’s a bit of a shame for everyone involved.