Through the process of bringing the Sewcialists back to life, it’s been interesting to see the pros and cons of Instagram vs. blogging. I thought it would be neat to start a discussion about it here – and I’d love to know your perspectives in the comments!
Let’s go behind the veil, shall we? I think stats and data are fascinating. Sewcialists is a small-to-maybe-mid sized community, so I’m definitely not boasting or showing off about these numbers!
First, let me state the obvious: BUILDING A FOLLOWING IS NOT THE POINT OF SHARING ONLINE. Your worth is not determined by your stats! But in the case of the Sewcialists, our goal is to build a diverse and engaged community. We want a community that represents all corners of the sewing world, and that means we want more followers, more participants, and more authors!
First, how did our blog community develop?
So, at the start of June, before our relaunch, the Sewcialist blog had about 600 followers on Bloglovin’ left from two years ago when we were last active. It’s pretty amazing to be able to access those readers, even after such a long hiatus! (Although no doubt many of those people are no longer active, so the numbers are always misleading.) Two months later, at the end of our first challenge, we have 775 followers on Bloglovin’, so we gained about 175 people. I wish I’d checked the stats for our WordPress followers before the relaunch, but I didn’t think of it! Right now we’ve got 350 WordPress followers and 200 email subscribers.
In terms of content, we’ve posted 3 days a week for most of July and all of August, and generally when guest authors write a post for us, they send traffic our way by linking to their post on social media. We got about 3000 visitors per month in June and July, and 4000 in August. Tribute Month was a perfect theme for growing our community, because it’s all about celebrating and connecting with other sewists!
As far as the blog goes, I’d say we made good but moderate growth. My real measure of a successful blog community is always how many people take the time to comment – that’s when we get to know each other, and it’s not just one person shouting into an abyss! In my experience, group blogs (like the Curvy Sewing Collective, the Cali Fabric blog that I’m part of, and the Sewcialists) always receive less comments per view than individual blogs this one. I think it’s because they feel a bit less personal, and maybe more like a website/online magazine where there is plentiful content to consume without that reciprocal relationship of being friends with the author. I’m grateful to all the people who do comment on the Sewcialists because the guest authors put so much work into their posts!
So, what can you take from our experience? Growing a strong blog community takes time. Even with hundreds of followers to begin with, and lots of people linking to us elsewhere, growth was slow. For new bloggers just starting out out, I bet it’s a long climb until you start to gain momentum. It was definitely easier “back in the day” in 2011 when I started this blog, and the sewing community was much smaller!
Now, what about Instagram?
We started with a pre-existing Instagram account, that had about 100 followers and had only ever posted two pictures. “#Sewcialist” is a really common tag on Instagram, but it has grown up without @Sewcialists being an active account. For a whole bunch of new sewists, I felt like a jack-in-the-box jumping out and saying, “Surprise! That word actually came from somewhere, and we started it!” Of course, it’s totally awesome that “sewcialist” has entered the vocabulary and taken on a life of it’s own.
So, we started with a small following but a recognisable name. The beautiful thing about Instagram is that it’s so easy to tag or mention other sewists, and word travels quickly! Thanks to all the people who mentioned us in their posts, we gained followers a lot faster than on the blog. We hit 1000 in mid August, and we’re currently at 1300 followers.
In terms of content, I posted on Instagram pretty much every day, either showing what was new on the blog or sharing projects by people participating in #tributemonthsewing! We regularly got between 75 and 150 likes per pictures, but from our blog stats, I can tell that only about 15-40 people clicked through to our blog from Instagram every day. As on the blog, comments were sometimes sparse. I haven’t got the knack yet of writing an Instagram post that invites discussion! (Any ideas?)
Instagram did make it easier for me to follow people back, and comment or link their photos. Some days I’d make it a point to engage with as many IG followers as a I could, or look in the “suggestions for you” section to follow more people. Pretty often they’d follow us back, and so the community grows.
On the down side though, once an Instagram post moves further down the feed, it basically gets lost. That’s why we’ve put hours (and hours) into end-of-the-month wrap-ups on the blog, so that in years to come it’s easy for people to see all the Tribute Month projects and posts in one place!
So, what did I learn about building a community on Instagram? It’s easy to gain followers quickly, and great for engaging reciprocally. The connection sometimes felt a bit superficial though, because it’s all fast-paced and then posts disappear into the feed. If I was a new sewist starting out, I would definitely start building my community on Instagram… but I’d always be aiming to bring those readers over to my blog for deeper, more enduring conversations!
I would love to hear your experiences in blogging and social media, and which is a more natural fit for you! When you were starting out, did you begin with blogging or social media? If you started again now, what would you chose? I admit I’m biased because I love blogging so much, but I’ve also built enduring friendships on Instagram. For the purposes of the Sewcialists, the two worked together perfectly with different strengths!