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Tap-ping Into The Competition: How Bloggers Are Changing Fashion and Lifestyle Journalism

Marah Alindogan |
November 3, 2014 | 2:16 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Kristi Elong of Currently Crushing (Kristi Elong)
Kristi Elong of Currently Crushing (Kristi Elong)
With a quick double-tap of the thumb on Instagram, another “like” (on top of the 28 thousand others) is added to Aimee Song’s picture as she jet-sets to South Africa. 

No, Song is not an actress. Nor is she a singer. She is a fashion and lifestyle blogger — its queen-bee, to be exact.

Though the fashion world is historically rooted in big-name publications such as Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, fashion and lifestyle bloggers are changing how the game is played, and magazines are taking notice. Through their “outfit of the day” posts on Instagram or highly followed websites, bloggers are making the most sought after ten-thousand-dollar Dolce and Gabbana number or 50-thousand-dollar Birkin bag relatable to the common woman. 

Julia Dudko, known as SocietyGrl to her followers, said she fell into blogging by accident. 

“I was sitting one day and I thought my life was exciting enough to have an anonymous Twitter and I just gave it a go. I instantly got five hundred followers. Four months later, I got to ten thousand,” said Dudko.

She started her website and Instagram in 2013 during the summer after her first year of college.

“In those two-and-a-half months, I got invited to New York Fashion Week and I came out as myself. It was hard working with clients as an anonymous person because I had to prevent posting my picture or name. I took a huge risk because if they didn't like my face or name I would've lost everything,” said Dudko.

The risk paid off. After announcing her true identity, Dudko’s engagement doubled. She currently has 36.4 thousand Twitter followers and 19 thousand Instagram followers. 

Likewise, Kristi Elong, the face behind the Currently Crushing website and Instagram, turned her love for vintage fashion pieces into a full-time blogging career. 

“I started out on Instagram two years ago and sharing, 'Hey, I found new shoes' or 'Hey, I'm doing this.' I had a couple of bloggers I've followed for years, Sea of Shoes and the Beckerman Sisters - I love their style of mixing vintage with current pieces. However, my blog now has transitioned into a little more current stuff, with some lifestyle and beauty mixed in, and not so much vintage,” said Elong. 

Elong’s following blew up literally overnight. She woke up one day to notifications of many new Instagram followers. 

Song was the reason why. She had liked and commented on one of Elong’s Instagram posts. Instantly, Song’s massive fan base — try 1.8 million — started following Elong as well. 

Elong features the bold and bright red lip in a recent blog post (Kristi Elong)
Elong features the bold and bright red lip in a recent blog post (Kristi Elong)

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a real thing,’” said Elong. 

However, the audience built by Dudko and Elong is not due to chance. Bloggers have specific strategies when it comes to creating a following, said Ari Lightman, professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Some of the most successful bloggers use social channels for outreach and awareness. They understand the notion between popularity and influence — who is influential versus who's popular. They will gage that accordingly,” said Lightman.

When she first started, Dudko networked with popular personalities on Twitter, such as Pretty Girl Problems. Likewise, Elong interacted and connected with well-established accounts on Instagram.  Through this networking, both started their own followings. 

However, the allure of fashion bloggers goes beyond their perfectly styled pictures. Dudko and Elong said the personal connections they make with their audience is the reason for their appeal. 

“I realized I am a 20-year-old and I have things in my life going on that everyone is going through. I reflect on what’s going on in my life to help someone else. My opinion pieces are more popular than my fashion posts. When I post these diary posts, it lets them into my human interactions and thoughts,” said Dudko.

Though Elong gets more comments on her fashion posts, she receives more page hits when she features events and parties.

“People like to see what’s happening, especially If they don't live in a major city. It’s like, 'Oh my God, she’s out in L.A. doing this and that,’” said Elong. 

Lightman said audience engagement is rooted in storytelling. 

“If you can contextualize how it impacted you, you can create greater levels of engagement with the audience. Interaction is fleeting and engagement is sustainable. We have information overload and to really create something differentiating you have to bring in your personal experience because everything has been written about over and over,” said Lightman.

Julia Dudko plays dress up in clothing by designer Diane von Furstenberg (Julia Dudko)
Julia Dudko plays dress up in clothing by designer Diane von Furstenberg (Julia Dudko)

Both bloggers agreed — the personal connections they make with their audience is something the likes of Vogue or Elle cannot replicate. Magazines are now paying attention.

During the September 2013 New York Fashion Week, magazines didn’t want bloggers in attendance, said Elong. Five months later, in February, magazines expressed the same complaints. Yet, they were still there. This past September, they were at the shows in full force. 

“Magazines are realizing we are influencers. Some of us are getting thousands of hits everyday on our website and it makes fashion more relatable to everyone. Our followers see us as regular girls mixing things with designers and thrift store jeans,” said Elong. 

Certain publications have reached out to Dudko and Elong. During New York Fashion Week this past September, magazines held lounges and special events specifically for bloggers. Elong said Lucky is especially embracing the influence and power such figures, like herself, hold. 

However, there is no denying magazines are forced to share their audience. Dudko said many fashion and lifestyle brands she works with prefer to work with bloggers rather than magazines because they have higher rates of engagement and buying.

“You are buying into a person you look up to and their dream. The model [in a magazine] has no face and you don't know who they are. If you see someone you follow and are committed to their life, of course you want the things they have,” said Dudko. 

Though bloggers are creating a niche for themselves in the lifestyle and fashion industry, it doesn’t mean there is no room for magazines to co-exist with them. For Dudko and Elong, magazines have not lost their appeal. 

“Just holding the big September issue of Vogue — we get very excited about those things. Bloggers have a special position where we take what we see in Vogue and translate it into real life,” said Elong.

Likewise, Dudko said such magazines are a woman’s guide to life. “There’s something timeless to it because it is a part of society that you can’t erase. Bloggers are just one persona and you can’t always necessarily relate, but a magazine is there for all women,” said Dudko. 

Lightman said magazines are irreplaceable because they have the power of name recognition, whereas bloggers must work hard to market their published content. However, he is now seeing more and more magazines and journals employ bloggers. 

“If you look at the content New York Times op-ed journalists create, they are what you would call blog pieces. Bloggers have the ability to create content very quickly because it doesn't go through this structured journalist process,” said Lightfoot. 

Though there has been a surge in blogging — anyone can create their own blog with just a few clicks of the mouse — there is a lot more work that goes into becoming well-established. The success both bloggers have reached is something that baffles them on a daily basis. 

“I’m surprised how many people have recognized me from Instagram. It’s really sweet and such a big deal for me,” said Elong. 

For Dudko, she is astonished as to why followers eat up little details about her life — like what her daily meals consist of. 

“Sometimes I wonder why someone cares what I’m having at Starbucks or what I’m eating for breakfast in the morning,” said Dudko. 

Reach Staff Reporter Marah Alindogan here. Follow her on Twitter here



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