Blogging, whether we like it or not, is now an industry. It is a marketplace. If you aren’t making money from blogging, chances are, you’re making it for someone else. And I’m not even talking about the all-too-real, nasty, totally illegal ways that bloggers are being ripped off – photos being stolen, content being plagiarised, website designs being copied; I’m talking about the bloggers who are selling themselves short with0ut even realising. Learning how to navigate the Wild West internet, and be a competitor in it rather than a consumer, is a huge challenge. It should be noted that I am most definitely NOT saying the situations below are by nature exploitative or one-sided. Far from it. But I think they need to be examined on a case by case basis. Whether you do blogging as a hobby or career, nobody wants to get used. We should all value our time more than that.
Events: On the service, being invited to a blogger’s event at a store for a product launch or a sneak preview of their latest collection can seem like a great opportunity, and it is – if you love the brand. If you love the brand and would normally buy from them anyway, blogger’s events can be a fun way of staying up to date with their latest releases, as well as meeting other bloggers who share the same taste. That being said, I’m going to give you an example of what can happen at a blogger event, based on my own experiences. Let’s say you get an email from a make-up brand you like, inviting you to the launch of their new mascara. You feel really chuffed that they singled you out, and you’ve been hearing loads of hype about this product on Twitter, so you pack up your camera and a buddy or two and head down there. You take loads of pictures of the event, showing off on Instagram, @ing the brand in every one. You’ll test the new mascara and most probably buy one, to have something to review on your blog. You might get some free testers, or, if you’re lucky, a goodie bag with some travel-size products in it. You then go home and blog all about the event, and then later on, blog a review of their new mascara as well.
Now, I don’t think I really have to explain what’s happened here. Not only have you spent much, much more than a few testers or a goodie bag was worth, but you’ve also supplied the brand with a ton of free publicity all over your social network and blog channels. The way they make it happen is by making you feel like press; like the experience you are getting is exclusive. But it’s not, at all. Beware of brands that try to make money out of boosting your ego as a blogger. They are inviting you because they want you to shop.
How to get the most out of it: Only accept invites from brands that you really, really want to be linked with. Ones that match your aesthetic and blog ethos. Use them as opportunities to network with other bloggers, and don’t just stick with the buddy you dragged along out of shyness. Hand out your card. Take people’s Twitter handles and tweet them, rather than the brand. Remember that you are not obligated to post about the event or their product, and only do it if you genuinely enjoyed yourself and think they earned it.
Sponsored Posts/Gifted Items: A lot of bloggers want to work with brands, in some capacity. Most of us are flattered when brands get in touch and want us to feature something of theirs on our blog. But you have to think in terms of hours of work. Ask yourself how long it is going to take to write up a review, take pictures, edit, put together a post, and publicise it. You then compare that to the price of whatever you are getting in return. For example, if you take only 5 hours to do all that, and they are offering you a £10 lipstick in return, you are then working for a wage of £2 an hour. Would you work for that wage in any other job? Or would you consider it slave labour? Sometimes you will get pitches offering a “competition entry” in return for a blog post. I haven’t even got the words for how exploitative that is, really. Try not to trip over their bullshit as you run a mile.
How to get the most out of it: If you want to work with brands, instead of passively waiting for them to approach you, reach out to ones that you like and already buy from. Your knowledge of their products and genuine enthusiasm will stand you in good stead. The best way to do this is via email, either direct to the brand or to the PR that handles their press/blogger collaborations. You can find an excellent post for learning how to do this here.
Twitter Mentions/Shoutouts: A tweet can seem like a small thing, and it is. But there is a good reason some people sell mentions, or ‘shoutouts’. If you have a large following, your endorsement in a tweet is worth something. Tweeting about a brand you love might seem like a good way of getting that brand’s attention, and on occasion, it can be. But more often than not your tweet will get lost among the plethora of other bloggers doing exactly the same thing, and will just be another free advertisement for them.
How to get the most out of it: If you have worn a dress you adore in a post (and it’s not a freebie that you agreed to promote on social media) and you want to show the brand some love, then by all means mention them. Include a picture in your tweet so that you’re more likely to get a response or a retweet. This tends to work best with young or smaller brands who are still engaging with their customers personally. Use Twitter as a good way of maintaining working relationships, rather than name-dropping a huge brand in the hope they will spot your blog and give you free things. There’s a handy post about how to use Twitter more effectively here.
I know loads of people will probably disagree with what I’ve said here, this is just my opinion. Let me know your experiences in the comments below.