There was a bit of excitement last night/this morning on teh interwebs regarding a blogger’s post about compensation. I'll be honest, I never heard of Mini Penny before, and I was impressed with her being willing to call out a brand that time and time again I have heard has screwed over bloggers, and I was impressed that she was willing to speak out about the business of blogging. Part of her post I agreed with, but part I feel she missed the boat and it could be sending well-intentioned bloggers in the wrong direction, making us look worse as a group.
Some big companies will partner with a couple blogs; they will give them money, free product, maybe buy ad space or sponsored posts and feature them in their campaign. That’s all fine and good. Then they contact other bloggers and instead of offering money, they ask just for those bloggers to promote their campaign or giveaway or new line. Maybe they’ll provide a free pair of glasses or a tee shirt. They sell this opportunity by saying the blogger’s participation in the campaign will provide them exposure, and that exposure is more valuable than money. Some bloggers will decline… and some bloggers will accept it. Some of the bloggers who take part do it thinking they will actually get some great exposure, and some do it because they want to be seen as equals to those who actually got paid to participate.
I have been in Refinery 29, The Washington Post, Redbook, Racked, StyleCaster and more. I have done campaigns with brands where I got maybe one free tee shirt, sometimes nothing. For that exposure I may have an extra hundred pageviews the first day, possibly 50 the next day, and then one or two pageviews every so often for the next couple of months. I haven’t seen an increase in followers to my blog or social media channels from any of these sorts of “exposure” opportunities. I have never been approached to do a partnership or campaign because I was on those sites.
The best exposure I get is from other bloggers. Recently Grace from Stripes & Sequins included me in her weekly link post, and I have received more pageviews from that than my time on Racked. I still receive hundreds of pageviews a month from when I was mentioned on Get Rich Slowly in 2009 or Lifehacker earlier this year; when Sally at Already Pretty or Angie at YouLookFab or Alyson at The Average Girl's Guide link to me I not only receive a ton of pageviews, but new followers. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but let you know that connecting with your fellow bloggers will provide more ROI than promoting a brand pro bono. Not only do you get more pageviews and possibly followers, but you create great business relationships and friendships. If you want your blog to grow, support your fellow bloggers, get to know them, promote them, and provide content great and unique enough that they will support and promote you in return.
Trying to Look Cool
A lot of new bloggers try to make it look as though they have some partnership with a brand, especially if more popular bloggers in their niche are promoting that brand. If your favorite big blogger is wearing a certain denim brand, seems to be doing sponsored Instagram posts and tweets, and mentions the brand every other blog post and then that same denim brand comes to you and asks for similar just for exposure… don’t do it thinking you will look as successful as the big blogger. Don’t think that doing this promotion for them for free now will mean they will give you money in the future. That denim brand has the money to pay bloggers, they have just chosen to not pay you. By doing the promotion for free or “exposure” you’re saying you’ll accept nothing this time, and always. And those big bloggers know that you didn’t get paid, you don’t look any cooler or bigger or more successful by pretending you got paid when you didn’t. The brands know, the bigger bloggers know, and it won’t help you get to the top.
When Free is Good:
Sometimes, you promote a brand just because you want to. Every magazine and newspaper and publication does this. You don’t get paid, you just think it’s a good fit for your blog, your audience, or maybe you think it will help SEO or you’re building a relationship with a PR person or… well it doesn’t matter why you do it, but you do. And there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s a GOOD thing because it shows you’re authentic. Readers can trust you because not every item shilled on your site is sponsored. You’re a human with a blog, not a robot with a giant pink advertisement.
Sometimes, a TV show will ask you to come on as an expert, or to represent an organization. Sometimes a website will ask you for a quote, or interview you. This is an awesome opportunity, and an opportunity that is usually done without pay. THIS is true exposure, and good exposure. This is something to add to your resume, a video clip to prove you are just as great on the spot as you are in posed outfit shots, a way to show you have a brain and ideas and are more than the pages of your blog.
Money Money Money
No one likes a person who is just about making money. Even if you are raking in the dough, showing it off or selling your blog space to the highest bidder gets really old really fast. When you care more about the almighty dollar than offering authentic and unique content you’re not going to last. Brands will see through you, and your readers will see through you.
When you start getting opportunities, it’s so tempting to take them. You can cover hosting costs, maybe buy a fab pair of shoes. And then maybe more come in and you can afford a blog redesign and a designer bag. Next thing you know, you may be able to quit your day job and blog full time. That’s exciting and liberating… but remember why you make the money. You make the money thanks to your readers. If you forget them and get too excited about fancy brands paying you and pretty photographs and a closet full of lovely clothes they will eventually forget about you too.
Be it in blogging or reality TV, success comes from being able to stay real as your bank account grows. Not being a carbon copy of another, not forgetting where you came from, and not forgetting who helped you get there. Whether or not you continue your blog in a year, your online presence will always exist. Don’t sell your soul and reputation, it’s not worth it in the long run.
I'd like to thank my dear friend Sarah of Style IT for inspiring this midnight writing frenzy (and she doesn't even know that she did). Not only does connecting with bloggers help your blog, but it also helps keep you sane, humble, and informed. Sarah, thank you for being your awesome, down to earth, educated and very stylish self!