Blogging Behind the Scenes: How do Sponsored Posts Work?

Blogging Behind the Scenes: All About Sponsored Posts by Wardrobe Oxygen

Hi Allie, I appreciate your transparency with blogging. I have a question about this [blog post]. You say it’s sponsored. What does that mean? Does it mean you got the dress for free or does it mean that you got paid to write it. Did they tell you what to write and did you get to pick what you wore. I like the dress I want to know if you do too or are just being paid to say you do.

All of your questions are valid, and ones that should be asked by blog readers. The FTC asks bloggers be transparent with sponsored posts, but what exactly is transparency, and what exactly is a sponsored post?

For me, a sponsored post is when I am paid money to write a specific post. A brand, PR company, or organization that is the middleman between influencers and brands usually has stipulations that go with that money. So many dollars for so many words, a link to this specific URL, X number of photos, Y number of mentions on social media with Z hashtags. Sometimes I am asked to include specific wording. I am often asked to not mention competitors and asked to link to specific sites where the product is sold (often provided with those links). If a giveaway is part of the post, I almost always receive specific wording to host it. As you’ve seen over the years, some companies even provide comment fields, videos, and widgets to be placed in sponsored posts.

illusions-of-georgetown-dani-blonde-in-the-district-bubbles-and-bloggers-2016For the post you are referring to, I received the offer from a company that works with this department store. I was provided instruction to feature the store’s plus size collection and to make it an outfit post. I had specific requirements for social media shares and how to feature the links to the collection. Other than that, it was all my doing. I paid for the jumper from my own money; I liked it and knew I could wear it multiple ways.  But I also saw it as an investment as I was paid for the post more than the price of the jumper. Do expect to see it on the blog again in the future, it’s super cute, it’s stretchy but doesn’t stretch out, and I’m obsessed with the pockets! Here’s a picture of me wearing it to a blogger event in DC a few weeks ago.

When a brand provides me with free merchandise, whether they send me the item or I buy it with store credit or a gift card, I will always note it with c/o, which stands for courtesy of. If they sent it to me last week or a decade ago, I will still write c/o next to it. If I don’t link to that exact item, it’s because it’s sold out; I will then provide a link to a similar item.

Some sponsored posts, like the one you mentioned, use affiliate links. I use a variety of affiliate programs and they work in two different ways. For some, I am paid a small sum (less than a quarter) for every time the link is clicked. For others, I receive a commission on what you purchased after clicking that link. For most of these commission-based links I don’t make money just off you buying exactly what I linked to, but anything you bought from that retailer. Affiliate links usually place a cookie on your computer so if you clicked and didn’t buy immediately but do within 30 days, I will still receive that commission. However, if you click on the affiliate link from another site or blog to that same retailer, that site’s link will cancel mine out and that site will receive the commission.

Payment is received by check, PayPal, or direct deposit. I receive a 1099 at the end of the year from these companies and brands and pay taxes on the income. Gifted merchandise is also considered income as it is received in trade for providing a service (social media shares, feature on the blog, etc.).

Each blogger will approach sponsored posts in a different manner. Some will note that it is sponsored in the title, some have it italicized before the content of the post, some thank the brand at the end of the post, some mention it in the body of the post. Some of these methods are more in line with FTC rules than others. I’ve made the choice to mention it at least in the title and somewhere in the body/text of the post. Some companies I work with require me to mention it in other ways, I just add those to my standard mentions.

Let me know if there’s any other questions you have regarding sponsored posts or the business of blogging. I am happy to answer them for you!

17 Comments

  1. Emily
    October 8, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    I love that you are so transparent!! There is a UK blogger that I now refuse to read (as much as I sometimes enjoy the content) because it’s just not clear at all what is sponsored content (or c/o outfits) and what isn’t, and I end up massively questioning the impartiality of the whole piece. I’m more relaxed about affiliate links (because I feel like every blogger has them) but I do resent when you have to click on the link just to find out the brand (eg. the hyperlink says “blue jumper” rather than “J.Crew jumper” etc). Overall, I really appreciate that you take the time to partner with brands that make sense for you and to clearly disclose where posts/outfits/items are as a result of those partnerships – it’s much appreciated!

    • October 10, 2016 / 12:23 pm

      Thanks so much Emily! There isn’t as much regulation in the UK for blogging so I think some bloggers are more lax. We get raked over the coals by many readers for accepting free items and money for writing content. Many bloggers like to hide the fact so they don’t look like “sell outs.” It’s unfortunate. I think it’s weird to be angry at bloggers for accepting money and gifted merchandise. if they’re not doing it well, don’t read them! The blog readers ultimately have the power!

  2. Bron123
    October 4, 2016 / 10:06 pm

    I think your level of transparency is ideal Allie. My personal preference is to see the sponsor mentioned up front. If the only mention is at the bottom I sometimes feel like I’ve been tricked into reading the blog post under false pretenses. I also think there’s a real skill in writing a sponsored post so that it retains the bloggers voice and and fits within their brand, and you do it well. I really appreciate your openness and honesty about it.

  3. 05girl
    October 4, 2016 / 12:57 pm

    Off and on long time reader.

    Very interesting stuff. I notice many of the fashion bloggers post links to Nordstrom. It’s like Nordstrom is the only one in the influencer game! I always wonder is it Nordstrom paying for the post or the clothing brand.

    By far, Allie you are the best in your transparency and your ability to relate to those of us who come in different shapes and can’t afford $500 outfits. Your sponsored posts feel more authentic than most.

    Thank you for all that you do!

    • October 4, 2016 / 1:06 pm

      We link to Nordstrom for a lot of reasons. They have a good commission rate, they like bloggers and even sell blogger brands (Sincerely Jules, Cupcakes and Cashmere, etc.), and they play nice with popular affiliate programs. I like them because I can shop there and find items my size and my budget. They have reasonably priced clothes that aren’t junk, carry plus sizes, and have free shipping and returns. So I don’t feel bad linking to them because I was a fan and customer before I was a blogger and have only come to like them more since dealing with them on a business side!

      Sometimes I do share more expensive items, but when I get items gifted I try to think about how the items could be translated at lower pricepoints. If I have a pricey bag, I choose a popular silhouette like bucket or feed bag so it can be replicated by a different retailer. Also I want to feature things I’ll wear in real life and can feature more than once on the blog. When a brand is willing to pay to have me write about them, I want it to make sense with the blog and not have me be a complete sellout. Sometimes I miss the mark, but I’m improving with experience!

  4. crtfly
    October 4, 2016 / 10:23 am

    So you must receive multiple 1099s. That sounds like complex tax reporting. Do you do your own taxes?

    Chris

    • October 4, 2016 / 11:06 am

      Day job, the blog stuff, and Karl’s yoga teaching and occasional paid photography gigs… we’ve had an accountant for several years. The gentleman we work with is a saint, I come with a folder over an inch thick with 1099s and paperwork and all my reports for expenses and he makes sense of it all!

      • crtfly
        October 4, 2016 / 2:46 pm

        I thought you probably had an accountant. If you ever decide that you would like a permanent migraine, one that is with you 24/7, go ahead and do you taxes yourself. 🙂

        Chris

        • October 4, 2016 / 11:50 pm

          LOL my dad and mom both worked for the IRS; I know better than to try this on my own. Worth it to pay a professional to do it correctly! 🙂

  5. Patricia
    October 4, 2016 / 9:07 am

    I’m very comfortable with your transparency. I do feel you provide us with an interesting product as well as good advice for free (to us) and I’m glad you’re compensated.

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