Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Blogging: No such thing as a freebie

Title text of "Blogging: No such thing as a 'freebie'" over a blurred background showing a laptop on a table surrounded with various clutter of family life
From humble beginnings blogging now provides vital income to many parents. The flexible hours mean it fits well around family life, but it is hard work to make it bring in good money. In surveys people have repeatedly said they are more influenced by blog posts than many other forms of advertising so why do so many people expect bloggers to work for free?

Like many bloggers my blog is a combination of personal posts, reviews and sponsored posts. When I am writing a post in collaboration with a company it takes much longer than "opinion' pieces or the posts I write to share what is happening in my life. I have to take time to plan how I can make the post interesting and relevant, I have to work much harder to take good photographs and I have to take time to research or try out a product/ service. Once the post is live I also have to spend time promoting, not to mention all the time I spend trying to build my readership and professional contacts.

Normally for a review post a brand (or someone on their behalf) will send you a product or invite you somewhere with the expectation that you will write a post, this isn’t paid for but the blogger gets to keep the item/ experience. A sponsored post is a where someone asks you to write or publish a post and will ask you to include certain things e.g. links. Sponsored posts are paid for.

Regardless of the value of a review item or how much I am offered for a post the most important thing to me is credibility. I will not promote something I don’t believe in, I will not post false information and I won’t provide a rave review and encourage anyone to part with money if I don’t think the item is worth it. Like most bloggers I put a lot of time and energy into this and previous blogs and my reputation is extremely important to me.

Why should a company pay for a blog post?

When a company works with a blogger they get a package of the actual blog and all other mediums where bloggers can interact and influence people through the following they have built up. Having a large number of page views or followers on Twitter doesn’t on it's own mean that the blog has a high level of credibility or will persuade people to part with their money. A good blog with a small readership which only promotes the occasional product may lead to more sales than a much larger one because readers trust what is being said. For a brand to work with a blogger really depends on how good a fit the brand thinks the blog and blogger is to their product and how much they think the relationship is worth. Huge brands spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on television advertising, but have been known to ask bloggers to publish a post for “exposure”.

I will happily publicise anything which I strongly believe in, but when asked to work with a brand I am under pressure to provide a quality post which will need to be promoted so I have to consider the value of what I am being asked to do. If the package of work is going to take me hours to do I’m unlikely to do it in return for a £5 item, there will always be some bloggers who will though. Unfortunately while we (as bloggers) choose to occasionally work for below minimum wage we massively under value our influence and companies will continue to ask us to work for free or close to it. Brands need to be cautious though because the less they expect people to work for the less likely they are to get a high value post which will influence a wide audience.

It might surprise some people that bloggers get paid to publish posts and most established bloggers have received comments from people they know about how lucky they are to get all the freebies. Some have had friends request they contact brands to get an item to pass on to them. One brilliant blogger Jaime from The Oliver's Madhouse has even been impersonated so someone could get a high value item in her name. The scary thing is that this might not be a one off and how many people have had their reputation damaged without realising it?

I love blogging. I love finding out about new and interesting products before other people and when I find something I will shout about it loudly on my blog, across social media, to my friends, in baby groups, possibly even to my cat. I know lots of people who have parted with money on my recommendations and I really hope I have made people’s lives easier by introducing these products into their lives, I hope countless children have had hours of fun thanks to places or toys I have recommended. I really do get a kick out if it, but it takes a huge amount of my time and my time is worth something. If someone wants me to spend my time advertising for them I deserve to get something out of it.

I recently completed a diploma in Social Media Marketing and one of the main benefits was the realisation that I was already an expert at what I do. I have a brilliant understanding of social media and how it works and I know far more that the average small business owner. I understand tone, reach, etiquette, scheduling, how to increase traffic and readers as well as how to use a variety of analytical tools. In any other career that expertise would be rewarded financially, why not in blogging? 

Almost daily I hear about companies who expect bloggers to work for free, or for very little or companies who don’t pay bloggers invoices on time leading to stress and cashflow problems. Bloggers are sociable creatures and we have many networks where we share advice and concerns. Yes there are undoubtedly some bloggers who are cheeky and will request items or payment for far more than they will benefit the brand, but they are in the minority. I’m not going to try and get a car for instance because my promotion definitely isn’t worth £10,000s, but I am worth something. All bloggers are. Even the smallest blog has something to offer. Let’s know our worth and have pride in our work.
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