As many of you know I’ve received my fair share of trolling – nothing major, but stuff that would seriously hurt the feelings of someone who’s quite sensitive. Personally, I don’t really give two hoots about what people think about what I wear as many of you know (and, thankfully, you share the same sentiment about yourselves)!
I do, however, get cross about people criticising others for absolutely no reason. It’s unnecessary, hurtful and encourages others to do the same (and to do worse). And I’ll defend others to the hilt when it comes to women putting other women down – there’s no room for it in my space of the blogosphere.
On a similar-but-slightly-different note, this week I received a comment from a regular reader that really upset me. For starters, it was probably something I didn’t need to know (in the same way that I don’t ask for critiques of my outfits, I didn’t ask for this opinion). Secondly, it just didn’t make sense – the comments were somewhat contradictory.
The comment was:
“I don’t know if you want any feedback on this [I didn’t ask in this instance, this comment came out of the blue] but personally I’m not keen on the blog posts that feature collaborations with brands. I appreciate that you are trying to make a living but I don’t like the commercialism involved. I do still enjoy seeing your personal style, reading your musings and checking out your other blogger recommendations so I’ll just opt out of reading the collaborative/sponsored posts (it’s easy as you do declare them). The I Will Wear What I Like link up is still one of my favourites.”
To cut a long story short: That comment hurt. On so many levels. To me, that comment is basically saying, “I don’t like the commercialism of your sponsored posts, whether they’re well-written or not. So I’m just going to boycott them full stop.”
Her whole reasoning was contradictory because the highest proportion of my sponsored posts are also personal style posts, yet she said she would continue to read those (I’m confused). I don’t hide sponsored content – the very first thing you see on any sponsored post of mine (after the first image) is a banner that reads “SPONSORED CONTENT” (see this as an example), with full explanatory disclosure at the end of the post.
She also said the #iwillwearwhatilike posts are one of her favourites – but as those are always outfit posts then they, too, may be sponsored (as was the post from last week). Umm… so is she going to pick and choose which #iwillwearwhatilike posts to read and which ones she won’t based on whether I collaborated with a brand each time? Apart from the disclosure about the posts being sponsored, there is NO difference in the way I write/approach them. Of course I will mention about working with the brand, but it doesn’t affect the way I write or what I write about as a general rule.
To give you an example, here are three posts I wrote this year.
– One is sponsored, where the brand paid me to write whatever I wanted on a pre-agreed theme (that I suggested).
– One is written on a pre-agreed theme (that I suggested) but with gifted items only. It was not sponsored because I did not receive any extra payment.
– One was not in any way sponsored (meaning the brand had nothing to do with it whatsoever) and I bought the clothes myself.
Can you, dear reader, say one was “commercialised” had it not been for the disclosure, and what does that make the one with gifting only? Decide for yourself…
As far as I’m concerned my sponsored posts are well-written. The overall quality is no less and the content is no less interesting than any non-sponsored post. Or one with gifting only. As I explained when I first went full-time with the blog four years ago, I don’t write my posts any differently whether they are sponsored or not. I received a really positive response to that post – my readers were truly happy for me, and since writing a post explaining to distrusting readers why not all sponsored posts are bad, it seems that most of my readers really are supportive of what I do to make a living and – most importantly – how I do it.
I approach all sponsored posts in the same way as regular posts: With honest thoughts and opinions. With the same level of care, keeping both what my readers want to read in mind and what the brand has asked me to talk about.
Plus, I don’t consider them as “commercialised”.
Why my posts are sponsored, not commercials
In its truest sense, commercialised means “prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on salability, profit, or success“. My collaborative posts are written for my readers to read and enjoy (and hopefully gain some sort of insight, inspiration or usefulness), not with the sole intention to sell stuff*. If they were I wouldn’t even bother writing them, I’d simply publish pre-written content from the brand.
A commercial is an ad, and a post (whether blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) is an ad if the brand has control over what you write. Otherwise, if they commission you to write something and you are simply working to a brief (and in most instances I create the brief myself), then it is sponsored.
My posts are not ads. Therefore they are not, by definition, commercialised. They are first and foremost written to offer some sort of insight, inspiration or usefulness, not simply to sell, sell, sell. Surely the posts where I’m giving examples of AW17 pieces to buy based on past autumnal outfits of mine are more in the “hard sell” arena? Those posts aren’t sponsored or collaborations. They do, however, have affiliate links, where I may make a small commission if my readers click through and buy. Will she be boycotting those too, I wonder…?
*Usually brands collaborate with bloggers with the intention of raising awareness, increasing their visibility and the association that comes with working with a particular influencer. Any brand that thinks their sales are going to rocket as a result of collaborating once with a blogger (unless you’re Chiara Ferragni or Nicole Warne, which I am not) is sorely deluded about how marketing works.
What I do and don’t do
To make things clear: I do not publish pre-written content, ever. It’s stated in my Work With Me page that I don’t do that. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just advertising and doesn’t belong in a blog post – not mine, anyway. My blog is a personal blog and it shall stay that way.
When I do write and publish sponsored posts, what you read is 100% my own work and 100% my own opinion. To prove it, I recently took down a post that I wrote with my own point of view, but the brand wanted me to change it to something they wanted more control over content and opinion-wise. We came to the mutual decision to take it down – I don’t (and won’t) work that way.
I have a rule that I stick to with the percentage of sponsored content that I produce: I stick to no more than 25% of my total output. In other words, I do not publish more than one sponsored post a week as I usually post four times a week. Sometimes there are none in a week, but that’s my maximum (and a recommend industry guideline).
When it comes to the actual content of my sponsored posts, some may say that I’m gushing over a brand – if I choose to work with a brand I truly love and believe in and they send me products that I love, of COURSE I’m going to gush about them. There may be some bloggers who feign love for a product or a brand simply for the money, but I’m not one of them. I’ve turned down plenty of offers of (paid) work because I either didn’t have anything to say about the brand/product, or I didn’t support, love or believe in the brand/product.
When readers resent bloggers making money
The comment about “I appreciate that you are trying to make a living” is the one that grates the most.
I’m not “trying” to make a living. I AM making a living. I am making a living doing something that I love. I turned my hobby into my career, and I’m proud of myself for doing that and now running my own business.
I’m sure that most people would choose to turn their hobby into their career if they could. There are many, many professions where people get paid to do something they love, from artists to actors, from doctors to tree surgeons, from dog trainers to decorators.
I no longer consider myself “lucky” to be doing something I love as a career. I’ve been working damn hard for the past six years to make this blog into a business – despite that not being the intention at the beginning – and about 90% of what I have produced over the years has been free content for my readers. Granted, I have maybe had a little luck here and there along the way, but it came my way because of the hours I’ve put in.
I MEAN, HOW DARE BLOGGERS PRODUCE ALL THAT FREE CONTENT FOR READERS AND THEN HAVE THE CHEEK TO MAKE A FEW PENNIES OUT OF WHAT THEY CLICK THROUGH AND BUY, AT NO COST TO THEM?
For a little while now there seems to have been a bit of a backlash about bloggers who monetise their content, and there have been discussions in various online forums and social media about boycotting bloggers who monetise their platforms. I even heard that on that heinous platform Mumsnet there was a thread discussing bloggers’ affiliate links and that they were warning each other not to click on those links and buy, because Did you know bloggers make commission out of those links?!
I mean, how DARE bloggers produce all that free content for readers and then have the cheek to make a few pennies out of what they click through and buy, at no cost to them?
Whilst this is a slightly different tangent to what my reader was talking about, it’s all in the same ball park as far as I’m concerned: Women resenting other women making a success out of something.
So there you go – a reader hurt my feelings. Criticise my outfits all you like, it’s water off a duck’s back to me. But tell me that my content, the stuff that I slog over until 1am every morning 5-6 days a week is not worth reading because I’ve found a way to pay the bills with it, IS hurtful.
If I didn’t think readers would enjoy my sponsored posts or find them interesting, I’d be too ashamed to publish them, it’s as simple as that. I get that I won’t please everyone all of the time. But unjustified boycotting for a reason that has nothing to do with whether or not something is to someone’s taste or interests (or to my quality of output), now that’s a punch in the gut.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPINIONS ABOUT BLOGGERS WORKING FOR MONEY? DO YOU SEE A DIFFERENCE IN MY SPONSORED POSTS? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS OR TWEET ME @NOTLAMB!
So all that’s left to say is – I’ve shared my thoughts/stories/tuppence-worth this week, now it’s time to share yours… LET’S GET THIS [LINK UP] PARTY STARTED!
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