I’ll be sharing some of the previous posts from Respect Bloggers here on the Debutante Media blog, starting with this amazing post from Mallory. Enjoy!
When I first started my blog, Miss Malaprop, in 2006, it was before blogging was really on the radar of most major companies. It was before the rise of the mommy bloggers, the fashion bloggers and the FTC rulings on blogs and disclosure practices. I didn’t get into blogging with the intention of free goodies, although I have certainly gotten some nice swag as thank-yous and for review over the years.
I DID start my blog with the intention of growing my business into what it is today though – I always planned to use my blog as a vehicle to build my own brand and to launch my own shop. As someone who is both an experienced blogger and a shop owner, I think I have a unique perspective on how bloggers can and should work with brands.
My blog (and shop) focuses on handmade and eco-friendly goods. I have promoted a variety of indie brands, free of charge, through my daily postings. I’ve also sold advertising to brands and sometimes accepted products for review or giveaway. Long before the FTC told me I had to, I was always mindful of taking any sort of compensation, whether money or in the form of free product. I always try to be clear about how and why I received the goods for review. I’ve also had to turn down plenty of opportunities over the years because they just weren’t a good fit for my site. A company offering me $100 for a sponsored post on my site may seem like easy money at the time, but if their product or service is totally unrelated to what I usually cover, I have to stay true to my site’s mission and say thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to risk turning off my readers and de-valuing my brand message.
On the flip side, as a shop owner, when I seek out blogs and other websites to work with, I need to make sure that their reader demographic and brand message is in line with my own. I’ve been doing a lot of work lately to figure out exactly who my ideal customer is. How old they are, how much they make a year, their level of education and what they like to do in their spare time. A website or blog that can provide me with this information about their own readers, in addition to their unique visitors and page hits is going to be much more likely to fit my needs than someone who just knows how many Google followers they have.
In the time since I started blogging, this world has really exploded. Now there are plenty of opportunistic and shady characters out there trying to cash in and get free stuff by blogging. I’m pretty sure I’ve even had some of these “review bloggers” lie to me about their stats. (I always try to run a background check on any blog I might be interested in advertising with or sending product to for review. If sites like TrafficEstimate.com or Quantcast give me wildly different numbers than what you’ve told me, I’m not going to be very likely to work with you.) That’s not to say that all review and giveaway type bloggers are bad. There are some great ones out there who really take the time to test products and write well-written reviews. These bloggers also have engaged communities of readers and they talk about things other than just product giveaways. I try to avoid sites that are nothing but product giveaways because I don’t think that these types of sites attract engaged customers who will keep coming back long-term. I think those types of sites mostly attract bargain shoppers and people just trying to win free stuff. (This is also my same basic complaint about using Groupon as a marketing tool.)
Different brands look for different things in terms of how they market their product and who they need to market to. Smaller companies will have less to spend and need to get the most bang for their buck. The more prepared you can be to show a brand exactly who your audience is and how you can help grow their brand, the better.
Mallory Whitfield is a proud resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, where she runs a blog and online shop, both called Miss Malaprop and both dedicated to the very best in handmade and eco-friendly goods. She also designs recycled clothing, accessories, and costumes, including the now infamous FEMA blue tarp dress.