Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Blogging versus Blagging: The Social Influencer Debate

Part of a keyboard and plant pot on a pink desk. title overlaid. Sometimes it's a struggle to explain your job, when you make money from writing a blog. I started blogging in 2012 and my blog was, and still is, something I wanted to be proud of and hoped might bring value to others. The fact that people pay for ads and some of the content is a happy bonus, particularly as my health has worsened, I am grateful to be able to earn money doing something I love. The beauty of blogging, Instagramming, YouTubing, etc, is that you can make money out of something you enjoy. There are no barriers, there is an audience out there for everyone and that's a wonderful thing, so why are some people so negative about it?

The rise of social media, and its influence is still very new and a lot of people aren't really aware of it, but it is very much turning into the way forward for advertising. The world constantly evolves and our lifestyles are no exception. The internet has changed everything, from the way we shop, to the way we entertain ourselves. Today, everything has to be fast-paced, to keep up with a fast-moving society. People are spending more time on the daily commute, or at work with just short breaks, than they are at home. Short clips on YouTube are more accessible than a television show, a blog post popping up on Twitter is easier to click on than buying a magazine or book to read on the bus. This shift in entertainment trends has meant that advertisers have had to change the way they do things too. They want to be seen, so they are willing to pay for advertising where people will see it and, if they have a great product, often they are prepared to send it out to bloggers, to see if they like it and want to share it with their followers. It's an occasional misconception that people will say something is great, just because it was free. In my experience, this doesn't happen, mainly because promoters don't want bad reviews, so they only usually offer out products they are supremely confident about! If there are negative points, in most cases, there are positives and negatives, which is fine, you can write a balanced review, or, in the worst case scenario, a blogger can send it back and opt not to review it at all. 

All of the above makes this quietly burgeoning profession particularly popular with young people, and I think it's great that they can find an audience that shares their interests. Perhaps they've become more confident through it, and hopefully they have found a way to make some money. Getting a job in today's market is hard. Really hard. Especially for youngsters just leaving school. There are few jobs out there and if you are not academically inclined, it's even more of a challenge. It's easy to feel unsupported, demotivated, and bored, which can lead to drug use and criminal activity, we've all seen the headlines and read the figures. So, when young people, such as Zoella, Elle Darby, Stampy, AshDubh, iBallisticSquid, the very charming DanTDM (who we met on the DanTDM Live Tour), and many others, have found something they are good at, something they have worked at and marketed, then made enough money from it to support themselves, buy their own homes in some cases, and contribute to society, how can anyone not be proud of them? I am exceptionally proud of all these entrepreneurs, not least because they (unlike a lot of 'celebrities') have achieved this position without resorting to sensationalism, vile comments, or even swearing. They are great role models for our children, which, in itself, is a valuable contribution to society.

My son meeting Dan TDM on the live tour.


Sometimes, though, it can go wrong, when not everyone is on the same page. There have been a few cases of businesses 'shaming' bloggers for 'pitching', which is where you approach a business with a collaboration idea, such as a meal in a restaurant, in return for a blog review, or a free item of clothing to feature in a YouTube fashion round up, for example. Some people call this 'blagging', getting something for nothing, so, with the help of Lyndsey, from Me, Him, The Dog and a Baby, I thought I would take a moment to explain exactly what goes into a review. I am not saying it isn't a lovely treat to go to a restaurant, but it is still work, and here's why: 

  1. In order to write a review, you have to take constant notes during your meal. This means you are not relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere, you are taking notice of the staff, the cleanliness, the speed of service, etc. 
  2. You also have to spend a long time reading the menu, to take into account how diverse it is and how well it caters for different dietary requirements. 
  3. You may even find yourself eating something that you wouldn't necessarily have picked, if the restaurant wants you to showcase a speciality or new menu option. 
  4. Restaurants are generally dimly-lit, but they will want high quality, beautiful photography, which may mean bringing equipment, such as a big, heavy camera and possibly lighting. You will probably look really silly to other diners, but that's the job. 
  5. After your meal, the real work starts. Which begins sorting through the photos to decide which ones to use. 
  6. Then you will have to edit them, to ensure they are the right size for your blog layout, as well as optimised for colour and clarity. 
  7. Next is the writing, which will involve researching the company, so that you can write a bit of a biography about the history of the restaurant, if there is more than one, where they are, etc, etc. 
  8. You then have to write at least 300 words about your visit, and arrange it so it reads well. What you liked, any negatives, remembering to try to keep it balanced and to mention anything specific the restaurant wants. 
  9. After you've finished writing it, you'll need to edit it, add in any links and make sure you have the right key words, etc, to make sure people can find it when they search for the restaurant online. 
  10. Once it's ready to go, you can hit 'publish', but you are not done yet. Social media promotion is a corner stone of working with brands, so the next task is to schedule the post, so that it goes out on social media, to make sure people see it. 
  11. This may lead to interaction and comments, perhaps questions, which you will probably want to reply to, if possible. Which is actually fun, but can take a while. 
The last restaurant review I did was for The Mason's Arms, for a meal which was worth £50. We had a lovely time and I really enjoyed writing it, but just because I enjoy my job, doesn't stop it being work. From a brand's perspective, when they ask a blogger to review, they are asking a real person, which gives the review credibility. In the evolving consumer marketplace, people are increasingly relying on online reviews before deciding where to go, so there is so much value in having thorough, considered reviews, with good photography, as opposed to a couple of lines on a third party website when people are more likely to leave a review if they had a bad experience. Additionally, a magazine or television advert would cost considerably more and only be seen for a set period of time, a blog review is there forever, people can search for that review as often as they want and it will still be there. That's actually great value for money. 

There can be any number of reasons why a social influencer might approach a brand to collaborate. Sometimes a review can be mutually beneficial, if it's a brand that is searched a lot, it can bring a lot of traffic to the influencer's site, or perhaps they just really love the brand and want to shout about it. Whatever the reason, I hope the small minority of business owners and social media users who feel it necessary to shame, embarrass, or laugh at social influencers, who are often very young, for taking the initiative with their collaborations, can begin to see that these are just individuals trying to run a business. You wouldn't laugh at someone trying for a promotion, or asking for a pay rise in an office job, and this isn't a lot different. When you work for yourself, if you don't take the initiative, who will? I hope this trend for shaming bloggers ends, I really do, but in the meantime, I think Elle Dalby put it best in her video, so I will leave the last word to her. I have deliberately not mentioned the business who caused her so much distress, because it was very clearly a publicity stunt at her expense and nobody gets publicity for being spiteful on my blog. For more on this topic, Naomi, from Tattooed Mummy's Randoms explains it brilliantly in So What is Exposure and How are Social Influencers Selling It? and Harriet, from Toby and Roo rants her usual ranty best in Bloggers/Vloggers... Get a Real Job! 




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15 comments

  1. It's so sad that this debate is even happening, especially in relation to the brands that have 'outed' bloggers/influencers. If working with a blogger isn't for them they should be polite and professional, after all a lot of brands rely heavily on collaborating with bloggers. A lot of work goes into writing blog posts, so nothing is 'free' in my eyes :)

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  2. There is zero effort in blogging and 100 per cent effort in blogging so that right there is the difference! Well done for spelling it out for those who don't seem to understand x

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  3. I'm just writing a post about blogging, exposure and 'free' stuff - I will try and remember to link back to this because you've covered a lot more than I'm planning to!! Great post. I really don't understand why people think things are 'free' just because no actual money changes hands...it's work in exchange for a product!

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  4. This is so sad that we have to really explain ourselves. We all work hard and some of us don't even make any money on it!! But it still takes a lot of work and time

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  5. YES loved this. There is no such things as free when it comes to Blogging, so much hard work goes into promoting anything we receive. My Dad often calls in Blagging, not knowing how much that offends me.

    Ami xxx

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  6. I'm so pleased you wrote this to highlight we don't just take and item for little in response. I review quite a few restaurants and a lot of effort goes into these reviews. It would be far easier for me to go for a meal with a friend then to review but it's something I love to do.

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  7. It's really sad that people don't see the work that we have to put in. Great post!

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  8. When I started writing my blog - it's only three months old - I decided that it would be highly unlikely I would monetize it, as I could see how much hard work it is. I simply don't have the time. I think often that people don't truly understand how much work goes into 300 words.

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  9. My family still don't get how it can be my job. I do see people's point though, there are some bloggers that spoil it for us hard working ones

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  10. Great post. I quite often get asked by friends why and how I get stuff for 'free'. Explaining to them about all of the hard work that goes into this 'free' stuff can be tough, as I think that they just don't fully understand. I've been blogging for 6 years now, and if I had a penny for every time someone asked how they can set up a blog to get free stuff... it would probably pay for my hosting! Haha!

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  11. I am glad you guys have explained what truly goes into doing a review for a brand etc, if you think about it its not truly free because of the work and one day this will be a resource to someone who might be wondering whether to try something or not

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  12. It's a shame that some don't understand the amount of work we put it on this.

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  13. I feel so angry. I replied on FB when this all kicked off and I got roasted for pointing out that blogging is marketing and marketing is a legitimate career. I consider my blog a hobby, because I have a career in catering, and people were there telling me to get a real job and start paying taxes and i thought how on earth is catering not a career? And I do pay taxes. And so do bloggers. It infuriates me that people are so naive as to not think marketing is a career. And that they can't understand how much work goes into writing a blog. It's a business. Most bloggers charge hotels to write them a review AND get the room free of charge. It's a business transaction. Why should the hotel get free advertising?

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  14. 'Tis work, a lot of work producing a blog. Then again, I think bloggers can be their own worst enemies. I know of a sizeable blogger who runs courses for bloggers and one of her selling points was that it was a good way "to get free stuff." She asked me to collaborate with her and I said I would but only if she changed her marketing materials and that kinda ended that relationship! The vlogger and the Dublin hotel...well, both as bad as each other in my opinion. the owners of the hotel have form for trolling people. It was, however, very niaive of the blogger to ask for a four night stay over Valentine's Dy and I understand it, her following is largely teenagers so it's useless to her core market. Not black and white, but shades of grey in that instance.

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  15. Honestly I'm fed up of this nonsense - people just have no idea of all the background work we do. It's not just that review post or that video - it's the years and years of building the site up and your following and relationships with brands and other bloggers. It is definitely not a get rich/or free stuff quick gig that's for sure!

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