A new year is dawning, 2017 is almost upon us, and my social media feeds are awash with fellow bloggers talking about their goals and dreams, sharing their marble planners and bullet journals, and talking about how much better their blog is going to be in 2017 – in short, everyone is putting the new (and exciting) into New Year.
I'm pretty excited too, I've got stuff on the go – oh yeah. This blogger has secret projects I can't tell you about yet, and others I've been harping on about for ages too (*cough* – I have a literary agent now – *cough*). But something in the blogosphere has irked me massively, especially towards the end of 2016. This time last year I wrote this post about full time blogging, and typed the most naive statement to end all statements – "There's also a lack of code of conduct from both bloggers and brands, with both taking advantage of each other at times and doing some very unsavoury things. Here's hoping this will all improve over time, fingers crossed!"
Excuse me whilst I cackle like a wise, old witch at my own lameness. Note to past me, things don't get better between bloggers and brands in 2016, if anything they've gotten way worse. The reason is this – the blogging community (blommunity?) has been growing at an alarming rate over the past few years, and is now pretty saturated. This is great because it means there's more people than ever before regularly voicing their opinions online, being super creative, sharing their stories and experiences, making friendships and professional relationships through their blog, and gaining valuable skills. It's also not the end of the world when it comes to a desire to work with brands (whether for money, free items to review, or going to events), because micro-influencing is now a 'thing'. Brands see merit in working with people who have a far smaller reach online, for numerous reasons – one of them being that some of the shine of macro-influencing has started to dull. Research shows that audiences of the biggest bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers are there for the content (as fans) and are not being as easily influenced to buy what's being directly or sneakily promoted in said content. Smaller influencers are likely to have dedicated readers/viewers who genuinely trust their opinion, making it ideal for brands – plus they get to strengthen their SEO with a lovely link in a blog post.
It's all about the links, and getting the brand higher up in search engines. A major drawback of a saturated blogging community is that brands are spoilt for choice, and have bloggers eager (oh so eager) to create content for them with nothing in return, just so they can impress the brand, look professional to other bloggers and brands, and feel like they're on some kind of path to 'real work' with brands – like there's hoops to be jumped through when you first start out. This is nothing new, it's been going on for the past three or four years, and we all know some of the offensive ways brands try and entice unpaid work from bloggers – the 'exposure' on their social media platforms, the chance to win a prize, the possibility that your post might be one of the 'best ones' picked to be promoted by the brand – and so on. I've got a million and one ridiculous things brands and digital agencies have said to me over the past four years, including offering me a packet of sweets for a post that would need to be 'personal and well written', asking me to pick my favourite items from their website as a wish list or gift guide and 'make sure I do a follow link' (with nothing in return), asking me to pretty much copy their press release and 'not deviate from the facts' in return for being 'promoted' on their Twitter that has 300 followers – plus I've been asked by a film studio to write about a film preview I was uninvited from, asked by endless PRs if I'd like images from an event I wasn't invited to so I could still promote it, and asked by a brand to post adverts on my Twitter and Instagram, or my ongoing work with them 'would be reviewed'.
Nothing has gotten better in the UK, blogging will never be a professional industry like it is in the States. Because bloggers keep letting brands treat them like unpaid skivvies, promising them exposure whilst they make a profit. There are even genius brands who have made bloggers feel honoured to work with them for free (think about it). Over the past few months there's been a new low, with more and more brands asking me for TWO posts instead of one. That's fine if I'm getting paid, and a series of posts makes sense for my readers – there are some brands I've written numerous posts for. An ongoing relationship with a brand is gold-dust, and benefits both parties. But these brands have been asking for two posts with nothing in return, the same old competitions and exposure BS, the same strategies to pit bloggers against one another, maybe a goody bag if you're lucky.
Bloggers, I urge you to not agree to this ridiculousness in 2017. Your authenticity to your audience is everything, how can they trust you if you're trying to be enthusiastic about one product from a brand over TWO posts! There must be something new in the SEO world that's making so many brands think two posts and two links is a good idea, I don't know, what I do know is that it's a massive liberty and a huge step backwards. Everyone is free to do what they want with their blog, but if you want to be seen as professional and credible, saying yes to promoting any old tat, and doing it twice over is not the way to go, even with household name brands. Please don't be afraid to know your worth, to say no to things that don't inspire you, to definitely say no to things that take advantage of you, and to only collaborate if it invigorates you, and benefits you in more ways than just financially (so you keep your credibility). Have the courage to negotiate with brands – politely say no thanks if they offer you a massive poop of a deal that only benefits them, but offer them something you are willing to do and what you'd like in return.
Let's stop things getting worse in 2017 and demand a better balance. I think it will also stop bloggers sounding off on Twitter like loons (myself included) about the shite offers they've had from PRs and agencies, and we can all build better working relationships. Let's all meet back in December 2017 and laugh at that statement too.