I feel by writing this post I have to tread very carefully over glass.
I know to some this is going to ruffle some feathers, but then again don’t we all have to rip off the bandaid to get the worst of the pain over and done with? I must also clarify that this post is in no way aimed at any particular blogger or community but more an overall rule of thumb that has now come into play by the ASA about the regulations of making advertising more transparent amongst the Bloggers and Youtubers world.
When I first started reading blogs, it was impossible to tell if the influencer had actually bought the products they were discussing until one day it occurred to me that unless they are gifted or sponsored to talk about an item or product how does that blogger benefit from it? It seems quite obvious that blogging is all about passion and I try to re-enforce that in my stylings everyday, I wouldn’t have the greatest job in the world, talking about the things I want to talk about if I knew I wouldn’t at least get self satisfaction from doing good deeds and point people to things I think they should be aware of.
It seems some bloggers lose sight of who they are, and their identity is mystified and blinded by the brands they talk about, almost like their content is ruling them and not the other way around. This is where bloggers can go blog-crazy from the benefits…gifting. Some see it as bad, some have been called a sell out. But equally the audience must see eye to eye about how gifting works, and perhaps some clarification might elaborate on the tightly bound secrets of the industry that seem to be locked away under lock and key.
For a brand to approach a blogger, they must be successful enough, because at the end of the day a blogger in a brands eyes is just another brand. Over the past 8 months of having stephilareine.com it has taught me to see through a new pair of eyes and look at everything I do as a business, yes that sounds pretty damn boring but it reaps benefits for me as every day my email is brimming with exciting propositions and opportunities with some of my favourite brands and people. I feel honoured to be gifted new and lovely products every day, as a thank you for having previously talked about them or kick starting a new relationship, some people interpret this as selling out. To which I reply you are only selling out if you publicise a product you wouldn’t actually buy, wear or ethically believe in. Every product on stephilareine.com has been trialled, tested, and had its ideas bounced off at least one person, I’m very thorough and I generally get the impression that not all bloggers are nowadays, they blog for the sake of the free products and I blog for the sake of directing an audience to some fantastic informative concepts.
Gifting is a selective process, not all PR have 1000 samples to give out to small time bloggers and I think some people have had trouble understanding this, yes it’s stupid and silly that they aren’t given a chance but I always say ‘content is king’ and if you were an advertiser would you potentially waste money on a blogger who targets only a small number of people, or a vast diverse global audience? I think it’s pretty obvious, although I must add I think it’s great that some brands make smaller campaigns as I equally believe that the smaller blogs build up tight relationships with their audiences and may have more engagement than the global blogger, so really every things always judged under circumstance. Back to gifting, it takes a lot of hard work to review products, and if you write them yourself would understand they take a lot of time to do, some even weeks or months to get a true depiction and idea of how you feel about that product, so it would be silly for brands to not benefit their reviewers with an incentive, a little thank you, as long as the product was something they’d buy anyway it’s effectively paying them in gifts. This doesn’t mean to say that once you’ve written one review you are suddenly entitled, at no point because of your bloggers stats or status are you entitled to anything.
Now onto the real purpose of this post, which is to re-iterate the transparency of advertising amongst posts. You’ve all probably noticed next to every product that has been gifted, sponsored or paid for has a ‘*’ asterisk aside to the link, as well as a small disclaimer as a default position in my posts and now Youtube videos, also linking to a longer explanation of policies and regulations that I adhere to. This informs the reader that this was not bought out of the bloggers own money, this sometimes hasn’t been made very clear amongst others, and as an audience to other blogs I like to know which products they’re paid to discuss, not only as a learning process to myself but to inform me about something that is new. If things seem a little murky to me, I lose a little trust with that blogger, I would definitely rather know that they’ve made everything crystal than left their readers in the dark. To me, trust is absolute upmost amongst my readers, as you’ll probably notice how open I lead my life, and have tendencies to over-explain. Now by the rules and regulations recently updated by the ASA, disclaimers have to be noticeable, words like ‘Ad’ have to be put at the front of Youtube videos and much much more. Bloggers will always be benefited and I think more so now their readers will understand things like affiliate links, something that can be a little raw when discussed in the blogging world. Whenever I buy a product nowadays I really like to buy through affiliate links, it’s almost like charity, for the hard work of reviewing a product and linking me to the correct information, if I intend to buy it, I always buy through a bloggers link as it is a great way of giving back to them, as they take a small commission of between 2-5%. Making money in blogging can be a hard struggle if you can’t connect with big brands and affiliate links is a great alternative as an extra bit of income.
I’ve had a couple of Direct Messages on Twitter asking my opinion on these new rules by the ASA, and I can fully hand on heart say that I am not one who will be affected by this, my typical workflow already publicises a disclaimer, relevant links verifying that everything sent is a direct consequence of a brand to blogger relationship. I like to think that the ASA are doing the readers a massive favour by enlightening them to the truth, which is by far the most important aspect about blogging at the end of the day. I really do hope this has opened the eyes of readers globally as this is my stance on blogging, advertising and videos, as posts and even social media tweets will become more clear. All content will still be as positive and wonderful as it usually is, new products and outfits will always be waiting for you to read and buy, I want to keep this post as informative and positive as possible, so I’d love to know what your thoughts on this are and if you feel more benefitted, thank you for reading, lots of love to you all!
Any items marked with a * have been gifted or sent to me to review, please see my pr/disclosure