Fearless Friday: The business of blogging + a lesson from the trenches.
I take blogging pretty seriously. While it's not my FT job, it's a side project that I've sustained over the last 6.5 years. My blog has evolved just as my writing and photography skills. If the saying goes, "practice makes perfect" then I've been trying to perfect my craft for some time. And while its not perfect by any stretch, I have a lot of sweat equity into 101 things i love. On this alone, I get very passionate about my projects whether they are compensated or not. And yes, I do occasionally receive compensation, there are MANY a time in which I choose to partner with a brand or small business simply because I believe in what they're doing or because I genuinely believe they have a fabulous product.
Whether you've been a reader for two minutes, two months or two years...hopefully you've felt the authenticity in the content I put out there for consumption. At least that's my hope!
Here's a run down of the time that goes into a sponsored blog post, or any post for that matter:
- reviewing and ordering product: 45 minutes-1 hour
- brainstorming: all week at various points - I'm thinking how I want to craft the post
- product arrival: 30 minutes | reviewing product and ensuring it fits or doesn't have any flaws
- photoshoot coordination: 45 minutes-1 hour | includes location scouting with photographer
- styling: 1 hour | testing product IRL and coordinating any necessary props or accessories
- photoshoot: 1.5 hours
- photo editing: 1 hour | lighten, brighten + saturating the colors
- drafting post + copywriting: 1-2 hours
- editing: 30 minutes | final proofreading check
- posting: 5 minutes | hitting the "publish" button
- follow up: 10 minutes | letting the company know where the post has been executed + sending appropriate links including social media links
Sounds like a lotta work for a little money, right? Not for the big bloggers but for us small guys...it really is a passion project. And one I'm happy that I stuck with. Onto the story...
I was approached by a small(ish) company to collaborate in exchange for product. After reviewing the site and reading about their mission; I decided it was a great fit. Their product was well designed and beautiful, frankly. I struck a rapport with the founder and wife of this company duo. She was warm and appreciative. My favorite trait in working with any CEO.
Product was sent and to my pleasant surprise, it was beautiful! The website didn't do it justice. I thought all week about this post. I wanted to do my sponsor right. I finally shot the product in a flat lay using all of my limited creative resources and energy. Two days later I received a DM via my Instagram feed. I sensed frustration from the owner. She essentially told me that she hadn't seen my post and if I didn't like the product she would happily discontinue sending me additional product. In all honesty, I was befuddled. Two days is not a long time to wait for a post and there were no guidelines stating when I had to post. I felt horrible and commented back how sorry I was and that I had no idea of these expectations. The DM continued so I took it to email and shared the DM with the CEO's assistant asking if I was missing something because I never received a guidelines doc. I could feel the frustration mounting. The CEO emailed me back personally apologizing on behalf of her husband who was 50% of their company. Supposedly he was the one that DM'd me originally. Turns out he was very passionate about not only their product but ensuring that they essentially get their end of the deal...in so many words.
She was incredibly apologetic which I appreciated and made mention that they did have a guidelines doc that should have been shared. Once we shared some open communication...it was all good. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that this is the life of a small business owner working with influencers...sometimes you get screwed over. Well, I wasn't about to be one of those influencers! No siree! We moved on and I chalked up her husband to being a semi-intense guy who was probably having a bad day. (note to self: whenever you're asking for a feature or publicity, business etiquette and simple manners go along way...filed that one away in my brain for my own business learnings.)
Back to the post... I was pleased with the final outcome. I waited with baited breath as I hit "publish" on the post and shared it with my sponsor. The results? She was thrilled and incredibly grateful. It was a love fest. The kind that make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Fast forward to a month or so later...Huffington Post DM'd me to see if they could regram my photo. Bonus! I shared this with my sponsor and again...all the warm and fuzzy thoughts! So much so that we discussed another collaboration and something special for the Fall. This was a good fit for 101 things i love. I could feel it in my bones.
Well, this all came to an end this week. The short of the long, I received additional product a few weeks ago in which I went through the same planning process and shot everything myself. Again, I was pleased with the outcome and shared with the sponsor. It was received well on social media but only so-so via my blog. Sometimes you lose...predicting traffic is challenging for a blogger.
I sent the published post and it was radio silence for almost a week. Nothing. Not good.
Low and behold, I received yet another DM via Instagram this week and it posed another question. "When was I planning to repost my second post featuring only their product." Wait...huh? I already completed the post. I should back up and also mention that I received an email mentioning that they loved the post, however they didn't receive the same traffic as last time. This was, in their eyes, attributed to the fact that there was another product mention in the post. A bit ridiculous but I replied quickly letting them know that I would leave out any other brands in the future. No problem!
This DM dialogue escalated. Take a guess who was behind this conversation! I was pissed. I spent a lot of time on both posts. I told them that there must have been a miscommunication because I absorbed their feedback as something to note for the future but oh no! They literally wanted another post out of the $70 product compensation that I was given which I felt was ridiculous. Again, because the guidelines never mentioned that you couldn't feature any other brand and also because posting the same exact content is...well...just dumb and would perform poorly. I am a social media consultant after all!
At this point I thought, this is NOT a good fit and I should bow out. The DM turned weird with them repeatedly mentioning how much they had gifted me in dollar increments as if I hadn't delivered on my end. It was bazaar and it angered me. I gave them 100% of my time, effort and creativity and I felt taken advantage of. So what did I do?
I told them how I felt in a professional manner. I told them that they had been pretty hard on me since inception and were disappointed with my work from day one ranging from not posting fast enough to not posting enough. The response was simple...they didn't feel I was a good fit for their ambassador program. Ironic, you took the words right out of my mouth!
This is a long post, I know. To this sponsor I say...adios amigos! My time is valuable and my work speaks for it. I don't need to defend myself any further. In this instance, the sponsor was right...we aren't a fit! And P.S. - my hourly rate is much higher than $70 an hour since we're going there.
Bottom line: Bloggers, these brands need us! We're more than writers. We're content creators!
Influencer marketing and social media marketing is the backbone to every brand's marketing program. Traditional marketing in the form of print advertising, radio or even billboards is long gone. Stand up for your rates and your time! These companies are getting exposure for pennies compared to what full page, glossy ads would run them. Try six figures!
You're worth it...and always ask for posting guidelines.