Last week I attended a local bloggers meet-up at Organic in my hometown. I went because it was on my doorstep, sounded intriguing and I was curious to meet other South West UK bloggers. Sarah Turner, The Unmumsy Mum and Andy Robertson, GeekdadGamer (better known to me as the husband of Jo, fellow local sewer and quilter @jorobexeter) both talked frankly and with good humour about their experiences working with brands.
There was a mix of foodie, parent, style and interior bloggers and I did find another crafty blogger- Tall Amy Bags. Most people did have experience of working with brands. There were some who chose not to have any form of advertising or sponsorship and those people tended to sell a product instead, e.g. a book or a service. The focus on the evening was two-fold:
1. Do you work with brands on your blog and benefit in some way? Payment, freebies etc.
2. If you do work with brands, do you follow an #OpenApproach ?
The #OpenApproach was mainly focused in this instance on the use of rel=nofollow links when bloggers work with brands. If you are not sure what these are - and I wasn't - you can read about them here. Ultimately, they are a form of disclosure. The link attribute informs Google not to follow the link so the link does not effect the page rank in search engines. Alongside this practice is the full disclosure when you have received something for free or payment in return for a review/blog post/social media interaction. For the UK, this is governed by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and interpreted by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and a handy feature on how this applies to bloggers, vloggers and brands can be found here along with a video here.
|Made recently for a friend, details to come here soon...|
I've been a sewing and quilting blogger for six years now and my experience of working with brands is small but in the sewing/quilting blogisphere they are familiar names: Fat Quarter Shop, blog hops for sewing/quilting books, Girl Charlee UK etc. Although blogging is a part of my income, it is a small fraction (around 15%) and much of it is from receiving products rather than payment. I am not paid directly for blogging about a book, pattern or fabric that I use and I don't know anyone who is. I write a regular column for Sewing World magazine which came about from being a sewing blogger who'd built a modest following and made active enquiries about paid work. Ditto the regular articles that I've written for Sewing Directory including a ten-part series on quilting. I have some sponsors and my arrangement with them is to write a monthly post featuring my choices from their shop. An exception to this is Pretty Little Fabrics and Trims as their fabrics tend to get featured heavily in my Farmer's Wife blocks so I don't write additional posts for them.
I've worked with my sponsors for a long time, I have total freedom on what I choose to post and payment is usually through credit to spend in their shop. I don't work as an affiliate as I find that approach overly dominated by the need to generate clicks. I like my involvement with brands to be organic and a natural part of my sewing experience. This keeps me in fabric and sewing supplies that I couldn't otherwise afford; my income, sewing and otherwise, is modest and although it doesn't feel like it, my work is self employed and part-time. I am an open person: you can ask me anything and I'll do my best to give an honest response. Nothing good ever came of hiding information and I try to continue the same approach across social media.
When I blog, if I have received fabric in return for mentioning a shop- e.g. Girl Charlee UK, I state that in my blog post. The same with book reviews. I also choose to receive fabric, books and supplies that I think I will like as I want to keep the tone of my blog positive but if there is a fault or a criticism- cost, quality etc. I'll mention it. I don't acccept the offers I get for unrelated products - a recent propositions that I politely declined was for a pet treat box - sounded interesting, but it's not about sewing! All content is my own, I don't post content provided by others and I don't generally see that happening often on other sewing and quilting blogs. I do see some sewing bloggers posting pictures of fabric or sewing supplies on other social media channels which I assume are either as part of an affiliate arrangement (the person gets a small payment for each enquiry that comes from the post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), or as a way of publicising their sponsors part of monthly arrangement in return for money or shop credit, but I'm often not totally sure what the relationship is. Full disclosure on Instagram or Twitter is much harder than in a blog post and Instagram in particular is the principle outlet for social and commercial interaction for many sewers and quilters. How many bloggers have you seen mention a commercial relationship in their Instagram pictures or tweets and how would they even do so- e.g. in the 140 characters of a tweet. Would you like to see that level of disclosure or does it not bother you?
All this is a lot to take on board. I knew about the importance of full disclosure but I think I am guilty of not always making it clear enough that my monthly sponsor posts (like this one) are a form of payment for me, albeit in goods not cash and I am aiming to improve on that and include nofollow links - now I know what they are. In between a daughter starting her GCSEs exams, phone calls to various social workers to discuss my grandmother and mourning the loss of Victoria Wood and Prince, my head feels fit to burst so forgive me if I am preaching to the converted, I feel like I'm a little late to the party. I am not a strategic blogger, for me it's something that has grown naturally from the early days of Flickr and is an increasingly niche pursuit as many bloggers have turned solely to Instagram. Thanks to Organic for reaching out locally and hosting a lively informative meet-up. Blogging is a lonely business by nature so it was good to be in a room full of people all eager to share.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you follow disclose where appropriate? Do you see your favourite bloggers, instagrammers, Facebookers, and Tweeters in the sewing and quilting world doing the same? I know commenting on blogs these days takes a little extra time, especially on phones and tables but I'm interested to hear your thoughts...