Last week I attended a get-together for girls (I should be saying women, right?) who blog, or who want to blog. Honestly, I attended the event to support Zaa, founder of Ladybloggers and blogger behind Complete Disbelief. I expected to find a table full of meek would-be bloggers with stars in their eyes who were too afraid to plunge into it by themselves (ooh, what a bitch). What I got though, was something completely different – a table full of very opinionated women from different cultures and genres, some of who had been at it for much longer than I have, some who hadn’t started yet.
While we bashed through topics like advertising, paid posts, free stuff and more, some things stuck with me. If you’re not bored yet, you’re now welcome to read my opinion on them, as well as some explanations. Note that I said opinion, I don’t make the rules. For practical purposes, my examples will mainly refer to beauty blogging.
Everyone has their own personality, which really should shine through. If you’re all about the puppy dogs and rainbows, it’s perfectly ok to never post a negative review on your blog. Don’t try to be something that doesn’t come naturally to you – it shows when you’re copying someone else’s style. Sit down and remember what you’re about, and go with that.
Have a central theme that runs throughout. Whether it’s a lifestyle/food/tech/fashion blog, don’t let it be a generic one. Example: I have a beauty blog, and I draw from two things – my background as a skincare therapist, and the fact that I don’t look or act like the typical glam beauty industry girl (I don’t wear heels, I swear too much, I’m fat, amongst other things). So I do beauty from an informative, no-nonsense angle, while often poking fun at myself/things in the industry in a not-so-subtle way. That’s MY way of doing it though, you should find your own.
I was asked if I ever post truly bad reviews, or if I choose to preserve relationships with brands instead. The answer is two-fold:
1. I don’t get paid to post about things on my personal blog, in my personal time. I’m not going to spend that personal time extensively testing and then writing about a product once I’ve determined that it’s really bad, because I don’t feel that it deserves the space on my pages, even if it is for a bad review – I’ll much rather inform readers of something GOOD. I do, however, point out negatives within a review – like when I feel things are overpriced, badly packaged, smell funny or whatever the case my be. I’m opinionated like that.
2. Not everything that is sent to me, is sent for my exact needs. They’re not gifts, they’re press samples. They do become gifts after you’re done with them, so happy birthday to me. But one of my pet peeves is when I see/hear bloggers talking about how brands are ‘spoiling’ them with products. They’re not giving those things to you for personal use, sweetie, they’re giving it to you so you can give the brand some mahala exposure. Anyhoo – so when a primer from a makeup range (that I have successfully used many other products from, including a different primer) makes my skin sting for no logical reason, I check whether there are other published cases of the same reaction and if not, I send the brand manager an email explaining to them that I won’t be featuring it on my blog, instead of bashing the product for no good reason.
Yes, it’s daunting to post negative feedback sometimes, especially if it’s a well loved brand/product. But I like to think you come here for my opinion, so that’s what I give when posting about a product. As for the brand managers who send out the samples: you’d be surprised at how well (polite) criticism is received. With the rare exception, it’s not such a big deal as you would think.
I’m not a reviewing machine. Especially lately, I’ve realised that the backlog is getting too big and I can’t possibly review everything I receive. So sometimes, it’s more show-and-tell than tried-and-tested. It’s my party, after all. Also, reviews only would make for boring reading, I’d say.
Sponsored posts will absolutely, always be disclosed as such on my blog. As soon as someone wants to pay me for something, that is, and then it would have to be something I agree with. We got talking about how the general public are often not aware when big-name bloggers and personalities are paid for what they’re promoting – whether it’s a blog post or a bunch of tweets about how cool a party is. When asked whether I’d really say no if I was able to make a living off it, I did struggle. Luckily I’m the worst liar in the world – and that is lying, right? I’m not opposed to slapping some ads in the side bar of my blog somewhere in the future though, as that is pretty transparent – it’s advertising. As soon as I get this rate card business figured out…
Getting free shit is great. But it’s not a given – you actually have to be good at what you do, have good numbers, be consistent. I’m pointing this out because the question comes up so very often, and I would be a hypocrite not to address it, because I do get the free shit. But from the bottom of my heart, this should not be the motivation to start a beauty- or any other kind of blog. Erase those visions of wafting into the one fancy pants event after the other, and being buried under press samples. It happens for a small percentage of bloggers. You should be doing it because there’s something you’re passionate about – if you’re really good and you keep at it, you might just get lucky with the free shit and those invites. On that note – the novelty wears off, and with those courier parcels come quite a bit of pressure. IF YOUR FOCUS IS SOLELY ON GETTING FREE LOOT, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
If you copy and paste press releases on your blog, please let me know why. I really, really don’t get it – you clearly don’t enjoy writing or giving it your own stamp, so why bother at all? That’s lazy.
I’m not into competitions. It doesn’t build a loyal reader base (competition whores are like fair-weather-friends, they don’t stick around). I also get very annoyed with competitions that require an entrant to do a backflip, sign away your right to vote, like a blogger/website/brand on 6 different platforms, and then annoy their followers to death because they have an open ended number of twitter entries and retweets.
Yes, competitions will build your fan base for the time being, but you’ll learn that most of them are not the following that you want – they’re invisible during non-competition times. My personal worst is when you then retweet the standard, scripted entries TO YOUR OWN COMPETITION. While I enter the odd (easy) competition, I visit websites and blogs for their content. On my own blog, I decline many competitions from brands and stick to 3 or so bigger competitions a year, where I try to grow my follower base and reward readers without annoying the general population too much.
But hey, this is (again) only how I see things. If you enjoy the competitions, have them.
Everyone was getting along so swimmingly, and someone said it’s not always like that at events – possibly because we see each other as competition. Weirdly, I feel this community thing with a whole bunch of other bloggers. Just the other day, a fellow beauty mailed me to say that I had two conflicting prices in the same post (thanks again Lauren!). If I don’t hang out with bloggers at events it’s because I either don’t know them, have forgotten that I’ve met them, or (gasp) I didn’t enjoy their company on a previous occasion (but it’s hardly ever that). Currently it’s mostly because I’m from Cape Town, and I don’t know the Joburg crowd that well yet. I enjoy sharing the work of other bloggers – you have to be quite insecure if you can’t do that. Fellow bloggers have helped me along so much, I can’t imagine not wanting to get along with them.
This is getting a little long-winded so I’m going to call it quits for the day. Please do add anything you feel relevant in the comments section.
PS – I just realised that today I’ve been at it for two years now. My first, rather lame, blog post was published on March 9th, 2011. Read it here for a cringe 😉