Blogging - For Love or Money?
This week I had the honour of chairing the "(in)decent proposal: Should Bloggers write for love, or money?" event hosted by JJ of This Little Lady Went to London and CloudNine. The panel created an interesting debate about when, if ever, payment should play a part in brand engagement with online influencers.
Having discussed the matter in depth, I think it's important that we first take a look at why brands want to engage with influencers (and in this instance bloggers). The best blogs are those that are established and have developed relationships with their readers, resulting in a level of trust. The community look to the blogger for inspiration, insight and recommendations, which of course is magic juice for brands, particularly when you recognise that this trust is transferable. A positive review of a product/service can result in readers wanting to try it out for themselves.
Does Editorial Lose its Integrity?
However, does this become jeapordised when bloggers are paid to write about brands? If editorial content is being created because it's paid for, does it lose its integrity, therefore diminishing the very community that brands are looking to engage in the first place? The resounding opinion from the panel and audience was that if the product/service is good enough and you've identified the most appropriate and relevant influencers, the likelihood is that they'll be so excited about the product/service that they'll want to be writing about it anyway. Therefore, payment just muddies the water. Of course, sampling is a completely different matter - how can you expect somebody to write about something unless they've experienced it for themselves?
To create meaningful engagement, brands should be looking to foster genuine long-term relationships with bloggers rather than one-off hit campaigns. More often than not, this will mean identifying a smaller number of advocates that get truly excited about the brand rather than pure outreach resulting in a mass of mediocre reviews on multiple sites just to achieve reach. After all, for many brands, they’ll be looking to generate sales, not just raise awareness; how better to do that than get people genuinely excited about your product?
Time is Money
With bloggers spending so much time on maintaining their blogs, ensuring they’re writing quality content, many feel that they deserved to be paid for their time. As a blogger myself, I can totally understand this. However, moving forward I think that we’ll find bloggers looking to monetise their sites in more innovative ways that don’t affect the editorial of their sites – for example with affiliate links, relevant banner advertising, sponsored columns, consultancy to brands etc.
Moving forwards, I think that the most successful brands will be those that look to the longer term and establish a clear strategy of what they're looking to achieve, hiring influencers where required as a soundboard for future campaign ideas and product development, harnessing the people that really care about what they're doing and are ready to shout about it! To avoid a repetition of the decline of press, they must remain agile and be prepared to try new techniques. They're going to be exciting times. I can't wait.
Mel Kirk is Blogger Engagement Director at Jam.