There seems to a trust issue with many blog readers now. Jane from British Beauty Blogger periscoped about this thread on Mumsnet. It’s quite a long read and getting bigger everyday, so the gist of it is that bloggers aren’t to be trusted. To get the fuller picture do give it a read. I think it raises many legitimate concerns for the blogging community, though. I really wanted to address some of the things raised because they do grind my gears too. Grab a cuppa, it’s going to be a long one!
Why I Blog
I blog for many different reasons. I started out a couple of years ago spurned on by researching makeup ideas for my wedding. I read lots of blogs, but my first loves were Drivel about Frivol, who sadly isn’t blogging anymore, and the wonderful Killer Colours. If you don’t read Killer Colours I highly recommend her, she does stunning makeup looks and great reviews.
From my initial interaction with blogs like these I decided to start my own. I had just finished my MA and not being able to work I wanted something lighthearted to take up my time. I enjoyed the community and the fun of beauty. I still very much enjoy that side of blogging and it’s still there if you want to find it. I love sharing products and also learning about what others have been using. Beauty and fashion, for me, are escapisms, means of making myself feel better and indeed cope with chronic pain. I’m at home a lot because of disability and my blog gives me something positive to focus on.
Having said this blogging has changed. It’s a full-time profession for many and one that some people make a helluva lots of money from. This seems to be where the trust issues come from. Can you really trust someone to give an honest opinion when they’re being paid to? It’s a difficult one. I think you can give a balanced review but you must be transparent. Readers feel that they’re being wilfully misled by many bloggers/vloggers, particularly the bigger ones. This is having an affect on all of us.
PR SAMPLES/SPONSORED POSTS/ ADVERTORIALS
Some bloggers who receive PR samples still manage to strike a balance in their reviews, highlighting both positives and negatives. It might not suit my skin type or just my personal taste. I might not like a particular product but someone else might absolutely love it. This should definitely be taken into consideration when writing about it. Of course, if a product’s (or service, or whatever the scenario) awful either don’t feature it or be honest.
I occasionally receive PR samples and I always state this. If I haven’t marked it as a PR sample then I’ve either purchased it myself or a friend or family member has given it to me. I very rarely do sponsored posts but if I do I always clearly mark it as such. There’s ASA guidelines (which you can find here ) for bloggers/vloggers to follow and if you feel bloggers/vloggers aren’t being transparent lodge a complaint. The ASA (or CAP) will look into it for you.
Advertorials should also be clearly marked as such. No one likes to get sold to on the sly and you should know before watching a video or reading a post if the content is an advert. This allows you to decide if you want to continue. This is a tricky area. Many do state it’s an advert but not until the end of the post or in the youtube box. I don’t think that’s clear enough.
Similarly sponsored content isn’t always clearly marked and writing a small *sponsored at the bottom isn’t sufficient, I don’t think. Again, ASA have guidelines to follow here.
Similarly there’s a wariness with affiliated links. I personally don’t mind clicking on someone’s affiliated links, it gives them a bit of revenue and if I like their blog I also want to support it. I think most people’s issue with affiliate links is non-disclosure and this is the HUGE sticking point for lots of people in general. Also, it seems people don’t really understand what they are and indeed if they influence a blogger’s review (in my opinion they don’t). This is a good post explaining what affiliate links are.
This seems to be the crux of the mistrust with many bloggers. If you’re doing an ad, sponsored post, or anything where money or a product/gift has changed hands you must disclose. It’s a legal requirement to do so. Again, if you feel a blogger/vlogger isn’t being transparent report them to the ASA. This article from PR Week is very useful.
There’s also the issue with fake followers across different social media platforms. I see many bloggers saying that it’s obvious who’s doing it but I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spot. Not all bloggers are aware that this happens and readers certainly aren’t.
I wrote a couple of posts about this phenomenon here and here. Fake followers are becoming more sophisticated. They’re not just bots that sit and do nothing anymore. Also, there’s the ability to purchase fake likes too which makes it look all the more plausible. What can you do about this? Contact them and say “Hi erm, I noticed you’re purchasing fake followers, pls stop, thnx”?
Turning a blind eye to it knowing full well what they’re doing seems complicit somehow. I genuinely don’t know what to do. Instagram and Twitter both have means of reporting them but in reality it doesn’t achieve anything. Sigh.
I’m personally sick of seeing bloggers who purchase fake followers gaining from their deceit. It’s essentially fraud, they’re both misleading readers and also the brands/companies paying them. Some bloggers have said that they’d love to call them out but are too scared of getting called a hater or jealous. But surely we can’t just keeping turning a blind eye to it? If readers are becoming increasingly cynical about our honesty, and quite frankly who can blame them, then how can blogging beyond a hobby survive?
A couple of months ago Kat from the wonderful Tales of Pale Face blog conducted a small survey and wrote this post about her results. It has some interesting findings regarding PR samples and sponsored posts. Do give it a read, it’s very insightful. This paragraph is particularly interesting:
“Reassuringly, 52% of you said that you’d trust us bloggers to be honest when we’re dealing with both sponsored posts and PR samples. On the flip side, 22% of people answered that they don’t trust either – preferring to believe in reviews on products that had been purchased directly by the blogger.”
Google has issued some best practice guidelines here for bloggers receiving PR samples. It’s summed up as follows:
-Use nofollow links where appropriate
– Disclose the relationship
– Produce compelling and unique content
Google DO NOT like inorganic links and they see links as a result of PR samples as inorganic, quite rightly. If you don’t nofollow google will penalise your blog. This will essentially render it invisible on google searches. The excellent May Fairy wrote about her horrific experience with google’s wrath. It’s a very insightful read and she clearly explains the ramifications of dofollow/nofollow. It’s good to have a balance of dofollow/nofollow on your blog, just make sure you’re doing it properly.
To finish on a positive note. I do think these kinds of bloggers are in the minority and by far the most kind of bloggers I encounter are honest and just love blogging, whether that’s a hobby, semi-pro, or pro-blogger. Unfortunately it seems to be a small amount, albeit highly visible bloggers, that are making readers cast doubt on blogging as a whole.
Further reading: CAP Guide for Vloggers/Bloggers
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!