Why big brands should be careful about trying to exploit bloggers
Yesterday I received an email from a marketing/SEO company on behalf of a major supermarket bank. It had all the usual waffle – we love your blog, we think we’re a perfect fit for your blog, and so on. But the reason they were contacting me was because they had put together some sort of ‘resource’ that they wanted me to ‘share’ with my readers, with a link back to the supermarket bank’s website. In exchange for… well, nothing.
The supermarket in question is a very successful one, which earlier this year announced profits of over £700m. It’s not a CHARITY. And yet, here was an SEO/marketing agency, trying to persuade me to carry content on my blog, which has taken me time and effort to build up, without offering me anything in return. To make things worse, it was the second time in the space of a fortnight I had been approached by an agency on behalf of this same supermarket group. Again, nothing was offered in return for me blogging or tweeting about the company – not even a bag of groceries.
What makes this so offensive to me is that in the social media age big brands (and small brands, for that matter) need good bloggers. Bloggers can make or break a company’s reputation, because once something’s out there, in the public domain, it’s searchable. And of course, bloggers talk, to each other, all the time. Yet there are still companies that just don’t get it.
I have advised some leading companies on how to work with bloggers, and as a blogger, I’ve worked with some excellent companies that really understand bloggers, and blogging, and completely get that blogs are not just free space to promote their brands; relationships with bloggers have to be respectful, and nurtured. Face to face contact goes a long way, for a start. And of course there have been dozens of seminars and workshops and blog posts about working with bloggers. What it boils down to, surely, is this: no brand would approach a newspaper or magazine expecting them to carry what amounts to an advert without paying for it, in some way. Why should blogs – which can no longer be regarded as the poor relations of mainstream media – be any different? It’s why I believe strongly that bloggers should know their worth. And at the most basic level, if a company – even one working on behalf of a respectable British supermarket chain – offers you ‘free’ content, in exchange for a link, they’re not giving you ‘free’ content at all.
But how disappointing then to find that there are still brands and agencies out there who believe that bloggers spend their spare time crafting corners of the internet simply for them to exploit.
They could not be more wrong.