Why big brands should be careful about trying to exploit bloggers

July 27, 2013

Free parkingYesterday 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.



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  • Aisha from Expatlog July 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Hear, hear! It seems too many bloggers are willing to sell out for a packet of crayons or a ‘mention’. The weather gets a mention, a dose of thrush gets a mention – creative, skilled and professional work should be honorably compensated.
    But Crystal Jigsaw is right, until the desperate and dopey stop accepting peanuts, the going will be tough for the rest of us. Why people can’t get over their own egos and see it for the scam it is I don’t know. Maybe they’re doing it to help the struggling British economy!

  • Crystal Jigsaw July 28, 2013 at 11:17 am

    This is precisely the reason I will never work with brands, outside companies, SEO’s and PR’s. My blog might not be quite so popular these days since the big shots took over, but it was a popular blog once. And in those days of popularity I didn’t receive one email about free advertising. It’s gone way too far now and I’m afraid, as controversial as it may sound, I blame a lot of this ‘taking advantage of bloggers’ on the bloggers themselves. So many will just accept any old deal, just to be working from within the circle rather than from the outside of it. Too many bloggers forget that by accepting rubbish and insulting deals has a massive knock-on effect on all bloggers. If a blogger is content to work with a PR, brand etc, for free (or say £20), yet another blogger refuses to work with them for less than £50, I think it’s quite obvious who the brand, PR etc will choose.

    I’ve written post after post about this issue and read umpteen posts in return. But the problem will remain simply because bloggers don’t take enough pride in their blog.

    Apologies for the rant!
    CJ x

  • Lisa Jackson July 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    A good read. I’m on both sides of the fence being a blogger and a business. Would you have any advice on approaching bloggers for reviews for a small business like myself?


    • Liz Jarvis July 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Lisa I think there are many bloggers who would be happy to review a product if they felt it was right for them and their blog. The best way to approach is simply to read their blog so you know you’re a good fit, tell them a little about your business, and ask them if they’d be interested in reviewing the product 🙂

      • Lisa July 27, 2013 at 10:04 pm

        Thank you, I will do 🙂

  • Linda Hobbis July 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I worked in marketing for many years (am now a SAHM) and it was pitiful how little marketing was valued and understood in many organisations. Basically it’s always viewed as an overhead (how wrong can you be!) and in many cases done as cheaply as possible with the most junior staff as possible. It’s no surprise that bloggers are now seen as a good source of “free marketing”. I’m now a newbie blogger and say bravo to your stance to not be ridden roughshod over!

  • AtoZ Mummy July 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    As a new blogger I’m still muddling through and made the mistake of hosting a comp & guest content for nothing, not even a retweet of my link. Initially it seems flattering that they “chose” me but read between the lines and its just insulting! This was a brand and not a PR company. I didn’t even get a thank you email & had to chase up the winner’s prize. Crap!