Thoughts on Vogue’s Influencer Network
By: Ashley Robison

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When Vogue announced their new Vogue Influencer Network, comprised of bloggers, Polyvore addicts, and social media fiends, the fashion community went up in flames with mixed opinions and insults about the network.  In the meantime, I’ve sat on it, though I was instantly flooded with thoughts and reactions about the program.

 

Vogue’s Influencer Network is nothing new in the blogging community.  Vogue invited 1,000 “influencers” to be part of their network: people would receive products for review and invitations to events.  Lucky Magazine has the newly launched Lucky Style Collective along with the Lucky Alpha ShoppersStyle Coalition has a partnership with ELLE Magazine, and Glamour has the Young and Posh Blogger Network.  Each of these magazines has a varying relationship with their bloggers, but Vogue creating the Influencer Network is nothing  new or groundbreaking in the community.

 

The biggest critque of the Vogue Influencer network seems to be the use of the word “influencer,” followed by the lack of compensation for these bloggers.  When it comes to the use of the word “influencer,” a lot of nasty comments and name calling have spread around the web on it.  Last week I asked What Makes a Blogger Influential? and and shared why I thought “influence” was hard to gauge in blogging.  I stand by what I said in that post, and I’m sure every blogger participating has their own levels and degrees of influence beyond what simple numbers can tell us.

 

When it comes to compensation though, there are two types of bloggers impacted by a network like this–the Hobby Blogger and the Professional Blogger.  Each is going to respond to a network like this differently– they’ll both have different needs, expectations and, ultimately, the magazine will have a differing need from that blogger.  It’s important to note that with the Vogue Network, that none of the bloggers are obligated to write about the products received or the events attended.

 

Things to Consider when Joining a Magazine Network:

  • What is the magazine asking of you? Do they want to share their banner ads on your site?  Are they just wanting to send you products from their advertisers in hopes you will write about them (commitment free)?  Do they invite you to events hoping you’ll cover them?
  • Is there a specified time commitment? Or are there obligations in joining? If there is a contract involved, requirements (like posting so many times a month about their network), you’ll want to find out about compensation.  Or you may join, only to find yourself being under-compensated or  in a contract whose stipulations are too rigid and discourage other partnerships. (If there is a contract, always read it very closely! If things confuse you, ask other bloggers you trust about the terms.)
  • What, if any, compensation is there? If you’re sharing their banner ads, you should absolutely be compensated! If they’re sending you free products that you are under no obligation to post about , you may not want compensation.  It’s up to you to determine, based on their needs and goals, whether you deserve to be compensated for it.
  • Are they asking you to do something time consuming above & beyond what you’d normally do for your site? With this, you could also ask yourself, “Am I doing something that deserves compensation?” If so, is it an opportunity you’re excited to make time for? Or should you ask for compensation in return for the time & gas spent doing it?  Are you alternately, doing the minimal amount of work required to be a member?
  • What are your goals as a blogger and for your site? If you’re a hobby blogger, your goals will be different than the professional blogger.  A professional blogger may have a policy about writing a sponsored post sharing a new beauty product, whereas a hobby blogger may be satisfied receiving a sample of the product and reviewing it.
  • Will you be gaining exposure in a valuable, legitimate way? When I was a young blogger, I made so many stupid decisions in the name of “exposure.” (Like a shoe site that paid me $7 in store credit for each post I wrote, when their site was new & their blog received very little traffic.)  A lot of companies will offer exposure, but you have to consider whether they’re saying, “This is a great opportunity for exposure!” or whether they’re offering a tangible, legitimate means of exposure.
  • Will it hurt your integrity or damage your reputation? Alternately– will it make you more reputable or bring traffic to your site? For a smaller site starting out, being attached to a magazine run network may make you more reputable to your readers and potential sponsors.  However, as a larger blogger with a substantial following, you have to realize that the company is directly after your readership and your influence; how you interact with them can have an impact on your content and readership.

 

Ultimately, only the individual blogger can answer these questions about themselves, their sites, and the partnership being proposed.  Each of us knows our audiences, what motivates us as bloggers, and what our goals are.  We best know what is realistic with our schedules and in our daily lives.

 

I do think it’s important to realize that while you’re considering your own needs to each question above, that you should respect the needs of the blogging community as a whole.  I’m a big proponent of not letting yourself get lowballed and of making sure bloggers are fairly compensated–whether a hobby blogger or professional blogger!  Whether you want compensation or not (you don’t need to), remember that other bloggers might.  Professional Bloggers and Hobby Bloggers may have two different sets of etiquette when interacting with partnerships like this, but they need to realize their actions impact the other set as well.

 

Special Thanks to Beth at Chic Galleria for sharing information and insight about the Vogue Influencer Network, along with some of the great tips above.

 


Comments

  1. Lauren says:

    Great, informational post! I love these partnerships that magazines are collaborating on with bloggers but it’s also important for it to be a fair deal, not just an exciting ask!

  2. MJ says:

    I was wondering when IFB was going to post about this! I agree with all of the tips and especially the point about making a distinction between a hobby blogger and a professional blogger. How they look at things is completely different and people should take that into account.

    As for what Vogue is doing with their influencer network, I do think the using the name “influencer” was a big part of all the bruhaha about it. One of my reservations was that I hoped the mag doesn’t take unfair advantage of these bloggers, especially if they haven’t been doing it for long time. We’ll see how this all goes!

    • Avatar of Ashley Robison
      Ashe says:

      “One of my reservations was that I hoped the mag doesn’t take unfair advantage of these bloggers, especially if they haven’t been doing it for long time.”

      Yes! That’s one of my biggest concerns as well. I’m a member of Style Coalition, but I love that it’s founded & run by a blogger, and that we have a blogger working with Elle to represent the rest of us… I’m not sure if the other networks have that luxury!

  3. Iris says:

    Thanks! It’s a good thing to realize what to ask.
    And to realize we have the power as bloggers.

  4. Casee Marie says:

    Wonderful post! It’s great to see prominent brands working with bloggers, it just seems to become the blogger’s responsibility to make sure the collaboration feels fair. And as a new blogger it’s so easy to get starry-eyed. I’m learning lately that fairness isn’t always a top priority with businesses, and I’m also learning to stand up for myself, my writing and my blog’s readership. I think it’s very important to set standards for your partnerships and if a proposed collaboration doesn’t meet those standards – even one from as lofty a company as Vogue – it’s okay to say no. It’s just another reason why discerning your unique identity as a blogger is so important. And also why interacting with the blogging community is vital, for posts and insights just like this.

  5. I loved your post and I totally agree with you about “influential” bloggers.

    I really would like to ask the “vogue team” how do they decide if a blogger is influential or not and why.

  6. Kate says:

    Thanks for the information…I feel like with many of these magazine networks, it sounds like a great opportunity, but then when you actually get involved, it’s a lot more work than what you get compensated for. Always good to read between the lines!

    Another great article Ashe, thank you :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m going to say it: taking photos of one’s daily outfits does not make one a fashion blogger. It just means you have a pretty closet and a good camera. Nor does one whose only other posts consist of reviews of products they’ve been sent by some fancy NY social media firm. Some of these people who THINK that they are influential, certainly put the term ‘blogger’ to shame.

  8. grechen says:

    i have more thoughts on this than i can articulate, really, but what i do know, is that “influence” is impossible to measure just by looking at publicly available stats.

    not to toot my own horn or anything, but i am constantly astonished by how much influence i have on my readers buying decisions. you wouldn’t know it from looking at my numbers, they’e not nearly as high as many other bloggers, but i know that readers/followers buy based on my recommendations & reviews. yesterday, two different people bought specific things after i posted about them on twitter. and i have run into random people here in austin who say that they read my blog and have purchased multiples of a specific dress i reviewed months ago…

    so i agree 100% that you cannot measure influence by looking purely at numbers of followers/readers. if the blogger is part of an affiliate network, you could measure buying influence by how many sales they make each month, but even that’s not going to give a complete picture.

    buying influence is based on trust, ultimately. and the only way to build trust IMO is over time. there’s a difference between being influential when it comes to buying decisions and being influential in terms of giving ideas & inspiration. they’re both important, but serve different ends.

    i’m not sure vogue had a clear goal in mind with this network though – i think they just wanted to get in on the blogger action, which is why so many of their influencers don’t seem to be truly influential….on the surface anyway. only they will know once this has been up and running for a while how well it’s working for them and the brands they work with.

    and for many of the participating bloggers it seems to be a win/win situation – most are new and looking for exposure, which they’ll get via vogue. they’re not looking for compensation right now, just to get their foot in the door. in my opinion, that’s short-sighted (especially if they want to be a pro-blogger one day), but i don’t necessarily blame bloggers for wanting to be involved in these sorts of networks. it’s flattering, and i’m sure comes with a nice badge to put in your sidebar…

  9. Bckls says:

    I think this is a great outlet for bloggers to become more experienced with working with large corporations it’s healthy for anyone interested in working in fashion. It is up to us to know what we are getting ourselves into with working with companies i.e. understanding and managing “terms and conditions” and I feel we are intelligent capable people. As bloggers are many times limited with their audiences it can be helpful being attached to these big names which to attract many people, and could potentially be even more lucrative. Going to look for work in the fashion industry and throwing out that you’ve worked with a Conde Nast publication does not look so bad.

  10. Bckls says:

    I think this is a great outlet for bloggers to become more experienced with working with large corporations and it’s healthy for anyone interested in working in the fashion industry. It is up to us to know what we are getting ourselves into with working with companies i.e. understanding and managing “terms and conditions” and I feel we are intelligent capable people. As bloggers we are many times limited with their audiences and it can be helpful being attached to these sorts of big names which do attract many people, and could potentially be even more lucrative. Going to look for work in the fashion industry and throwing out that you’ve worked with a Conde Nast publication does not look so bad. I say take advantage of the opportunity, many exist in these sort of deals.

  11. MissMikelah says:

    I think it’s a great opportunity if you have the time to dedicate to contributing, not to mention you will probably make some great connections if you use the opportunity wisely.

  12. Amanne says:

    I am fairly new to the blogging world but I was inspired to being blogging through my old job. I used to do PR for a beauty company and I worked with bloggers regularly. When I quit my job to relocate I decided that blogging would be my creative outlet. I do not depend on my blog for finances and I never intend to (I love my day job too) but I still think your tips are perfect for both hobby bloggers and professional bloggers.

    I don’t see anything wrong with working for a company for free/product but it has to be mutually beneficial for both parties and as you said it’s important to ask if it’ll hurt your integrity or damage your reputation.

    As for the Vogue thing, I don’t really care about the use of the word “influencers” I’m just glad they picked DIFFERENT blogs. I’m so tired of hearing about the same blogs when there are so many other amazing blogs out there. Of course that’s not to say that the big name blogs are bad. :)

  13. Laura says:

    I have been approached by companies before wanting me to do posts about their new website/product before, and no one has ever mentioned compensation. I’d really love someone to do an article about how you approach the subject of compensation with companies. I know I would feel rude emailing them back simply stating ‘Whats in it for me’ Is there a certain etiquette that we should be following?

  14. These are all great points. I will definitely take these thoughts into consideration as my blog continues to grow as more companies are reaching out to me.

  15. Great article & very well put points on compensation values. As a newbie blogger I put my all out there & it’s great to get solid advice on how to build my brand in a positive way!

  16. Bean Davis says:

    For one, I am really disappointed… at the lack of respect the industry has for fashion bloggers…

    Magazines or brands, soliciting bloggers for help, should offer a fair-trade agreement. Period.

    But I am not too disappointed, because most fashion bloggers don’t have the integrity to handle authentic business deals and/or affiliates.

    It all balls down to the reason why people do the things they do. Yes, we all want to express ourselves.

    But there are very few influencers.

    Then there are very few influencers big businesses will actually take seriously.

    You can determine this by their approach.

  17. These are all really great points. I was invited to be a part of the “Vogue Influencer Network” and to be honest, I wasn’t even really sure what I was supposed to do. I got pitches for products similar to the pitches I already get from PR people and a “deal” to offer my readers. Really, I could easily finagle a similar savings for readers for any product I want just by coordinating with the PR person, instead of offering what Vogue says I should.
    I’m on the fence too on what my thoughts are about the whole thing but it is interesting to see big brands collaborating with bloggers. Hopefully the industry will start to turn where big brands gain more respect for bloggers and bloggers themselves demand more respect for themselves.

  18. Angel says:

    I know that a lot of new fashion bloggers are being taken advantage of, and it’s ridiculous. Sometimes, they offer what they can’t even give or they completely disappear, leaving the blogger hanging. I’ll definitely keep all these points in mind.

    Also, great job on the article! I read the whole thing without feeling uninterested, especially since similar topics are frequently brought up.

  19. Ami says:

    I wrote about this not too long ago. I think it’s great for magazines to have a network, however the “influence” factor on all of the blogs they decided upon seems questionable.

    http://fashionroi.com/2011/07/vogues-uninfluential-blogger-network/

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