When to protect your contacts

You've been blogging for a while, you've built up your community, your readers, you've made friends with other bloggers. Then the emails start coming with opportunities for you, it's great, but then also start the emails coming requesting contact information of other bloggers.

This has been a personal pet peeve of mine for a while, but figured with the IFB community, it's to be expected to a certain extent, people think I know a lot of bloggers. But I've been hearing around that I'm not the only one being hit up for information, and I'm not the only one who is suspicious or annoyed. Not that I don't want to spread around opportunities, but judging by the sheer volume of contact requests, that either someone isn't doing their job, or someone is benefiting off the years spent building relationships in the community, for free.

I'm not talking about a friend of yours who asks for one or two contacts to help them out, your friend has invested time and built a relationship with you, or someone working for a cause you personally believe in, that's different.  I'm talking about complete strangers who ask for blogger contacts for monetary gain.  It'll sound innocent enough, they'll have an event for a product launch in your area and ask you to invite your blogger friends, or they'll have a giveaway campaign and ask you to suggest your friends, it' might even be an opportunity to join a campaign for sponsored posts.

Develop your contact sharing policy

Think about what your comfortable with. If it doesn't bother you to share contacts, then you don't need to worry. But if something in the pit of your stomach is telling you something is up, listen to it. Go back and look at all the times you felt uncomfortable, then talked yourself out of it. What do these situations all have in common? Personally, I have a ‘No Contacts' policy for people I don't know. Meaning, I don't send out contact information, unless they are a friend of mine and I think it's appropriate.

The reason why I do this is because:

(a) who knows what they will do with the contact information after the initial introduction
(b) introductions take time and thought
(c) I don't like to feel used.

At first I would give out information thinking I would have the opportunity to build a relationship, but most of the time it didn't mean anything, except that person would want more information or they'd want editorial space on my blog.  After a while, it got really old, and the requests have increased, as have complaints from other bloggers getting the same requests have also increased.

Part of it, is that some companies believe bloggers are naive, that companies can just shave hours off their job by asking one blogger to shell out the names of bloggers she knows are good, and even more hours off their job by getting the blogger to contact the other bloggers, all for the promise of an opportunity. Whether that opportunity is a good one or not, isn't the point, it's the fact that your community has value, you made it have value, you put in the hours, the work, being the wonderful person you are, all the time, not just for a few emails, or for a few campaigns.

When do you give out contact info?

Giving out contact information is really up to you, use your intuition. Introducing people to help create good relationships is indeed a wonderful thing, when done the right way. I love, love, love introducing fantastic people to each other, there is almost nothing more satisfying than helping to create a mutually beneficial relationship. However, lately it seems that some companies take advantage of that spirit for their own monetary gain without producing anything in return, and that's what bothers me.

If you say no, and protect your contacts, your community,  you might fear that they'll just go an ask someone else. They probably will. So how much does your time and community mean to you?

Image via The Commons on Flickr

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27 Responses

  1. Imelda Matt

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been fucked over by companies (and some bloggers) who’ve hit me up for information about blogosphere…I learnt the hard way. Now it’s ‘no talk, no trouble’.

    • Jennine

      oh yeah, i think it’s even worse coming from other bloggers, because you’d think they’d know how it feels… then again, i hope i’m not a culprit! 🙂

  2. Little Black Book

    Wow thanks for such an important post! I personally haven’t experienced anything like it (yet) but this will helo me if (and when) the time comes xx
    .-= Little Black Book´s last blog ..Little Black Book heads to Melbourne =-.

  3. eyeliah

    Great post, I remember you mentioning once before you were asked for contact info. I would never give out other bloggers information and luckily I have not been asked to do so… yet.
    .-= eyeliah´s last blog ..Fairytale Dressing =-.

  4. Madeline Veenstra

    This has happened to me quite a few times, being a little naive I have gone along with it thinking I’m helping someone out, when in actual fact they have used me. It’s a little disheartening, but now I have come to learn the hard way to double think every request from companies and other bloggers 🙂
    .-= Madeline Veenstra´s last blog ..User: =-.

    • Jennine

      yeah, it’s hard…even sometimes when it sounds like a good opportunity and find out that it’s not at all what was presented. but then again, one has to let go of the results…

  5. stylefyles

    My experience in the entertainment industry has taught me to be extra persnickety about this. If I ever receive a contact info request (pretty much in any facet of life), I almost always ‘take a message and pass it along.’ It takes just a second, maybe even less time, to forward an email along with a note “I was uncomfortable giving out your information, but this person is trying to reach you….”. If the intended party is interested, they can initiate contact.

    I know it’s almost too anal, but rather than put someone else in an undesirable situation, I’d rather be told I’m being too overprotective rather than the other way around.
    .-= stylefyles´s last blog ..U Pick Ur Fave: February =-.

    • Jennine

      ooh good advice, i remember wendy b telling me to do that! but it’s a good thing to do, that’s for sure.

  6. WendyB

    Great post. We certainly have spent a long time talking about how to deal with this problem!

    Stylefyles’ suggestion is good when people are asking for blogging contacts. As a jewelry designer, when people have asked me for professional contacts (manufacturers, goldsmiths, stone-setters) I’ve told them bluntly that it’s a trade secret. It usually comes from clients who think they’re going to be able to cut out the middleman (as if they know how to build jewelry from the ground up and are going to go to 10 appointments to get one piece done) or would-be designers who haven’t even started a business. I do trade professional contact info with experienced people whom I work closely with and (key point) are willing to give me info too.

    You never know how people are going to use/misuse your contacts. I’ve learned the hard way that it could be in surprising ways you’d never anticipate. Best to be on your guard.
    .-= WendyB´s last blog ..Meet Byron Lars =-.

    • Jennine

      oh yes, i remember you saying to do that, i’m going to do that next time, well, if it’s not another person asking for you-know-who… holy moly, sometimes if you get asked for a particular person long enough, ti’s like you then become the person with the intros. yikes!

      very good point about trade secrets, and with bloggers sometimes it’s that information that’s the trade secret as well, as companies become more desparate to get the right bloggers for their brands. i always feel like with an intro a person is looking to cut me out of the equation…well sometimes.

      also, i have to say, that with you, even if they did ‘cut out the middleman’ there is no way they can come up with all the skills you have to make a great piece of jewelry!

  7. Dru

    I’ve never been asked for contact info the way you describe, but about a year ago I did get a couple of randoms who asked me to disclose the identity of a (then)anonymous blogger I’d sent a package to, knowing that I’d have had to have her name and address to do it. Ethical considerations aside, I didn’t do anything other than delete the messages- it’s not as if I would have told them anything even if I had in fact known them.

  8. Ondo Lady

    Hmmm interesting article and very insightful. I have not had this one but I am very funny about giving out people’s contacts to anyone whether it is for business or personal use. I would not e happy if someone handed over my contact details without asking me first. My motto is if someone is trying to get hold of someone then I will contact that person and hand over the details of the person who is trying to get hold of them. That leaves it up to them if they want to contact them. I am getting really tired of companies and individuals who want stuff for free.
    .-= Ondo Lady´s last blog ..Company High-Street Edit =-.

    • Jennine

      yeah, that seems the best way to handle it, i don’t mind my information being handed out because it’s widely available, what i do mind is when people promise that i’ll do something without asking. that always sucks….

  9. shoulderache

    Wow, I’ve never been asked that! That’s really good to know that people are up to stuff like that…ugh.

    In my day job I give out contacts all the time, but the rule is that I always ask the person ahead of time “hey, if someone asks me for something and I think that you’d be the person for the job, can I send them your way?” and that strategy works great. On Friday I think I got someone a job that way, so it really can have an upside.
    .-= shoulderache´s last blog ..Go Exotic With GiGi Chic! =-.

  10. SwanDiamondRose

    i haven’t experienced this. but it sounds unpleasant, and a big NO for sure is the way to go. i have been asked for other online business help and help in general, and at first was head over heels to help people but it went a bit sour for me when people didn’t say thanks or wouldn’t reciprocate. i still answer questions but i guess am a little less naive? positive?
    .-= SwanDiamondRose´s last blog ..pale yellow & pink & blue & SWANclothing sock garters & me [8] =-.

    • Jennine

      ug, when people don’t say thank you is the worst, like who raised them? i try to answer as many questions as possible, unless they are so googleable it’s not even funny…

  11. SwanDiamondRose

    i guess i want to add this… people have also requested things from me and not followed through with what i gave them. and this has gone both ways. i’m being so vague here but i think there should be a sympathetic level of tolerance for some things not happening as promised. i like that in the community i move within online that there is often the “human factor”. an understanding that there is a person behind the words and the product, that they are doing their best, and sometimes, sometimes they mess up a little, or even change their mind.
    .-= SwanDiamondRose´s last blog ..pale yellow & pink & blue & SWANclothing sock garters & me [8] =-.

  12. skinny buddha

    such great advice! truth be told, I’ve never been asked for contacts and if I was, I would have probably been pretty naive about this. I tend to trust people too much, and feel like we should all help each other. but when someone is gaining too much out of it, and we are left uncomfortable and cheated, then it’s no deal.
    really appreciate the heads up!
    .-= skinny buddha´s last blog ..layers unfold =-.

  13. thefatandskinny

    I have never hand this happen to me before, but I think this is crazy. Why can’t people just work hard and make the connections on their own?

  14. holierthannow

    Great post – my policy is to require that I am CC’d on initial contact. If I am not comfortable either introducing the people on email or being CC’d on the email where the parties introduce themselves, then I don’t do it. I feel very uncomfortable knowing people are using my name/recommendation out of earshot – so to speak.

    I don’t know why I am so paranoid but like Wendy B. I come from product development background and people are always me for supplier info and other stuff as if I’m just going to hand it out to them … trade secrets are what keep people in business.

    xo holier

  15. julia

    this happens to me quite a bit, and I feel that the intentions and end result are not beneficial to me in any way. I love helping people out, and I will be the first to go out of my way for somebody, HOWEVER after seeing the way that what they want versus what they actually send out gets twisted, I have to say that it’s better to just avoid the entire situation, and not give out the info.
    .-= julia´s last blog ..How I Survived the 2010 New York Fashion Week =-.

  16. Denise @ Swelle

    This is the first I’ve heard! So it’s never happened to me (I am now watching my inbox through squinty eyes).

    I would never give out contacts of fellow bloggers and I’d be really shocked to be asked! I’m even wondering if I’m understanding this correctly because it seems so stupid!
    .-= Denise @ Swelle´s last blog ..The Outnet’s Massive 80-85% off Pop-Up Sale Starts Tomorrow! =-.

  17. roni

    I always get the pass it along thing, I never took it to heart to think that someone would be using me. If there’s an opportunity that appears to present itself, I would never think twice about passing it on to someone. But I will never give away someone’s information, if they wanted you to have it, it would be accessible. Know what I mean?

    I was put in a situation where integrity was questioned though. I happened to be on a mailing list with a lot of celebrities shall we say. I had so much intent on using those emails for my own personal use. It was so available although it took me a while to figure out who’s email was who because it wasn’t like [email protected] but a little google search and I was amazed.

    I kind of felt as if it was the person’s fault who sent it. What happened to BCC?!?? I’m pretty sure that there were others who decided to take the emails, against the individuals will.

    *Jennine you should definitely do a piece about blogger ethics. Being exposed to things/information you probably shouldn’t and how to be professional in that case. Or maybe I’ll do it and you can feature me in the weekly newsletter lmfao. 🙂

  18. Jenny

    Thank you for this post. My mind is never quite as shrewd and thoughtful as I’d like it to be when it comes to the business side of blogging and these posts are so super helpful and I try to navigate the tricky terrain of blogger ethics.
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..290. Swedish Hasbeens again & frisky car rides & don’t Bartleby me =-.

  19. Pearl Westwood

    I got asked by a company who I do reviews for if I could recommend any fellow bloggers who would like to do the same thing. But like you say how do you know who would want to do similar reviews? I mean most bloggers have an email on their blog so I say let them do the leg work. But at first I did feel like maybe I was been mean not passing on a good opportunity, but as the saying goes ‘dont shoot the messanger’ – as it is usually the messanger that get shot!
    .-= Pearl Westwood´s last blog ..GIVEAWAY: Win a vintage dress =-.