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