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 Shoppers, Style 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.