“Are fashion bloggers selling-out?” was the title of an article I was interviewed for in 2010; but we were talking about selling-out way before that, and unfortunately, we're still talking about it now. Whether it's real or perceived, the issue of being influenced by money hangs over bloggers heads and sets the bar even higher for us.
I'm not going to argue whether it's fair for bloggers to be singled out over journalists (it's not), or who is or isn't selling-out their blog – that's not as important as learning where the idea that bloggers are selling out comes from. What are bloggers doing that feed into that perception? Here are some of the things I've found that raise a red flag for readers/critics of blogs:
Too many gifted items
If your outfit is made up of all gifted pieces, you're doing it wrong. There's nothing wrong with accepting items from brands you love and wear on your blog, but when you start wearing them all at once, you become inaccessible to your readers. How can they relate to getting an entire outfit for free?
Along these lines, be sure that the brands you work with aligned with your style and budget BEFORE you started working with them. If you're a thrifter/target shopper when you start blogging and suddenly you get an offer to review a luxury bag that costs more than your rent, think twice about accepting it. Sure, it's wonderful to receive such an offer, and you can accept it, but don't get defensive when your readers accuse you of selling-out your blog. Your style will evolve naturally over time, especially if you started your blog in college and then began your career; LET IT. Don't be in a hurry to “grow-up” just because you're getting offers. A good rule of thumb is to never accept something from a designer or brand that you couldn't afford to buy yourself. That way, your message stays consistent and your readers can still relate to you (presumably they have a similar style/budget).
This should go without saying, but you should always disclose if you got something free from a brand to review. Make sure you have lots of links all over your blog to your disclosure policy, and consider adding an editorial, or review policy to that as well. Be transparent with your readers and explain to them what it means when you are “gifted” something to review.
Too many giveaways
Giveaways are a nice way to have fun on your blog and reward readers, but doing them constantly will get tedious for your readers (unless that's all you do). Giveaways are great when they're done in conjunction with reviews, and again, for something that you love or would purchase anyway, but if they're irrelevant to your readers' needs, and/or they have to do 15 different things to even enter the giveaway, think again about the message it's sending.
At the heart of this is simply serving the wrong content to your readers. If you normally write about a specific niche, but serve ads from a company in a different niche, it disconnects your blog from your readers. The ads you choose to run on your blog and the brands you work with should be relevant and provide something of value to your readers. If you're taking advertising that is NOT relevant or valuable to your readers, your readers won't “click” and the campaign won't work anyway, but even worse than that, they'll wonder if you did it just for the money. There are times when you might want to work with an advertiser you really do believe in, but maybe doesn't align 100% with your message up until now – that's okay, but closely monitor how your readers react to it. If it's an affiliate relationship, you should be making commissions from the campaign, if it's an advertiser, they should at least be seeing a healthy click-through, if not sales. If after several months you don't see the results you wanted, it's time to re-think working with that advertiser, if they don't do it first.
Secondary to that, displaying too many affiliate ads is also a problem; you should set yourself apart by choosing a few affiliates to work closely with (the ones you would write about anyway, even if you wouldn't get a commission) – don't just plop a bunch of affiliate ads up on your blog and expect your readers not to feel bombarded.
What do you think? Have you seen anything else that you would consider that a blogger is selling-out her blog? How do you avoid that perception?
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]