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Is trust in bloggers fading?

makeup monster trust in bloggers irish

I hope this question will feel as valid to you whether you have your own blog or whether you just love to read them (I fall into both categories like a lot of people). Either way, it’s hard to ignore the bubbling feeling of animosity and distrust that’s starting to permeate the world of blogging. At the start, blogging seemed to offer a fresh, detailed look at beauty (and everything else) that was distinct from what magazines could offer and as a result, girls quickly became hooked on the content and often, the bloggers themselves. Blogging began to grow at a big rate and with that came fame, not for everyone of course, but for quite a few here in Ireland and of course abroad. It’s amazing really that bloggers furtively working away on their laptops at the dead of night were suddenly propelled into celeb-dom, with huge followings and hoards of fans who adored them. As bloggers became bigger, the whole world of blogging seemed to gain more worth and notoriety and PR companies and brands were quick to catch on that working with bloggers was just as smart a move as working with other media.

So with successful blogging, came samples and money and that seems to be where things started to get sticky. And now we’re here. It’s a funny time in blogging as there’s a shift in how it’s perceived by the masses (especially with social media now playing such a key role in a blog) and something that was seen as a fresh, unbiased take on beauty and fashion in particular is now being seen with a suspicious edge that didn’t exist before.

I’m only one blogger yakking away here but if I didn’t give my opinion I couldn’t expect you to give yours. Like any other sector, blogging is flawed, full of shining examples of how things should be done and others which are less inspiring. Bloggers choosing to not disclose samples or payment for mentioning products, attending events etc. has made a huge dent in the perceived honest approach bloggers have. If everyone had been completely transparent from the get go it would have made things a lot easier but we’re all learning along the way and when I was a newer blogger, it never would have crossed my mind to mark a post as featuring a sample. To be truthful, I’m continually learning and have made mistakes and I’m sure there’s more on the horizon. But I do try very hard as I think most bloggers do. Certainly the ones I rate and personally follow hold themselves up to very high standards but undoubtedly there are blogs out there that often have a more advertorial vibe about them and they’re not blogs I rely on.

The problems seem to fall into two distinct categories – samples and money and each boils down to trust between a blogger and a reader/viewer.

For readers/viewers (including other bloggers), the consensus appears to be that the majority consider samples as a form of payment or gifting so they need to be marked as such which is understandable. For bloggers, including myself, getting samples is an enormous privilege and endlessly helpful. I had to work hard for a long time before I was on the radar of many brands or PR companies but I’m lucky enough to say now I work with many and get a lot of samples as a result. It’s an enormous help to my blog and I’d happily quarrel with anyone who felt that samples took away from my blog rather than added to what I can offer readers in terms of the breadth of reviews as a result. Readers expect transparency on blog posts and YouTube vids which I think we’re all aware of and mostly uphold but they also expect it on social media which I have to admit I also recently cottoned on to so I’m trying to get my arse in gear there. Snapchat appears to be the biggest offender followed swiftly by Instagram. With Instagram I’ll often post a picture of something I’m trialing but I’ll usually just give an excited comment and tell people I’ll review it in due course, not thinking about the fact a pretty picture can be enough in itself to make someone want to buy something so it is both beneficial and in all ways just easier and more transparent to say ‘I was sent’ or mark it as a sample. I’m not on Snapchat but it seems to be the source for mini reviews and mentions which I quite like the sound of and has been a huge boost for a lot of bloggers, but the problem appears to be that products are sometimes mentioned briefly with glowing reviews without much of an assessment of a product and most importantly, whether it’s a sample or not. Again as a newer form, I’d say the need for transparency will quickly improve as it seems to be as powerful as a condensed YouTube but again, that’s down to each blogger to do it and regardless of guidelines, each blogger has to commit to it.

The same goes for the upper echelons of blogging success which feature sponsored content, paid reviews and payment for appearances. I get some lovely blogger privileges and have written some sponsored content in my time (although I have been declined in the past when I stated the content had to be marked as sponsored) and I do get fantastic invites to events that have nothing to do with blogging (restaurants and movies mainly). It’s wonderfully jammy and I’ll happily tell you how lucky I am to get that, but again, we’d get into a heated debate if you judged my credibility as a blogger because of such things. For the big guns, bloggers can request payment just to feature a product on a blog/vlog or social media, let alone for turning up at events. Nice work if you can get it I say, although I’d love to hear from anyone who is lucky enough to do this how the talks go on giving a negative review if you’re receiving payment in advance and whether it puts added pressure on a blogger. That’s just curiosity on my part as again, I don’t know everything about blogging either.

Beyond that, it all boils down to trust. If you trust the blogger, whether they mention something briefly on Snapchat, post a beautiful picture about it on Instagram or dedicate a full blog post to it, the reader needs to feel the same easy trust they would with a friend. With a huge amount of great bloggers (especially here in Ireland) I feel that and trust them implicitly with their reviews. It doesn’t mean every product success for them will translate into the same wonder product for me as our skin types etc. are all unique but I trust that what they say is honest and considered. The rest? I just steer clear of. It’s not an easy answer as we’re all impressionable, we can all get swept up by something new and shiny and it has to be a balance of trust and transparency to make things really work. I think readers need to remember bloggers are human, are capable of mistakes, have feelings and dedicate a lot of work and effort into their hobbies/careers. No blogger should be trolled or bitched about because they are in the public eye (whether they have 5 readers or 500,000). But on the flipside bloggers need to remember the power they have to influence someone and that power needs to be handled with care and integrity. And I do believe people should be able to discuss blogging and bloggers constructively as long as it doesn’t descend into something blatantly troll-worthy. Readers should be allowed ask questions to bloggers so they feel reassured and bloggers shouldn’t feel threatened as long as the questions or remarks and respectful. Blogs are a success not solely because of a blogger, but due to the blogger and the readers who support it. Bitching can destroy a blogger’s confidence, can affect their work or stop them blogging altogether. Concealing the workings of a blog can destroy a reader’s trust and the integrity of a blogger. Both need each other, so both need to respect one another.

I feel I could write all day about this but to be honest I’m impressed if you managed to last this long so I’ll shut my trap. I’m turning to you all now and I’d love to hear what you think.

Do you feel blogs are in trouble and as a reader/blogger is trust an issue for you?

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  • Grace Ziegfeldgirl

    i read your post the other day and knew i wanted to comment but now i am here i don’t really know what i want to say. i feel the entire blogging community has completely changed and i think i have lost my love for it. it doesn’t bother me whether bloggers have been sent PR samples or have been paid to write about something. but something has changed and i can’t put my finger on it. i think the general public have taken into bloggers in such a negative way on boards etc that no one really bothers with them any more. i noticed my views/comments etc just completely declined (not that there were too many anyway) and i think, what is the point. it was fun when we were all truly enjoying blogging and communicating with each other but now people are too careful with what they say and what they don’t say, that i feel all the fun has been sucked out of blogging.

    • Ah it’s hard Grace, the fun can be so easily sucked out of it for so many reasons and over the years I’ve got pissed off now and again and needed a break. When it isn’t fun, it’s simply work and no one wants that unless you are actually making a living from it! It has to be fun and creative and if I didn’t enjoy it enough to ignore the times I’ve felt like it wasn’t worth the hassle, there’s no way I’d still be blogging 4 years later.

  • Very relevant topic, I think it does need to be discussed as blogging is constantly changing and it’s hard to know what the “rules” are. I completely trust the opinions of the bloggers that I follow regularly like yourself. I know there are bloggers who review a lot of samples but will also buy a lot themselves and always give honest reviews no matter what. I tend to only write about products that I like because I’m not really interested in writing about something I didn’t like, but thats just me. I review both samples and products I buy myself but only if I genuinely like them and would have no problem recommending them to anyone in my life. the only thing that really annoys me is when bloggers don’t disclose samples/sponsorships/collabs and you know full well that thats what is going on. It really makes me lose respect and not want to follow them. Id have so much more respect even if every single post was a sample or sponsored, it’s important to let your readers know that, even if it doesn’t influence your opinion, it’s just good practice. I think if you’re being compensated in any way for mentioning a brand or product, you should disclose that. If you’re honest about these things then at least people cant give out about you for being dishonest. There will always be people giving out that bloggers are sponsored and paid for content but at least they can’t call them dishonest.

    Don’t know if any of that made sense, but I just think if you don’t like someones blog or don’t trust them then don’t read their blog.

    Emma xx

    • I agree Emma, it’s just basic good practice to be upfront and transparent all the time. The rules are constantly changing as blogging is changing but everyone needs to set the highest standards for themselves!

  • That’s a pity, too many sponsored posts can lead to a more advertorial type feeling on a blog which can be a real shame, it’s tough to find the right balance, the blogger has to make sure they don’t lose their original voice!

  • Sounds fair! I’m always very wary of reviewing expensive products, there’s so much to consider if you’re saying something pricey is worth splurging on!

  • Thanks Alyce, glad you liked the post. I think you can spot content a mile off that has a more advertorial vibe and it’s such a shame!

  • Well we’re the same then, I post three times a week and I deal with a lot of samples but honestly, it’s a godsend to me and the blog since we’re saving for a house and a wedding and if it means I get to review more exciting products, to me it’s only a positive because I know I’ll blog honestly about them! I think you’re completely right about disclosure, there’s no point in hiding anything!

  • It’s a tough question to answer in a short comment. I agree with the ethos of transparency but also think if a huge volume of work is going into something – the brand is going to benefit from the ‘voice’ – why shouldn’t that blogger get something out of the deal… I’ve never been approached to be paid for anything and I’m grateful for that. What would I do?
    It must be hard to turn cash down! (I would imagine)
    I agree with everything you’ve said and I think it a blogger endorses something that’s cat… There will be an attrition of followers over time.
    Maybe it’s silly but I’d read anything and if someone is doing well… I’m happy for them! I think this stems from being happy with my Lot in life. 🙂 Siobhan xx

    • I know it’s tough, we could natter about it for hours I’m sure if everyone got together! I think bloggers need to be valued and money shouldn’t matter. It’s no different to reading newspaper or magazine beauty eds or journos reviewing the latest products in their articles, they’re featuring samples and they’re getting paid to write the review. If you trust the person writing, that’s the key.

  • Carolin

    As you’ve said so many people do not disclose properly on their blog or stay totally vague as to whether they received a sample or not. This creates mistrust for me. Same applies to sponsored posts. I don’t really trust a blogger who has been paid to review a certain product. There’s always a little bittersweet taste of that the blogger has to say certain things about the product because s/he got paid for it.

    That’s why I usually read smaller blogs and try to stay away from the ‘big and popular’ ones. Hope you’re having a fantastic Tuesday x

    Caz | Style Lingua

    • Yep, I got offered money yesterday north of €100 to do a sponsored post and we could absolutely use the money but straight away I knew there wasn’t any organic inspiration I felt with the product (an organic hair dye) and therefore no way I could include it in a post without it being an obvious plug with no zest or energy!

  • Girl Interested

    I have seen a few posts by bloggers in the last week, so trust and honesty between bloggers and readers is a hot topic! Sali Hughes covered it on Mothers Day and the Boards thread is eye opening. I read the blogger posts with interest because I want to understand both sides of the story. My position is that if you do not disclose sample / sponsored / advertisement etc it is because you have something to hide, and then how can I trust anything you say? I understand getting together the content can be expensive whatever your niche is (wine, crafts, beauty, food) so samples or invites are 100% ok, just disclose it. The same with advertising.
    I worked in the tourism industry in Australia and we would do a ‘famil’ trip twice a year so we could recommend attractions to inbound tourists. I can be honest and say I would not have visited most of them without it as I was a university student, but I didn’t recommend every activity as some were overpriced or poorly executed. When I did offer suggestions (negative or positive) to tourists I would explain we had been there as guests of the attraction.
    A lot of companies provide samples in magazines, and I see bloggers as getting a better magazine with better samples than I get; yes I would that magazine, but much the same as if a friend buying receives a sample inside and recommends the product afterwards, I won’t hold it against my friend if she says “I tried a sample of xxxx and think it’s great”, I won’t hold the use of PR samples against bloggers. It’s appearance of underhand behaviour I dislike.

    • Not holding samples as a reason to distrust a blogger’s review is very important. At the end of the day if you trust the blogger, it shouldn’t matter where the product came from. Reviews need to be marked though and they need to be honest!

  • thepharmersjournal

    Great post! Agree with everything you said…
    As a general rule of thumb I don’t really bother with any review/product placement/endorsement from full time/’celebrity’ bloggers… Perhaps a bit harsh but any review I have read from such is never very informative or opinionated if that makes sense either so I don’t waste my time.


    • Thanks a mill! In fairness if I see a product reviewed that I like the look of, I tend to Google it for a few contrasting reviews to get a more rounded picture on it first!

  • Well said! There needs to be more give and take from both sides, IMO. Greater transparency wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t agree with running a blogger into the ground either.

    • No, it has to be constructive but I think discussion should always be allowed. There just has to be respect from both sides!

  • It’s a tricky one. I have a number of bloggers whose recommendations I trust because they have similar skin concerns as I do and I don’t care if they have been sent the product or bought it themselves – it’s their opinion I care about. That being said, when I see blogs that I started reading because I loved their passion, just blog about sample after sample – especially when they are products that you know they wouldn’t have featured if they hadn’t been sent or don’t fit in with why you followed the blog in the first place, it just turns me off & I end up un-subscribing.

    I’m not on snapchat so can’t comment on that but I think the real problem occurs when bloggers post that everything is the best thing since sliced bread and they’ve only had it a week or possibly just been paid to promote it. I’m not sure why people get so worked up over it – just unfollow!

    To be fair, any beauty addict (blogger or otherwise) would love all of the latest releases to be sent to them, so I don’t get the backlash over that part but definitely expect honesty in the reviews and I think you can tell if a person is being honest and passionate.

    I have only posted about a few samples and have always stated that they were sent to me and have been completely honest but I have turned down so many more products and sponsored post requests because they just didn’t interest me or fit with why I started blogging in the first place and I think regular readers would know that they’re not something I would spend my own money on so it would compromise my integrity.

    At the end of the day, people get too worked up over these things – if I didn’t trust a person’s opinion, I just wouldn’t read the post or follow them – it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that!!

    Great post & I’m looking forward to reading the comments! xx


    • It’s a point maybe readers don’t necessarily realise, bloggers turn down a lot of products to review! I turned down one of those storage boxes a few months backed that was well over €100 because I knew I wouldn’t pay that much for it so I didn’t feel comfortable reviewing it when I already knew I was negative about it and I hadn’t even got my hands on it yet! Also a lot of things I’m sent don’t make reviews, often because they’re just too ‘meh’ to review. If I am really excited (positively or negatively) about a product or if I think the readers will really appreciate the review, that’s what gets me really motivated with blogging about a product.

  • Jinger Kat

    I’m beginning to take the reviews of bloggers less seriously as it’s not always stated whether it’s a sponsored post. As a blogger I think it would be difficult to give a negative review if you’ve been ‘given’ the product. and would also decrease your chance of getting more samples in the future

    • That’s such a pity! I negatively review samples all the time and just get on with it but I understand why some bloggers would feel worried about doing so, any PR company or brand worth their salt wouldn’t stop working with you because of a negative review if they value your voice and your blog though.

  • Catherine

    I’m guessing this post was a response to the thread on Boards.ie that’s currently discussing what people look for in blogs? I’ve been reading that thread – haven’t contributed though as I feel it’s a bit too heated right now. My thoughts on it all are that blogging in Ireland has grown rapidly and I think a large part of their growth was down to readers feeling like they were getting honest unbiased opinions from fellow beauty obsessives, and not the paid-for coverage we usually got in magazines and the like. As a result, readers flocked to blogs but some are now almost becoming a victim of their own success. I’ve been turned off many blogs that used to provide great beauty coverage that are now just article after article of spa reviews or hotel or restaurant reviews. That will interest some people I’m sure, but I’ve no interest in it whatsoever. I might buy a new mascara I’ve seen on a blog, but I’m not going to book a holiday just because a blogger has been there. Blogs were initially great as they were relatable in some way – the reader could feel like it was just one beauty junkie talking to another, but many many blogs out there have nothing remotely relatable now.

    I totally understand that most of what is featured in blogs will be samples, and I’ve no problem with that whatsoever. I also completely understand that bloggers put in huge amounts of effort in writing their articles, taking eye-catching photographs, managing social media presence, etc. I genuinely have no issue at all in bloggers receiving every freebie, sample and perk there is. But I don’t understand why some won’t disclose it. I don’t want huge details, but it shouldn’t be too hard to add: “I’ve partnered with Suchandsuch Brand…”, “XYZ Spa invited me to try their new treatment…”, “I was a guest of ABC Hotel…”, “Blahblah Make Up sent me their new foundation to try….” That would remove any ambiguity there might be, it wouldn’t involve disclosure of any commercially sensitive data for the blogger and it can be easily worked into the normal text of a blog article.

    I think any blogger worth their salt would be completely unfazed by the fact they are reviewing a PR sample they got for free. Maybe those who don’t disclose what freebies they’re reviewing are worried about the perception – that readers will feel like they’ve been “bought” if they admit they’ve received something for free. In fact, the opposite is true – by not disclosing what they’ve received for free, they’re giving the impression they have something to hide and are doing something wrong.

    Finally, (didn’t expect this to turn into such an essay!) I do not subscribe to the notion that bloggers can’t be criticised. Trolled, absolutely not. But “bitched about”? Hmmm, not so sure. What you see as bitching, could be seen as valid criticism by another. Bloggers have put themselves in the public eye and receive benefits from it. I think that means they are open to critique. I get that blogging is a very personal thing and you are making yourself a brand in many ways which I’m sure makes any criticism even more personal and more hard to take. But to me at least, that’s part of the deal. If you’re going to put yourself out there and reap the benefits of blogging, you have to take the good with the bad. Responding to any criticism or questions by blocking people or calling people “jealous haters” is pathetic. Having said that, there’s someone on that Boards thread who is OBSESSIVE about the idea of naming and shaming bloggers. I’m not her, I swear!

    • I really like essay comments, it means your passionate about things which is good!! Boards was definitely one of the inspirations here, I’ve been on it for years and have commented about blogging before although I haven’t got into the latest round of discussions but have read them! I absolutely feel that bloggers should be able to be discussed just as you would with any band/movie/celebrity so long as it’s not about personal attacks that have nothing really to do with the blog at all. I’m totally ok with people thinking this blog is a pile of shite and saying it, that’s totally their prerogative to do and although I’d be naturally bummed out, I’d never be annoyed they said it. Talking online is the same now as having a chat with your mates so if you would happily discuss it with people in the pub or in the canteen at lunch time, I think you should be able to online. Just minus any trolling or bitching!

  • I think that nowadays there are a lot of bloggers who are obviously in it for the money. I feel like more and more blogs are turning into what can only be described as massive ad space. It makes me really sad to see so many great bloggers – and I mean great in the sense of honest, genuine and trustworthy – grow into PR vessels that will just promote anything that earns them money. Many bloggers that I used to love seem to have lost that special something that made them awesome and unique and seem to have turned into money driven PR machines… But the public isn’t stupid. They see this too. And even though there are still LOADS of great honest say-it-like-it-is bloggers out there whose opinion isn’t for sale it’s the few that aren’t genuine that create trust issues with people. So yes, I do think we have a problem.

    • That’s such a pity that you’ve lost love for a lot of bloggers! I do think you can hold onto your integrity and make money too, but you need to be in it for the right reasons!

      • Oh of course, I think that as well! I’m just referring to the few that I feel are selling out.