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?