Sponsored Posts & Reviews
As your blog grows, it’s exciting to be contacted by potential sponsors and to be offered free stuff for you or your readers. I used to eagerly agree to almost all opportunities, and now...practically none. Here are some things that I've since learned to consider:
- Would I buy the product (or patronize the company) with my own money?
- Is the product or service relevant to my blog?
- Will a post bring any value for readers? Has the company already been posted about by many others?
Question 1 is something that I’ve been called out on personally after doing reviews. Okay great, so you said nice things about the stuff…but would you actually buy it yourself? That leads to Question 2. If I wouldn’t buy something myself, I probably shouldn’t review it unless it’s highly relevant to my blog.
2. Sponsorship Terms
- Communicate your policies clearly (ie. return of merchandise sent for review, photo rights)
- Understand what the sponsor is asking for in return (a link, visitor traffic, embedded keywords)
- Define the scope of the exposure (a mention, an entire post, a sidebar advertisement)
Companies have come to realize that blog sponsorships and giveaways are a cheap way to increase brand awareness and search engine optimization (typically frowned upon by search engines). It’s up to the blogger to determine whether he/she is comfortable with what the sponsor is asking for, as well as their marketing practices.
3. Review Transparency
- Can I write a 100% honest and unbiased review?
If not, the review probably shouldn't happen. It's significantly harder to write an honest and unbiased review when the merchandise is provided for free by a sponsor, as opposed to something you bought with your own money and can return. I’ve finally learned to send merchandise back if I don't love it, versus writing a lukewarm review and possibly influencing a reader to buy something mediocre.
Giveaways often go hand-in-hand with sponsored reviews, but let's distinguish between the sponsored and non-sponsored giveaway. I think a sponsored giveaway is a great way to get freebies for your readers, while cross-promoting with the sponsoring company. For giveaways, I look at many of the same factors listed above. Be wary of what the company is asking for in exchange for a giveaway prize...all too often I've seen companies take advantage of oblivious bloggers.
As for non-sponsored giveaways...maybe these started out as a way for bloggers to give back to loyal readers, but these days they sure resemble self-marketing campaigns. Share my giveaway, tweet my giveaway, post my giveaway button...etc. Put bluntly, these are an efficient way to “purchase” new followers. I too jumped on the bandwagon and realized that the aggressively-marketed giveaway is good for pumping follower stats, but through a superficial manner. I also realized it takes away from other blogs that try to grow organically by delivering unique and interesting content.
With the above being said, I feel the best way to find sponsors that meet your own criteria is probably to reach out to companies yourself. It's not worth it to host sponsorships and giveaways that compromise the integrity of your blog. Determine what you are interested in and what your blog is about, establish media policies, and get yourself out there!
Fellow bloggers & readers - please share any thoughts or lessons learned!