May 4, 2017

Sponsored Posts and Referral Groups

I don't really read many (if any) blogs who do sponsored posts.  I'm mostly here because I like to write and to check in with the people I've come to see as friends.  But I remember this being a topic I was much more concerned with a couple years ago.

Do you guys remember when I got the free dress?  I was intrigued by the "look at this awesome free dress!" posts going around and deliberately commented on a few to see if I'd get an offer.  I was pretty excited when I did and decided to make an exception to my rule about not posting for stuff.

I thought I could do it and be genuine and still get a free dress and everything would be awesome.

And I think I even convinced myself that this was the case.  The dress arrived, I decided it was awesome, took photos, and wrote a glowing review.  But you know what?

I don't have that dress anymore.

Because it was really just ok.  It wasn't my style.  The fit was good (because that's what eShakti does - they have you send measurements and make you fitted clothes) but it wasn't a flattering cut.  The option to customize was cool, but the fabric wasn't what I had expected.

And as much as I told myself I was being totally honest, I do remember feeling somewhat obligated to write something nice.  I mean, it was free!  How can I bash a free item?

And that's what killed sponsored posts for me.  I do not think it is possible for most people to write truly unbiased posts when they're sponsored.  Being given free stuff makes you feel like A) You got so much value because it was free! and B) A sense of obligation to return some of that value by not trashing the item.

So I stopped reading sponsored posts.  And then certain bloggers started doing this truly horrendous thing where they buried the promo at the end after a somewhat interesting story.  This killed all credibility for me because I was being tricked into reading a sponsored post and, now that I think of it, isn't it interesting that that particular blogger has never mentioned fitness before but is all about when a free product is to be had?

So I stopped reading "big blogs" and stuck with the people who felt more like friends and less like profiteers and all was well and I haven't thought about it until this week.

Because Tuesday I went to a networking lunch with a referral group.  And you know, I had a really good time.  I made good connections that I like.  But...

The group requires 1 referral every month.  I need to go to that next meeting with a name and phone number of someone I have talked to and prepared to buy someone else's services.

Not only do I have to be actively looking for people who might be good referral candidates all the time, but I have to refer them to people whose services I haven't even used.  Sure, I might have enjoyed that person's conversation but if they didn't take my photos or write my will, how do I know they're good at what they do?

And if I can't find someone who's genuinely interested, do I just write down a number and hope for the best?  Throw other people's products and services in front of my friends and family members regardless of interest?

It feels so forced.  It feels like a sponsored post.  And I don't think I can do that.

Have you ever participated in referral groups or written sponsored posts?  How do you feel when other people do?


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6 comments:

  1. I couldn't do the referral thing. I use Rodan and Fields and so I sell it (ha barely) because I LIKE it. But I'm so terrible at it.

    I got an eshatki dress once. It didn't fit. I asked for a different one and they never sent it. Oh well.

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  2. I don't think I've ever done a sponsored post... I've been sent a free book before but it was TERRIBLE and I had no problem reviewing it truthfully (as did many other bloggers that got it). I've had companies ask me to use their image on a post about a topic of their choice. I've accepted twice but I'm done with that. Give me something or pay me for my time- I'm not promoting something for free... especially if I've never used it.
    Now I just mention stuff that I love that I bought. I have no affiliation with anything, lol.

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  3. Same, same, same. When there were a few brands making their way through our circle like wildfire, I jumped on a few opportunities. Like you, my eshakti dress is long gone. I think I wore it twice. Cut was great, pattern was cute, but the fabric was weird and not something I would have spent money on. (My Firmoo glasses are still getting use though, so there's one win.) But everything you said about feeling duped by sponsored posts? Agree. It's not that I don't think big bloggers should get free stuff if they're good marketers and are valuable to the brand. I just choose not to participate in my effort to be a very conscious consumer. I mentioned on Steph @ NEP's post the other day that my favorite thing about having cut cable is not being inundated with ads. I keep AdBlock turned on. If I want to be sold on a product, I'm going to decide what product I need, what features I want it to have, and do unbiased research on it. Sneaky, unethical marketing like when affiliations are not disclosed make me feel weird and I don't want to participate. As a blogger, I want my site to be a destination for friends and peers and people I'm interested in having conversations with. Again, no shade to people who are able to earn income from their blogs, good for them. But I think there's an ethical way and an unethical way to do it.

    The referral group sounds like something that would stress me out. It's exhausting to have to look at friends and family as anything other than that, like potential clients or pawns even. And I don't know that I could ever recommend a person whose services I haven't used, or recommend a product I haven't tried.

    I think it all also speaks to a larger issue of the tangle of "always working" and "never not busy" and "hustling 24/7" and the idea that your entire life has to be consumed by business/your job in some regard. It's exhausting. Can't friends just be friends and not potential pawns or clients? Can't conversations have no ulterior motive? I dunno, the whole concept of letting work/business seep into every aspect of life, including leisure activities and relationships, just really bums be out.

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  4. I have never heard of referral groups and I think it sounds like something that I would have constant anxiety about....like oh here is something else I have to worry about getting done this month and how is this person going to receive this and goodness it sounds like a lot of work! I dont mind some sponsored posts now and then from bloggers who will only share stuff that they like. But I think you are right in that it is hard to trash a company that is sending you free stuff.

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  5. I've never done any sort of referral group like that, and like you I don't think I'd be comfortable with it when I haven't actually used that person's services.
    But, I do do sponsored posts. I put the disclosure right at the top of every single one and I try to be SUPER selective and make sure it actually fits my content. And I also try to never make a post about just that one product, I try to incorporate it into an otherwise useful post. Like when I got a coffeemaker, I made the post about how I make my mornings run smoothly, and the programmable coffeemaker was just one part of that. I hope my posts come across as authentic because they are! But I also totally don't mind if people skip them :)

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  6. the referral group sounds way too stressful and demanding.

    i agree about sponsored posts. i bought a skirt from eShakti and then i got a free dress, and i'm pretty sure i no longer have either of them. the dress was awful and i think i said i didn't like it in my post but i tried to spin it in a way that made it sound like i did, which is stupid, but like you said, free stuff. makes you feel obligated. the last free thing i took was a book box and i like books so that's pretty authentic.. but they wanted to keep sending them to me, i did 2 and when they asked to send the 3rd i said no, because i didn't want to do a post on it every month. it's a good box and all, but in general i think book subscription boxes are so overpriced. they are fun, and a nice treat, but not something i would actually buy each month. so yeah. as for other random stuff people email me about, i have no issues saying no. sure, i like free stuff, but i don't want to 'have' to write a post, so nope. no thanks.

    as for feeling duped by other bloggers.. man. i was just thinking that today. i saw 4 posts today all plugging the same product and they all started the same way, and it just made me think they were all so fake. i like the bloggers individually but the sponsored post made it so phony. it made me not trust anything else they said, like they were posting something about '10 ways to do this' and one of them was the sponsored thing, but i was like i don't believe anything in this post now! rage!

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