The relationship between designers and bloggers has generated a lot of conversation lately — and that is certainly preferable to allowing anger, frustration and resentment to bubble beneath the surface. For me, though, many of these discussions spend too little time reflecting on the symbiotic relationship between blogger and designer and that leads to an unnecessary and misleading polarization of the issue. Bloggers and creators should not be polarized, because they need each other and their relationship is symbiotic, not parasitic.
Don’t get me wrong. I roll my eyes when I see increasingly prescriptive demands from creators, but I understand where the motivation for these demands originate. There are more and more and more bloggers everyday. It is clear that several, though not most, people who decide to blog see it as an opportunity to get free stuff. There is plenty of evidence for this from Flickr posters soliciting “blog sponsors” without regard to their own aesthetic to the fact that I, a blogger who has made exactly two projectors for sale, get random notecards asking me to add people to my blogging team. Hah!
If you are sending me a notecard, you have not looked at what I make. If you have not looked at what I make, you don’t care about the quality or creativity or any of the other reasons someone would want to blog another’s items. You just want stuff.
I do not disapprove of a blogger contacting a designer. I have myself. However, I only do it when that designer speaks to me with their creations. When a designer’s work stands out from the crowd. When I have worn it and blogged it and know I love it. When their work suits my taste and the way I think about clothing. Yes, then I will read their profile to learn how they recruit new bloggers and follow their instructions. I may be one of the “old guard”, but I still follow instructions. The key point though, is that I only ask if their work is something I would still wear and still buy, if and when I can afford it, whether they added me as a blogger or not.
Creators need some method of winnowing the chaff and many have opted for prescriptive demands on the number of flickr views, a minimum number of posts per month, or the willingness to put the store logo along a sidebar even though that may risk a WordPress TOS violation and suspension. Yes, you are not being paid for those ads, but WordPress does not know that – particularly when you label them as sponsors. Unfortunately, none of the prescriptive demands get at the essential reason for choosing someone as your blogger — that they love your store and love your creations and would evangelize with a whole heart.
Maylee Oh of The Secret Store has a smart method of selecting bloggers. Instead of coming up with a list of demands, she seeks out who she thinks “gets” her store. She has a photo application and chooses bloggers from their photos. And now that I have highlighted this as an exceptionally good way to choose bloggers, I have ruled myself out for applying since that would make this look like sucking up. Dang it! The reason this makes for a good way to find bloggers is that photos will tell her who really understands and loves her brand.
Bloggers who love your store are more valuable than those who will blog you only because you give them stuff – even if they don’t meet your minimum requirements for posts, feeds and flickr views. Their ability to style the outfit in a way that highlights the aesthetic, to show how it can be worn in new and creative ways – that is more powerful than anything. That makes people want it.
So what is the solution? For bloggers, I think you must recognize that blogging will always demand some expenditures. Even after 7.5 years as a blogger, I still buy stuff to complete an outfit or to discover new to me designers and appreciate their work, or to highlight clothes that I love even if the designer does not have me “on their list”. If you want to blog for someone, invest in them first. Buy some things and blog them. Most importantly, develop your own style so they know whether you and they are a good fit.
For creators, I think the answer is find the bloggers that already love your work and already blog it. Make sure your application asks for a list of posts with your items. If they are all in the last week or so, you know they are not in love with your store. Add new bloggers every few months and only drop people when they stop blogging. If they already love your stuff, they won’t stop wearing your items unless you or they go in a different direction. Of course, then it makes sense to drop them. Instead of lots of prescriptive demands, ask them to tag their posts with your store name so you can find the posts easily with a platform wide wordpress.com/tag/storename search. It does make sense that they be on at least one feed, but three feeds is a lot for newly minted bloggers and new bloggers bring a new social circle sometimes and that means new customers. The reason for having several bloggers is that each blogger has his or her own circle of followers, so even though some new blogger may be only seen by sixty people, they might be sixty people who are not seeing anyone else.
But the most important thing, for both designers and bloggers is that your relationship is mutually advantageous. Bloggers help creators and creators help bloggers. Certainly when I started blogging, for the first six months of so, I bought every single item. I did not even know I could ask anyone for review items. There was not so much disclosure back then, so I assumed everyone else was buying, too. So yes, bloggers can blog without creators. Likewise, creators can make things and sell things without ever being blogged. But, when they work together and support each other, both can do more and do better. That is the essence of symbiosis.
I am not going to tell creators to stop doing applications or tell bloggers to stop applying. My big prescription is that you do it for love. Bloggers apply to those store you love and not to as many as you can. If you love what you are blogging, it will show. Creators, choose bloggers whose love for your work shows in their posts, not in their ability to check some boxes on an application. If you love what they do with your creations, they should be your blogger. That is the kind of relationship that will be satisfying – and mutually advantageous – for the long term.
Store info at Blogging Second Life
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