Happy Saturday, friends!
I’m sorry I haven’t quite got back into the swing of regular health, fitness and wellness related blog posts, but I promise I’ll post something substantial again soon. To be honest, around the time I started studying for the GMAT thinking I’d be going back to grad school I was feeling rather disenchanted with the whole blogging and fitness/health side passion I had going on. Perhaps I was still bitter from the Mode Media fiasco and doing $1,700 worth of work promoting brands and not seeing a dime of it; or perhaps I enjoyed my two-week Maui vacation a little too much and decided I’d rather have true downtime outside of work (which has gotten insanely busy) instead of side hustling.
Or perhaps I really was just feeling disenchanted with it all. Earlier this year I read this gag-worthy piece in The Atlantic and remember thinking, YES. This bothers me. A lot. This is what I see every time I scroll through Instagram and what I hope my blog and social channels never become. Every oddly angled staged photo I see of a lap top, coffee and succulents (#girlboss #workhard #butfirstcoffee), or social media influencer wearing whatever sponsored apparel or fitness gear they received to review on their blog looking down to the side causally like they’ve lost a dollar or something on the ground makes me imagine how many pictures they took just to get jussssst it right, or how much their husband/boyfriend rolled their eyes when asked to take a photo of said social media influencer next to a brick wall with cool graffiti on it holding a smoothie for the 1000th time.
It’s hard not to think that way when you’re a part of that very community and are probably guilty of much the same posts.
Here’s an excerpt from that Atlantic article. How bizarre that this is actually someone’s life.
“So we’re thinking of having an indoor gym in our home because if we could even say yes to one or two fitness campaigns, then that would pay for the gym itself,” Fillerup Clark explained. They’d sprung for an outdoor shower for similar reasons. “Sometimes we’ll have a campaign where we’re doing shaving cream, and it’s a little awkward to be indoors in your shower, so it makes more sense to have a beautiful outdoor shower and do it out there.” They were incorporating picturesque window seats, and had come up with a special design for what they called “Amber’s hallway”: It would be extra wide and lined with windows and, according to Clark, was partly “based off of ‘I want to take pictures there.’ ”
“The more our house becomes Pinnable, the more it leads back to the website,” said Clark. “We want it to traffic well. We want it to go viral.”
Could you imagine building a house so it was “Instagramable” so you could get campaigns to sell shaving cream?
What world do we live in?
Apparently, this one.
I remember feeling like a bit of a sell out when I agreed to do those few campaigns with Mode Media. On one hand, they were products I was honestly interested in reviewing and I would be compensated with enough money to justify booking a trip to Maui that winter. On the other hand, the marketing rep for the company had these very particular guidelines to “weave brand messaging in naturally” and “make it sound authentic”. They even had to approve the piece before I published and changed a few sentences here and there. That did not sit right with me, but I signed a contract and had to oblige before I hit publish.
Even now when I get emails from brands looking for me to “write naturally” about a topic and weave in features about their products, I mostly just ignore them; but if I know of and like the brand or product represented by said marketing firm I’ll suggest they can send me the product to try and I’ll give them my honest opinion about it (if it tastes good, does what it promises, etc.) so my readers can decide for themselves if it’s something they want to try. No more of this “causally weave in brand messaging” crap. Readers can tell when it’s a sponsored post and you’re maybe not being as honest or authentic as they’d like you to be. I’ve worked in both marketing and communications for my entire professional life so I know what kind of conversations happen behind the scenes to get you to take action.
With the collapse of Mode Media, I realized how fragile the whole social influencer marketing system was and that perhaps the best approach to stay real and authentic on my blog and other social channels (AND to maintain them as something I actually enjoyed to do, not my main source of side income) was to treat it like an actual publication, where revenue could come from sidebar ads if needed (I’ve since removed those because they bothered me too, haha!) and any features or reviews of products would be things I bought myself or something that a company sent me and I could provide an honest review for in my own words.
I understand that sponsored posts can be the bread and butter of some bloggers, and we all need to earn money in some form or another for our time. And don’t get me wrong: I love the photos, recipes, honest posts and workout tips of some of my favourite health and wellness bloggers (you know who you are! <3), even if they contain a smattering of sponsored content. But then there are others for whom I just can’t tell what is real life anymore and what is just one big marketing campaign. The lines between real life and advertising have become so blurry on social media now that I’ve started to look away.
I’m not sure where this whole influencer marketing thing is going, but I don’t like how it’s starting to saturate our social feeds so much that what was once a fun place to connect with other like-minded individuals has become just another channel to make you feel like you need to buy all the thingz in order to be pretty/handsome/sexy/fit/healthy/happy.
What are your thoughts about sponsored posts?
What value do you get from it?
How do you balance them with why you started your blog in the first place?
As a reader, do you find value in sponsored posts?