The great debate of sponsored content - Bloggers/Influencers vs. Consumers/Followers
About a month ago (maybe longer) I shared a sponsored post on my Instagram page. When I hit publish on that post, I never knew such a great discussion would start... but I am very happy that it did!
If you weren't following along during this discussion, here is a quick back story:
I posted a #sponsored (#ad) on my Instagram page for a beauty/self care brand and in Instagram terms, the post TANKED. While my posts don't always get the highest amount of "likes" I usually at least break the hundred/two hundred mark... but that wasn't the case for this post. This post tallied a total of forty likes in almost 24 hours. FORTY.
I'm sure this all sounds pretty silly to someone who doesn't share sponsored content on their Instagram page and in all honesty, that night, I sat there thinking, why does it matter how many people like it or engage on it? (it really doesn't but more on that later). I remember telling Nathan that my post only got so many likes and after seeing his reaction (shocked), I knew I wanted to talk about it on my stories the next day.
Preface: It wasn't that I was "mad" or "upset" that the post received a low amount of "likes", the truth was, I was frustrated. I was frustrated at the whole idea of sponsored content on social media and how I KNEW that it gets a bad rap. I have become close with a lot of other influencers and bloggers on Instagram and it's a topic that is brought up quite frequently in group chats.
The never ending question.... "why is sponsored content looked down upon?"
The next morning, I hopped on my Instagram stories and just
LET IT ALL OUT.
Let me tell you... I was not prepared for the response I received! The response was, for the most part, positive and very eye opening! Of course I did get a few messages of people "reprimanding" me for complaining and telling me that I had no right to be mad that people "don't like my post" ... I can't win them all.
But, when I say that the response was eye opening, I mean it - and not just for me. Many of the people who messaged me, commended me for sharing how "influencers" feel about sponsored content. what goes into that content and were thankful for the insight on #ad posts.
I promised that I would share all the suggestions, thoughts, ideas, etc. that were shared with me that day - not only from my followers, but thoughts from other "influencers". In hopes that we may break this misconception about sponsored content and provide some insight to both sides of this platform!
Here are a few sponsored posts that I've shared over the past year - bet you didn't know I shared that much "sponsored" content, did ya?!
Both sides had frustrations surrounding this topic and both sides
made solid arguments
Compensation for sponsored posts or content:
To be honest, before I started this account, I had no idea how "sponsored" content worked or how these people called "influencers" were paid for sharing all these products. Well, let me tell ya - smaller accounts (think under 20k followers) do not *usually* get paid for sponsored content. That means that they are #gifted whatever product they are promoting and they are taking photos, promoting the product on stories and giving you "that always asked for coupon code" for FREE. (seriously, everyone asks for a coupon code). You may be thinking - well, it's not really for free if they're getting a product.... and while you are correct, they received that product for free, they still didn't get compensating for their time creating that photo or educating you about the product. That brings me to the next point...
Time & Effort:
I know snapping a photo may sound like it doesn't take a lot of time or effort - but many brands require high resolution photos (as in multiple photos) taken with a DSLR camera, and they require the photos to be edited - or they require the photo to meet certain requirements. Sometimes, it's not as easy as snapping a photo of your house (or yourself, or that outfit, or that product, etc. whatever your niche is). Sometimes you need to take an hour out of your day to stage the space for the photos. One top of that, you need to edit the photos, upload them and email them to the company or brand - sometimes for approval before you can even post! On top of all that, the bottom line is... this "sponsored photo" is created for THEIR FOLLOWERS. Yup. It's created for the same people who see a #sponsored post and decide not to engage on it... because they don't believe it's genuine (again, more on that later).
Engagement & "Like" Numbers:
While the influencer may not care how many likes their normal Instagram posts get, I promise you, they care more about the sponsored posts. Why? Because the brand usually cares and asks to see the numbers 24 hours after posting. As terrible as it sounds, the brand usually bases their decision to work with that "influencer" again based on how their posts do. This means that the influencer is counting on their followers, who generally engage on all their other posts, to engage, like and comment on this post too - because why should this post be any different? Right? Well... continue below to learn why "followers" don't think sponsored posts are the same as regular posts.
Is it genuine?
THE NUMBER ONE response I received when I talked about this topic - "I don't think their review is genuine" / "I don't believe they actually use that product". I received SO MANY messages saying that some of the accounts they follow share so much sponsored content, that it's difficult to believe what they are being "real" about and what they are just promoting so they can get paid. I get it... I sometimes think that about people I follow.
Too many Ads on Social Media:
This is something I can 100% agree with and something that I much more conscious about since opening up this discussion with my followers. Social media is become anything but social. It's becoming a dumping ground for ads and promotions and ways to "make a buck". I can see how consumers/followers are feeling pressured to buy everything they see, because it's not only "influencers" promoting products, but it's also ads that pop up on your feed. TRUTH: half of the people who responded to my "rant" on this subject, told me that they thought my photo/post was a legitimate company ad and that is why they didn't engage on it - because they are sick of seeing ads. I can get behind that.... I really can.
Post is not relatable:
The simple response? The viewer/follower couldn't relate to the post or product. This also went hand in hand with the response - "don't promote products that are off brand". This rang extremely true to the exact post I was talking about... I posted about a natural ingredient tooth paste. I am a Home Decor account.... I can see the disconnect, I really can. (I'm sorry!)
How to combat ALLLL those points:
Simple Solutions for Both Sides:
Compensation: Even if you use that product on a daily basis or would be interested in using the product, ask to be paid for the content you're creating. If you feel it's going to take a big chunk of your time to create that content... ask to be compensated. PERIOD. Will the brand say yes? Maybe not... but maybe they will. You never know until you ask & if you ask and they shut you down, well then you can decide if you still want to move forward and that's on you.
Time & Effort: Again, this goes hand in hand with compensation - but I did get a lot of suggestions from followers/consumers telling that it's a good idea to ask your audience how they want to "receive" sponsored content. We can't avoid it... let's be honest, it's a thing in this day and age, so you should find out the best way to present it to your audience. Ask them in stories, do polls, feel them out - I promise you won't regret it.
Engagement & Numbers: There is not much you can do about the number game… sharing in stories may help or just have a healthy conversation with your followers about sponsored content… like I did (haha). One tip I was given, and I thought was a great idea, was to engage on stories with your followers about the product before posting about it. This can help give your followers a better understanding and ease them into whatever you are promoting – without feeling like you’re shoving it in their face. I actually tried this approach with a sponsored post a few weeks later and I will say, it was received much better! So, I'm labeling that idea as "tried and true" !!
Followers/Consumers: Simple Solution
"Is it genuine?" How to tell: I will say this until I am blue in the face... “if you can tell something isn’t genuine, then you can tell when something IS genuine.” USE YOUR JUDGEMENT. If you follow someone regularly, you probably have a handle on how they present themselves… you should be able to tell if they’re feeding your bulls*t or not. Let's be real.
Too many #ads: If someone you follow is sharing wayyy too many ads lately, mute their account for awhile. YUP you can mute an account if you’re just not feeling them at the moment, but don’t want to completely unfollow them (……..now please don’t go and mute me!) Also, feeling pressured to buy a product is completely normal and unfortunately it’s a common thing today. This is how I handle that feeling – if I’m interested in something someone is sharing but don’t want to buy it right then… or can’t (financially), I screen shot their post or story, and I go back to it later. Maybe it’s a week later, maybe its 2 months later… and if I want to buy it, I reach out to them for a link (so they get credit still!) …….I have a lot of screenshots in my photos!
***there is also a way to do this if you use Like to Know It - you can create wishlists in the app to come back to at a later date - but the blogger/influencer still gets credit that way!***
Post isn't relatable: If it’s unrelatable for you, it’s unrelatable! You’re not going to like or relate to EVERY. SINGLE. THING someone shares, it’s just not going to happen. So, if you don’t relate, move on and maybe give their next post some extra love – a like and a comment go a long way in supporting a blogger/influencer that you like following on social media.... and after this post, I hope you realize why :)
Bloggers/Influencers: Be conscious of your audience! Make sure you're not sharing products that are totally off brand for your account... you've built an account around a certain niche, so stay in your lane. This will help your audience "believe you" and they'll be more likely to engage with you and your content. Don't take on collaborations just because you want a free product... uh huh, I said it. It was also suggested to include something that is super recognizable to your viewers. Example: Many of my followers suggested I include Boone in my sponsored posts (if I can) - so they instantly recognize Boone and know it's my post. Yes, I laughed out loud because of course Boone was requested, but you get the picture.
P.S. - Here are some "sponsored" posts that I included Boone in.... and I'm not ashamed to say,
they did perform better...
*Sponsored Posts with Boone*
I truly hope that this sheds light on both sides of the spectrum that it helps (begin) to break the misconception on sponsored posts and #ads. I'd love to keep the discussion going below - leave a comment if you'd like!