How Much Marketing Should Craft Bloggers Do for Craft Companies?

a special guest post by Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod

bench monday: piled
Image by jessica wilson {jek in the box}, via Flickr Creative Commons

This morning, I opened my email and found what I find every single week: a request from a craft company, asking me to feature its products on my blog. Sometimes, these companies want to send me free product if I’ll write about it or have a giveaway. Some of them want me to promote a contest they’re hosting. Some of them just send me press releases. In some cases, these companies are Etsy sellers looking to sell their wares, and in other cases, they’re great big companies with stores all over the country.

The truth is, if you’re a craft blogger and you accumulate a readership of reasonable size, sooner or later people will come knocking on your door, asking you to market stuff for them.

Is that a bad thing? No, not always. But it does point to a new media landscape that’s emerging for the craft industry. If you think about it, in many ways blogs are slowly usurping the other channels crafty marketers used to use to spread the word about their products. Craft magazines have dwindled, as have crafty TV programs. Where are we crafters paying the lion’s share of our media attention? On the internet – in the blogosphere and on social media sites.

So, craft companies increasingly need bloggers – or, more pointedly, they need exposure to our readers – in order to stay viable.

Boundary
Image by ank0ku, via Flickr Creative Commons

OK, that’s not exactly rocket science. But it’s beginning to raise some important questions for bloggers:

  • Do we really want to be marketing engines for the craft industry?
  • Do we bear any actual responsibility for promoting the craft industry?
  • Should we, in fact, be compensated for this service? And perhaps most importantly…
  • How much of this marketing will our readers actually tolerate before they start drifting away?

It’s really easy, I think, for crafters to become a bit contentious in discussing these questions. It’s that whole “hobbyist vs. professional” debate. If you blog as a hobby, and a company you love offers to send you a bunch of free goodies in exchange for a blog post, you should have every right to take advantage of that deal. And if I blog for my livelihood, and the same company approaches me, I should have every right to request that they pay for the exposure to my audience.

…The issue is that these two realities, although both 100% valid, don’t co-exist so well. Then there’s a third reality in that mix: the craft companies themselves, who, let’s face it, will almost always gravitate to where they don’t have to pay anything for exposure. I don’t see this as nefarious, necessarily – any company will seek to save money where it can. But with so many companies beginning to target blogs as marketing channels, I think it may be time for every blogger to consider where she stands in terms of her “marketing boundaries.”

Shaking Hands
Image by Nicola Corboy, via Flickr Creative Commons

I’ll use my own blogging history as an illustration: When I started a personal craft blog in 2006, and companies first started contacting me, it was tremendously exciting. Michaels, asking ME to promote their contest?! My goodness, I must have arrived! I took on every request that came my way. After all, I was getting freebies and I figured that if I supported these companies, sooner or later they’d support me somehow – maybe by hiring me to craft for them!

Well, over the years, I came to see that there isn’t always a mutually-supportive environment at work there. Some companies are more engaged than others, but in many cases, once they had their free publicity out of me, the companies rarely took further notice – until they needed publicity again!

Meanwhile, as I was doing all these market-y posts on my blog, I came to see that their content wasn’t all that interesting to my readers in the long run. I had to ask myself: did I really want to be a craft-product news blogger? My readers had come to me because I blogged about craft projects. Was it fair to shove a lot of craft-company promotion at them just so I could have free stuff?

Slowly, as my blog has become a more central part of my livelihood, I’ve backed away from doing much free promotion for companies.

Maze (미로)
Image by golbenge, via Flickr Creative Commons

…But alas, my decision, though it sounds a little cut-and-dried, is full of complications. For example: it may be easy to draw this line against larger craft companies with marketing budgets, but what about fellow crafters who’ve opened up small online shops? In a way, I feel a different responsibility for these little companies – after all, a one-person shop may not have access to the kinds of marketing resources big companies do. Plus, these are fellow crafters. What does it mean when I turn these folks’ marketing requests away?

And then there’s the factor of the industry as a whole. Again, it’s easy for me to decide that I don’t want to be a free marketing engine for larger craft companies, but even then, it’s hard to ignore the fact that, without the crafty blogosphere, craft companies have fewer and fewer ways to reach crafters, and this can hurt industry sales as a whole. I love craft supplies, and craft books and magazines. If I want them to stay around, shouldn’t I participate a little in spreading the word about them?

Exchange
Image by tonyhall, via Flickr Creative Commons

There are no easy answers here – as I said before, each of us has to come up with our own policies. But there are two ideas that, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional blogger, I think we might all agree upon. First, there’s the concept of mutually-beneficial exchange. If you’re going to use your blog to market someone else’s product, what do you need to get in return in order to feel good about that?

We do have to let each other define what “mutually-beneficial exchange” means for ourselves, and respect each other’s definitions. But when we’re approached by anyone (and especially, anyone who has a marketing budget) and asked to give them free publicity, don’t we all have a right to request a format that benefits both us and them? Maybe that’s payment for the exposure, or maybe it’s a review copy – or maybe it’s a trade of exposure, and they promote our work through their channels. There are always options; we just need to ask for them.

The second idea is one I’ve written about on my blog – storytelling partnerships. It’s about understanding that the mere existence of a product does not make for interesting blog content, so all the “blog mentions” in the world won’t necessarily capture hearts and minds. I think there are rich opportunities for bloggers and marketers to work together to come up with more interesting blog coverage that gets promotion done without sounding so much like marketing.

Love & Respect
Image by John Kenzer, via Flickr Creative Commons

If we bloggers were to gently demand mutually-beneficial exchanges and better stories from craft companies, I think those companies would begin to treat us with more respect. I think many craft companies (whether consciously or not) make big assumptions about bloggers: that we all “need things to write about,” so why not their product? That we all want free products, and will happily promote anything in exchange. That we don’t really need to be compensated, because we aren’t traditional media outlets. And I think the only reason they can make these assumptions is because we allow them to.

The blogosphere has been around long enough now that it may be time we bloggers started thinking of ourselves as what we’ve become – a primary media outlet for the crafter market. I don’t think the marketers will see us this way, though, until we step up and claim this role.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a policy for marketing content on your blog? What would a mutually-beneficial exchange look like for you?

Editor’s note: Please share your thoughts in the comments & join Diane & I for an #OMHG Twitter chat on mutually-beneficial relationships + blogging boundaries from 1-2 EST this Thursday-its going to be a juicy one! Click here for more info on our #OMHG chats

ABOUT DIANE

Diane Gilleland writes, podcasts and teaches over at CraftyPod.com. She’s obsessed with making crafts and making all kinds of media, and when she’s not obsessing over those things, she’s thinking about how online culture is changing them. Unless her cat Pushkin needs something – then she drops everything and does what he says.

  • http://livinginlalalandblog.com Chacoy-Living in La La Land

    Great post, I agree!
    I often wonder what the convesations are like in these company/PR meetings(or if they have any). We don’t need to pay this guy when we can get 20 of these ones FREE!?

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Thanks, chacoy! I actually wonder how much craft companies feel overtly like they’re getting away with something for free when they approach bloggers. The craft industry tends to move pretty slowly, so I think they’re operating more from a place of assumption. I don’t think they actually see us as a media outlet quite yet – just as a consumer base they can tap into.

  • http://www.alwaysexpectmoore.com Carolina {Always Expect Moore}

    Diane, I’m constantly impressed by your ability to take a tough, polarizing issue, and make it understandable to all sides.
    YES! We need to see ourselves as professionals, and present ourselves as professionals, in order for brands to see us that way. The onus is on us to change the status quo.
    We can’t blame brands for not changing their ways, when we as a collective haven’t changed ours.
    The tide is shifting… for the good… and articles like this one right here will help continue that trend. Thank you for all that you do for Crafty Bloggers! 🙂

  • http://www.threebysea.com nicole : three by sea

    I love how evenly and fairly you wrote about this. I also love & agree w/ your idea of storytelling partnerships vs. ‘write about my product’ and would love to see more of these.

    As far as craft companies seeking publicity, they need to consider who they’re asking to write about their products and compensate accordingly. After all, ad prices/compensation for all forms of media are based on the size of the market being reached by them, as well as the outlet itself.

    Also, there’s difference between purchasing airtime for a commercial vs. seeking a product feature on the show itself, which falls under the curate vs. create aspect of all this. Is your blog’s primary focus on creating content to share (the blogs of many artists/crafters/makers) or curating the work/products of others (many of the shelter/design blogs)? That should be very clear to the readers, the marketers and the bloggers themselves.

    As far as responsibility being taken by bloggers themselves, I agree we should do more ‘evangelizing’ about products, sites and services we use. Unsolicited praise is the best (and usually most believable!) kind of product endorsement, and it gives a bit of transparency & insight into you as a blogger/maker, which I think readers appreciate. Plus it has that good karma effect- if everyone talking about and sharing their fave products and services became the norm, someone is likely talk about your own products/services down the road (‘yours’ used in the general sense here.)

  • Paula

    Thanks for addressing this topic. As a brand new craft blogger, it’s one of the things I need to think about. I do have an aversion to blogs that are overly saturated by advertising. It’s a fine line between what will help you and what will be a blog killer.

    Bottom line, I think it’s high time the craft industry recognize the value of exposure they get on blogs and give compensation to the blogger beyond free product.

  • http://www.auntpeaches.com Peaches

    Amen! Way to tackle a sticky issue. You are right, we can’t blame product companies for using bloggers as a free/low-cost source of marketing exposure if all of us bloggers are pricing ourselves as, well, free/low-cost.

    I think the tide of “freebie product = free blog post” will eventually grow so large it will collapse –like, a television station with all commercials and no programs. Who wants to watch that? Quality content will always win in the end. I have faith! 🙂

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Carolina – thank you so much for the kind words! I so agree: it’s all up to us to create the kind of exchanges we want with companies.

    Nicole – Wow, I really love your distinction between “create vs. curate,” and the difference in value inherent in those two approaches. Very smart point – if we’re being asked to create fresh content around someone else’s product or service, that really deserves better compensation.

    Paula – you’re right. It IS a very fine line between sustainability and saturation. I never mind seeing a few pieces of obviously-sponsored content on my favorite blogs, because I feel like the blogger is at least getting some compensation, and I’m glad. But then, as a reader, there’s a tight threshold to how much of that I’ll continue paying attention to.

    Peaches – Amen re: quality content winning! One of the enduring entertainments of the internet is watching all these experiments in content and marketing start up, grow to oversaturation, and shrink back to a sustainable point. We are all in a mad period of trial and error together right now!

  • http://gabrieladelworthdesigns.blogspot.ca Gabriela

    Hello,

    I do think this is such a great post!

    Of course product companies target our blogs for marketing! I am actually glad they do and also get asked a lot to feature their products.

    We should get compensated by product companies for sure!

    It’s a win-win situation and us bloggers need to negotiate this depending on our needs. But what is it what we really want?

    Some bloggers might want free products, or exposure on product sites as designers, others might welcome cash…
    I do think that a combination of these type of compensations are beneficial. But that is up to each blogger to choose and decide.

    Personally on my blog I enjoy offering free craft tutorials and have a disclaimer attached to them.

    People know if I have a relationship with a company or not and why I am featuring a product.

    I love teaching and sharing creative projects with my blog readers.
    Getting compensated for it by product companies is great!

    What’s your take?

    Gabriela

  • http://KandyOh.com KandyOh

    What an insightful post.

    The part that really struck me was when you said “in the long run my audience doesn’t find the craft companies’ content meaningful.” I see this as an opportunity, rather than a negative. I live on both sides of the craft business fence: by day, I help companies, ahem, craft their online marketing strategies + connecting with bloggers is part of that strategy. By night, I am an Etsy shop owner seeing the perspective from the other side.

    As an interactive marketer, my recommendation is this: when a company reaches out to you with content or an approach that isn’t engaging – tell them and tell them why. Begin developing a relationship where you are in a consultative role: giving them advice on how to better reach their target audience. (And getting paid for this advice, of course!)

    It’s win-win – you get more engaging, relevant content for your readers, and the company is able to refine its strategy. You are a subject matter expert + companies badly need these on their marketing teams.

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Gabriela – thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Kandyoh – definitely, I’ve started responding to many of the sales pitches I get in this manner. If there’s no possibility I’d be interested in covering what I’m being asked to cover, then I don’t bother with it. But when there’s a chance for future dialog, then I do. Responses from the marketers have been all over the board. Sometimes I get into very productive discussions with marketers, and other times, I’ve encountered rather withering resistance. (Usually, resistance has come from those who’ve “been in marketing for XX years” and have fairly calcified ideas about what it should look like. Needless to say, dialog ends there. 🙂 I love that you’re watching this moment in time from both sides!

  • http://snaptheconference.com Tauni

    What a great article. So well written. Love.

    I have spent years as a PR practitioner working for “earned” i.e. free media. I have also spent a lot of time working in the field of blogging and social media. Needless to say, this is a topic I have thought about a lot.

    I feel like I have come to a pretty comfortable place in terms of what I believe should be considered earned media and what should be paid.

    In my mind a product review should never be paid. Once a financial transaction has occurred it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide a fair and honest opinion.

    Having said that, reviewing a product does not necessarily result in a full tutorial or featured use of the product.

    If a company is asking a blogger to use their product in a specific way and post about it…i.e. please use this in a tutorial and feature on your site OR they are asking for very specific promotional post with links that should be compensated (mutually beneficial, etc.).

    As bloggers it is our responsibility to understand our audience and provide them with the right mix.

    I hope that mix is solicited reviews, unsolicited reviews, independent projects and sponsored projects and I hope that it ALWAYS remains consistent with the individual brand and authenticity.

  • http://www.cantstopmakingthings.com Gail Jacobson

    I too often get inquiries about accepting products for a giveaway or blog post. My goal is to write a blog that I would want to read. It is such a turn off to read a post about cleaning products (for instance). It is obvious that the blog host has been compensated and is thinking about her bottom line rather than her readers’ interests. It makes me reevaluate whether I want to read her blog anymore.

    Plus, the companies target lots of bloggers. How many blogs do I have to read giving away Silhouette machines or Shabby Apple dresses? Each blog is no longer unique.

    If getting lots of swag is more important than your readership, then by all means go for it. Just realize that you risk alienating your readers.

    Saying all of this, I often mention that I get my materials at Michaels, Home Depot and Walmart. I want to give my readers information. No one has ever asked me to say that. I have never been compensated. I’m thinking of my readers and not the companies.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      BEST conversation ever! There is so much insight into the world of crafty blogging/sponsorship in this post & comments, my brain is whirring. First off a huge thank you to Diane for sharing this post with us and initiating this dialogue-I can’t wait until our #omhg chat tomorrow where we can talk this out in real time.

      I think boundaries in general are so valuable-children need them in order to feel safe, employees need them with clients/employers & our new crafty economy needs them too. As many of these awesome comments point out, these boundaries will look different for each of us & will often shift over time. I know mine did!

      When I first started blogging I knew very little about blogs/advertising/compensation-I learned that stuff on the fly. I freely gave my time at the beginning to almost anyone who approached me & since I am an above + beyond kind of girl I put so much effort into each post. As time went on I realized I was starting to feel resentful about all the time I was putting in with little pay. This goes for bigger companies but also the smaller Etsy shops too! I would do all the work of creating, designing & promoting the posts and almost never heard from the company featured again. Often the bigger the biz= less self-promotion on their part of the feature on OMHG.

      So I found my own way towards “storytelling/mutually beneficial exchanges” to reduce my workload/stress. Now smaller shops/artisans have opportunity to share their own story for our Meeting the Makers category, larger crafty businesses can purchase ad space in our sidebar & receive an editorial feature if they buy 3 months or more + services & supplies for creatives can be listed in our Guide to Businessy Goodness…by diversifying like this I am turning OMHG into an actual viable business-without compromising any of my ethics.

      I think the concept of fair exchange & trading value for value is so important for creatives. If we feel that receiving product is a fair exchange for the time spent then hooray! I love books so I continue to review them in exchange for a copy of the book + insight into the author’s world. That is a fair exchange for me whereas I won’t promote Target’s latest line no matter how many times I am asked UNLESS the story is compelling or the post itself is creative. I am interested in innovative advertising-I would love to see big companies create opportunities for the readership of our sites to engage. Like a select group of bloggers styling a room or creating something all with the exact same item. It often seems like bigger companies are stuck in an older model of CPM, conversion per click, vs generating real engagement + discussion about their products/services.

      I am inspired by the great thoughts left here in the comments-thank you all for sharing your ideas/experiences with OMHG!

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Tauni – Wow! The PR industry calls it “earned media?” How interesting – is it “earned” because something is traded, i.e, product? I like your take on reviews, too – I’m in fact beginning to see some resistance to “blog tours” for new craft books these days. I think there’s a perception, because this model has been used so much, that anything said about a book in the context of a blog tour just isn’t as authentic.

    Gail – I so agree about those widespread promotions. I did a Silhouette giveaway a couple years back – one of many, many that happen in the blogosphere. I do like the machine, but really, it felt like everyone who visited my blog was there for the accompanying giveaway, not for any opinions I might have had about the machine. Is that really marketing? Or, for that matter, worthwhile blog content?

  • http://www.byannette.blogspot.com AnnetteH

    Diane ~
    Another great article and well chosen photos!

    I am still new to blogging and would feel “I made it” if a company offered me a product to review or giveaway.

    I do not care for all the advertising on the sides of blogs but haven’t looked into that being an income; maybe at some point.

    I agree there should be a story involved with the product.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • tanvel

    Who else, but Martha Stewart started this problem with crafting companies!
    Finally, she became savvy enough to start her own line- but really behind her name it is the company who supplies the items with her name on tthem. And both make a ton of money!!!

  • http://www.homesweetbutterfly.com Vanessa

    Hi, Diane

    Excellent post! You have really opened my eyes and help me rethink the way I will do business with companies. You are right, bloggers are a media outlet. Thank you for sharing.

    Vanessa

  • http://www.90minutequilts.com Meryl Ann Butler

    I loved reading these musings! I agree with Tauni that a product review should never be paid, but it does seem like additional things like tutorials should be.
    I have not started my “crafty” blog yet (I am going to take Diane’s upcoming class!) but I have been blogging about other subjects on a larger, newsy type blog, for 6 or 7 years (it’s a pretty big site, I have gotten over 350,000 hits on my articles during this time, but this is volunteer work for me.) … I do review some books, music, theater, etc. ( while I don’t get paid for these, i usually get a review copy or ticket.) The way I solved one of the issues is that I never write a bad review. Writing bad reviews is not fun for me, and I am definitely in this (and life in general) for the fun! And my mom always told me if I couldn’t say anything nice, not to say anything at all.
    So, if the product/book/music/event excites me, then I write a rave review, and if it doesn’t, then I don’t write any review – I leave that to someone else who might love it – we don’t all love the same things! This seems to work well for most things that I review – I only write when I am thrilled, and the folks I am reviewing seem to love the idea that they don’t have to worry about a critical review. (So many critical reviews seem to me to be just kind of invented anyway, as if reviewers felt that it was their job to tear apart the 1% that was wrong with something that was 99% fabulous!)
    on another note, Diane, I am wondering about ads… I know that traditionally newspapers and other periodicals give free column space to folks who buy ads, so why couldn’t something like a tutorial be a “perk” to a company that buys an ad on a blog? and then run the ad and tutorial at the same time?
    (I am not yet savvy enough with blogs and ads to know exactly how this might work, I am just using the periodical template, and trying to see if it fits for online blogging.)
    Printed text has been our modus operendi for over 500 years, and now the internet has changed that – although EXACTLY what we have changed into is not clear yet! So I am glad that you are bringing up these questions, it is going to take a bit of dancing to find our way through the cyberspace jungle!

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Meryl Ann – AMEN to that! The internet is changing everything, but what it’s changing everything into is still unclear. Personally, I don’t think I’d mind if a blogger were to give some feature space to an advertiser as part of a package deal with a banner ad. I’ve seen some similar things out there, and this is pretty near to what I’m doing these days with podcast sponsorships as well. I also think craft companies could sponsor more tutorials on blogs instead of asking for them for free. As Tauni said, that’s skilled work and should be compensated with more than free product. And since tutorial posts are so widely shared, it sure seems to me that such a sponsorship deal would result in good publicity for the sponsor. I haven’t yet seen this model in action, but I would really like to.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Diane-I’ve done sponsored tutorials as part of advertising packages like this one: http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/2011/what-we-know/diy-rick-rack-mini-felt-buntings-giveaway/
      and http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/2011/uncategorized/tutorial-make-a-long-stem-felt-rose/ for Felt on the Fly & have others in the works. I think they end up being a far better value for advertisers then a review post or even interview. Some of our tutorials have had 100,000’s of views-way more then any interview/feature & directing more traffic to their sites then a PR piece. It is definitely important to make clear in any post whether or not it has been sponsored in some way though!

      I do offer editorial space for advertisers that they can use for a feature/review/interview/giveaway/guest posts or combination and I reserve giveaways for advertisers or contributors-again because it seems like fair exchange. I am interested to know what models other blogs use since there seems to be no standard at all! Some people love affiliate links vs. paid ads some people don’t-that in itself is a whole different conversation/post.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/swoodsonvintage Stephanie/SwoodsonVintage

    Such an important discussion! I don’t craft blog – but I will add in that I’d rather read a crafty blog promoting a craft business/company instead of something that doesn’t “fit” with what they normally post on.

  • http://www.1stuniquegifts.co.uk/blog Wendy

    Excellent post! This issue isn’t just about craft products – although I make all my products myself, they’re aimed at the gift market. I get a lot of gift companies wanting me to blog about them (even sending unsolicited pre-written articles to me!) – some of these are my direct competitors!

  • http://www.theoddgirl.com Kristy

    This is a great post! I’m sort of on both sides of this issue, I am a crafter turned biz owner. Now my biz is just a one woman show so changes in my company vs the big guys is faster, though on the flip side my marketing budget is pretty much nothing. Though besides having a design team I don’t solicit bloggers for advertising/reviews/etc.I know as my company grows I would rather pay my designers to deliver great content than not.

    I think this is a great discussion because you are looking at it in a flexible way (mutually beneficial and what that means to each person). As I constantly have to tell my 4 year old, if you don’t use your words and tell me what you want, how will I know? Its kind of the same here. Companies are the same way in that even though the landscape of blogging has changed to less hobby more professional without people using their words they won’t make the change. Making it, like you said, mutually beneficial and tailored to the company/situation/proposal is a great way to turn the tide. Everyone wants to do the right thing I believe in general but they don’t always know what that is.

    It would be a great follow up post I think to give some instances and suggestions on what companies can do instead of what they’ve been doing. I know I would love some ideas 🙂

  • http://www.katerichbourg.com Kate Richbourg

    Great discussion and topic! I relate the attitude of free promotion as kind of a new “word-of-mouth” scenario. With the demise of brick and mortar stores and internet shopping so popular, it seems like craft blogs are a natural go to for companies to promote their products. Word of mouth is still perceived (and rightly, in my opinion) as a high value marketing tool. We look at popular craft bloggers as our “neighbors” in cyber-space and getting a recommendation on a good product from a neighbor is a good trigger to go out and make a purchase.

    I do feel at times, however, that reviews of products seem forced. What seems most authentic to me are reviews on products that are relevant to the content of the website and that include a tutorial. I like to see how the blogger puts her own spin on the product so it does not seem so “cookie cutter”.

    Compensation? By all means. I love Jessika’s idea of storytelling and mutually beneficial exchange and what works for her.

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Jessika – How cool! I love that you’re doing these creative mixes of sponsorship. And I totally agree – everyone’s readers seem to respond to sponsor presence differently.

    Kirsty – I love your “use your words” analogy, and I love that you’re teaching your 4 year-old to speak up!

    I’d love to see many more examples of successful promotions, too. I don’t know if any of us is in a position to create an authoritative list of what businesses should be doing. It may come down to each individual blogger and her audience, and the connections a marketer can forge there. What’s going on on a blog, and how can your product or service be part of that story in a meaningful way? These are admittedly fuzzier concepts, but they work. In the “storytelling partnerships” post on my blog (linked in the post above), I gave an example from my experience as a blogger.

  • http://www.stitchedincolor.com/ Rachel at Stitched in Color

    Thank-you for initiating these discussions! You touched slightly on the question, “Where is that threshold after which are readers will walk away?” I wish we could have a better answer to that question. My readers aren’t going to tell me if something is obnoxious – they’re too nice and too worried to hurt feelings. I would want to know before it gets so bad that they leave. And, it’s hard to know when folks leave for many reasons.

    I’m done survey’s with my blog, but even then people tend to just say something nice. I wish people understood that professional bloggers really do want to know what serves them and where that line of over-marketing exists.

  • http://calldenverhome.com/ Denver Realtor

    On my real estate blog I allow any genuine content that I feel good about putting my name to. I realize this isn’t particularly relevant to the craft niche, but the idea is constant; no readers will get annoyed with useful and actionable content.

  • http://trashn2tees.blogspot.com Jenelle @ TrashN2Tees

    Great great discussion, I’m kicking myself in the pants for missing this #omhg chat. Thank you Sister Diane for sharing your insight- I thouroughly enjoyed reading everyones comments & thoughts here.

    Rachel at Stitched in Color- I hope you don’t mind if I share my personal opinion on sponsored posts (and now tweets) If you as a blogger (really) stand behind a product & you can blog about it in a way that comes across as a genuine review or recommendation then I love to hear about it. For example a painter, who paints using x brand brushes… by all means tell me about them! I see this type of cross promotion with x brand brushes as a type of collaboration. You’re supporting the company & they’re supporting you & your art! Win.

    I shy away from blogs with generic sponsored posts & tweets. They just don’t feel authentic to me.

  • http://www.BeadphoriaBlog.com Suzann Sladcik Wilson

    Thank you for an excellent post! My feeling is that I am more than happy to try a product, but I will only write about it if it is something I am turly willing to put my name behind. I won’t stake my reputation or my reader’s crafting experience against getting a product for free.

  • http://craftingtodo.blogspot.com Melissa @ Crafting To Do

    I agree it is a fine line and have been giving lots of thought to it.

    I have yet to be approached by a craft company but have been by food companies that fall in line with the recipes that I produce. I accepted their proposal because when I looked at the amount the products cost they were sending me and it fell in line with what I was asking for in compensation.

    I also wrote the review in the way I would want to find out about new product x. I gave the good and the bad. I gave my opinion and my husband’s opinion. For me, it was a product that many people in my situation would be interested in and when you are talking 5 bucks for 4 hot dog buns you want to read from real people what they think.

    I enjoy authentic reviews, recommendations, and giveaways. Like Jenelle said, if you truly are using those products then by all means collaborate with those companies to provide a beneficial relationship for all parties involved. I also think you need to make it beneficial for your readers. If I have read about brand x every other day on your blog then at some point toss me a bone with a giveaway so I have a chance to try brand x. I also think the company needs to realize as a blogger we are no different then a craft magazine or show. Actually we might be better because our posts are available for as long as our blogs are alive. Giving them more exposure than a TV show.

    I can’t stand the generic sponsorship posts. If it has nothing to do with your blog then don’t do it for the sake of a buck, it turns me off. Do it because you believe in the product and it falls in line with your blog.

  • http://www.beyondthefringecrafts.blogspot.com carmen

    Great article! I was recently approached by a craft company that asked me to promote their product, which I seriously thought about. In the end I decided the responsibility and time devoted for the possibility of making a bit of change wasn’t worth it. Not only that, I didn’t want to expose my followers to a bunch of advertising. I whole heartedly agree with you about small cottage industries, however! 🙂

  • http://www.modpodgerocksblog.com Mod Podge Amy

    LOVE this article. I’ve worked in the industry for years – I totally get it.

    I don’t believe in editorial on blogs. Traditional editorial has SOMEONE paying the salaries. It’s easy for a newspaper writer to do a review for “free” because they have money coming in the door. Their time is compensated. Who pays me for my time?

    Oh, and having worked as a Brand Manager for consumer product companies, editors get their buns buttered with gifts, candy and more so that they will talk about the company’s products. Is that completely unbiased? When a fashion editor talks about a product that isn’t that great in a good light because they got free stuff? I’ve SEEN it happen on more than one occasion. I’m not saying everyone’s crooked, but kind reviews are often times based on relationships or other criteria than just being a non-biased review.

    And let’s face it, most craft bloggers I know are too nice to dog a product on their blog. They risk a lot – a relationship with a company, additional free stuff . . . there’s no one to protect them. If they lose that pipeline, who is there to make sure they get more opportunities? Being honest is very difficult in craft blogging. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken about product with bloggers . . . they didn’t like it that much, but they “overlooked” product faults because they didn’t want to seem negative or risk a relationship. As you said, they are hoping it leads somewhere.

    So back to paid reviews. What I do believe in is advertorial. My blog is used as advertising space, I write the review. I don’t have a company paying my salary, so I’m charging for that. I leave unbiased reviews to crafty review blogs (CTD, CC). If a company sends me product and I don’t like it, it goes back, I don’t write about it and I don’t accept the money. I’m picky about my opportunities, and take about 10% – 20% of what I’m offered. If I wouldn’t use it, I don’t blog about it.

    Final thought. At my last company (not in the craft world), everyone knew that some bloggers would review stuff for $5 worth of product. They exploited and took advantage of those relationships (so did our PR agency). Anyone who thinks other companies aren’t doing that is nuts. Companies have tight budgets these days, especially in marketing, and they will save where they can. It’s nothing personal, it’s business. It’s up to us to demand more. Look at mom bloggers. They have wised up. We need to too.

  • http://www.craftypod.com Sister Diane

    Rachel – boy, do I ever agree! It’s really hard, in an essentially-personal and friendly medium like blogging, to get a straight answer from our readers when they aren’t happy with the presence of sponsorships. Still, have you asked the direct question? Sometimes all readers are looking for is an invitation.

    Melissa – what an excellent point about the permanence of blog coverage! One more reason companies should really be compensating us for that exposure.

    Amy – thanks so much for sharing your experiences and perspectives. You’re right – blogger exploitation is going on everywhere, not just in crafting. Though I’m inclined to believe that the craft industry moves slowly enough that more times than not, the exploitation isn’t as intentional as it may be in other industries.

  • http://giftfrippery.co.uk Amanda

    hi Jessika. That post is very interesting. I’m a new blogger so don’t have the problem you have yet. I’d like to think that if I was given stuff to use it would only be used if I ACTUALLY wanted to. However, at the moment I’d love a load of old bed springs to arrive for my latest project. See blog!!

  • http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com Adventures in Dressmaking

    Your posts about touchy subjects like this are always so eloquent and intelligent, Dianne! You raise some really good points. I have no issues being compensated for my time and blog space to advertise or promote something, but of course will only do it if it’s something my readers would want to hear about. It’s always a judgment call!