How Companies Are Taking Advantage of Bloggers

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I’m going to send you an email.

In that email, I’m going to give you a theme. It could be about anything – a time or a place, an event, lifestyle choice, food or a holiday that is approaching. I’m then going to ‘invite’ you to write a blog post about that theme, and ask you to return my email if you’re interested in doing so.

When you reply, I will ask you to include a link to my blog in your post. I’m going to give you absolutely nothing in return, but I may offer you a vague indication that your blog post will possibly be featured on my social media pages. However, I won’t commit to anything – my focus is that your blog post includes information about me.

Would you do it?

To be fair, some of my readers probably would – I’ve known them for a number of years and value their friendship very much. I love promoting other bloggers, and I do so on a regular basis both on the blog and my social media. I don’t expect anything in return when I do this – I love the community and if I can help another blogger I will.

But if you didn’t know me or anything about my blog, I can pretty much guarantee that you’d ignore my email or tell me to get lost.

About eighteen months after I had started blogging, I received an email from a razor company in America. I was very excited about this – I was looking into doing product reviews and was delighted that a company appeared to want to work with me. All I had to do was write a post about different ways to save time or money and include a link to their website, and they sent me a link to a post from another blogger who had done exactly the same thing. With that, the company would then potentially share my link on their Facebook page.

In my naivety, I did just that – I spent hours crafting a post that I was proud of, posted it and then sent it to them.

What followed was a series of emails from the company with further requests – could I change the code on the image, could I add this link in, change this, change that.

And guess what happened? Nothing. The company received seventy-three clicks from my blog, I got views and comments from my usual readers (which I’m always grateful for) but that was it. No promotion from them, aside from the odd view from random blogs (they had clearly been using my post to email to other bloggers). Of course, seventy-three clicks is minimal in the online world, but imagine if another hundred bloggers had done exactly the same thing? Or two hundred? Or a thousand? The company has potentially been advertised to thousands of people without spending a single penny.

Many companies are beginning to realise how useful bloggers are when it comes to advertising. Indeed, the manager at a company I work with told me how much local newspapers will charge for just a small advert, explaining that she can reach a similar sized audience and spend just a tenth of that in products that she gives to bloggers to review.

And some companies are taking advantage of this.

Over the years, I’ve lost count of the amount of similar requests I’ve received. Indeed, I received one yesterday, and when I responded with the advertising spaces I offer, they were very quick to turn me down. The requests vary in theme, and some simply ask me to promote an infographic, but all of them have exactly the same underlying intention: they want to use my blog as free promotion for their company or cause and they aren’t prepared to offer anything in return. A blog that I’ve put nearly three years of my life into – I’ve worked incredibly hard and I’ve never been as proud of anything as I am about this little space of the Internet.

I love working with companies and in the last year I’ve monetised my blog and done a number of reviews and attended different events – beauty products, restaurant launch nights, a wireless device, a Bluetooth keyboard and I’ve even organised a few events of my own. The companies I work with are very clear about what the product or event is and the fact that they would like me to do a post, but at no point am I obliged to give a positive review. And after the post goes live, the companies will promote it, never once asking for changes to be made. Some have even invited me to further events.

So, if you are interested in getting product and company reviews, you need to be careful the next time you receive anย email ‘inviting’ you to write a post for someone. Get clear and specific information about what you are going to get in return before you agree to anything. And if the response is all one-sided, you need to give a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks.’

What about you guys? Have you received similar emails? Have you been taken advantage of by a company?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to like check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

152 thoughts on “How Companies Are Taking Advantage of Bloggers

  1. I’ve never bitten on any of these hooks when they’ve been dangled in front of me, but I can imagine having a hell of a lot of fun with the one on razors–although I guarantee that they wouldn’t have used it.

  2. Yep. Had one just this week – I rarely if ever – do sponsored posts these days but the topic seemed like something not too out of character for my blog. So I replied asking what incentive they were offering in exchange. The PR replied … glossing over the idea apart from “We’re looking to share some of our favorite posts with our followers on Twitter”.

    ‘Some of’.

    So … that’s *not even* a guarantee they’ll tweet it! Only if it’s a ‘favourite’ post [how would I know what would be their favourite while I spent hours writing something?].

    I looked at their Twitter – they had 17,000 ish followers. I have 1000 ish … won through hard work and genuine communication. I’d rather write and promote my own stuff to those 1000 who’ve followed me.

  3. LOL, nobody seems to want me to review anything. They leave me completely alone. Apparently they take one look at my blog and think, “This isn’t going to help us,” or “We DO NOT want to be affiliated with this nutjob.”

  4. I have done this except I was very lucky that the contact person only wanted one change to my post, and I was paid in credit from their company. Very lucky. I now know from your and various research posts about blog monetization that it’s NOT the typical response. Also they did not actually link to my post it anything, just like you said, they wanted me to provide the clicks. I know though, I was very lucky to receive credit! I’ll keep a firm lookout though, in the future and be wary, thanks to your reminder!

  5. Suzie, I’m like Phil. None have ever approached me. I’ve told a few places I’ve been to that I’m going to mention them on my blog and they’re been quite nervous and edgy. That surprised me. I photographed this fabulous chocolate cake swimming in chocolate “soup” at a local cafe in one post but most of my readers are overseas and that just left them salivating.
    Thanks an important point I’ve found when people start doing product promos on their blogs. If you promote local businesses or products, is that going to alienate or annoy your other readers?
    Humph! Mentioning that chocolate cake hasn’t been such a good thing after all!
    xx Rowena

    • That’s a good point. I have followers from all over the world, so I was worried about promoting local businesses in case it put my readers off. However, I do it anyway – I’ve never had a negative response.

      • I think it’s like balancing advertising and text in a magazine. Also, I was interested to check out those restaurants in Birmingham that you covered to compare it to what we have here. It’s a free plane ticket and I can’t afford to travel at the moment.
        By the way, on our shared love of music and music talk.
        Last Sunday, my daughter and I went to see Matilda The Musical. It was fantastic. Wrote this: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/matilda-the-musical-if-youre-little-you-can-do-a-lot/
        By the way, my daughter is now going to a selective primary school and has taken up the violin again and joined the string group and has also joined the school band and is playing the Baritone Horn. I was really impressed that the teacher didn’t let size stand in the way because I probably would’ve given her a piccolo. She is very petite. It’s funny because I thought no matter how good a singer she is, she’ll probably have a better chance of performing with the Baritone. She chose it because she likes the sound. She described her first few notes as sounding like an elephant. Her brother had other ideas! Hope you have a great weekend and I’m looking forward to the blog party tomorrow xx Rowena

  6. I received one just an hour ago. They went into extreme detail about what they needed and promised a nominal gift voucher at the end of it. Sorry, but my posts and articles are written with care and vouchers don’t cut it. Not at that cost. I usually decline saying my rates are much higher and I don’t do free product promotions on my blog

  7. I have only had this happen to me twice so far. The first time was about six months ago, and when I received the email I was so excited. Finally, I thought, someone wants to pay me to write a piece (or at least offer some free product in exchange for the article)! Of course this was not the case, though. When I responded with interest but asking for clarification on terms I was politely advised that their budget for such things had already been used up for the year. I was equally polite in my declination of their “offer”, but I was left feeling disappointed and a little bitter. People would not expect a doctor to perform services gratis, or a chef, or just about any other profession. (Ok, I’m not a writer by profession, but I feel there are parallels here.)

  8. Not surprisingly, given the nature of my blog, I’ve never had a request. I’ve reviewed the odd book and DVD that I possess because I thought my visitors would be interested, though.

  9. Hi Suzie! It reminds me, a little bit, of restaurants and other establishments who offer musicians to play and invite them to do so for the ‘exposure’. I once read a very funny on-ine ‘response’ where a musician asks a restaurant owner to come over to his house with his staff, including his head chef, design and create an entire dining experiences – spare no expense and put his best foot forward – because the guy could get his entire family and neighborhood there, perhaps hundreds of people, and he wouldn’t pay for it, but just think of the ‘exposure’ the restaurant owner would get for his restaurant! I got one of the requests you mentioned just the other day, to review a small independent film. I haven’t written back yet, but your post is very timely!

  10. Hi Suzie, yes I have definitely received these types of emails offering me a wonderful opportunity. Unfortunately, I did fall prey to this once, but never again. It’s amazing to me that they would actually want me to advertise for them and not expect to give anything in exchange. Great post!

    Shellie
    http://www.thefabjourney.com

  11. I get an occasional email about things but I have said I am so PR-UNfriendly and not wanting to follow rules of reviewing that I ignore. I did have one that was promoting something about sharing a person’s struggle with cancer, or such, and they got downright beligerent when I didn’t bother responding.

  12. Clever marketing ploy, isn’t it? I’m sorry you got caught once, but extremely grateful you’ve shared your experience with us. We are forewarned and can protect ourselves. My blog following is too small now to generate interest from business but who knows in future? Thanks, Suzie, you are conscientious.

  13. I’ve never had anyone approach me to promote them on my blog. I suppose because I don’t have enough traffic yet. Is there a minimum size for a blog before the advertisers start asking you for favors?

  14. Many times I just ignore these. One time they wanted me to promote gambling on my site and I live in a Muslim country where gambling is illegal, which told me they hadn’t even looked at my site. A few of them of contacted me, but wouldn’t tell me about their company or client and then I stop responding. If you can’t answer my questions, then you seem not credible. Another company, who I am sure did really want to work with me legitimately wouldn’t let me tell my readers is was a sponsored post, so they changed their minds. At least, they were upfront and their client matched my reader’s interests. Oh, and they were going to pay me! The right one will come along one day.

    • They certainly will! I’ve had a few gambling requests too, all from the same company. They only stopped when I threatened to show everyone what they were doing to my readers on my social media.

  15. HI Suzie, I had one of those invitation emails not that long ago. I ignored it initially thinking it was spam but then realised that the sender must have done their research to connect my real email address with my blog so I showed it to my husband who thought I should go ahead with this ‘marketing idea’ but I really didn’t feel comfortable with it. I have since received a follow-up email from the same marketing consultant, which I also ignored and you have perfectly put into words all of the reservations that I have about such campaigns. Thank you.

  16. Wow, this has never happened to me. I’ve never even heard of it until now.

    I have seen a reverse version of this where bloggers who specialize in a topic will “invite” manufacturers of products related to that topic to send the blogger samples and maybe just maybe the blogger will publish a review, and if it’s a really good day, it will be a favorable review.

    So a guy who writes a blog about, say, mountain climbing, hits up businesses to send him mountain climbing equipment and he will graciously do everyone a huge favor and “review” the products. Maybe, if he has time in his very busy publishing schedule.

    It’s really just a form of begging for free stuff. It seems the hustle goes both ways.

  17. I’ve gotten a decent number of emails (albeit infrequently) from different companies, asking me to promote an infographic or to write a “gift ideas” post (lol no thanks) — one fashion website asked me to put together a post based on their products for the CHANCE to win a gift card. Like, whaaaat? For the few sponsored posts that I have accepted, I was sent free products in advance for an unbiased review (my blog is so small that I feel it’s not worth monetising). Even then, not a single one of those companies gave me a shout-out on their social media channels, despite the reviews being positive. Let me tell you, that was really disappointing — they’d taken the time to send me a product, you’d think the least they could do was tell their audience that I liked it. Who knows, perhaps I’m just being naรฏve!

  18. Oh my gosh, I just came across this on Twitter, the nerve of people! All the emails I’ve gotten so far have at least offered product. But, I keep getting spam comments wanting to do “guest posts,” and I tell them to send me their resume and CV, along with links to their top published works. So far it’s worked pretty well. I also created an advertising page stating that for a very short time, I will do a post for just $50, it seems to be working!

  19. I’ve fallen for this twice. I was incredibly naive but being such a small blog I didn’t think I was “big” enough to be able to ask for payment. These companies promised me SEO benefits but I saw nothing and have since removed the posts. I guess I have learnt from my mistakes.

  20. Thanks, Suzie. I think this is sensible advice. I was approached in comments on my blog by one company that asked me to review an app and included links to the product in the comments. I thought they were trying a cheap promotion through my blog and for that reason, as well as because I hadn’t used the app, didn’t approve the comments. I do think we need to be careful that we don’t get railroaded.

  21. I’ve not had anyone approach my blog, but, as a freelance writer, I’ve certainly run into the idea that I should be prepared to write for free or a nominal fee in return for ‘exposure.’ Which is a load of crap. If a company wants someone to work for them, they should pay them. It’s outrageous that businesses think you will promote their product on your blog and offer nothing in return. I certainly wouldn’t be doing it either (if anyone ever approaches me haha) ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Thanks for the tips. I’m super new to blogging so I’ve yet to receive any requests but I’ll keep your article in mind should I ever. Visiting from Saturday Sharefest party.

  23. I have received many of those emails! And unfortunately I have given in to some, which luckily I have deleted (except one). But I never really opened my eyes until I read this! After posting for a company, it really bugged me when they asked me to just change everything so it was perfect for them, and I got nothing! Great post!! Xxx

  24. This is great! I think it’s so important for newer bloggers to be aware of this. I’ve been getting 2 or 3 of these a week as of late. I’m in the middle of crafting a repitch, which is an idea from the Learn to Blog Hangouts, where you basically write a kind respectful letter back saying something along the lines of, thanks for your interest in my blog, if you’d like to work with me, here are my rates, blah blah blah. (definitely look it up if you haven’t seen it before.They do amazingly helpful videos outlining all things blogging.)

  25. THANK YOU for making a post like this! I get emails like this all the time and to be honest (and excuse my French) I fucking hate it.

    “Hello I am from so and so and would like to invite you to write about some shit that has NOTHING to do with your blog.”

    I delete these straight away. I just don’t have the time to write about something I don’t care about. Ignorant yes, any fucks given? Nope. ๐Ÿ˜›

    https://theremightbecoffee.wordpress.com/

  26. Thanks for the heads up! I am a newbie and the more pitfalls which can be avoided the better. So thanks for the sound advice – I will keep your post in mind and avoid these emails like the plague! lol

  27. Funny. I was just writing about this because I’ve noticed a LOT more of these companies approach me to work for them for free. It’s exactly as you said–creating a blog and engaging with our audience requires so much of our work and time and resources… Why would we simply allow companies access without anything in return? It’s one thing if it’s a company / brand we believe in and would happily promote, but it’s another if it’s unsolicited “scratch my back and maybe I’ll scratch yours in return.” Anyway, THANK YOU for this–stopping in from SITS Sharefest today ๐Ÿ™‚ XOXO

    • I’m so sorry for the late reply, and thank you for taking the time to comment! I totally agree – so much work and effort goes into establishing a blog, why on earth would we want to give away our time to companies for free?

  28. That’s pretty sneaky! Thanks for the info. A few years ago, I had someone want to advertise on my blog, but I had to set up some sort of credit card link to do it. I was skeptical and turned them down. It sounded a little shady.

  29. Wow, I am appalled, but at the same time I’m not surprised at all. Thank you for giving us the helpful heads-up, I really appreciate it.:)

    I have never received one of these e-mails, but I would not do it if it was one-sided like you described. I’m sorry you were taken advantage of, after all that hard work and time.

  30. I wish I would have seen this sooner! I have been taken advantage of multiple times. It’s heartbreaking to put so much time and effort into a post and have a company walk all over you. Thanks so much for sharing!

  31. I’ve received emails from companies asking about infographics, reviews, and link backs. None have ever seemed remotely legitimate (except for Grammerly) so I ignored them all (including Grammerly). Even if I did get a decent offer, I wouldn’t know what to do… Well, I’d probably Tweet you for advice. Ha!

  32. Good, post Suzie. Very good warning. I think there is a lot of naivety about these things. If its never happened to you then how would you know about these scams? you don’t. and thats what they guaranty on. They prey on bloggers. Its sad really. But, its not just big companies. I’ve seen authors do the same thing sadly. Ok, not as bad, but those asking for reviews in exchange for reviews annoy me. sorry. don’t do that. If I am interested in your book I’ll read it. But not cause you ask me too. And I won’t lie in a review either. I am VERY selective over what I will and will not allow on my blog, and I think thats the only way you can preserve your own credibility and your style/values etc.

    • No – that could cause a whole load of issues. This blog is for my own personal therapy – I see bloggers being trashed by other bloggers and authors enough and it’s certainly not something I wish to lower myself to, although I will call someone out of their behaviour is out of order. The post is just to create an awareness of what companies are doing rather than to name and shame

  33. I get them weekly. I’ve only made out with a couple. I wrote about ClassPass and got a free month. That was fantastic. Now I’m up front about “what’s in it for me?” If I don’t get a response. I’m out. Funniest one? A battery charger from the UK. They offered good money, but a battery charger from the UK? Ha! I couldn’t even buy one to try it out!
    Thanks for bringing this to the party. Have fun hopping!

  34. Such a reassuring post – to know we’re not alone! We get a handful of these emails every week now and most we ignore. Our approach is only to engage with companies where we have some sort of relationship – we already like and use their products or services or know a little bit about their “story”. This works well for us. We’ve recently branched out into responding to a few “unknowns” – but again only if we think their product or service adds value to our site. It’s a slow and steady approach but works for us (we plan on being around a loooong time!)

  35. Ah, They are the flies of the marketplace, are they not?
    Away from the market-place and from fame taketh place all that is great: away from the market-Place and from fame have ever dwelt the devisers of new values.
    Flee, my friend, into thy solitude: I see thee stung all over by the poisonous flies. Flee thither, where a rough, strong breeze bloweth!
    ~Nietzsche

  36. I have receiving requsts for product reviews on my Amazon site. I have never reponded asI don’t want a lot of unusual items coming here. I wonder if this the same thing.

  37. Wow, I guess there are advantages to not being very popular in the blogosphere. (Susie Lindau sent me over for this interesting read.)

  38. Susie Lindau sent me over–glad you’re blogging about this. I also monetize my blog (I’m in the “pet space” http://amyshojai.com) and work as a spokesperson for companies. Unfortunately, often the PR firm that’s hired to promote an event or product is reviewed on how many “impressions” they aggregate, but given no budget. And bloggers are becoming much more savvy. I’m often offered product to review and give-away but ya know what? my plumber won’t take cat toys or dog treats as payment for his bill, LOL! I now have a dedicated page on my blog with sponsorship details/opportunities and fees, as well as the required FCC disclosures I’ll provide with no-follow links, etc. And when I receive these solicitations, I send them that link. Occasionally I even get a new client that way!

  39. Absolutely right. There are plemty of unscrupulous brands/PRs who will ask for something for nothing or project themselves as a “fellow blogger”. The sad thing is that there are enough bloggers who gratefully or naively undervalue themselves and leap at the chance, which is why these companies keep churning out their thousands of spam emails every day.

    I find the ‘no budget’ line particularly distatsteful. As a marketer, you wouldn’t rock up to a media buyer and ask if they can place a TV campaign for you for free because you can’t afford it. And yet they expect the same from bloggers because we’re ‘small people’ who are so desperate that we’ll do anything for free. Well, most of us aren’t – and shame on those who are.

    • I couldn’t agree more, and you’re absolutely right about bloggers undervaluing themselves. Everyone seems so desperate to get noticed that it is becoming quite easy to take advantage of them, particularly the newer ones.

  40. I had come up with a plan to taste test British versions of American food icons. I ended up ordering from a great website over in the UK and I would write my posts each week, comparing the different food. The company ended up loving my blog so much that they were promoting me even though I had never posted the link or anything other than the name of the website. They never asked me to do anything, and they never got upset when the British foods would lose the taste test, they just promoted me on their site and social media because they loved the idea I came up with and happened to stumble across my blog. I would work with a company like that in a heartbeat, too many other companies have approached me looking for a handout.

  41. It’s nice that these days bloggers are seen as influences but it’s sad that companies are trying to take advantage of us as free publicity. I don’t bother responding to the ones I receive lately though s couple I received today irked me.

      • Sites email me with no knowledge of me or my blog asking me to post things and repeated emails bugging me to post content irrelevant to my readers. I’m a book blogger too so a tour company didn’t like particular wording in my review today. Tour company gets paid to find bloggers to review the book but bloggers don’t get paid for their time to read and review. Another site emailed me a couple times asking me to promote their posts on my social media. That one was relevant but as soon as I did, I got another email to promote another post. I thought that was weird…and annoying.

      • There is drama in blogging I try to avoid too. I love being a book blogger, encouraging people to read books from around tge world, promoting authors and reading new releases before they come out is pretty cool. This is the first time I got push back on a review and I’ve been doing them for a couple years. I’ve been cutting back on review books cause it’s hard to keep up with deadlines and i have about 200 unread books on my bookshelves I want to read! I don’t want to feel pressured to read and like a particular book.

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