In the course of my blogging life, I read a lot of complaints from fellow bloggers about the fact that the brands they love appear to be “ignoring” them: they may respond to a tweet, or answer a direct question, but they’re not beating a path to the blogger’s door, laden down with freebies – which can be disappointing, especially when other bloggers seem to be regularly showered with gifts and sponsorships.
Why do brands pursue some bloggers, while pointedly ignoring others? Well, I obviously can’t speak for the brands themselves, but here are some possible reasons you might be being “ignored” …
why brands work with bloggers
It would be lovely to think that brands work with bloggers purely because they like them, or as a “thank you” for featuring them, but the uncomfortable truth is that brands work with bloggers because they expect to get something out of it. You might not like it, but if you want to turn your blog into a career, it’s important to be realistic about it: to understand that although fashion/beauty/lifestyle blogging seems light and fluffy on the surface, you’re still running a business – and so are the brands who work with you.
I see a lot of bloggers who sneer at the idea of “professional” blogging, and maintain that they blog totally “for themselves”… but who still want brands to contact them, and to send them things. I’m not saying for a second that you can’t work with brands unless you’re a “pro”, but blogging “for yourself” and blogging for money/working with brands are two quite different scenarios. Trying to do both would be a bit like someone who loves cooking saying, “You know, I don’t want to be a professional chef, but I DO want people to pay to eat my food.”
Unfortunately, the act of charging money for your product makes you “professional”, whether you like it or not, and working with brands means your blog is no longer 100% “just for you”. So if you blog as a hobby, it has to be a hobby you take seriously if you want brands to collaborate with you.
02. You don’t have enough traffic / followers
This is a fact that no one wants to hear, but given that brands work with bloggers in order to sell products, it stands to reason they will only work with the ones who will be able to help them do that – and that translates to “the ones with the biggest following”. Blogging is, at the end of the day, largely a numbers game, and the bloggers with the most traffic will always win it. Sad, but true. In fact, if you have enough of a following, you can probably disregard every other point in this article, including everything I said above, and brands will STILL want to work with you, because you’ll still be able to sell things for them.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to have a massive following in order to work with brands. Each brand will have different requirements, but as a general rule, if your blog is just starting out, and the only person who reads it is your mum, my advice would be to concentrate on building your content, and therefore building your following, before you even think about anything else.
03. Your blog doesn’t look professional
You should never judge a book by its cover, and you should never judge a blog by its design. The fact is, though, that we all do it, and brands do it more than most, so if your blog doesn’t LOOK professional, they’ll be less likely to want to be associated with it: again, sad, but true.
I realise I’m using the word “professional” a lot here, which I know will be off-putting to those of you who blog as a hobby. Again, I have to just stress that you don’t have to BE a professional in order to give the appearance of professionalism, and that’s what brands are looking for. They don’t need you to be blogging as a business: they just want to know that you’ll represent them in a way that will reflect well on them, and that extends to the appearance of your blog. Luckily, you don’t have to spend a fortune to make your blog look a little better: you can purchase custom themes quite cheaply on sites like Etsy or Themeforest, and there are lots of other things you can do to spruce up your design.
I gave some basic blog design tips here, but I’d say the two most important ones would to to ditch the generic Blogger template, and get yourself a decent logo, so your site is instantly memorable/recognisable.
04. Your photos are bad
Photography has become increasingly important in blogging, and it’s even more important in fashion or beauty blogging, when people need to actually be able to see what you’re wearing. No one is going to send a product to a blogger who they know is going to take a dark, blurry photo of it, and make it thumbnail-sized. Big, beautiful photos are what they’re looking for, and while your shots don’t have to look like a fashion editorial, if every single photo on your blog is a badly-lit mirror selfie, that’s not going to be attractive to brands.
Bad photos don’t sell products, so if you don’t have someone to take your outfit shots, invest in a tripod and remote (if you’re using a phone, there are plenty of self-timer or remote-control apps you can download), and try to take your photos in natural light if you can. Finally, when it comes to posting your photos, make them as big as you can – ideally the full width of your content column – so people can see them properly.
05. Your content is full of spelling mistakes and other errors
Photography may be important to a blog, but that doesn’t mean you can disregard your writing. A lot of fashion/beauty bloggers put a huge amount of effort into creating beautiful photographs, only to accompany them with cringe-worthy text, which is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.
Regardless of what you blog about, you can’t afford to be sloppy with your writing: everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but frequent, basic mistakes reflect badly on you – and will also reflect badly on any brands you partner with. If you want to work with brands, take the time to check your spelling – or have someone else check it for you, if you’re not confident about your writing.
06. You’re negative about brands on social media
This is a bit of a tricky one, because I don’t want to suggest that you shouldn’t be honest about your experiences, or that you’re not allowed to express an opinion: of course not. It’s certainly true to say, however, that if you’re consistently negative, whether on your blog, or on social media, that will definitely make brands wary of partnering with you.
I know some people, for instance, whose Twitter feeds are just a litany of complaints about poor service, or other problems they’ve encountered with brands: I know it’s frustrating when something gets wrong, and I also know that sometimes taking it to social media is the only way you can get something resolved, but when your feed is just one complaint after another, it’s even off-putting to ME, and I’m not thinking of sponsoring you. If I WAS, then seeing you complain endlessly about every little thing would definitely make me think twice.
07. You have a reputation for being hard to work with
This should probably go without saying, but once you do start to pick up sponsorships and offers of collaborations, it’s important to do them on time, and to the best of your ability. Brands – or their representatives – do talk to one another, and if you accept items and then don’t post about them, do a generally bad job, or are difficult and demanding to work with, word will start to get around, and those offers will dry up.
08. You haven’t given it enough time
This post was actually quite a difficult one to write, because the last thing I want is for anyone to walk away from it feeling like their blog is worthless, or “not good” enough, purely because they don’t (yet) have thousands of followers, or magazine-worthy images. Without wanting to sound trite, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a successful blog: in fact, most of the full-time bloggers I know (including myself) worked at it for YEARS before they started to see any real rewards, or to get approaches from brands.
If your blog is new, or you’ve only just started to think about trying some brand collaborations, it’s silly to compare yourself to established sites, who have been blogging for many years – we all have to start somewhere, and those sites were once where you are now. With that said, building up a blog takes effort, and while there will always be some people who get lucky, break all the “rules”, and still manage to make a go of it, the truth is that most successful bloggers have put years of hard work into it, in order to get where they are.
A lot of the time, I notice that the bloggers who complain about not having a lot of visitors, or not getting attention from brands are the same ones who turn up their noses at the idea of professional blogging, and who proudly proclaim that they don’t have time to work on their photography, or that they have “better things” to spend their money on than blog design. That’s absolutely fine, obviously… but that’s also WHY they’re not getting the success they want. Unless you happen to get lucky (and hey, it could happen!), you can’t expect to put in minimal effort, but get amazing results: it’s as simple as that.
Do you have to look like a model to work with brands?
I can’t really finish this post without addressing the elephant in the room, namely the idea that you have to “look like a model” – or at least be conventionally attractive – in order to work with brands, or be successful as a blogger. I’ve read quite a few posts on this topic lately (See some here and here), and the consensus seems to be that yes, brands will always go for the model-esque over… well, the rest of us.
Is it true? Actually, I don’t think it is. From a purely personal perspective, I definitely don’t look like a model (I’m 5’4″ and, as people never tire of pointing out, have terrible eyebrows and a body shaped like a rectangle…), but I still get approached by brands – even ones which aren’t even remotely suited to my style/audience demographic. For some reason I get a lot of offers from sites selling what I can only describe as “teenage clubwear”, which makes me think they really don’t care WHAT I look like (or that I don’t look like a teenage clubber, specifically), they’re mostly interested in how much traffic my site gets.
I’m not going to claim that personal appearance isn’t a factor AT ALL, because it would be naive to think that it doesn’t ever influence decisions. I’m sure being beautiful won’t exactly hurt your chances of getting sponsorships, but I definitely don’t think it’s the be-all-and-end-all, and I think some of the other factors I’ve listed here are equally, if not more, important. I also think there’s a growing awareness from brands that people like to see what their clothes look like on “regular people”, and are perhaps more likely to buy something they’ve seen on someone their own height/weight/whatever, as opposed to on a statuesque model. Unfortunately we’re nowhere near the stage where ALL sizes and shapes are represented equally, but I think we’re getting there… slowly.