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Let’s talk about blog giveaways today, shall we? They are becoming more and more popular, and the rules for compensation more and more vague. Some bloggers are being paid huge sums of cash to run giveaways on their blogs, while others are expected to promote giveaways on multiple social media platforms without even the offer of a free sample product. As usual, my advice is to not bother with giveaways at all unless you are absolutely certain a giveaway is something your readership will enjoy (and “enjoy” is not the same thing as “not be annoyed by”). In order to ensure this, the payoff has to be pretty high and the annoyance factor pretty low, and keeping those things in mind, below are my other set of recommendations for why you absolutely must insist on being paid for doing a giveaway on your blog.

1. Most readers assume you are being paid for them anyway.

There is so much ambiguity in the blogosphere right now about the status of giveaways and how they are compensated that readers are assuming that they are all compensated, even though they are not all compensated. People who are familiar with how the mommyblogosphere hierarchy of power works can look at a blog and a campaign and make a general guess at how a post might be compensated, but the general public (and most readers) have no way of doing this. Therefore, they are assuming that all giveaways are sponsored posts. They might realize that you’re not making Dooce View definition in a new window money for your coffeemaker giveaway, but they don’t have a concept of how much less. You can, of course, choose to tell them that you are not being paid at all, but then that bears the question of why you are doing it at all, because then you are doing a paid placement except for the fact that it is not paid, in order to give your readers a free product, which is fine — again, only if you really really think your readers will appreciate it. But only in that case.

2. They read like paid posts, even if they are not paid posts.

Giveaway posts read like ad copy. I hate reading ad copy. Even if it means I can enter a giveaway for a free product at the end of it, I hate reading ad copy. You know why? If I want a product, I don’t even read ad copy. I just go buy the product. You are now asking me to read ad copy in exchange for the chance to win one free product at the end of the post. No thanks. Bye.

3. You are using up some of your trust capital View definition in a new window to run a giveaway, and that has a market value.

I touched on this with numbers one and two, but I come to your blog to read what you have to say, not what the product makers have to say. When you let them rent out your content column, that annoys me. If I am your target market, that is not good. Now, if you have a different target market that doesn’t mind this so much, maybe it’s not as big of a deal, but you never know how your market will react. Every time you let somebody else into your content column you are taking a risk. Is it worth it if you’re not getting paid? I don’t think so. Maybe not even then.

4. A giveaway promotes a product on your blog. That means it is an advertisement.

Why would you run an ad without being paid? That’s silly.

5. There Is Definitely Somebody Else Who Is Getting Paid.

Regardless of what the PR company or the brand is telling you, you can bet there is somebody on this campaign who is getting paid. If they aren’t paying you, they may not have enough money to pay you, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t paying somebody. Pass on a campaign that hasn’t allotted enough to pay you. When you have been around long enough, they will.

Here’s the deal: the world doesn’t need any more blog consultants. You know this, I know this, everyone knows this. The words “social media expert” have become so overused that putting it on your Twitter profile almost enough to mark yourself as a spambot. Nevertheless, there are some cases where it might be worthwhile to hire a consultant to help you with your business. And since I’ve somehow found myself in the business of blog consulting, I thought I would answer some questions about who should and should not be paying money for help with their social media ventures, in my opinion.

You should consider hiring a blog consultant if:

1. You are a small (or big) business who wants to know how to reach the right mom bloggers.

There is a lot of money being haphazardly thrown at mommybloggers right now in the form of Twitter parties, blanket marketing campaigns through ad networks, and giveaways. These campaigns appear cheap and cheesy on the blogger side and yet cost thousands of dollars on the brand side. There’s a really simple explanation for this — the people in the middle are often not very intelligent and, even when they are, they still take most of the money.

The key to a decent social media campaign is a disinterested consultant who can look at your brand and tell you who is a good match for your brand and why you should be working with them, as well as how to approach them (including how much money you should offer them for a deal) if you want them to take an offer from you. You cannot get this from an ad network, because they are feeding the same seven or eight bloggers every time. You need to hire somebody (either in house or somebody who is already a part of the community) to tell you who to approach and how to get them to work with you. This is a cheaper and smarter way to work, and it is the manner that is already employed by the smarter PR firms that work in this space (and for which they take a huge commission).

Hiring a blog consultant who can offer that service is worth the extra time and effort, and will probably save you thousands even in the short term.

2. You are a blogger who is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the next level, and who has exhausted all other resources at your disposal for growing your platform.

Here’s the thing with consultants: regardless of what they tell you, there are no magic pills that lead to traffic growth. You can show people patterns and tendencies in the people who have found success, and make suggestions, but the truth is that nobody has total control over the trajectory their blog career will take. You may set out to become a blogger who is popular enough to make a full time income on display ad income alone, but this might not ever happen for you — and all the consultants in the world are not going to change that.

Similarly, if you are not ready to hear constructive criticism and dig in and do work, there’s no reason to hire a consultant. A good consultant is paid to look at your business and figure out what is wrong with it — there is a good chance that this will not be a pleasant process for you, particularly if you have a personal blog. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to pay for somebody to do this? Then go ahead and hire a blog consultant.

Hey everybody, we’ve got a new featured blogger ad up and running! Please check out Mel’s ad for A Broken Compass in the sidebar ASAP! If you’d like to participate in the ABDPBT View definition in a new window Featured Bloggers Program, please email me and I’ll put you on the waiting list.

More Thoughts On Finding Your Blog’s Story

by anna on December 9, 2010

I’ve been thinking about how to give people more guidance on figuring out their stories. It strikes me as kind of a sticky issue, now that I really think about it.

For example: there are cases when a blogger has been doing their thing for a while — and I’m going to just say right now I am NOT TALKING ABOUT ANYBODY IN PARTICULAR — but because they have been doing it for long enough, they will get to a point where a story emerges whether they like it or not. This is not true for every single long term blogger, but I thing the longer you go without self-consciously crafting your own story, the less control over it you will have.

Because as I was thinking about it, I was forced to reflect that yes, there are a few people who I could say, “Look, this is your story. This is your thing.” But I really don’t want to do that, because: 1) it feels like it’s definitely not my place to do it; and 2) it seems way, way too personal and defining of a thing to do, even if somebody asks you to do it. I really think that people should define it for themselves as much as possible, while they still can.

Now, with newer bloggers, it’s much more difficult to figure out the thing, because there is just so much less text to work with. You can go through back posts, watch them on Twitter, Facebook etc. but it’s much harder to see a pattern emerging. They are still figuring out the landscape, and maybe they haven’t really gotten past the honeymoon period where they are on their best behavior yet. But one thing that occurred to me after reading Julie“s comment (i.e. all personal bloggers have a story, and but the best ones know what their story is) is that not only do the best bloggers know what their story is, they don’t try to fight it — they aren’t in denial about it. In other words, the best personal bloggers might be stuck with a story that is not always flattering, and they might be totally conscious of that fact, but they go with it anyway, either because they don’t know any better or because well, it’s their story and their sticking to it.

Example: Penelope Trunk View definition in a new window. Technically speaking, not a personal blogger. However, as people who have been reading here for a while know, definitely one of the best bloggers out there in my opinion. Her niche is career advice, which is something in which I have zero interest, but I never miss a post of hers because her thing is “the beautifully writing blogger who gives career advice despite never really being employed (in the strictest sense of the word) and who might also have Asperger’s but it’s hard to say because you are never sure how much of what she says is actually true.” If that’s not a story, then I don’t know what one is.

Have a look at Penelope’s latest post, in which she talks about how she needs to get a “workplace spouse” in order to fill in the gaps in her real life marriage, because her new husband really does not want to talk to her. Yeah. Now, listen. I am not suggesting that you need to write about stuff like this in order to have a popular blog. What I am saying is: Penelope knows what her story is, and she doesn’t bother with trying to make it into something it’s not — she doesn’t exaggerate to make it better or to make it worse. It’s just her story, in all of its craziness, and nobody else could write it. That’s why people love to read her blog.

The vast majority of bloggers have not figured out what their story is yet. But for people who have been blogging a while, I think there may already be a story that has emerged and they just are not realizing it. With those cases, there’s probably less of a need to self-consciously brand yourself. Probably what you need to do in that case is to learn how to make peace with how people have already come to think of you, and figure out to what degree you can spin that perception to your best advantage. I’m not sure that everyone has it in them to handle it as well as Penelope Trunk does, but for those that do, she’s a great model on that front.

What do you think? Could you embrace a story that had emerged about you, even if it wasn’t particularly flattering, if you thought it had market potential?

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