How much is a blogger worth to a brand? Not as much as they should be when you look at the compensation being offered to bloggers by some brands.
Blogging for payment is still a relatively new concept in Australia. Women have been especially hesitant to embrace the opportunities now being offered due to increases in the social media budgets of some of Australia’s biggest brands.
Whilst I’m happy to say that attitudes have changed somewhat since I last engaged with women bloggers at a event in Sydney 3 years ago. Too many brands are still offering very little in the way of fair compensation and far too many bloggers are still prepared to accept less than they deserve.
Free Product is NOT Fair Compensation
Bloggers in Australia may be aware that a new social media company has arrived on the scene. Social Call Out was founded by three Australian women – Katrina Allen, Valerie Khoo and Michelle Palmer – for the purpose of helping brands connect with bloggers.
Brands have to pay a fee to register with the site and therefore, meeting the needs of these brands is the real focus of Social Call Out. At this stage the site isn’t offering much in the way of compensation to bloggers, mostly free product. There are very few paid opportunities and payment rates are not published anywhere on the website, which makes me think that the payments being offered to bloggers are not as high as they should be.
I would like to see more of an effort being made by the founders of Social Call Out to educate their clients on the true value of working with bloggers and to compensate them accordingly. Free product which could be worth as little as a few dollars, is not fair compensation.
But to be fair to the ladies behind this business venture, Social Call Out is still in beta. However, I will be watching with great interest to see how Social Call Out develops.
Link Exchanges are NOT Fair Compensation
You could say I was also inspired to revisit this issue when I was contacted recently by an Australian company wanting to promote one of their online stores. The offer was put to me in an email as an ‘Affiliate Opportunity’ but what they were really offering was a link back to the website in exchange for free advertising, including text links and banner display advertising. I’m going to give the gentleman who sent this email the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably has no idea what he’s doing. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about!
Firstly, to make such an offer to a website which has been operating for more than five years and has a Google Page Rank of 5 is an insult. Secondly, I think he needs a crash course in e-commerce because affiliates are paid to drive web traffic to commercial sites. A more accurate term for a website owner who is prepared to participate in link exchanges is ‘moron’. Allow me to explain…
When the internet was new and search engines were far less sophisticated than they are today, link exchanges were a perfectly acceptable method of promoting a website. But that was 10 years ago! In 2012, link exchanges are very risky business and if you’re caught doing it by that all seeing eye known as ‘Google’ you will loose your page ranking in the search engines faster than you can say “Google is my religion”.
What IS Fair Compensation?
So we’ve looked at what isn’t fair compensation. Now I want to discuss what is fair compensation for promoting a brand on your blog and here is where it can get complicated.
What I mean by ‘fair compensation’ is an accurate reflection of the benefits for a brand to engage with your audience. For example, a blog targeted to women with a high disposable income is going to be worth much more to a high-end brand, than a blog that appeals mostly to mums who are struggling to balance the family budget.
Similarly, a blogger who has followers numbered in the tens of thousands can demand a higher payment for promoting a brand than one that has only a few hundred. Furthermore, a blogger who is able to actively engage with their audience can expect to receive higher payment for sponsored posts and product reviews. Examples of active engagement include a high number of return visitors, lots of comments on posts and a higher than average number of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
So lets talk money. Personally, I wouldn’t accept any less than $100 for a written post and neither should you. If you’re unable to demand a minimum of $100 for your posts, then you need to focus your efforts on building your audience to make your blog more attractive to brands. If a brand asks you to review a product, it is reasonable to expect they will supply you with sufficient free product in addition to a cash payment to compensate you for your time and effort.
But what if you don’t like the product? In the first instance I would recommend you contact the brand and tell them you didn’t like it and then give them the choice of either a bad review or no review. In my experience, most brand representative’s will choose the latter.
It probably goes without saying that the last thing you want to do is to alienate your followers by giving a bad product a good review. It is for this reason, most bloggers will only publish positive product reviews. If they don’t like a product, they simply won’t write about it and I think this is the best course of action. Brands will only pay for published reviews but no amount of money is worth risking your greatest asset as a blogger, your reputation.
When it comes to banner display advertising, the industry standard is ‘Cost Per Impressions’ (CPM) and to a lesser extent, ‘Cost Per Click’ (CPC). As a general rule, I am loathe to accept any less than $10 per 1,000 impressions. However, allowances do have to be made for fluctuations in the market and there will be times when you should expect to earn a lower CPM for an ad campaign, such as when the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2008.
In my experience the best way for an independent blogger to get a fair price for promoting brands – be it sponsored posts, product reviews, email marketing (eDM), or banner display advertising – is to join a trusted ad network such as the one Australian Women Online belongs to, Lifestyle Media Group. LMG is based in Australia and has produced some excellent results for this website.
One of the benefits of belonging to an ad network is because ad campaigns are run over several websites, your ad network can negotiate a higher CPM, than you could reasonably expect to receive from an ad campaign which is run on your site alone. Another benefit I’ve found with outsourcing all the website’s advertising to an ad network is that it frees me up so I can devote more time to writing and publishing original content.
A Shift in the Blogosphere
Encouraging bloggers to demand fair compensation from the brands they work with is something which I’m really passionate about. The first time I tried to get bloggers interested in the concept was at a women bloggers event in Sydney a few years ago. Now I know I’m no orator, but I was surprised when the audience wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. Perhaps the timing just wasn’t right.
It’s now three years later and I can feel a change in the air. Can you feel it?