Beauty Blogging Insights from IMBB

beauty blogMany many months ago, I decided to organize our first giveaway on IMBB. To make it a success, I decided to connect with other makeup blogs and started searching them and collecting their emails. Ultimately, I collected more than 3000 emails and I had to stop because I got tired of hopping through so many blogs one after another and couldn’t go any further. But through this exercise I realized one thing about makeup blogs- there were infinitely many of them. There is no dearth of makeup blogs on the internet and there are all kinds of them- big, small, great, not-so-great, classy, tacky, etc. Many of our IMBB friends and readers have started their makeup blogs too. This post is just to provide food for thought to them. And this post comes from our more than two years of running IMBB. This is for all beauty bloggers who want to make their blog a success. If you are a beauty blogger who just enjoys what she is doing, this post may not be of much use to you. Also, these are our insights that we have learnt through our mistakes and experiences. If these help you in any way, we shall be glad. But please apply your own thoughts to what I am saying. Chew on these and assimilate them only if you find them logically coherent.

Since this post would be mostly about how cosmetics companies and bloggers interact with each other, I would like to stress some facts here. Even if you do not agree with the points I make later on, do keep these facts forever in your mind-

Bloggers are Different From Media- To all practical purposes, most companies deal with blogging as part of their media campaigns. Bloggers are just one more medium to spread the word about their products or events ONLINE. Their is one difference though- the other print media never say a bad word about their products. pick up any magazine and try to find one bad word about any cosmetics product. There would be none. Bloggers on the other hand are free to write honest, and sometimes scathing, reviews of the product. And that is where the power of a beauty blogger lies- to direct her readers to the right products. Don’t let any company bend or influence this power.

PR does Not Represent Marketing or the Actual Company- Posting about your blog on the facebook or twitter pages of companies? Received some products also? Good. Remember that those facebook/ twitter pages and dispatch of free products are handled by a PR company which has been hired by the cosmetics company. So chances are that the people actually belonging to the cosmetics company, marketing or otherwise, have never heard of your blog. If ever you want some advertising on your blog, or want the company people to pay attention to your blog, you’d have to find the right people inside the company.

Bloggers are Not a Respected Community in India- A year ago, I was scouting some offline sarees and fashion stores for advertising on our website. Even though IMBB traffic is huge and is comparable to any newspaper in the country, the responses that I saw were highly disdainful about the online media. They were doing well without the ‘internet shinternet thing’ so why bother. This is the same feeling that we get from our interaction with companies, and mostly Indian cosmetics companies. India’s population has yet to shift online in a major way and the feeling prevails that an online voice such as a blogger might not make much of a difference to the top line of the companies. And a blogger conjures the same image as a struggling writer tapping on his typewriter in a closed room. Not many, or perhaps noone hears him. A blogger is a small fry in the ocean. Remember, it is not the numbers of people visiting your blog but the mentality of companies that I am talking about.

Most beauty blogs are run by females. And females love nice gestures, beautiful gifts, and sweet words. And females are also jealous of other females getting or having something that they don’t. And therefore they do a lot of things on their blogs without asking a crucial practical question- “How is this going to grow my blog traffic or revenue?” If they did, even if they felt nice about some things or jealous about others they would not do them. I am going to have a look at some of these-

Free Products

News Flash: If you see IMBB ‘contact us‘ section, you’d notice that we have asked companies to not send us products for reviews. For many months now, we have been buying our own products for reviews. And what do we do with products that we receive from companies which were earlier sending us products? We put them for giveaway in most cases. Simple as that. In short, we do not review any product received from any company. To explain our reasons, let me explain the mechanism of free products- normally the cosmetics company sends some number of products, from its latest collection/ new launches, to its PR agency, whose job is to distribute it amongst various media for promotion. So these products go to various magazine editors, celebrities, and some bloggers.

Receiving free products is nice, and it makes you feel that your blog is worth something. But a crucial question is, what are you getting out of it? The regular magazines are full of ads of these cosmetics companies. Are they advertising on your blog? I don’t think so. And the actual cost of even a Rs. 1000 product would perhaps be Rs. 200 to them. Instead of giving you a Rs. 1000 ad, they give you a Rs. 200 product and get the same publicity out of you. Why should you settle for it?

But the product would have cost me Rs. 1000 if I had gone to buy it so to me it is worth Rs. 1000 only” you would say. So let’s talk about the products themselves. Many of the products that we received from PR, we would not have bought them in the first place if we were spending our own money. When was the last time a PR company asked you about your skin type before sending you products. Most of these products are sent randomly without questioning whether you’d like them or not. And isn’t it better to get Rs. 1000 instead from the company and buy product of your own choice from their counter? Covering products which might not make much impact on your readers is hardly going to increase your traffic and it’s certainly not increasing your revenue.

But if I am going to buy and cover the product on my own anyway then why not receive it for free and cover it?” is another question that you’d ask. The answer to this is timing. Companies want you to cover products when their collection is released and that’s when they want you to. If the timing is so important to them, ask them to pay for it. Otherwise, you’d cover the products in your own sweet time, perhaps months later when it would not create much buzz anyway. And that too if the product is good and helpful to your readers.

Most of the practices/ concepts of beauty blogging have come from foreign beauty bloggers, and although those bloggers seem impressive, most of the practices that you have imbibed from them are wrong. Question yourself this- if a company can send you a free product, which hardly cost the company anything, and get the required coverage why would it pay you for ads to get the coverage? And the companies are advertising heavily on TV (sponsoring programs) and in magazines so why are they not advertising on your blog? To create the same buzz they pay tons of money to magazines, so why not your blog?

Well, how about feeling jealous that the other blogs are getting free products now and you are not? Good luck to them. The faster you are free from these chains, the sooner you’d be on the road to growing your blog. At the end of the day, how many free products do you receive in a month? Just add that cost to your expenses every month and forget it. It’s not a big cost and you’d make your blog self-reliant that way. Don’t get manipulated. If you are ready to take beauty blogging professionally, be ready to spend money. A lot of money in fact.

Blogger Meets and Events

If you are interested in meeting any of the bloggers, contact them and meet them on your own. You don’t need a company for that. Why in the first place is a company arranging a bloggers meet, which typically you bloggers should have been doing yourself? Is the company very interested in meeting you personally? Do they find you a charming personality? Hardly. It’s just a PR activity to popularize the company amongst the bloggers, generate goodwill for the company (so that perhaps you might curb some of your negative reviews), give you some free products and get coverage (both the meet and the products) on your blog.
beauty blogging
You might think that PR people are evil and out there to manipulate you. This far from the truth. PR people are out to build relationships on behalf of the company, and most of the PR persons you’d meet are highly genial and charming. But understand that it is part of their job to promote the company. Also, they are not part of the marketing team so they are not in charge of advertising. So don’t ask them for advertising. But it is YOUR blog and you have to take care of it. Discuss with PR persons how it would benefit your blog if you are attending a bloggers meet. If you don’t find a satisfactory answer then don’t attend.

On the positive side, there is something healthy about bloggers meet. You can get to meet a lot of bloggers and exchange views with them. If you are going to a bloggers meet, go there to meet your blogger colleagues, and without a camera if possible, and NOT with a purpose of covering the event or the company. Have fun there with like-minded people and come back. That’s what the meet was arranged for, wasn’t it? πŸ˜›

Same goes for events, go there without a camera and enjoy yourself. Meet people there and build your own relationships. You are not a reporter. You are also not expected to cover that event.

Press Releases

Three words- Don’t publish them. Unless your blog is about covering news that is. Charge the company, even a small amount, for putting up press relases on your blog. Otherwise do without them. But do keep receiving them. They would tell you about new launches in the market. You also get some nice images in press releases. Save them for use later if you ever decide to cover the products.

In essence, never belittle yourself. If you are working hard for your blog never sell it for free. Until a few months ago, we were putting up some press releases that we thought would be of use to our readers. Then we realized that our readers were essentially looking for solution to their beauty problems, specific products. And then we decided that instead of putting up press relases, we would pick up the products that would benefit our readers. So in essence, press releases are useful to us in that they give us a heads up on what is coming next in the market. But putting them on our blog is not required.

Giveaways

Last but certainly not the least important topic. Giveaways are two types- those you do on your own and those which are company-sponsored.

If you are doing giveaway sponsored by yourself be clear whether it is a fun giveaway or you have a certain objective in mind. If your objective is to achieve increase in subscription or facebook likes ask yourself if your giveaway is going to reach new readers or not. If your giveaway would be noticed only by your old readers, who may have already subscribed to you or liked your page, your objective will fail. And no, you cannot promote your giveaway on facebook easily. The ‘viral’ thing? It is a highly elusive thing. If you want your giveaway to reach new readers, have a solid plan.

The fun giveaways are real fun on the other hand, a great way to frolic with your readers. At IMBB, we believe in a mix of both kind of giveaways. Answer a fun question and take the prize. We do ask our readers to like us on facebook, but we don’t worry about it much. The bigger idea is to have more and more participation and a lot of masti.

And as for companies coming to do giveaways on your blog? That is called stealing your readers for free. Either you charge them for doing the giveaway or you ask your readers to like YOUR facebook page instead. A recent variant of stealing that I saw was a mail from a big company about sending our readers to like an application of their website and if you win (through the number of likes) you’d get a chance to meet a celebrity. Lol.

In the end, if you ever want to grow your blog, plan thoroughly. Be prepared to invest a lot of time and money and not be dependant on anyone or any company to grow your blog. A good working model to draw inspiration from would be newspapers. They do their own stories and spend a lot of money in establishing distribution. The revenues start rolling in later. That too in form of advertising. But newspapers keep on doing their own stories still. Keep your beauty blog like that. πŸ™‚

And Good Luck to all the beauty bloggers. Please do ask anything you want in the comments.

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image sources: 1, 2

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78 thoughts on “Beauty Blogging Insights from IMBB

  1. OMG thats a wonderful post( and the word wonderful isnt enuf to describe the feeling!!!) You know people say.. when you want to do something.. the ideas, tips/info pop from unexpected people/place.. this post is one such thing.. just when i am abt to start my own blog i have received this post from one of the well known/evolved blogs of INDIA.. ahhh awesome πŸ™‚ and Thanks a ton!!! πŸ™‚

  2. Woohhoooo… What an article sanjeev ji.. Although I am not part of the blogging world.. From the writing end.. But loved every bit of information here..

  3. Simply fab Sanjeevji! its the best article I have read in long time and I myself am into blogging since 3 years now..of course not beauty blogger though but some basics apply to any kind of blogging! Appreciate your honest opinions and thinking! thank you for sharing..m gonna bookmark it and re-read it again!

  4. Hi Sanjeevji,

    Even though i dont have a blog of my own I feel this article is so informative, you have covered all the valid points and it is also informative for non-bloggers to understand how these things work

  5. really a useful article Sanjeevji..I recently started a blog of my own…These tips are useful for anyone….Thank you soo much for these tips

  6. Hi Sanjeev

    Thanks for sharing such a detailed insight on beauty blogging.. I am sure it would help people who are keen on pursuing blogging as a profession.

    One more thing I’d like to say is I have seen many people who are way to secretive and shudder when it comes to helping others and sharing things that work for them.. This article is indeed a kind gesture by you and one that would benefit many ..

    Thanks again to both of you.. πŸ™‚

  7. Sanjeevji…..great…..this is such an insightful article and it will do a whole lot of good if people follow it πŸ™‚ but then ……

    1. Jomo ji, we are bound by our nature to do our own thing. And other are bound by THEIR nature to THEIR own thing πŸ˜›

      But it would be a good thing to have big blogs in India. I would like companies to look at blogs seriously. πŸ™‚

    2. Jomolee howdiee you hun..and how’s dear Aarohan…I am back and free now.. I missed reading so many posts past few weeks will go through them now..

      will message you today on FB

  8. Hi Sanjeev,

    Good article.. I have gone through a lot of blogs of different nature.. this is one blog with which I actually feel close.. as looking good is something that every one wants…
    Not many people feel happy about helping people who are into similar things… I feel you have gone out of your way to help others…. This positive attitude of yours reflects in your blog…
    Good luck
    Regards
    Deepa

  9. Hi Sanjeev,

    I have been following this blog for a while now, purely on a “good to read” basis. I I love reading the product reviews and it has steadily become my go to resource whenever I want to pick up a product.

    This is a great post, I have been toying with the idea of starting my own blog for some time now and keep putting it off for the major reasons you mentioned – time.

    It s been a half baked idea in my head for some time and when I eventually do take it up, I want to do it “full throttle” with time and money to invest and definitely make it lucrative in the long run. So, I feel I should either do it well or not do it at all!!

    Your post consolidates my point of view further and kinda puts in in perspective coming from someone who s been there and done that.

    Till then, I am going to slog away at my day job and get my blog time by browsing online!!

    Cheers

  10. these are golden tips for bloggers… I have seen many blogs go from genuine, from the heart to worse because of reviewing only PR stuff and posting press releases..and i stopped reading them because there was nothing unique and they stopped trying.. And the giveaways… most of them are a joke..
    I know somebody who looks exactly like Sanjeev bhaiyya.. πŸ™‚

        1. ya the doppelganger lives in banglore.. but hes my sworn enemy..so whenever i see S’s pics… suddenly i get heart attack hi hi…
          Hey, I was thinking most of the tips u said here, I think small blogs have the money or blog writers to follow them.. N lots of blogs the events I saw actually people from the company were present, and not the PR people.
          Only after reading this article i understood that PR send u products doesn’t mean the actually company knows you.

  11. You have expressed your ideas with such clarity and fore-thought, I have really enjoyed reading this article! Thank you.

  12. Very informative Sanjeevji… and practically real and full of wisdom.

    Though I feel the trend of blogging is fast evolving in our country. I am not sure about the beauty world but I get about a request every month from a newly started company who want me to be associated with them to introduce them to my readers..

    I feel glad that newly startup firms contact small bloggers like me to spread awareness about their products. They cant afford the ad fees of a big blog and small blogs like mine wont get ads from big companies. But as suggested by you, I look at all the factors and deny at least 70 % of them. The ones I pick are the companies that I think would be beneficial for my readers and my blog. For eg. one company contacted me to spread awareness about their product and they in turn shared my blog on their website! And I got lot of new readers from them:)

    1. Hi Surabhi, Again you proved the point that if a relationship like this benefits your blog, go ahead and join it. As I mentioned in the article, get either the traffic or the revenue. Sometimes companies don’t have to pay the ad cost if they are willing to provide blogger with the traffic. πŸ™‚

      But as a blog owner it YOUR responsibility to take care of the growth of your blog.

  13. This is a really helpful article. I will save it for the day when it dawns on me that I start my blog. πŸ™‚

  14. this is SO interesting
    i always wanted to know so many things about blogging but cant stress the fact more that…
    if you love what you do (like me ) all the good things come to u…(my job on imbb i mean )
    all the very best to imbb again πŸ™‚

  15. definitely a helpful article for bloggers.. I buy any expensive cosmetic product only if i find 2-3 good reviews in beauty blogs.. Its high time now cosmetic companies need to think abt blogs..

  16. very informative article sanjeevji…I have been an active blogger for 2 months now, but I have already faced some of the above mentioned problems…and I can proudly say that I have rejected some requests from some companies…apart from 1 campaign that I participated in…it was my first, and I got soooo excited when i saw the mail in my inbox, I just couldn’t resist…but I’ve learnt my lesson right!!!
    thanks for sharing such a great post with all of us!

  17. Seriously a very insightful read… whenever I tell my relatives or any Indian people here that I blog, they either make weird faces or go completely silent. as if to say “why is she wasting her time” πŸ™

    actually even I wanted to know about monetizing and stuff. but what I feel is : when you love to blog, it shows and even people like to read.

    1. Bee, I think you can find all the needed information online. The trick is to ask the right questions about your blog and then go search for the answers. πŸ™‚

  18. This is an absolutely amazing post sir!
    I have a blog of my own n I’d been planning to venture into beauty blogging too, and such good advice from one of the gurus in this field is highly beneficial πŸ™‚
    Thankyou!!

  19. This was such an insightful article, Sanjeev! Thanks for taking the time out to write this and share it with us!
    “Bloggers are Not a Respected Community in India” — ugh, these people are thick. A beauty/fashion blog is as targeted an audience they can get yet they’re stuck in some other time.
    Also, lately I’ve noticed some beauty blogs where every second post is about an item sent in by a PR company. It’s so annoying because you know the blogger wouldn’t have picked up that product in the first place! So glad you called that practice out, especially how detrimental it is to the blogger him/herself.
    Good luck guys, I’ve always admired how you’ve made this such an inclusive community, where everyone has a voice πŸ˜€ And thanks for sharing these tips with us!

  20. Interesting article. Is this policy of not accepting PR products a new thing that you have started following for IMBB? I know in the past you have done so. You have even covered MAC’s event in Dubai and given them the exposure that now you are saying you shouldn’t do for free?

    1. Lol Jane, I was waiting for you to comment. πŸ™‚ So many of you read IMBB but come to comment only on controversial posts. πŸ˜›

      We have not been accepting PR products for a few months now, even our last two giveaways were because of products that we received which we didn’t intend to receive. Yes, we have been receiving PR products in the past. And only we know the cost of the mistake. We don’t intend to do it anymore.

      As for the trip to Dubai, we don’t regret it at all. I think MAC did far more by sponsoring our trip and stay than they would have by simply making the payment for the coverage. πŸ™‚

  21. Haha..good to know that πŸ˜‰ what can I say I like controversies πŸ˜‰ But the truth is I appreciate well written articles and if it sparks a good discussion , I will comment on it. I also like it even more when the bloggers can step up and answer bouquets or brickbats and not ignore valid questions. You should make a special note that you do not accept PR products if you haven’t already done it.Its great to hear that you have changed your policies and I think it brings more credibility to your reviews. Another extremely popular DIY blog does the same , but converts anything they are offered into a reader giveaway..another great idea.

    1. hmm… Please explain what you mean by reviews being more credible now. or the point of mentioning that some other blog (and I don’t know which blog you are talking about) is doing the same thing as we are. Thank you for praising the article by the way. πŸ™‚

  22. “Many of the products that we received from PR, we would not have bought them in the first place if we were spending our own money. ”

    You said that yourself. So, if a blogger is only writing about products that he or she would personally go out and buy, as a reader I feel that review is more credible.

    The other blog I am talking about is a big one in the US..Its a major home decor and DIY blog. They used to accept PR products , but they took a stand and said they aren’t doing that anymore and anything featured on their blog would have gone through their thorough analysis before investing in anything. I am saying your take on not accepting PR products anymore is similar to that.

    1. Umm… I associate credibility of a review with two things actually-
      1. The blogger is actually saying what she feels about the product in real.
      2. What the blogger is saying about the product actually holds true when others experience the product.

      The first is about honesty of the blogger, the second is about the competence. It’s calling a spade a spade whether you buy the product yourself or they are sent by PR. I made the statement that you have quoted in order to elaborate that if we were buying the products on our own we would have bought different products altogether because the sent products were not to our liking many a times. But that doesn’t mean that we reviewed the received products inaccurately. If we liked/ didn’t like the products, we said openly that we liked/ didn’t like the products. That was that. πŸ™‚

      Home decor and DIY blog? Could you email me the link?

      1. Got it. Ohkay, this DIY related to home decor; I thought it was makeup products, the DIY that we do on IMBB. Was wondering how come I didn’t know of the blog. πŸ™‚

  23. Thanks Sanjeevji for such a nice article. I started watching videos of beauty community on youtube about 2-3 years ago and really loved the concept of beauty gurus and beauty blogging. Though I am scientist by profession I have passion for beauty and fashion. But then it all had started, companies used to provide free products and beauty gurus used to review them (except some beauty gurus) and I started to loose faith in them. I can completely understand your point here and that’s why I like IMBB. I can rely on the reviews written over here πŸ™‚ I have started my new blog in this month itself and was clueless about many things, your article helped me a lot..Thanks! πŸ™‚
    I have one query ..how much time a blogger (actually a new blogger) is expected to invest because I am finding it really hard to manage blogging with work and my baby. I don’t want to compromise on quality of the blog..so some suggestions will be very helpful πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Manu,
      You’d find that most of the good bloggers have a routine of uploading posts. And their readers also get used to that post-upload routine. You need to sit down and work out how much time do you take for a single post and how many maximum number of posts you can do in a week. Then you stick to that routine NO MATTER WHAT. Whether you are travelling, or attending a function, or not even in a mood to work. Just get it done. πŸ™‚

      1. Thanks a lot Saneevji!! That was very helpful πŸ™‚ Will sure work on some concrete routine and plan accordingly. Thanks a lot again! πŸ™‚

  24. hey there..let me be honest and say that while I did know a little bit about the whole blogging process, i really wasnt aware there was so much to it. i appreciate you bringing this info to us.

    I have thought about starting my own blog also for the longest time. my husband is a hard core techie guy and he has encouraged me many a time. so now along with your email and his guidance i hope that day comes soon when i can boast of my own blog too.

    1. Hehehehe Aruna ji, don’t start a beauty blog. IMBB readers or writers who start their beauty blog stop liking IMBB soon. We don’t want to lose you. πŸ˜›

  25. Very insightful and thought provoking article sanjeev….being part of advertising sometimes cuts you off from real consumer insight and issues…(which i am guilty off…and every now and then try to come back to basics)….i myself have been in innumerable brand meetings where the only conversation we have is how to engage with bloggers…and the only solution we have is lets organize a blogger meet or send them kits…(though its the PR team which does most of these thoughts)…makes me think how differently can brands connect with bloggers who though small now but a steady growing industry (compared to the mass media)….will read thro your article once again πŸ™‚ and take all the points on board ..

    1. I have seen the same Priya. To the new PR people who approach us, we tell them simply that we do not attend bloggers meet and we do not take products for review and we shall be glad if they could suggest a way that they also benefit and we also grow. Most of them get stumped and we realize they had taken our blog for granted and were not thinking about the blog’s benefit at all. So we haul our own products and ignore all the PR things around us these days. πŸ™‚

  26. I had never imagined that a blogger will step up and share such insights! This is such a great post Sanjeev ji and very helpful for people like me. I have wanted to start a blog of my own since long but never had the courage! not to mention u and Rati have been my inspiration and I know you have made it big because of your hard work only.
    as for products sent by PRs, I am not able to trust the blogger even if her review is honest!

  27. This was so helpful! Thank you soo much Sanjeev, I’m planning to start my own blog (not a beauty one) but this still gave me so much of insight, I think it’s nice how the wtwo of you have taken a step away from convention when it comes to beauty blogging.

  28. I have two blogs, one is a work one, where I record my work, and it also serves as a portfolio. the other is a book review blog, which frankly has very few readers and is more a personal space. So while this posts doesnt fully apply to me, as an advertising professional Im really interested in know what roles blogs play in the media mix. Not a lot as of now, as you have noted. Am sure that is set to change though. You guys wield a lot of power, and they will wake up to it soon.

  29. Err I’m a li’l late here. But a very useful post for many. I’m new to bloggin. Just wondering if bloggging on sites like blogspot.com can be monetised or shud we have our own website to monetise?

  30. Hi ! Ive been following this blog since a long time. Love it totally !! πŸ˜€
    This article was very very very informative! Thank you πŸ™‚

    I liked this line a lot – ” Instead of giving you a Rs. 1000 ad, they give you a Rs. 200 product and get the same publicity out of you. Why should you settle for it? “.Great thinking πŸ˜€

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