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Many 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-
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.
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? 😛
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.
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.
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. 🙂
And Good Luck to all the beauty bloggers. Please do ask anything you want in the comments.