The invitation: In the past few months, I’ve been approached multiple times by individuals working as community managers or on the social media team for companies. They write that they’ve checked out my blog, they think it’s great, and they think I’d be a wonderful contributor to a project they’re doing where they ask bloggers to write about a specific topic. They ask me to let them know soon if I can be part of this, and offer vague promises that they’ll “share some of our favorite dishes on social media” or that they’re “on the lookout for really great posts”.
Here’s one of my favorites:
If I’d received this e-mail first, I might have been more cautious. A mattress company, soliciting blog posts from a running blogger? Sounds pretty spammy, like they just want me to check out their site.
Unfortunately, the first time I got an e-mail like this, it was from a health company that publishes recipes on their website. I was flattered, excited, and jumped right in to develop and post a recipe for the company’s “project”. I envisioned a post on their company website with a compilation of bloggers who had participated and links to all the recipes, including mine. I thought it’d be great exposure for my blog, and benefit them because they’d get free content for their website.
Everyone wins, right? No. I hadn’t read the wording of the email closely, which simply stated they would “share some of our favorite dishes on social media”. Some. On social media. Not a link on their company’s blog, and not for everyone, just their favorites. In that first e-mail from the social media team I had a clue that I might develop a recipe, publicize their company name, and receive nothing in return. In my excitement, I failed to read it as carefully as I should have.
I never received any social media coverage from the company. I later discovered another blogger who was also disappointed. When I asked Andrea of run2golden.com about her experience, she wrote “I spent time, money, and even a little stress to get the recipe done, and I didn’t even get any recognition on their website”. Web searches revealed more of the same – the project was featured on blogs, but never on the company’s website itself.
I assumed this was an isolated incident, but now that I’ve received two other e-mails from companies soliciting blog posts, I suspect it’s a new marketing tactic that’s gaining popularity.
Blogger beware: If you’re going to create content for a company, make sure you know what they’re offering you in return, and you’re comfortable with their terms. We’ll “share some of our favorites” or are “on the lookout for really great posts” means you could be doing publicity for that company for free. Ask the company how they plan to share your post. Will they share it on social media, or on their website? Do they have submission guidelines? How do they plan to publicize participating blog posts? If they’re just looking for an honorable mention on your blog, my advice is to move on if you’re not ok with that.
Below is my most recent blog post solicitation. I responded with some questions. I never heard back from Heather, and when I e-mailed Williams-Sonoma customer service, I was told she doesn’t even work for the company. I wrote a blog post about the scam, only to hear back from the official @WilliamsSonoma twitter account that the campaign does actually belong to them. I’m not sure which is worse, actually, given the number of bloggers over the past few months who have been developing these smoothie recipes and linking to the company for nothing in return. I’m posting updates to the story here.
Ask questions, verify identities, and good luck!