My Role as an Influencer – Working with Brands and Why It Matters to You
When I first started my blogging journey I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know where to begin. That was almost four years ago and I have learned a lot.
This article is a bit of a departure for me. You may have noticed I don’t write the most personal blogs. In fact, I much prefer to keep my personal life, personal. If I had it my way I would retreat onto my farm, sever my internet connection, and live a pretty quiet life. But, that’s not what I’ve chosen. I’ve chosen to be a blogger and an influencer, and I want to explain a little bit of what that entails, what my relationship is to you the reader, and my relationship with the brands I work for.
Influencing has become the new marketing. With the rise of the internet and social media sites, companies began to realize that individuals were influencing the sales of others. Ever been at a party and someone asks where you got that dress? Instead of vaguely saying at “so and so store” individuals can now, with pinpoint accuracy, provide the information via social media and personal blogs. Early influencers captured this momentum as a great way to earn a living. I mean hey – why should they help promote your store and not get any compensation? They are essentially working as your marketing and sales team. I applaud these early adopters and those who still dare to enter the world of blogging and influencing.
A recent report projected US advertising spending to sit right around 558 billion dollars for 2018. That’s a lot of money being spent just in the United States on advertising. Companies around the world compete for your hard earned dollars and influencers have now become a viable way of getting their product seen and sold. There aren’t precise numbers on the exact amount companies worldwide spend on influencer marketing but they spend a lot with figures increasing each year, and it works. It works for the same reason that you would ask a friend at a party where she got that dress. It’s because you trust that person.
This is my job. My job is to help influence your spending habits. That’s pretty blunt but it’s true. In order to do that I need to earn your trust and I work hard at that. On my About Me page I note that I use affiliate links and others forms of monetary compensation. With that, I also include my e-mail address in case you have any questions or want clarification. “We hold ourselves to the same standards as the brands we work with: transparency, honesty, and openness.” I don’t hide anything from my readers. It’s dishonest and quite frankly a terrible feeling – something I want nothing to do with.
I am contracted by companies to promote their product. As a contractor I am paid and often given products for free. (I don’t promote any company on WTT that I haven’t personally researched and tested. I don’t even allow banner ads from companies unless I have worked with them personally.) But here’s the thing: I chose to be a sustainable fashion blogger. My goal is to help reduce your spending, to help you navigate the world of conscious living, and to realize that quality is better than quantity. This makes my approach to promotions different than it would be for conventional bloggers. I don’t just support a single item but help to promote a set of values and a mission to change the current industry. This is the embodiment of sustainable companies that prize long term change and understand results will not be the same as those manufacturing a $10 Tee.
There was an interesting statistic another Sustainable Blogger once mentioned: it takes seven points of communication for an individual to actually buy a product. Traditionally this meant that you may see something you liked in a magazine, and then on a billboard, and then again on a friend, and then on T.V., etc. We may not even notice that we have seen or heard about it seven times but chances are you did before you ever made a purchase. At least that’s the average. I love this! I don’t want my readers making rash purchases. It defeats what I’m doing. It defeats the goal of the companies I work for – sustainability over fast fashion.
The expectation that bloggers provide a direct and immediate return on a company’s marketing dollars strikes me as new. It may have to do with the rapid paced world we live in. We expect to get things immediately and I can understand why many companies would expect the same. But bloggers/influencers should not be seen any differently than a billboard or a magazine ad. Driving traffic and sales takes time. We work on long term brand awareness. Sustainable consumers should not be regarded as the typical fast fashion shopper. This implies based on my blog alone you, the reader, probably aren’t going to buy something. In order for sustainable companies to truly compete with fast fashion retailers they need to have a multi-pronged approach which involves the use of not one, but several influencers, commercials, magazines, etc. Just like I don’t contract out exclusively to one company or expect one reader to make or break my blog: sustainable companies cannot expect a single blogger to be the determining factor to their company’s success. Holistic marketing plans, which include several influencers and other promotional channels, along with long term measured sales over several months, is a great way to gauge the success of a campaign.
I recently posted an article: Timeless White Button Down. I was paid to write that article. I was given the shirt for free but here’s the other thing, which I make clear on my website to prospective companies: If I like your brand, believe you are working towards authentic sustainable practices, and actually enjoy your products then I will help to raise brand awareness. If not, we don’t work together. On top of that, I maintain complete creative control. This is how in the last four years I’ve been able to earn the trust of my readers. As a reader you have thousands of blogs to choose from and I won’t risk your trust by posting content I don’t stand behind 100%.
Here’s the thing though, if you read that article – thank you, but I don’t expect you to buy that shirt. At least not now. I don’t expect you to buy a white button down shirt until you need one. Maybe you have one that is amazing. Maybe you’re just not ready to commit. I’m okay with that and the sustainable brands I work with also need to be. My goal is not to have you impulse shop. My goal is to build a long term, trusting relationship so that when you are in the market for a white button down shirt, maybe a year or two from now, you will know where to look. I don’t promise companies specific rate of returns. I don’t promise them specific sales goals. I do tell them my reach (how many people read WTT weekly/monthly) but I won’t commit to specific sales numbers. It’s not fair to you or them.
The top fashion bloggers can earn over a million dollars a year. They do this by expecting their readers to spend at warp-speed. The brands they work with know this. Those are fast fashion bloggers. Sustainable influencers/bloggers will likely never earn that much. It’s not in the spirit of sustainable blogging. We can’t expect to espouse the virtues of buying less, saving the planet, and helping humanity all while pushing sales down your throat. We do not promote the typical fast fashion model in any sense: from our clothing, to our blog articles, to how we market our content. Sustainable companies need to know this.
What does this all mean? Essentially is comes down to this: I value transparency and am actively fighting to help change the fashion industry. I want consumers to make smarter purchases and I want sustainable companies to get more business. But if you’re reading my blog because you want to impulse shop then this isn’t the place for you. And, if you’re a company I’m working with who is pinning their weekly sales goals on me, then I’m not the influencer for you. My goal, and the goal of authentic sustainable bloggers around the world is to create a trusting, honest, and transparent place for individuals to learn about the industry and dive into sustainability well equipped. Unless we want sustainable companies to become the new fast fashion model we need to stop expecting immediate sales and value the life-long customer.
Want to read more about transparency, working with brands, our roll as influencers, and other perspectives from other insiders? Check out these articles by fellow EWC members.
The Business of Blogging: Why Fair Trade Rhetoric Must Include Bloggers | Leah from Style-Wise
Working With Bloggers & Brands: A Mini Guide | Francesca from Ethical Unicorn
Why Bloggers Should Be Paid Fairly | Holly from Leotie Lovely
Paying for Promotion: In the Spirit of Transparency | Jen from Honestly Modern