Hey, everyone! Something a little bit different for you today. I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile but have been putting it off, as I’m not really sure how it would be received. But after yesterday’s review on HK Girl received a lot of positive feedback, I decided now would be a great time to talk about honest reviews in the blogger world- why they’re important and why it’s not always as easy as it sounds to write them.
I pride myself on being an honest blogger, I really do. But it’s definitely a constant struggle to keep true to my readers and myself in being an honest blogger. Just write exactly what you feel, why is that so hard, Kirby? Well, there are a lot of challenges that may not be immediately apparent to non-bloggers and that’s what I’d like to talk about here.
Sometimes you read a blog and it seems like every polish brand they review just shits gold. I’m sorry to put it that way, but it’s true. Positivity is a great thing, absolutely! But when everything is gushed over as the best ever, how do you as a reader and a consumer decide what’s really great and worth your hard-earned money and what maybe isn’t?
There are definitely a group of blogs that I read for the gorgeous photos but simply can’t trust their reviews when it comes to actually purchasing a product. Many a time I have fallen in love with a polish from one of those blogs and purchased it only to be incredibly disappointed. At that point, I likely won’t purchase from that brand again. Sure, they get my business once, but don’t they really suffer in the long-term?
As a consumer, I’d much rather know what the challenges of a polish were (a thick formula, glitters the require fishing, etc.) and then be able to make an informed decision on whether I am willing to put up with that for a pretty shade. In most cases, the answer is yes! But if I’m expecting smooth sailing because of how it was reviewed and I get it and it’s a pain, I’m going to be disappointed and maybe a little bit angry.
So, we’ve talked about why honest reviews are important, but are there challenges behind it? Absolutely. I feel that the challenges for reviewing mainstream vs. indie brands are very different. I am going to focus mainly on indie brands in this post, you’ll see why in a moment.
RECEIVING BLOGGER SAMPLES
One big complaint that I’ve heard from non-bloggers is that ‘bloggers just sugarcoat their reviews so that they won’t stop getting samples’. I used to think that was a little silly, if you didn’t like a brand, why would you want to continue receiving samples from a brand that you didn’t like and probably won’t use again?
Well, there’s a bit of a point to be made there. Of course, some brands have bad collections among many great ones- it happens. So bloggers definitely could be worried that if they give a product a negative review they will lose out on a chance to review for the brand in the future.
But it can be broader than that. I have noticed that some indies send almost exclusively to blogs that as described before, think everything shits gold. I can’t entirely blame them for that- I’m sure it can be very difficult to see something you poured your heart into not be received well. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a bad product if they only request those blogs review their product, but it does show some hesitancy.
On the flip side, I’ve had a couple of awesome ladies ask me to review because of my honesty, knowing that their brand could handle it or that they needed some constructive criticism. And frankly, I love that they can do that. Because really, what’s better advertising for them than a blogger who is known to be honest saying that their product is great?
Why do we love indie polish? Well, aside from the awesome combinations they come up with, we know that many times it’s one person working out of their home, mixing each bottle or batch on their own and hand-packaging that little bundle of joy (okay, now I’m sickening myself, ha!) that makes it’s way to your house. It’s so much fun to be able to get to know the person behind the brand, to chat with them about their life outside of polish and about their polish itself!
This is also the reason it can be really hard to write a negative review, especially for a small or new indie. They may have sent their polish only to you, or possibly to you and just a handful of others. They’re depending on these reviews both to get their name out there and to get people to purchase their product.
You know that a negative review especially so early in the game can really put a black mark on their brand. You’ve maybe spent a couple of weeks prior to getting the polish chatting with them about their dreams for their brand, their reason for starting the brand, their life and challenges outside of polish. You know that it’s not a faceless corporation that you’re hurting by giving an honest yet negative review – it’s an individual person who you may even have come to consider a friend.
It’s really difficult when they eagerly ask what you thought & you have to tell them (& your readers) that it was possibly not so great. I sometimes have to do it, and it’s never fun, it puts a big damper on my day and I just feel like an asshole.
With larger, more successful indies it’s not always quite as difficult but you still face the same challenges. It’s not a faceless corporation but at least your one review isn’t possibly going to sink their ship.
The vast majority of indie makers are really awesome, professional ladies (+ gents) and can take the constructive criticism well (after all, we want them to succeed!). But another problem that can occasionally come up is cattiness. Unfortunately that just can’t be avoided in the blogger world, it seems. We’ll talk about this more in the next segment.
Silence can be another real bummer from a maker after an honest review. I recently had swatched a polish that I guess was from a bad batch (the maker had never and still hasn’t publicly announced that there was a bad batch). The maker saw it, contacted me and shipped off a replacement bottle- great! But when I reswatched it and posted an update about the bad batch (so that if any of my readers had received it to they could contact her to get what they paid for) and…radio silence. No ‘thanks for taking the time to update your review with correct swatches’ or ‘thanks for helping identify customers who received the bad batch’, nothing.
A few months ago there was a big to-do in the nail blog world about an indie maker who reacted very badly to a negative review and a blogger who is a really nice person but whose review maybe wasn’t written the most tactfully. (I’m not trying to call anyone out here so if you know who I’m talking about, please don’t name them in the comments! I just thought this was a great example on both sides of things not to do.)
The blogger & the maker privately had some issues over a miscommunicated time frame for the review to be finished. The blogger hurriedly got the rest of her review up and had a negative experience with the product, which she communicated in the review. Unfortunately, the way things were worded kind of came off as if the negative review was because of her dissatisfaction with the maker at that point and was very coldly written. The blogger is a sweetheart but just didn’t really communicate things as tactfully as she maybe could have.
However, the indie maker had a disproportionally terrible reaction. She complained about the blogger ‘bashing’ her in facebook groups, on her brands facebook page, in the comments section of the review, etc. She threatened to close her shop over the review and generally just was very catty. This maker will never recover her image, in my opinion. Even now she’s threatened to shut down multiple times over other tactful but negative reviews. People unfortunately encourage her by purchasing whenever she does this so that she won’t shut down but I doubt that will last forever. They also call the bloggers ‘haters’ for writing honest reviews which is ridiculous but unfortunately backlash from diehard fans is certainly another challenge that you may have to deal with when writing an honest review.
In this situation, I don’t think the original blogger having been more tactful would have necessarily not caused the maker to go off- but at least she would have come out of things looking a lot better. She learned a lot from it and since then has had very good, tactful reviews, I think.
As a blogger, even if I completely disliked a product, I always try to never just bash something. I think you can almost always find something nice about anything, even if it’s just the cute label or how the polish looked in the bottle! Being tactful even about the most negative aspects will be certain to help you out if you do run into backlash from the maker or the fans of the product.
Details are also really great and important- again, the post that inspired this one today wasn’t really a bad review, it was just lukewarm all around but I really worked hard on testing and documenting each claim. I had to take a deep breath before posting it (because I feared backlash based on how popular the product seems to be…) but I was confident in what I’d tested and written- and in the end, that’s all that I need in order to continue providing honest reviews for my readers.
Well, folks, I’ll end it there as I fear I am getting a little rambly, but I hoped you enjoyed reading about this from a blogger’s perspective. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or even just this situation in general in the comments!
|Mugen is….getting ready to watch Catching Fire!|
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