Have a bit of a different post for you guys today! I’m a member of a few indie polish maker groups on facebook and a question that comes up periodically from new brands is how the blogger/maker relationship works, how to contact bloggers, what information to send them, etc. Commercial brands have their own PR firms who work on this for them, so there isn’t much information out there publicly for the little guys. This is going to be a long post, so click the jump below to take a look!
At the risk of pulling back the curtain a bit, I thought it’d be helpful to have a post to refer to with ‘best practices’ (so to speak) on how to work with bloggers & things that make our lives much easier! Of course, I’m no expert on this and am not claiming to be, so I also asked some other blogger friends and indie brand friends for their own feedback/tips to include!
This is mostly geared towards brand new indies as most who are a bit more seasoned already have experience working with bloggers, but hey, you may still find a tip you hadn’t thought about! (And if you’re a blogger curious about how best to contact brands, make sure to check out Will Paints Nails For Food’s blogger bootcamp on the subject- you’ll find a lot of similarities on how each side should treat each other!)
Note: Although there are people with instagram accounts who do accept products to review in exchange for photos (they are usually referred to as swatchers), I’m only referring to bloggers in this post, since that is what I am and have experience in. However, I imagine that most of this information would apply in the same way to Instagram-only swatchers!
‘Free’ Polish Is Not Free!
Before we get too deep into the process, at the suggestion of a couple contributors, I’d like to first address the ‘free polish’ issue. Many new brands (and even some new bloggers) refer to the press samples as free polish. I’ll admit it- before I began blogging myself I even was even a bit jealous of all of the ‘free product’ that some larger bloggers/vloggers received- but now I see it for what it is- WORK!
Don’t get me wrong- I love swatching polishes and working with brands, but it’s definitely hard work (and I imagine it’s a second full-time job for a lot of the larger bloggers). It takes me between 1-2 hours per polish (applying, photographing, editing/watermarking, writing the post, promoting on social media, etc) and often if I’m reviewing a lot of things at once, I don’t even get the chance to actually wear any of the shades as a full mani for a long time.
This is a subject that I have a lot of strong feelings on and I don’t want it to overtake this post, so I encourage you again to check out Will Paint Nails For Food’s Blogger Bootcamp series on working with brands- she brings up a lot of great points about it.
How do I determine which bloggers I want to contact?
So, you’ve got your product ready to go, your launch date is set and you want to start getting your name out there with some reviews- with so many blogs to pick from, how do you chose? And more importantly, how do you choose which blogs are going to be effective?
You are probably going to want to consider two types of bloggers- those who have very nice photos that you can use in your store listings (but who may not have a huge following- if they do, score!) and those who may have mediocre/okay photos but who have an interactive following that will get your brand name exposure.
When your brand is very new, you may find that a lot of larger bloggers may be hesitant to work with you. Try not to take it personally or get discouraged- the quality of new brands can often be all over the map. Being as professional as possible and following these tips will give you the best shot at having a large blog accept your review request! I can’t speak for all bloggers, but I know that I am sometimes hesitant to accept a review from a new brand (particularly if they are only sending to me or perhaps me and one other blogger) because the pressure is immense. Instead of you already having an established customer base & presence in the community (and thus my review is simply serving to get your name further out or make people aware of new products), that review of mine could really hurt your brand if it turns out that I don’t like the products or they had quality issues. Sometimes I turn down a new brand just to give them a little more time to get more experience making and selling prior to my reviewing their product.
You will probably find that bloggers with small to medium sized followings will be more willing to take a chance on a brand that hasn’t been tried out before. It’s a great way to grow a relationship, too- I have a few brands that I worked with when I was still a brand new blogger & they were still a brand new brand- it’s been so much fun to grow with them!
As far as choosing the bloggers themselves, how you go about that is going to be quite personal to you. Do you read nail blogs yourself and have some favorites? Do you have indie maker friends that you can ask who they recommend working with? Is there a brand you’re personally a fan of that you can scroll through their facebook to see who they typically work with? However you narrow it down, make sure to do a little research on the blogger before contacting them:
- Do they have a review policy listed on their blog with details on their turnaround time and policies? This can save some questions later.
- How often do they typically post?
- Do they promote their posts decently on their social media sites?
- Do they tend to get comments on their blog entries/social media sites? How interactive is their following? If they have a high follower count but their comment section is a ghost town, that may throw up some red flags.
- Similarly, do they have a huge following somewhere like facebook but a very small following in other areas (bloglovin’, instagram, twitter, etc)? This doesn’t mean that you should discount their facebook influence but you want to get the entire picture of their reach.
- Is there anything unique that makes their blog stand out in your eyes or draws you to them?
- Where is the blogger located? I’ve had many international blogger friends frustrated when brands contact them but then disappear when they find out they are international, even though they are up front about it and list it right on their review policy!
There is also an unfortunate side to working with bloggers- there are scammers out there who are just trying to get free polish (literally free in this case since they never review it!). Many brands have been burned by bloggers who agree to review and then disappear once the product is received. You can never avoid this 100%, but I would recommend keeping an eye on the following before ever even contacting the blogger:
- Are they posting regularly? If you’re contacting/are contacted by someone who hasn’t posted in three months, that should throw up red flags.
- Are they active on social media?
- Do they regularly review for other indies? Of course, someone has to be the first, so this doesn’t mean that they are a scammer if they haven’t worked with anyone in the past, but something to keep an eye on. If they’ve never worked with a brand and approach you, they may not have a true understanding of how it works, either.
Do I send the product free of cost? What about blogger discounts?
This is a topic that people may disagree on, so let me state again that this is just my opinion! If you’re approaching a blogger to review for you, you should not be asking them to pay for the product or the shipping, whether at a discounted cost or not.
If you’re approached by a blogger, I feel that it’s a bit different. If you have some samples remaining but you don’t have the funds to ship them, you can ask if they’d be willing to pay or split the shipping cost with you. If they decline, try not to take it as them not being really interested- just like you don’t have the budget to send to every blogger, not every blogger has the funds to purchase samples.
Blogger discounts are another polarizing topic- some indie brands offer a discount to bloggers who approach them who they can’t afford to send samples to. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it- in a lot of cases, they still expect the blogger to post a full review in the same turnaround time that they would if they had received the samples at no cost. I don’t agree with that. If a maker is more flexible about the turnaround time for those purchasing with the discount, I feel that’s a lot more fair.
Often, a brand I receive no-cost samples from will include a blogger discount if I’d like to review anything else from their store in the future- I always think that’s a really nice thing of them to do! I can’t always take advantage of it since my budget is quite small at the moment, but I certainly keep it in mind.
I’ve seen some indie brands with blogger submission forms. Can you tell me about that?
Often brands will create a form for bloggers interested in their products to fill out. You should still expect to be approaching bloggers you want to work with as not every blogger will see your form or fill it out, but this can be a great way to help keep the requests in one place. Each form varies based on what the maker wants to know, but here’s some ideas of things to include if you go this route:
- Blog Name
- Blog URL
- Social Media Links/Follower Counts
- Blog statistics (how many views/visitors they get monthly, etc. and where those statistics are coming from- ideally you should ask for google analytics numbers as blogger’s built-in statistics are usually highly inflated due to bots and crawlers.)
- Average turnaround time from receipt to posting a review
- A section for the blogger to tell you a little about themselves/their blog
I often also see new indies posting in facebook groups stating that they are looking for swatchers and I cringe because the post is immediately flooded with comments and typically it appears that a good 80% of them are not bloggers or instagram-only swatchers at all. Often they link their personal instagram where they may post polish occasionally. I would highly discourage you from doing this and encourage you to set up a form if you want to publicly solicit reviewers. It just looks more professional and helps weed out those who are not really bloggers/swatchers.
Note: I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with not being a blogger or swatcher and posting polish photos occasionally on instagram. Often doing that is a first step for someone who then decides they want to start doing it more frequently or that they want to start a blog, which is great! But until then, I don’t think it’s the best arena for a new brand to get the exposure that is needed in this very competitive and flooded market.
How do I first contact a blogger?
PRIVATELY! Just as indie makers dislike when bloggers post on their social media asking for samples, bloggers prefer to be contacted in private. Generally a blogger will have an area on their blog with either a contact form or an email.
Just like any business relationship, be professional and upfront in that initial email to the blogger. Your best bet at getting a favorable response will be to include the following details:
- A little about you and your brand- is it brand new? Have you already put out a collection or two? If it’s brand new, do you have any photos of your own so that the blogger can get an idea of the product you’re asking them to review?
- What are you wanting to send- minis or full sized polish? Some bloggers do not accept minis for various reasons (usually because the small brushes make application difficult- another blogger friend said she asks that a full sized brush be sent along with minis, that’s an idea) while others prefer them.
- How many polishes are you wanting to send? This is very important for us to be able to give you an accurate turnaround time- if we’re expecting 3 polishes and we receive 14, we’ll probably be scrambling to make that turnaround time!)
- Are you needing the review posted by a certain date?
- When do you plan to send the polish if the blogger agrees?
What questions should I ask the blogger to make sure our expectations are on the same page?
- What is the blogger’s current turnaround time? Even if they have it listed on their review policy page, I would still ask to be safe, as most bloggers go through periods of being busier than at other times.
- Are you wanting to use the photos in your store? If so, make sure to ask the blogger if this would be okay and let them know that you will credit them!
- What is their shipping address?
One major pet peeve I and many other bloggers have- just as you expect communication from us, please do the same, especially when it comes to sending the product! When you contact me asking if I have the time to review your product that you’re sending on xx date, I check my calendar to make sure that I will be able to review it within the agreed upon time frame, because I’m usually juggling multiple reviews/brands.
When you then don’t actually send it out until 1-3 months after the date you said you would, it really screws with my scheduling and it isn’t fair to the other brands who I turned down because I was expecting a package from you and thus didn’t have time to accept theirs. If you need to change the date, that is 100% okay, just let us know! Most bloggers are incredibly understanding as long as you communicate any changes with us.
I have also experienced a few times where a brand contacts me, offers to send product, even gives me a date that they’re shipping it and then never sends anything at all. At first I thought this was just a rare occurrence happening to me (do I smell or something?!) but in talking to other bloggers this is sadly VERY common and incredibly frustrating.
We totally understand if you get into a situation where you can’t send it for whatever reason (finances, you’re in the hospital, your meth polish lab exploded, etc.), just tell us. We won’t be mad, I promise! And we’ll be much more likely to review for you when you are ready than if you just disappear on us- it’s hard for me to recommend a brand who does that to me, because what about your customers? Would you do the same to them? I don’t know, but I’m definitely a bit hesitant to recommend your brand after that.
What information should I send once the blogger agrees to review my product?
This is all personal preference, but receiving any/all of the following helps make my life easier:
- Collection name/inspiration/release date
- Store link and social media links you want included
- Is there a certain date you don’t want us to post any sneak peeks or our post prior to? Or is it okay to post at any time after receiving?
- Polish names and color descriptions (saves me from going “Uh…it’s purple glitter….it’s pretty….I think it’s tiny hexes? Maybe squares? I DON’T KNOW!!” although that could just be me terrified to say that something is in a polish that turns out to be something else. Remember, we don’t make polish so sometimes we miss everything that’s in it!)
- Tracking number (this is like the holy grail of what I want from a brand, but that might just me being a little neurotic about keeping my turnaround time very quick- I like to be sitting with bare nails when the mail gets here!)
One brand who always knocks it out of the park with this is Philly Loves Lacquer. In addition to a separate email sent with tracking once it ships, she typically sends an email like this out to those reviewing her collection (this link is shared with her permission).
Okay, I’ve contacted my bloggers and sent off my product. What happens now?
Sit on the edge of your seat and nervously bite off all of your own nails. Okay, kidding! From here, though, it’s going to be a lot of waiting. I personally usually let the maker know once the product has arrived safely, but not everyone may do that.
Do not email the blogger asking about the review until after your agreed-upon turnaround time has passed. I know, you’re excited! But you both agreed to a timeframe and you don’t want the blogger to feel rushed into completing your review faster than that. If the timeframe does pass with no review, it’s okay to contact the blogger to find out what’s going on. Ideally they should be contacting you prior to that letting you know if they do need to delay it for any reason.
Once the review is posted, we love to hear from you! If you loved it, if you saw a spike in traffic/sales, etc., let us know! One of the best things we can hear as bloggers is that you liked our review and you’d love to work together again in the future. We also love it when you share our review with your followers! Cross-promoting from both sides makes for happy bloggers and makers.
I hope that this post was helpful! As I stated before, this is just my own opinion on this subject but I really do believe following these tips makes for a wonderful working relationship with minimal headache on either side of the equation. Have a tip that I missed? Anything that you disagree with? Make sure to leave a comment, I welcome tactful discussion!
As I mentioned before, some of this information and/or tips were not my own but were contributed in a discussion, so I wanted to make sure to credit the contributors: Meghan of Will Paint Nails For Food, Anne of Betty’s Beauty Bombs, Lisa of Cosmetic Sanctuary, & Michelle of Manic Talons
|Mugen is…thinking he’s ready to start contacting his bloggers now. Wait, Mugen, when did you start a polish line? -_-|