Blogging: What defines a Sponsored Blog Post?

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What defines a sponsored blog postWhen I take the time to read a blog post, I only expect honesty. As a reader and as someone who blogs I would appreciate a definition of what is considered sponsored. I have read numerous guidelines and understand disclosure. Nevertheless there are no clear instructions as to when you have to state “This a sponsored blog post”. Bloggers have words we want to share online and hope that someone out there connects with what we write. Connecting with readers is paramount, as is having integrity, whether you have one reader or a million.

Personal blogging is a part of who you are. Your online persona may be more comfortable behind a screen as you share snippets of your life and your readers relate to your situation. They empathise, laugh and support you. Your followers read your blog because they like what you say. When you like someone, you form a friendship. You trust your friends. Your readers trust you.

Trust only works well when there is honesty. Honesty does not hide. When honesty and being upfront gets lost amongst your words, integrity takes a hit. Trust is lost. Your blog no longer has the human trust connection and sponsored blog posts for all bloggers start to lose credibility.

Are Sponsored Blog Posts Getting Results?

I am not convinced they all are. Currently sponsored blog posts do not seem to have a great reputation. A good reputation requires the two main components of trust and honesty. Casually mentionining a product in your blog story without disclosing that it is sponsored, is not really that honest.

Sponsored blog posts require a clear set of guidelines. Starting with, this is what you need to tell your readers straight away. This is a sponsored post. Many do state clearly this is a sponsored post, unfortunately, others do not. Nothing in the title or their first sentence, the sponsored content hides amongst their words, no mention until the very end that “Hey I’m a sponsored post” and at times no mention at all.

Sponsored posts that saturate social media with 96 alternative views written by 96 different bloggers for an identical product or service in order to achieve an outstanding outcome is gradually turning into overkill. Comments and the re-sharing on a sponsored blog post are frequently boosted by other bloggers, which is lovely to see, the support is wonderful but is it authentic? Or is it working and bringing in the results?

I do enjoy  sponsored posts, when I trust the blogger writing. It is my free version of Choice magazine. My trust starts to wane if they are not upfront.

What defines a Sponsored Blog Post?

Is it when money exchanges hands for writing about said product/service? When goods are gifted for a review or experience? They send you a movie voucher? A discount was given? Free passes? A holiday?

It is all a tad blurry and vague. It is not always visible immediately. I also accept that due to the lack of a set definition, a blogger involved in a sponsored post genuinely believes, as there was no cash transaction, it is not sponsored. It is a ‘sort of sponsored post’.

My definition is simple a sponsored blog post means there was something in it for you. Whether you received money, a bunch of flowers, a bag of lollies or a mention in a magazine for reviewing said magazine, Likes on your Facebook page etc.. you received something in return.

When this transaction occurs, admit this early on in your sponsored blog post. This is disclosure. Disclosure is your reputation. Include when possible the word sponsored in your title or the opening sentence or use a hashtag when promoting across social media.

It is entirely up to you if you want to give any further information regarding the sponsored blog post e.g.: Paid, given two T-shirts, was sent a shop voucher, taken out for lunch etc… Sponsored Blog Posts are an advertisement not only for the product but about you and your blog.

A Sponsored Blog Post can include: just talking about the product or service or a full review, giveaway, even competitions can be sponsored. When there is a component of an exchange, between the blogger and the client you have a sponsored blog post.

I want to monetise my blog

If you are a newbie personal blogger or contemplating blogging because “I can do that and earn money” then stop and take a good look at the actual numbers of bloggers that are making a sustainable income. The ones that do have an engaged readership and following. Solidly built over some years. Their readers did not appear overnight. They work hard to maintain their blog. Their readers trust them. You do not have trust after a month. Your readers hardly know you. It takes time to monetise.

Monetising your blog means you have to commit to often writing a few times a week , readers will stop reading if you solely focus on sponsored blog posts. There has to be a balanced ratio of your voice and your sponsored blog voice. Think why do I want to blog? have your own reasons, if monetising is the only factor, then I don’t believe success will be easy. The majority of personal bloggers started blogging to connect, making money came along later, much later. My guess is a minimum of one year.

Do not sell your soul, your integrity lives there. A sponsored blog post should have some relevance to your blogging niche, to who you are, altering who you are for a sponsored blog post makes that post have little or no credibility.

I started blogging three years ago I shared my story, my life and my work. “You are far too personal” for a business blog. “Sell what you do or there is no point in your blog”. I didn’t follow the advice. I was me. I still am. I don’t want to be boxed in and just write about parenting and child behaviour. Behaviour covers so many areas including blogging behaviour Blogging has no set rules. In saying that I strongly believe we need more bloggers on board in defining the how to’s of a sponsored blog post.  Perhaps a simple opening line; “This is a sponsored post, tell me what you think?” may just be the honesty we need.

 

As a reader or a blogger how would you define a sponsored blog post?

 

 

 

 

 

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Nathalie Brown

Child Behaviour Consultant at Easy Peasy Kids
Child Behaviourist and researcher. Creator of "Less tantrums. More smiles". I look at the bigger picture and think outside the box when working with children and their behaviour. Their world is different. As adults we sometimes forget this. Happiness Creator in my spare time. Eater of chocolate and cake.

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Comments

  1. I think that anytime you get something for writing a post then you need to disclose it. I also believe that the disclosure needs to be at the start of the post. It’s annoying when a blogger writes what you think is a great personal story, only to get to the bottom and find out it was sponsored. If I like the blogger then chances are I would have read it anyway, but I like to know if there was compensation for the post. When I do do a review post I start with ‘I received x. All opinions are my own’.

  2. Some bloggers will argue that only a cash transaction is considered ‘sponsored’, but I think any blogger would do well to think of their audience first and ask themselves, “Do I have anything to declare?”. If the answer is yes, then do so, and be up front about it. I don’t think it’s so much about whether something is “sponsored” or not, it’s more about whether everything is disclosed and that you feel comfortable with it. If you don’t want to get penalised by Google then you might want to make sure you use clear language with your disclosure and ensure any links are no follow. Google doesn’t differentiate between free stuff or cash when it comes to passing page rank. Here’s a great video of Matt Cutts from Google explaining what is considered a paid link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zupIbMyMfBI

  3. Whenever I receive anything for a post, whether it’s money or product, I always disclose and I expect others to, as well.

    To me, “sponsored” means a cash transaction.

    When I’m writing a review, I’ll state that upfront, or at least in the first paragraph or two.

  4. I’m with you on questioning the value of sponsored posts for the brand. I think they would be much smarter to nurture a relationship with people who are enthusiastic about their brand. That will make those people even more likely to mention them or recommend them to others.

  5. Any time I get anything that I didn’t buy myself (or wasn’t a birthday/Christmas gift or whatever) then it is mentioned at the top. Sponsored. Or “this post contains mention of XYZ which I was given to try”. Totally a non negotiable in my book.

    On the flip side, it really irritates me that people mark things as #notsponsored when talking about things they’re found & loved online. I think that’s taking the implication that bloggers all get free stuff all the time way too far.

  6. The #notsponsored I try and see as a product they genuinely like with no strings attached, but then if I see the same person repeatedly stating this, then I start to think they are aiming to get something out of it. Either forming a relationship with the brand or receiving free goods.

  7. Great post. I do appreciate learning about products from blogs, so I don’t hate sponsored posts. I have actually taken the recommendation of some bloggers I love and trust… and I’d like to think I can tell when they really *do* recommend a product. Thanks for sharing.

  8. great post! I look forward to recent ACCC recommendations becoming mandatory as I think blogging as a profession needs to have consistency in the way we all define and disclose sponsored posts. I recently shared some thoughts around this with my own community: http://www.mumsonthego.com.au/blog/blogging-accc-demands-greater-transperancy/
    I also have clear guidelines I give brands before agreeing to write sponsored content so that they are aware of what I will and won’t do, how the post will be pitched etc. I find this helps me stay away from feeling pressured to write a “sales” blog and to tell an authentic story connected to brand messages.

  9. What a great post! I have just started looking at trying to get sponsored posts and I’ve been at this since Oct 2012 but honestly I won’t flog something that isn’t a good fit! And the fact that I have no niche makes it hard. I also won’t turn boring just for money. My style of writing won’t change. I’ve just been asked to do a 3-day detox and I’m so excited because it is JUST what I need right now, and I bet my readers will be able to relate. I will disclose from the outset that I was given the juices for free. Love your thoughts on this!

  10. I have published a Keeping it Real Policy on my website, with a clickable button at the bottom of each post. If I’ve received cash, then I term it a sponsored post and the word SPONSORED is included in the post title.

    If I’ve received an item for trial and review purposes, or editorial consideration in other words, then I mention in the first paragraph that I’ve received samples to try. I do not consider this a sponsored post.

    I also find the assumption that paid reviews are not honest reviews to be, well, a bit insulting. I clearly state that I only agree to put things on my website that I like and that I would buy again with my own money, whether or not I’ve received payment, a free sample or a movie ticket or other unrelated gift.

    My opinions are not my own and they’re not for sale. If I receive payment for a review post, it is payment for access to my readers and compensation for my time.

    I’d like to address the #notsponsored tag issue. This is something I frequently use. Not for any nefarious reason nor because I’m trying to suggest that the company I’m mentioning DO sponsor me. But because so very many bloggers and other users of social media simply do not mention if they’ve received an item as a gift or that they were paid to share an item / brand / service.

    I started using this after I got quite snippy emails and DMs from people “calling me out” for not disclosing that I received items that I’d mentioned on social media when in fact I had paid for them myself. The reason I tag the brands I’m wearing / eating / visiting is that I love to continue the conversation and to be honest, it saves me lots of time answering questions about what brand it is or where it is from. I also like to share the love, especially in relation to small companies, start ups, etc.

    Isn’t it interesting how different opinions can be on the same thing?

    In short, I always disclose. (I always credit too). Sponsored means I’ve received cash. A blog post that I’ve received cash for is clearly marked as sponsored in the title. A blog post that references products that I’ve received and haven’t received any cash refers to the items being gifted or provided for trial and review in the first paragraph. #notsponsored means I’m just letting you know that I paid for it myself and I’m obvs happy with it, which is why I’m sharing it. #gifted means I’ve received something for free, as a gift.

    That wasn’t short after all! Even shorter – Kimba Likes is my name and my reputation. I keep it real because I’m honest and I value my readers. xx

  11. Bugger. That should say my opinions ARE my own!

  12. Thanks so much for your openness and how you see and structure it all. I understand that your niche works well this way. Honesty and valuing your readers=Spot on xxx

  13. Thank you , Nathalie . I think we all need reminders.
    I think it is because there are no rules , unless they become mandatory with ACCC.
    I try my best to disclose 100% exactly what I have received – be it a sample, gift card or Lego (a popular giveaway) – I agree with Tegan that anytime you get something for writing a post then you need to disclose it ; in some way in the post and preferably upfront.
    Then Laney said – “I don’t think it’s so much about whether something is “sponsored” or not, it’s more about whether everything is disclosed and that you feel comfortable with it”
    I thought the consensus was sponsored = hard $$$ or high value items.

  14. Like you, I would love to see some guidelines we could all stick to! I think lots of people do disclosure very well, and people are very quick to pipe up if they think you’re being dodgy. I think it self-regulates a fair bit, but some universality wouldn’t go astray. Loved hearing your take on the topic x

  15. I agree with you. It’s anything where you get something. (I even have a disclosure statement on a couple of my review posts where I admit that I got the smug satisfaction of giving my unsolicited opinion.)

    I’ve actually got my first sponsored post coming up so I’ve been thinking about this. I intend to fully disclose what I received, but the wording is tricky, because I want it to sound like me, not like my “legal department”, and I do tend to waffle on a bit before coming to the point, so the disclosing early thing is going to be challenging. I take your point about that, though. Good guidance.

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