Bad Mom Bloggers Are Smarter Than That

By on June 28, 2011

Jumping through hoops, working for free, and deceiving their readers — these are three things it seems like mom bloggers are a little bit less willing to do these days. I must admit, it is a trend I like and one I’d love to see go viral.

A lot of bloggers get multiple e-mails every single day from companies and public relations professionals offering to send them free product if they’ll review it on their blog. Some go for that, some don’t. Some of those brands want just a little bit more. They may want you to host a giveaway of their product on your blog, one that requires people to click through to their website and, for example, comment on which product they like the best. That takes work and may also take money if the company is asking you to ship the product to the winner of the giveaway. Will they pay you to do it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Mostly no if they can find enough people to do it for free. But then there are companies who ask a whole lot more.

Recently, toy company Melissa and Doug was promoting a “Great Opportunity” for bloggers. In the promotion (captured here by Mommy Niri), they wrote:

If you’re a BLOGGER looking for the opportunity to provide a Melissa & Doug giveaway to your audience – look no further!

If you would help us promote your Sand Play Toys, specifically the 4 items listed below, and suggest that your followers come by our Facebook Page and *Like Us, we can send you a set of these sand toys for your own enjoyment, as well as a giveaway to your audience for every 200 fans you send our way! Just ask your audience to post something on Our Facebook Wall saying that YOUR blog sent them! The giveaway form for the sand toys set will be on your blog.

Two hundred fans? Who not only need to “Like” Melissa and Doug based on your recommendation, but who also need to leave a comment indicating that you sent them? That’s work. A lot of work. More work than a few sand toys are worth. Not just a lot of work, but a lot of social capital to expend in a world where that capital slips away all too easily.

Mommy Niri wrote about the contest on her blog, outlining what was wrong with that particular scenario. Melissa and Doug did end up responding in the comments and indicated that the page was poorly worded (although it was awfully specific for something that was simply poorly worded). They also updated their web page for the contest to simply read that if you wanted to help them promote their Sand Play Toys, you should send them an e-mail.

I wonder if anyone got them 200 likes?

Speaking of likes, there is also a bit of backlash against the “Vote for Me” contests. You know, the ones that make you beg your friends to go back every single day for a month to vote for you? It seems as though some people have realized that these contests are more beneficial to the website that is hosting the contest than the person who is nominated for the award. In her post, On Blogging, Popularity Contests & Why I QUIT!, Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress wrote:

What good does it do for me to drive friends and family and people I hardly know up the wall so that some other website can get a lot of traffic?  What are we doing?!  Everyone I know who has to beg for votes is uncomfortable the entire time they are doing it.  So why do we do it?

Yes, why? Being on a list based on merit…has merit. Being on a list because you annoyed more of your friends than the next person…not so much merit.

Unless you’re the website that benefited from all the page views and associated ad revenue, in which case “woo hoo!”

Then there are the swank offers to travel across the country, be wined and dined, and be given exclusive access to the inside scoop and high level executives in a company. Once upon a time there were the Nestle Family Bloggers. Invited on an all expenses paid trip to Nestle’s USA headquarters only to be fed a bunch of doublespeak by company executives while receiving flack from anti-Nestle activists on twitter and across the blogosphere.  Some people learned that company executives and media relations people do not follow any sort of oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Others didn’t.

But I have to hand it to McDonald’s Canada. Not to be outdone by Nestle, they decided to offer bloggers the opportunity to go on a similar junket. However, in their case, they were offering not just one trip, but four. And, instead of just inviting a group of bloggers they thought would help spread their gospel, they decided they were going to get bloggers to compete for the opportunity to be All-Access Moms. But the opportunity for what? To be deceived by McDonald’s executives, to be shown only what they want to show them, to be fed public relations approved answers to “tough questions”. There is no way that McDonald’s will choose someone who is truly critical of what they are doing. They are going to choose someone who likes McDonald’s, who is popular, and who has a few tough but not really so tough questions they want answered.

The funny thing? Although McDonald’s Canada promoted this contest across the blogosphere and even on television ads, I haven’t seen more than a handful (around four people) who have actually posted anything saying that they entered the competition. Maybe there are many, many, many more that applied secretly and didn’t tell anyone about it, but I have to admit I’m kind of hoping that most moms were smart enough to see that the downside to this offer was likely greater than the upside.

I won’t hold my breath on getting real answers to my questions to McDonald’s via whoever is chosen, because I’ve read their spin before and I doubt it has changed much.

Finally, there are the more plainly and painfully obvious requests for deception. Those e-mails, saying “I would like to place a text ad on your website.” Great. A lot of bloggers do offer text ads and they provide a bit of extra income without taking up too much space. But then in the second e-mail comes the caveat — they want the text link placed discreetly in a blog post without any mention of it being an ad. No disclosure = no go. That’s my policy. That is the law in a lot of places. Yet every day, there are companies e-mailing and asking mom bloggers to deceive their readers and break the law all the time.

Like the spam bots on twitter, I wonder who takes them up on their offer? There must be someone, right? I’m just so glad it is none of you, bad moms. Cause I know you’re smarter than that.

What do you say Bad Moms? Are you ready to be part of the trend that says “we are not your bitches” to the brands out there that want us only for our social capital and that ask us to do unseemly things in return? The very same social capital that will go down the drain if we take them up on offer after offer after offer?

Image credit: cote on flickr

About Annie

Annie, aka Phd in Parenting, straddles life on the Quebec/Ontario border with her partner and two children. She shudders at the thought of being considered mainstream in parenting or in life and is always trying to recruit others over to the dark side. Annie is always looking for (and sometimes believes she has found) the 25th hour in the day as she balances running a business, having a family, and carrying on numerous conversations ranging from important to trivial on every social media site out there. Annie writes about parenting, feminism, social justice and the intersection between the three on the PhD in Parenting blog and tackles issues at Care2.com. She is also the mayor of the Cupcake Lounge on foursquare.

Comments

  1. Farren says:

    If we all stand together, we will send he message that Moms can not be pushed around and used like this! In this digital world, our words and our actions online define our reputations – attaching ourselves to unseemly campaigns is self-destruction.
    Farren´s last [type] ..#18. This Moment: Cuddlin’ with Great-Grandpa

    • Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

      Agreed. Standing together sets an example for other bloggers and also makes it clear to those brands that we won’t be used.
      Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last [type] ..Another ignorant bus driver…

  2. Jess B says:

    Do mom bloggers even blog about things they really like? How do we know we can trust them with all the freebies and giveaways attached? What if the Melissa & Doug Sand Play Toys are a bunch of garbage, and your kid hates them? What are you supposed to say then? I would love to have a giveaway on my blog (just to see if anyone reads it), if it’s something I like, and if it’s worth sharing. But I’m not getting anyone 200 likes. More like 2.

    • Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

      Some of them do, some of them don’t. I feel really strongly about a strict separation between advertising and content on my blog. I don’t want my readers to ever wonder if I was paid to write something or if I got something free in return for writing something.
      Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last [type] ..Another ignorant bus driver…

  3. Truthful Mommy says:

    I effing love this piece. I am in the moral minority here. I don’t bend to the will of big brands for no amount of money. Don’t get me wrong.I am all for spreading the word on brands that I personally love and I think my readers will benefit from but I’m not spreading anyones propaganda and they know this. That’s probably why they have stopped asking so much:)LOL
    I just wrote a piece about this last week. I want to be paid money for my writing.Period.If sent a product, I don;t do long drawn out ridiculous giveaways.I’ve learned. I do leave a comment, email subscribe to my blog and you are entered. It shouldn’t be such a chore. Also,if I review something, they pay for shipping to the winner and to me. They compensate for the honest review and blogpost. if I am unsatisfied with the product, I give them the opportunity to decline the review. I refuse to blow sunshine and smoke up my trusting readers asses.
    I just hate that they think we should work for free. They would expect to pay any other marketing avenue but we have outrageous reach and social media skills and they want to give us a fucking press release! it;s completely ridiculous! Here is the post I wrote, you might enjoy it since we share the same sentiment!
    http://www.motherhoodthetruth.com/2011/06/mommy-bloggers-of-the-world-unite/

    • Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

      Thanks for sharing Truthful Mommy. Great to have more minds on board. :)
      Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last [type] ..Another ignorant bus driver…

  4. Amie Hood says:

    I would think most of the tactics you just mentioned would drive away readers in droves. I do not frequent blogs with ‘giveaways.’ I don’t care if they’re my favorite cloth diaper brand, I’m not wasting my time on the blog version of an infomercial. Blech.

    • Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

      Amie:

      I think there are lots of people who go to blogs just for the giveaways, so that is the flip side of that. But I don’t want a readership that is only visiting my blog to get free stuff. That is kind of like having people come to your birthday party just because you have an open bar.
      Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last [type] ..Another ignorant bus driver…

  5. Dave Higgs-Vis @ Folkabout Baby says:

    I’m always so disappointed when I read a great guest post, and then find out that their blog seems to be all giveaways and reviews. Too many blogs that do these kinds of things don’t have much in the way of content.

    I’m all for an occasional giveaway, but I’m not going to stick around if you don’t have great content.

    And undeclared ad links are the absolute best way to make sure I never read your blog again. Ugh.
    Dave Higgs-Vis @ Folkabout Baby´s last [type] ..Desperate Dad Seeks Help Ditching CIO

    • Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

      If you recognize the undeclared ad links, that is. They want them to be inconspicuous. In some cases, if people accepted, I think that would work. However, in other cases what you would find on the other end of that link (if you clicked) would make it completely obvious that it wasn’t a site that blogger chose to link to.

      Interestingly, most of the requests I have received of that sort are for text links in older blog posts. I think what they do is seek out content that ranks well on key words that they want to rank well on and then request that you link those words within your post to their company’s page. So they aren’t really looking for clicks as much as they are looking to piggy back on your page rank.
      Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last [type] ..Another ignorant bus driver…

  6. andrea from the fishbowl says:

    Great piece Annie.

    That Melissa and Doug thing was terrible. I wonder who’s idea THAT was.

    I do accept advertising and host occasional giveaways on behalf of blog patrons but I am keenly aware that I run the risk of alienating my audience so I tread carefully and pick and choose who I promote.

    I receive press releases and pitches on a daily basis. I hit a breaking point and developed a pitch policy because I couldn’t keep up. I can’t imagine how many i’d be getting without that document in place.

    Mom bloggers have been getting the short end of the stick for way too long. I feel so strongly about this issue, in fact, I think i’ve become jaded and rather cynical about the whole thing. What it comes down to is this: many mom bloggers do not know what they are worth.

    I’m paraphrasing things that I’ve written elsewhere, so forgive me if you’ve read this before.

    if a blogger receives one of these pitches or is asked to “like” a page for a product or Big Company X, they must consider what they are getting in return for your very public testimony. They are harnessing our voice, our blog, in order to reach our loyal and hard-earned readership. Their outreach is ultimately about creating word-of-mouth advertising and awareness via trusted and influential bloggers. This is the gold standard of advertising, and it is NOT bad, or rude, to ask that PR agency (in a polite way of course): What’s in it for me? Why should I help you?

    I am finding this trend – overall – to be somewhat troubling and I’m not sure what the solution is. But the fact remains that the things that bloggers have earned – loyalty, expertise, an influential voice with a very wide segment of a much-desired target market – has great value, and that value isn’t being compensated very fairly most of the time.

    We bloggers need to know that what we have created is valuable. Big Company X knows this, why don’t we?

    Marketers and PR peeps will keep offering low-value goods and pushing those “I thought you’d like to let your readers know” kinds of pitches as long as people are accepting of them. We have to band together and say no, my time is worth something.

    • Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

      There are many companies still asking for outrageous things and mom bloggers who do not know what their worth is. However, one of the points I wanted to make with this piece is that I am seeing more moms turn them down, call them out, or refuse to participate. That is a trend that I like.

      I think it is useful when we respond to the companies to tell them how ridiculous their request is. I think it is also useful when we alert the community about the choices we have made and why we made them, because I think that may give others confidence to do the same thing.
      Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last [type] ..Another ignorant bus driver…

  7. Niri says:

    I do commercial stuff but would never compromise things I firmly believe in – no brand is worth that much. However I am finding more and more that with blogging comes responsibility and the brands with the most $$$ are more often than not ones that it is not so easy to convince yourself of their ethics. Crossroads appear each day and trying to carry the huge load of what you represent each day gets more difficult as your readership/responsibility increases

  8. Ueelton says:

    A blog can be a great tool but it is vitally inatropmt to blog regularly, at least once a week. There are too many blogs that get started with great enthusiasm but then slowly fade out because success is not visible immideately. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to be successful. And you need some interesting topics to write about. If you dont start with at least 20-30 good ideas about possible articles then the propability that you run out of ideas fast is very high.

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