WHAT ROLE DO BLOGGERS PLAY IN THE INTIMATE APPAREL INDUSTRY? PART 4 OF 4
What do you make of product reviews by an independent blogger versus a company blog?
by Cheryl Warner, www.investinyourchest.co.uk
As we’ve discovered in this series, the world of blogging can still be somewhat of a cloudy, grey area, with no real rules or format guidelines in the ‘professional’ media world. Still a new and developing media, I don’t think the true potential of blogs have been realised. Blogs can belong to a business, be a business themselves, a PR tool, or simply the project of a passionate hobbyist. Somewhere in-between casual blogger and a journalist, I’ve found that ‘professional bloggers’ find themselves lost in the ether, and void of rubrics, copyright protection and – most importantly – guaranteed regular work and payment.
The reason why people blog is always going to be a pretty controversial subject, but with the standpoint of ‘ethical blogging’ at the forefront, I decided to take a look at people’s opinions of company and independent blogging, particularly with regards to marketing.
Since blogging is (for the most part) free to read, it begs the question how the writer maintains their site. Should a blog writer be compensated for their time and expertise, hosting server costs for the site, domain name charges and many other aspects which make blogging a hard task to maintain; and if so, how? In my opinion, the answer should be: of course. It is not only very hard work to maintain a blog, but it can me near impossible to fund single-handedly.
But why do people blog? One would hope that a blog is at least not started for financial gain. Be it enjoyment, self-expression, self-development, a place to build up a portfolio or even It’s not against the law to earn some cold, hard cash through marketing, advertorials or sponsored posts, but it’s undeniable that all bloggers both commercial and independent are benefitting somehow. And is this ethical or good blogging practice? This is, arguably, where the controversy comes in.
“Still a new and developing media, I don’t think the true potential of blogs have been realised,” – Cheryl Warner
Paid advertisements and sponsored posts have quite a stigma and reputation for clouding the judgement of bloggers, and no company wants to pay for bad press – even online. If something is sent ‘for free’ by a company is there a pressure to give it a good review which might affect the write-up? I think the sign of a good blogger is someone who always thinks about the benefit of the reader as opposed to their own pockets, but maybe I’m alone here…
Companies who blog are of course never going to give themselves a bad review and unfortunately there are some sites where a good review can be literally paid for, which understandably makes so many people cautious about reading or dealing with blogs both professional and independent.
What the Pros Say
To investigate, I got in touch with some industry professionals to get their take on these issues. I put it to my panel: ‘What do you make of product reviews by an independent blogger versus a company blog?’
Michelle Crowe, contributor to the Figleaves blog ‘Blogleaves’
For us product reviews are an excellent way to listen to our customers, enabling us to develop our products accordingly. Fit is our number one priority in terms of our lingerie, it’s great to hear or read true opinions, good or bad, to help us keep on improving. Where we use reviews on our blog we ensure the content is honest and based on actual customer feedback, most of our posts however are about new product launches.
Hannah Houston, Marketing Manager at Curvy Kate: We normally don’t do product reviews ourselves as it may not seem genuine. We’re happy for others to blog about our products it shows the public the full picture and also helps us see where we are going right and where we are going wrong. Although we use fit models across all our sizes sometimes, you begin to live in a bubble and as we all differ so much it’s good to see that your products work on such a variety of people.
Jill Homiak, owner of new clothing store for full figures – Presenza: From what I’ve found you’ll get a broader spectrum of products and topics covered by independent bloggers, as opposed to company blogs. I think company blogs are great to get more information about that particular brand or industry updates.
Treacle, writer and editor of The Lingerie Addict: I don’t think I’ve ever made a decision to purchase based on a product review from a company blog. I assume that a company blog won’t publish a negative review and/or that it encourages its bloggers to only post positive reviews so I tend to take those with a grain of salt. I will say, however, that I love sites which allow their customers to post product reviews, both positive and negative. Those play a pretty significant role in my decision to purchase. It also shows that the company stands by their products enough to allow feedback from people who haven’t been “vetted” by the management.
Kitty, blogger at Undercover Lingerista: I think that the benefit of a review by an independent blogger resides in the fact that readers love to get a non-biased, honest opinion. Company blogs can only go so far as to say what is great about their company, but having an independent blog review allows people to see what a real human being with an interest in the brand really thinks. An independent reviewer often gives a much more in-depth analysis of what they think is good and bad about a company and the relationship between writer and reader is very close; the reader can relate to a real human being, rather than a faceless company.
Nikki Hesford, Owner of the Big Bra Bar and MissFit UK: A company blog may have a larger readership due to newsletter marketing, but I don’t think there is as much impetus attached to a company singing the praises of its own products, as opposed to an independent blogger whose opinions are unlikely to be biased.
Jennifer Carroll, expert lingerie fitter, stylist and owner of Bellefleur Lingerie I think product reviews from independent or fashion bloggers provide better credibility because they are giving an opinion rather than trying to sell something.
Georgina Horne, blogger of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust: I would be more inclined to trust an independent blogger on some levels and would assume they’d be more honest. But I also think that a company blog might be more knowledgeable about how to fit an item and how to spot if something is ill-fitting rather than simply unsuitable. I’d probably have a read of both and then still want to form my own opinion!
Darlene Campbell, owner of Campbell and Kate: I don’t even expect to read product reviews on a company blog. For me to trust a product review, it must be by someone who has actually purchased the product; if a company provides a product to a blogger, her review must include both positive and negative features of the product in order for me to trust it.
On the other hand, sometimes I’ve seen independent bloggers simply regurgitate marketing language from a company’s press release. Why bother? It adds no credibility to the product, and it lessens the credibility of the blogger (she appears lazy or like she’s trying to curry favour with a potential sponsor).
Ellen Lewis, Lingerie Briefs: I think this is fine if the independent blogger is properly analysing the product from end use perspective and reputation. If they are just speaking to their own personal taste, then I think the information is limited and not comprehensive.
Catherine, Kiss Me Deadly: Depends – did they get the product for free?! In all seriousness, what is the point of me reviewing my own product? I mean if I didn’t think it was genius in the face of an entire industry full of vaguely similar things, I wouldn’t have risked a month’s worth of development and sourcing and grading and photography and shilling it round the trade shows, would I? So really, my product reviews are the product descriptions. That said, I have started to write pieces about the background of garments, because it interests people, it’s good for our ‘Googleyness’, and it’s a great excuse to stick lots of pretty pictures in the diary. There’s one on the diary last month about the Vrags dress, in which I highly inadvisably admit it was a sampling error. I think it’s fair to say most brands wouldn’t say stuff like that. So, when I’m a customer, I’m more likely to trust an independent review, but you can’t always tell what’s independent. We get requests every week to “send a product for review” in a specific size to bloggers, and not only would we go broke if I said yes, because we’re just not that big, but also, would you trust the review of someone who got the product for free? The Jezebel site does it differently, they review products they genuinely buy and love, and that’s pretty much how we’ve been working. If you buy one of our products, love it, blog about it, and we spot you via Google analytics or similar, then we’ll likely get in touch and go from there. So if you see good things about us you know it’s started from a genuine place, and I’m not going broke, which is always the main aim!
Laura Cohen, owner of lingerie e-tailer Lembrassa: As the owner of www.Lembrassa.com which sells branded lingerie and swimwear, this is a difficult question to answer. From my experience of blog reading, I have found many independent blogs contain more detailed honest information and (in most cases) the bloggers are more likely to include pictures, compare to other styles, high-light any faults etc. This is all to the good. However an independent blogger does not have access to as much information as the company itself can provide and so readers would do well to check-out both types of blog to get a fuller picture before they buy. I would also warn that not all independent bloggers are actually independent. A minority are actually biased in their views either for or against a product or company. It’s a shame there isn’t yet a way of finding out a blogger’s affiliation so the reader can take that into account when viewing their opinion.
I know that people like to see photos of clothes, lingerie, shoes etc as I find they look different on everyday women than they do on models. I also benefit greatly from information about the fit and sizing etc especially when compared to other similar styles.
Ruka, owner of Sugarlesque: Well I know that as a consumer I would place more trust in a personal review as opposed to an impersonal company blog review, even if I didn’t agree with the views expressed in it. I think it’s always in the back of my mind when reading a product review on a company blog that they may have been paid or sponsored to give a product a favourable review, whereas in most cases I assume that the independent blogger is actually giving a true representation of the product – although a lot of the time neither is the case!
What’s the Answer?
Ultimately, I think the answer to this question is: common sense. It’s not always useful to dismiss either a company or an independent blog just because of the preconceptions and bad reputation that comes with either format. As blogs are on the internet, they lack the same guidelines and structure of printed media, therefore stemming a whole plethora of different kinds. It is a mistake to taint them all with the same brush.
A blogger who writes as their profession is essentially running a business. There to make money and pay the bills, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have mouths to feed and bills to pay but there’s no reason why someone can’t make an honest living out of blogging – ethics are simply down to the individual.
“As I said, the driving force behind a good blog is not the size of the author’s wallet, but their readers” – Cheryl Warner
As I said, the driving force behind a good blog is not the size of the author’s wallet, but their readers. I personally don’t agree with a blogger asking for a fee to cover a story – or ever – a post should be written if they think it will benefit their audience.
Intuition plays a huge part in judging a blog. Beyond their traffic, Alexa and Klout rating that I’ve mentioned in previous posts, communication and a fair blog policy should also be considered when reaching out to bloggers. Readers and potential customers appreciate a blog founded on sound ethics and a trustworthy voice, regardless of their professional orientation.
So long as it’s done well; with quality, original and appealing content, both an independent and a company blog can be valuable, so if you intend utilising the blogging world as part of your marketing outreach, it’s a good idea to have a dual approach.
One of the best ways to engage with and judge the quality and value of a blog is by contacting them directly, so watch this space for some tips of how to do this successfully from top blogger The Lingerie Addict.
Read the Full Series
What Role Do Bloggers Play in the Intimate Apparel Industry? Part 1 of 4
What Role Do Bloggers Play in the Intimate Apparel Industry? Part 2 of 4
What Role Do Bloggers Play in the Intimate Apparel Industry? Part 3 of 4
What Role Do Bloggers Play in the Intimate Apparel Industry? Part 4 of 4