If your goal is to make a living as an influencer, then you’re probably familiar with the Bloggergate scandal that’s taken the internet by storm over the past few weeks.
If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick rundown – Elle Darby, a social media influencer, messaged the Charleville Lodge asking for a free hotel stay in exchange for promoting the hotel on her social media channels. She received a brutal response from Paul Stenson, who runs the social media accounts for the hotel and the White Moose Café.
Stenson made Darby’s original message and his response public, but he blocked her personal information. However, Darby later posted YouTube videos talking about the incident and confirming that she sent the original message.
While the internet remains divided on the right and wrong of this scandal, there are a few things influencers, bloggers and authority figures stand to learn from the debacle.
(For the record, the hotel’s response left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m a firm believer that a simple ‘no’ would have sufficed. Publicly shaming someone always crosses a line for me, and I’m highly suspicious that the hotel was just looking for some free PR by taking the whole thing public.)
But, personal opinions aside, here are five things you can learn from this situation, about growing as an influencer, without pissing people off.
- Do Your Research
Had Darby done her homework on this hotel, she would have realized that it had already posted content disparaging influencers and wasn’t a good choice for a pitch.
Before you get in touch with a brand, at minimum, check its social media pages and search online to see what you can find out about it.
An even better approach, is to personalize the offer, or give a personal touch, such as making a phone call. Ryan Stewman, a well known influencer and head honcho at HardcoreCloser.com, suggests, “The bloggergate lady should have called and spoke to someone higher up, not sent an email. I [get deals by] using my Instagram status but I need to have my numbers right and work my charm.”
This goes back to the old marketing adage, “know your audience”. A little research can go a long way to avoiding awkward conversations (or in this case, public shaming).
- Only Make Claims You Can Back Up
Darby mentioned towards the end of her message to the hotel that she worked with Universal Orlando in Florida and that it has “been amazing for them!” This raised the eyebrows of many commenters who made jokes about the alleged impact her influencer campaign actually had on Universal Studio’s popularity.
The lesson here is to avoid general statements with no evidence behind them. These make it hard to trust you because you’re claiming something without providing any proof. If you make a bold claim, you better be able to back it up. The internet is full of people just waiting to call you out if you can’t.
- Present a Reasonable Offer
Bloggergate is the prime example of someone asking for too much without offering much in return.
In this case, Darby asked the hotel for a free stay from February 8 through February 12, which would be a four or five-night stay. A free stay for that long would be very expensive for the hotel, and she just didn’t have a big enough audience to back it up.
“It’s perfectly acceptable for a blogger, or anyone, to ask for something for free by providing something of equal value in return. And, conversely, it’s perfectly acceptable for someone to decline a trade. Therefore I do think that the hotel owner’s reaction is more of a self-marketing tactic, which yielded very positive results…The actual problem is two-fold: her approach was rude and doesn’t seem to give value to what she is asking for, therefore antagonizing a potential partner, and secondly what she offered was not particularly valuable in itself,” explained Felix LaHaye of Open Influence.
If you ask for too much upfront, you run the risk of frustrating brands and appearing entitled. Carefully consider what would be fair based on your current following and the results you can offer. It’s also okay to simply reach out to a brand and see what they are willing to offer you.
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