The Ugly Side of Blogging

The Ugly Side of Blogging: Blog Plagiarism

Hello friend! Today we are delving into some deep waters. I will be discussing blog plagiarism and copyright infringement. Because these waters are fairly muddy, the right answer is often not clear. Therefore I will give you some tips on how to stay safe, protect your content, and avoid a bad reputation!

Now I am not a lawyer. In fact, even a bit of legal-eze makes my head spin. Therefore I will not be spouting out laws in this post. I will refer you to legalzoom for that. However I will share my experiences and provide some helpful tips.

Simple Tips to Avoid Blog Plagiarism | Ugly side of blogging | polished whimsy | everyday style blog

Blog Plagiarism: My Experience

Last year I had another blogger accuse me of copying her work. She thought a post I had done was very similar to one she had done, including some of the same items. While I could see the similarity in the post, I know in my heart that I did not do it to copy her. In fact I had done a post like this in the past. Furthermore, I had seen multiple other girls do similar posts. So it definitely was not a post that was unique to her account.

Now to her credit, she did it in a very calm and low-key manner. Instead of calling me out on a post or a comment, she sent me a private message with her concern. However, the fact was I did NOT copy her work. While I could see how my post was similar to hers, I know I did not consciously take it from her post. But that leaves me in a gray area: did I subconsciously copy her? Perhaps…

Nonetheless, it was a devastating blow to my blogging experience. I absolutely adored this blogger. I was probably her biggest fan. I had purchased many items she had showcased. She definitely was a huge inspiration for me. Therefore, for her to think this of me was so disheartening, mostly because I knew I could never change her mind. She firmly believed I copied her work.

The most difficult part was moving forward. After this interaction, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. Was anything I did original? Was I unknowingly offending every blogger out there? I was scared to post anything. And when I did post, I felt obligated to defend or explain every outfit/pairing/set-up. It was quite a stressful ordeal.

Blog Plagiarism: What’s Original?

In this ever-growing world of fashion (and other) bloggers, what is actually an original idea? I see countless posts (mine included) of a cute outfit in front of a colorful wall, or a blogger holding up a product in focus with the rest of the frame blurred out. But none of us truly thought of this idea as an original thought. We likely saw it (on a blog, magazine, etc.) and either consciously or sub-consciously decided to do a similar post.

So where do we draw the line? It’s difficult because in blogging, plagiarism can happen beyond just copying one’s words. Is it plagiarism if you take a photo in the same pose as another blogger? How about in the same location? Or similarly styled outfit? It’s hard to say what’s reasonably similar and what’s plagiarism. So to stay safe, follow these tips.

Blog Plagiarism Tip 1: Strive for Originality

Do your best to come up with original content. Instead of using a picture from Pinterest and simply stating “PC: Pinterest,” take your own pretty shot of flowers. Better yet, get more creative and post something unique, instead of that ubiquitous shot of peonies.

Blog Plagiarism Tip 2: Ask Permission

If you are using someone else’s photo or exact words/concept on your blog, ask permission first! I did this for my red stripes and leopard print post. In order to use Brooklyn Blonde’s photo on my blog and Instagram, I messaged her and asked permission.

Blog Plagiarism Tip 3: Give Credit

If you know you got your inspiration from someone else, credit them! After my experience last year, I make it a point to always credit someone for inspiring me. This goes to build long term friendships and working relationships with other bloggers. Just be careful if you are always getting you inspiration from someone else. You want to have your own point of view right? See tip 1 above!

Blog Plagiarism Tip 4: Assume Innocence

I love the statement of “assume innocence.” It is a method of dealing with any concern or confrontation. To use this method, you must first assume that the “offender” has done whatever act of offense in innocence. If you come from a mindset of assuming that the other person “copied” your work from innocence, you can approach the conversation more calmly. Thus, resulting in an easy resolution.

Sometimes people have every intention of crediting someone else, but may just forget in the moment of writing a post. This happens to me countless times, especially during an Instagram story. In the effort to get all my words out coherently and within the time constraint, I may forget to shout out the person who inspired a look. So knowing that I have myself forgotten to do so, I don’t hold it against someone else if they don’t either!

I hope my tips will save you from any blog plagiarism or copyright infringement drama. If you have other tips, please comment below to share!

The Ugly Side of Blogging: Blogging for Money

Hello friend! I have been following fashion blogs for years. But never before in history has blogging been so popular. It’s gotten to the point that it feels like everyone is a blogger. Why is that I wonder? In the past blogging used to be a hobby. However in recent years it has gained momentum as a career (for some, a very select few). It is the draw of blogging for money that has caused this large surge of new bloggers.

Blogging for money: The ugly side of blogging

While it is very difficult to make a good living off of a blog, many talented individuals have managed to do so, after years of hard work. However because of the possibility of blogging for money, being your own boss, etc, the blogging world in inundated with new people daily trying to become the next blogging “It” girl.

Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with people trying out a new hobby or potential job. But the appeal of blogging for money has brought about many questionable behaviors (see ugly side of blogging series). Many of these include the exchange of money for “help” in making it as a blogger. I have been watching the money trail carefully and have made these observations.

Blogging for Money: Blog Classes

I will have to admit that I have fallen prey to this: successful bloggers/influencers selling classes on how to find success in blogging. I have purchased 3 classes. Sadly, I have yet to finish one of them. So the lesson here is simple: don’t purchase if you don’t have the time to sit down and go through it all!

Another negative about these blog classes is that I already knew a lot of the information. One class spent a lot of time going over very simple things like how to navigate Instagram. Another class spent a lot of time trying to get me to define my brand. Since I had been on Instagram for over three years, I already knew how to navigate it. Furthermore, I have solidified my brand. Therefore these classes didn’t help me much.

I worry that these classes don’t give all that much information, but are packaged prettily to entice new bloggers, especially those who are blogging for money. I feel that the only person making money in this transaction is the “teacher.” I was especially turned off by one class that offered a “special” that expired within an hour. That is an old and cliché sales technique: to put pressure on the customer to buy now or lose out on a great offer.

Blogging for Money: Influencer Groups

I’ve seen a few influencer groups. Some are just closed groups on Facebook. Others are formal groups with private websites. In theory I think these are great. However, always be aware when someone takes your money. Are you getting out of the group what you’re putting in?

Similar to above, if you don’t have the time to read through all of the articles posted in the group, it’s likely not worth your money. Also, these groups are made for the true beginner. If you are somewhere in the middle, you have already figured out some of the information. Therefore it may not be worth your money to join such a group.

It also bothers me that these groups set up a step by step guide to starting a blog and growing a following. That has resulted in a bunch of cookie cutter blogs that don’t offer anything unique. Furthermore, a lot of the girls in these groups had followed many of the negative ways of increasing Instagram following and Instagram engagement. While I can’t blame these organizations for it entirely, I think it has tainted the influencer world a bit.

Blogging for Money: Instagram Page features

This method I find particularly frustrating. This practice consists of a large Instagram account charging other accounts to be featured on their page. The premise is that the smaller blogger being featured on the large account will get a lot of exposure and new followers. These feature accounts are usually just photo after photo of different people. It’s rarely a cohesive page.

I would not encourage using this technique. I don’t even know if the followers of these large accounts are real people or full of bots, so you won’t know if your photo is truly being seen by a lot of people. Furthermore, the entire practice upsets me. It feels like these accounts are there just to make a profit off of a hard working blogger. So whether you are blogging for money or not, be aware of this practice.

In conclusion, the draw of blogging for money has brought about many new bloggers and influencers. While it is great to have a variety of influencers out there, we need to keep in mind a couple of things. One, it’s not all about the money! If your only reason to blog is to make money, reconsider your goals! Two, it takes time to truly “make it” as a blogger. Be patient, kind and honorable.

Leave the shady actions behind. Blogging for money shouldn’t be your biggest draw to the blogging world. Let’s concentrate on content and building real relationships.

Is it the End of Instagram Top Posts?

Hello friend! Welcome back to another Ugly Side of Blogging post. Today’s post is somewhat unplanned as it was a change I just noticed last Thursday. Is it a glitch or a new update? Or, could this be the end of Instagram top posts?

The end of Instagram top posts? Why is the company moving away from hashtag searches?

What is Instagram Top Posts?

The Instagram top posts is a section at the top of a hashtag feed that features the “top posts” on that hashtag. Now what magical criteria gets a post onto the Instagram top posts is largely a mystery. There are however quite a few theories. One of them being that a post with immediate high engagement will make it onto that coveted spot.

It is that theory that has spurred a lot of the activities such as buying likes and using like and comment pods (discussed further in my increase Instagram engagement post). The ultimate hope is that by having their post in the Instagram top posts section, they will be seen by more people searching that hashtag and obtain legitimate followers. Therefore being at the top of multiple hashtag feeds is a goal for many influencers.

What’s the change in Instagram Top Posts?

During a recent discussion with a friend about the Instagram top posts, she stated she didn’t have that section. When I checked on her phone, she indeed did not. On her hashtag searches, it only showed the hashtag feed by “most recent.” At that point I was intrigued and started investigating. I looked at the same hashtags on multiple accounts: public, private and business. While I could not figure out a pattern, I did notice that not everyone had the Instagram top posts anymore.

Why the change in Instagram Top Posts?

So what’s happening exactly? Well, as often occurs with Instagram changes, no one quite knows. But I will hazard a guess. I believe that the programmers are slowly removing this feature. Similarly to other Instagram changes, they roll it out slowly. Therefore I believe some people have gotten the new update while others have not.

So then why would they want to remove the Instagram top posts feature. I will hazard another guess. I think they want us to move away from using the hashtags. Other people have discussed this (see here). So if there is no longer the appeal of making it into the top posts section, perhaps people will stop trying to outsmart the system with bots, pods and such. Or maybe this is just the first step or removing the hashtags altogether?

I could of course be wrong. Time will tell us that! What do you think is going on? Is this going to be good news or bad news to us bloggers and Insta-bloggers?

The Ugly Side of Blogging: Increase Instagram Engagement

Hello friend! When I first started my Instagram account, I had no idea what engagement meant. Instagram was a place for me to quickly share my outfit, make connections with like-minded people and get outfit inspiration. But now, because of the potential to make money, Instagram is becoming a somewhat ugly space where people are resorting to many (some unethical) methods to increase Instagram engagement.

My hope in writing this post is to simply raise awareness so that we all know what is going on. Furthermore, it may serve to level the playing field so that everyone knows their options on how to increase Instagram engagement. Please note that I am not an expert nor am I selling anything. I am simply sharing what I have learned and observed. You can read more in my Ugly Side of Blogging series.

Blogger's methods to increase Instagram engagement: from comment pods to getting more likes.

 

Before we go any further, let’s discuss what engagement is. Engagement, in reference to Instagram, is a measure of how involved an influencer’s followers are in that influencer’s content. To calculate a specific number, it is the number of likes and comments on a post divided by the influencer’s number of followers. There are programs and apps that will give you your engagement rate and many other metrics.

A high engagement rate may be valuable to smaller influencers as a selling point to businesses. While they may not have high number of followers, they can claim to have a highly engaged audience. The understanding here is that the followers trust the influencer and are likely to purchase items that the influencer recommends. This in turn may convince the company to work with the influencer.

So now you can see why people are clamoring to attain not only a high number of followers (see Increasing Instagram Followers post), but also a highly engaged following. This has therefore led to a new phenomenon of influencers constantly seeking to increase Instagram engagement. Let us then look into the many ways one can increase Instagram engagement.

Like for Like to Increase Instagram Engagement

In its true meaning, a like for like is a benign way to increase Instagram engagement. It is simply providing a “like” on someone’s Instagram photo in return for a “like” on yours. This can be achieved in many ways. The simplest is of course going through and liking back everyone that likes your photo. As you can imagine this is time consuming and is only reasonable for those who have smaller accounts.

There are also those who use the hashtag #likeforlike or #l4l. This is with the hope/assumption that those who like a post under that hashtag feed will in turn get a like from all of those posters. I’m not sure how often the like is actually returned. But truthfully, I doubt that it happens at a high rate.

While I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a like for like, I start to worry when it takes over someone’s reasons for being on Instagram. If you are only liking photos to get likes on yours, that’s insincere. It’s also not the purpose of what we do, I think! However, I know many others who blog as a job and perhaps it is different for them…

Like for Like Apps to Increase Instagram Engagement

Stemming from the idea of a like for like, companies have emerged to provide them. The ones I know about use an app. It starts with you earning points for liking other photos on the app. Then you can use your points to get likes on your post. The more you like, the more likes you can get on your post.

I knew someone who had tried the app and she showed me some of the fashion accounts on it. I recognized some of the girls. So it turns out this method is being used quite a bit. Now this was just one app and we recognized multiple people. So I can only imagine how much is truly going on.

I’m not upset or judging. Honestly, I am relieved to know how some are getting so many more likes than I am. Because for a while I thought it was my content that was failing. But now I know some are using these apps and that’s fine. However, I think people should be cautions. I have heard that Instagram does not like third party apps interfering with them. Therefore they may do something about it in the future.

Comment for Comment to Increase Instagram Engagement

Recently, I have noticed a natural “comment for comment” occurring. This is when one person returns a like and comment for one left on their post. I feel like this happens between bloggers. It’s almost an unwritten code of conduct. I have started to return the favor when I get a comment. I can’t promise it happens all of the time. But I do try to do so most of the time. I think it’s a show of respect and kindness to the person!

Comment Pods to Increase Instagram Engagement

Comment pods became popular after the start of all of the Instagram algorithm changes. Once Instagram changed from a chronological feed to this mystery algorithm, everyone wanted more comments and likes to get noticed quickly. I think new influencers also turn to comment pods a lot to get some engagement on their posts while they build their following.

The function of a comment pod is simple. Everyone engages with each other’s posts. While the specific rules of each pod are different, the concept is the same. You notify your group that you posted. The members then like and comment on your post. It is then expected that you like and comment when they post. It’s basically an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” understanding!

I think comment pods are a simple and easy way to get some real engagement on your posts provided that they are done well. So how do you make a comment pod work for you?

  1. Get in a pod with active people who will actually participate! Some people join a pod but don’t really do the work. That won’t be any help to you!
  2. Encourage your pod to leave applicable comments. I’ve seen too many “great shot babe” comments. That kind of a comment just feels disingenuous.
  3. Don’t rely solely on a comment pod. If all of your comments are from the same people, that looks suspicious. Make sure to spend time building a real following so that you’ll have natural comments coming in as well!

Purchasing Likes to Increase Instagram Engagement

Now we get into the more questionable methods. First is to straight out purchase likes. You pay a fee for the number of likes you want on a photo. Then as soon as you post, the likes fly in (from fake bot accounts). The hope of this is to increase Instagram engagement quickly so that the post is deemed to be good by the algorithm. This in turn propels that post up to the top of the hashtag feeds.

Here I will give the same warning as for the like for like apps. While this method certainly works, you are putting yourself and your account at risk. No one truly knows how Instagram makes their algorithm. But most agree that they do not like “black hat” tricks (i.e. using bots and other programs). Therefore, be careful of how you go about all of this!

Comment Bots to Increase Instagram Engagement

The last method I know of is to use a comment bot to leave comments on other accounts. The bot spams a bunch of posts with the same comment. The hope of this is that the recipients of the comments will in turn like back, comment back or start to follow the account.

Because the bot uses the same comment on everyone, it has to be a neutral one. But it can still be obvious on some posts. I’ve seen posts when someone is discussing a sad topic and a bot has left a comment like “love this.” Another sign is when the bot is simply using emojis or single words like “nice” or “love.”

My take on this is to be careful. I’ve said it above and I’ll say it again. People are wising up to some of these tricks. Don’t let your desire to succeed get your account flagged by Instagram.

 Stay Positive and Blog On

 

Before I end this post, I want to thank you for sticking through it! I also want to end on a positive note. Blogging and Instagram can still be a fun place. Let’s focus on the positive. There is room for all of us. Let’s lift each other up and not knock each other down.

The Ugly Side of Blogging: Working with Brands

Hello friend! As I continue my “Ugly side of blogging” series, I want to discuss some negatives that can occur from working with brands. My hopes are to raise awareness and to provide you with pointers. I do not think brands are evil. In fact, working with brands is usually fun and rewarding. Let me show you how best to do so!

working with brands, the ugly side of blogging per everyday style blogger polished whimsy

Working With Brands: No Follow Through

One of the most frustrating things about working with brands is when they don’t follow through. My first such experience occurred in November 2016. I received an email from a shoe company. Although I had not heard of them, when I looked them up I got very excited. The shoes looked great: they were all leather, seemingly good quality, and sold in nice department stores. I was thrilled they were considering me for a collaboration.

Because I really wanted to make a good impression with this collaboration, I spent a lot of time deciding on which products to choose. I examined every pair and painstakingly planned outfits to pair with the shoes. Furthermore, I researched each pair on multiple websites to ensure I was purchasing the correct size and color. Needless to say,  I spend hours planning this collaboration before I actually received the products.

I sent in my wish list of items and patiently waited. After two weeks when I did not receive the product, I emailed the rep. She replied that they were busy with the holiday season and for me to wait until January. I complied. In January, I inquired again and got no answer. I tried again a couple of more times and still no answer.

As you can imagine, I was thoroughly upset about the outcome. Its not so much that I didn’t get to work with the brand, it’s more about the time I lost planning it. So here is the lesson I have learned: Don’t waste time planning a collaboration until you actually get the product. To ensure picking something you’ll be able to work with, pick an item that’s in line with your style. Then you should have no problems styling it!

Working With Brands: Slow Communication

Similar to working with brands with no follow through, is working with brands with slow communication. This can affect your blog and posting schedule. One example is with a brand who wanted to approve my photos before I posted them. Within seven days of receiving the product, I had styled my shoot, taken the photos, edited them, and sent them to the company. And then I waited, and waited, and waited.

It took the company a full month to choose a photo for me to post. Now this certainly is not the worst problem when it comes to working with brands. However, it can put a kink into your schedule. Therefore, if you are working with a brand who is requesting to approve photos prior to your post, be sure to give ample time for them to do so. Don’t schedule your Instagram or blog posts until you have the all clear from the brand!

Working With Brands: No Guidance

Another difficult aspect about working with brands is when they want to collaborate but give you no guidance. Last year one of my favorite stores reached out to me. They offered to send me an item. They did not specify the kind of item or give me a choice. But I was still THRILLED! This was a large company whose items I adore. I was walking on air.

I wanted so bad to have a successful post that would please them. They are, after all, my favorite store! So when the product came, I went into overdrive thinking of creative posts. I kept asking them what they wanted from the collaboration, how many posts, what kind of post, and so on. They gave no information. This was also very frustrating in that I truly did not know what they wanted.

Therefore, I just did my best. I posted three photos with their product. I changed up each post so that it was fresh and unique, showcasing the product in a different manner. Unfortunately, I never got any feedback from them. My advice is to do your best and be creative while sticking to your aesthetic. If it’s a brand you truly love, take the time to post multiple times with the product.

Working With Brands: Too Hands On

Now looking at the other end of the spectrum, it’s just as frustrating when a brand is too hands on. I once worked with a brand who acted like they owned me just because they sent me two accessories. They kept telling me when to post, criticizing my blog post, asking for multiple extra posts after the collaboration post. It just got exhausting, and frankly, annoying. I didn’t want to feel like a puppet on a string.

Now when a brand I don’t know asks to work with me, I ask around about them! I look at other bloggers they have worked with and reach out to ask their experience. That way if a company is asking too much from a blogger, I can politely decline the collaboration. I thus save myself a lot of time and frustration!

In summary, while working with brands is mostly exciting and fun, there are sometimes some pitfalls. I hope I have given you ample guidance on how to avoid those pitfalls. If you have other hints to share, please drop a comment!

The Ugly Side of Blogging: Increasing Instagram Followers

Hello friend! Today I am discussing another hot topic in the blogging/influencer world: increasing Instagram followers. It’s understandable, everyone wants more followers as a marker of success as a blogger/infuencer. There are many ways to increase Instagram followers. I will discuss the three that I am familiar with.

First, I want to discuss why increasing Instagram followers has become such a hot topic. There is a lot of propaganda out there to “treat this like a business” and to be ruthless and “fierce.” There is a push to constantly advertise, push yourself, and grow. While all that is good, many have given up on the authentic and organic growth and are simply looking at cutting corners to get to the top.

To these people I want to say, there is no need to be cutthroat! There is enough business for all of us. Trust me; companies are always looking for new faces to work with. You will get noticed. You don’t have to stomp on others to get there! Truthfully, I have been patiently growing my account for three years while I see people come in and within 6 months surpass my numbers. Now, I’m not being jealous, but I’m also not stupid. Some of these accounts are definitely using questionable methods to grow.

Increasing Instagram followers: everyday style blogger polished whimsy discusses the ugly side of blogging including buying followers, loop giveaways and the follow/unfollow method

Increasing Instagram Followers: The Follow/Unfollow Method

Believe it or not, there is a paid course on how to do this! There are also programs (that you purchase) which will do this for you. While I have not read that course, nor would I use this method, I will explain it here.

The Method: You basically follow a bunch of people, keeping track of who they are. Then, after a certain amount of time, you go back and unfollow. The hope is that many of the people would have followed back. Furthermore, the hope is that they don’t notice you unfollowed them and will continue to follow you. What’s good is that your followers are real people. What’s bad is it will upset some people.

It’s obvious when someone does this. Their follower numbers go up and down drastically every week. Also, I have noticed that many of the programs that do this, unfollow on the same day. So I have a lot of unfollows on Sunday night. Another piece of evidence is when the same person follows and unfollows you a bunch of times (it’s almost comical!).

For me, this method is a bit heartbreaking in that I can no longer tell who truly wants to follow me for me. In the past, when I got a new follower, I would look at their profile and if we had similar interests, I would follow back to be supportive.

Now that people are using the follow/unfollow method and apps, I almost don’t want to even see who is starting to follow me. I just don’t know who is really interested in me or who is baiting me for a follow. I am tired of being fooled and wasting my time investing in people who do not actually want to socialize!

Increasing Instagram Followers: Purchasing Followers

The method: There are sites you can go to straight out purchase a certain amount of followers. Now understand, the followers you’ll get will not be true fans of your work. They are not even real people, just bots, there to be a number on your dashboard. The positives of this method are that it is fast and you don’t have to put much work into it. The negatives are that it can be costly and obvious to savvy bloggers.

I often suspect someone is buying followers when their numbers don’t “make sense.” For example, if they have thousands of followers but just a few hundred posts. It takes a while to be noticed on Instagram and to build an organic following. Furthermore, you can tell by the number of followers versus engagement on photos. Someone who has 20,000 followers but only 200 likes per photo seems suspicious.

Personally it’s hard for me to understand why people do this. I’ve heard excuses such as blogging is their job and they want a quick increase in followers in order to get better sponsorship. But this in essence is wrong. If you are doing this as a job, you are committing fraud. If a company wants to work with you, it’s because they think you have X amount of real followers, not a mix of real and fake.

Furthermore, this method of buying followers has in turn led to buying likes (more to come on that in my next post). Also, the bots are getting annoying. I guess it an attempt to look like real accounts they also start following many accounts other than just the purchased ones. I’ve had tons of fake accounts follow me. I know they’re not real and it’s such a nuisance.

Increasing Instagram Followers: Loop Giveaways

A loop giveaway, in essence, is a way to share followers with a group of people.

The method: A group of people get together to host a giveaway. The hosts pitch in to purchase an enticing prize. In order to be eligible to win, contestants have to go around and follow every host of the giveaway. The bigger the prize and hosts, the more followers you can get.

The positives of this is that the new followers you gain are real people. Also, if the loop has hosts of a similar niche, you can get a good number of followers. A friend of mine recently participated as a host in a loop giveaway and had great results. Besides the new followers, she made friends with some of the other hosts. This was a great way for her to increase her contacts on Instagram.

The negative aspect about doing a loop giveaway is that that many will unfollow you in the weeks following the giveaway. I think it is safe to expect about a 25-30% drop off rate. Furthermore, some of those who do stay, may have just come for the prize and won’t actually engage with you or your content.

This is the only method I have used to increase my following. I have done a total of three loops in my three years on Instagram. In my opinion, it is the most innocuous way of increasing Instagram followers. While it has worked, I don’t see myself doing it too often. That’s because I worry it annoys people. And the last thing I want to do is turn off my loyal followers.

Possible Solution

A simple solution Instagram can employ is to state when the account was started. If the account is only around for a few months and has tons of followers, that’s a tad suspicious. I think this will help companies to gauge how much experience the influencer has with this kind of “work.”

This has been my summary on increasing Instagram followers. While this is by no means an exhaustive write up about all of the ways people can increase their Instagram following, it is something I’ve observed over three years of being on Instagram.

Please also understand that I am not accusing individual people of using these methods. I have blogger friends who have used them, whom I still adore. That’s because I can understand their frustration with the slow growth of an organic account. However, I just don’t want this to become the norm of Instagram. Let’s stay as authentic as we can!

Make sure to stay tuned to its partner post coming next week on increasing Instagram engagement. The two often go hand in hand!

The Ugly Side of Blogging: The Hard Sell

Hello friend! After almost three years on Instagram and now blogging, I have a good idea of how things operate. For the most part, I truly enjoy what I’m doing. However, there are some negatives that I would like to address. Hence the reason I am starting this series! Please understand, this is not an “air out dirty laundry” type post/series. I am hoping for it to simply be an informative post for other bloggers and readers alike!

For today’s installment, I would like to discuss the different ways bloggers/influencers can get paid (with money or product). This includes sponsorship and affiliate marketing. Please also note, this is not an exhaustive research paper nor a how-to post! It is however a quick and (hopefully) helpful synopsis!

Sponsorship

One way to get paid or free items is to get a sponsorship. This is when an influencer collaborates with a company. The company provides product (and sometimes payment) for an influencer to post the item. This can occur on any platform (blog, YouTube, Instagram, etc.).  To keep things clear to the consumer, the influencer is supposed to use the hashtags “ad” and/or “sponsored.”

So the rules are pretty clear, but whether or not everyone follows the rules, that is not clear. For my part, I assure you I do and will follow the rules. More importantly, I promise that I don’t take sponsorship or products that I wouldn’t honestly use/wear. Because I am a fashion and beauty blog, I concentrate on clothing and makeup items. However, I get offers for all sorts of products. If it’s not in line with my blog, I say no. I blog to share my passion, not to stock my house with free products.

I have yet to get paid for any collaborations so I cannot speak to that from personal experience. However, I do not see anything wrong with it, as long as the same above principles hold. After I started blogging, I realized how much time goes into a good post. A blogger is a one person stylist, model, photographer, editor, writer, and web designer. So to get paid for a good post is not an unreasonable thing to expect.

Affiliate Marketing

Another way a blogger can earn some income is through affiliate marketing. This is when a blogger joins in a partnership with a company. The company usually provides a code or a link for each blogger. The blogger in turn uses that code/link when they post about the company’s product. If a reader uses that code or link, the blogger gets commission (some in actual money, others in store credit).

In the past few years, we have also seen the emergence of Shop Style, Reward Style and Like to Know it. These companies are a way of uniting many brands under one affiliate linking group. So the influencer signs up with Shop Style or Reward Style and uses their methods to link the items. This can simply be a link on a blog post or other (such as Like to Know it on Instagram).

I remember when I first started seeing Like to Know it posts. It was on the mega blogger’s Instagram posts. Then slowly it started trickling down to the smaller bloggers. Admittedly I was late to join the party. But when I saw influencers with my size following get admitted to Reward Style, I decided to try. I applied without fully understanding what it was. At that time it seemed more like a badge of honor to gain.

My Experience With Affiliate Marketing

Now I am a member and I do like and appreciate what it does for my blog. With Reward Style I can use a variety of tools to link items to my blog. I like doing this not to make people buy things, but to have the options available if they are interested.

Furthermore, I don’t let the desire for sales fuel my posts. For example, when I wrote my Fall lipsticks post, I knew full well that nobody would purchase a lipstick from my post. I don’t blame them. People like to try on lipsticks in person. But that didn’t stop me. I decide my content based on what’s inspiring me and on what I feel will be helpful for my readers.

Besides Reward Style, I am also an affiliate with Gray Monroe. I was happy to join their program because I honestly like and wear their clothing. To me being a blogger comes with responsibility. I do not want to hawk any item that comes my way in hopes of a sale. I do however, like to share stores and items that I believe are good quality and well priced, stores where I have spent my own money! Gray Monroe is one of those stores.

Like to Know it

Once I became a member, I realized how much extra work came with the program. I had to learn multiple new technologies. Then I had to spend time finding the exact product to link. Then I make a post in the Reward Style app, then transfer it to Instagram, and then I can finally post. Sometimes it can take up to 30 minutes to put together one little Instagram post. All of that work for (maybe) some commission…

In my experience, it is a lot more work than compensation. Of course, I am a small blogger in a sea of gorgeous girls who are all doing the same thing. So, I can honestly say I don’t feel like the money I may make from affiliate marketing and Like to Know it sales is all that much. However, it may add up and help offset other costs of maintaining my blog, so I will keep it up.

The most difficult part for me is managing the constant push for a sale. I understand from their perspective… it’s a business. Reward Style makes money when I “sell” something. However, I don’t want to transfer that push on my readers. I try hard to balance giving you options to purchase without shoving it down your throat. I limit the “here’s a sale, go buy stuff” posts. Instead I offer true content with the option to buy.

An example of the above are my Spring trends posts. Instead of pulling together cute new items to buy and just putting photos and a link, I did research. I looked through multiple fashion websites and magazines to gather all of the actual trends. Then I analyzed them and chose the ones that I thought would be most interesting to my followers. Finally, after writing the post, I found items to link.

Others’ Perception of Like to Know it

I’ve had Instagram followers both like and hate Like to Know it. Again, it’s a balance of directing people to Like to Know it without upsetting them by withholding the brands of the items you are wearing. For my part, I try to still tag the item in my Instagram photo with the brand. That way if someone wants to shop in store, they can go directly there. And those who prefer to shop online, hopefully will use my link!

Final Thoughts

I have shared this information in hopes of allowing things to be transparent on my blog. Most importantly, I want you (my readers) to know that I am not here to make money off of you! I have a career that I love which pays the bills. However, blogging is an expensive hobby. Any money (so far very little!) I make from affiliate marketing goes into developing new content for the blog or for website maintenance.

In conclusion, the choice is yours. If you choose to support me through my affiliate marketing, I appreciate it. If you don’t, no worries. I’d rather you come here for the outfit inspiration! Because truly, in the end, that’s why I started this blog…to share my style and love for fashion.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series. I hope to tackle topics such as buying likes/followers, follow/unfollow and difficult brand partnerships. If you have anything else you’d like me to discuss, please let me know in the comments!