Okay, the spotlight is on social media influencers and bloggers and whether they should charge for posts – especially when it comes to food reviews.
It’s a controversial topic and one that sees plenty of people weigh in with their opinions. Like me. Hence this blog post.
But first – a bit of background. It was The Australian restaurant critic John Lethlean who kicked it off about a month ago, when he posted on his instagram account exposing one certain blogger (who I have worked with and is great) about contacting a restaurant to come in for free food – and charge for it too. #couscousforcomment was the hashtag he used (10 points for creativity).
Naturally his post sparked a major debate with over 870 likes and 295 comments. Some people were disgusted and couldn’t believe what this blogger had done. Others (sadly) bagged this blogger and bloggers in general which borderline turned into online bullying (which is NEVER okay). But there were a few (mostly, bloggers – surprise, surprise) that were on her side.
On July 29, The Sunday Mail followed up with a great article 'Do Food Bloggers Deserve A Serve', however one which some bloggers felt may have been more skewed to the media. Chefs, restaurateurs, media and a couple of bloggers had their say on the matter - which all pointed to no, they shouldn't be paid.
Maybe it’s the Libran in me [cue: fence sitter] but I definitely see both sides. I’ve even worked on both sides – journalist v PR working w influencers.
On the journalism side of things, I had free reign on editorial. Except for when the sales department had an advertiser who was taking out an ad and requested ‘free’ editorial – aka advertorial. We had to stipulate ‘advertorial’ or ‘advertising feature’ on the page, the same way you do with IG posts that are #sp #ad – which totally makes it okay.
Except when there was a foodie feature. Again, the advertiser would take out an ad and get a review. Enter me (or another staff writer) going to the business under the guise of reviewing their food. Do you think we could write a 100% honest review if they were paying good money to be in the magazine? I’ll let you be the judge.
Now - how is this different to an influencer getting paid for a food review?
John Lethlean pointed out the difference in one of his IG comments stating ‘I am paid by a publisher to express my opinion about the restaurant and she (blogger) is paid by the restaurant to express their opinion. But it masquerades as independent content.’
Yes – journalists are paid by the publisher. And respect to all the journalists with integrity out there who tells it like it is – eg if the fish was burnt – they write about it. Chips soggy – noted. Honest reviews are everything.
But the point is they get paid. Like some of their nemesis’ influencers. Which is how this whole debate kicked off.
The only difference is journalists mostly give honest reviews while influencers – who are getting paid for comment – have to keep it positive regardless.
And that’s when the lines are blurred and becomes… Cash for comment.
Should they ask for payment? Personally, I think contra is enough, whether it’s food or product, otherwise yes it does become a bit cash for comment [read: inauthentic].
On the flipside, I do understand their time, effort and wanting to make it into a business, where payment is involved (side note: I always appreciate bloggers who turn down opportunities because it doesn’t fit with their brand). And most professional influencers do stipulate (by law) whether they were gifted something, content was sponsored or it’s an ad.
Payment aside, let’s not forget we’re in 2018... And it’s not like influencers and bloggers are new. They’ve been going strong for around 12 years. And in 2018 where social media is everything, these social media influencers are here to stay. It’s a way of life now. Hopefully old school journalists (JL, looking at you) can see that and quit bagging on bloggers so vehemently.
And yes – they’re a great marketing avenue. With the rise of magazines collapsing, social media is a brilliant (and often affordable) avenue to get your product / restaurant / whatever out there.
Having worked with influencers for various clients, I’ve seen the benefits of what an influencer marketing campaign can bring from enlisting the right influencer – eg a food blogger to post about a restaurant. Brand awareness and buzz is brilliant (just think how many places you’ve been made aware of thanks to an influencer?), while social media followers, engagement and hits to their website is up. And perhaps even sales (tracked easily with an offer or discount code).
As a marketer this is good news. And good news for the client.
Note I said the 'right' influencer. Someone who is in it for the right reasons. Someone who hasn't bought followers. Someone who isn't in an IG pod or 'like groups'. And you can always tell. Working with influencers means you get to know which accounts don't perform as well for the client over the ones that do. Yup, sadly there's some social media influencers who spoil it for the rest of the awesome and honest influencers trying to build a loyal following - but that's another blog post.
Ultimately, it's not a question of IF you should use them or not but WHO should you use and WHO can you trust, WHO has credibility. If you want someone to show up to the opening of your envelope then there are plenty who are right for that. If you want someone who people will believe when they back your product, luckily there's a pool of authentic influencers. Adelaide is small and word spreads and maybe that's what's important.
Neon Moose has worked with a lot of influencers across various campaigns for her clients. Want a brief run down? Or help with an influencer campaign? Email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org