As most bloggers know, it's difficult to write sponsored posts without being accused of selling out or resorting to inauthentic content. If you read Get Off My Internets at all, you know this is one of the most common complaints about bloggers: they start great, they get popular, they start doing sponsored posts, and it's downhill from there. It feels like attempting to monetize--in whatever ways bloggers can--feels authentic, no matter what, to readers... especially if your audience consists of those who maybe don't understand what monetization means.
Is it possible to monetize without feeling like a sell out?
Including ads on your blog is one thing--but turning posts into ads themselves can feel, well, less than amazing. It's important to note here that some bloggers still struggle with identifying sponsored posts. I've seen a lot lately featuring c/o products or product placement that is not identified as such, as well as affiliate links that aren't properly identified. It's important to remember that everyone has to identify both sponsored posts and affiliate links. Not properly identifying is, actually, being kind of a sell out and is a marker of shadiness, so let's avoid it in the blogging world.
How can you accept sponsored posts, which are lucrative and flattering opportunities, without feeling like your compromising your blog's content?
Accept Sponsored Posts That Mean Something
Writing about a business you support, a product you love, or a charity you already support is easy. When it comes to sponsored posts, you should use the same criteria: is this a product, business, or cause that I already support? Does it fit into my blog's currently content? Would I have to do some really creative writing to make it fit?
Ask yourself: If I bought this product on a whim or visited this business, would I write a post about it anyway? When it comes to sponsored posts, there's your answer.
Remember those really weird few weeks last year where it felt like every fashion and lifestyle blogger was sponsored by Kotex? Man, did that bring out some weird posts! No offense to anyone who took the sponsorship, but it felt like Kotex was handing out free samples, in exchange for posts, like candy... and nearly everyone took it. I remember even a new age positivity guru blog that I follow had a sponsored Kotex post, as well as a hippie grunge fashion blogger. And you know what? It turned me off both all the bloggers who posted Kotex-sponsored content and Kotex itself. That's not a win for a company or a blog--so what's the point?
Don't Take Offers Just for Free Stuff
We've all interacted with One Of Those Bloggers on Twitter: they just want free stuff. They just want products. They tweet major companies every chance they get, spend Twitter chats sending out their link (instead of actually interacting with other bloggers), and post product review after product review in the hopes that Benefit, Ulta, or any other brand will send them free merch. No one really likes this blogger and no one should aspire to be like this.
Blogging isn't about "free stuff." It's great to get a free mascara to review, or a box of Cheerios, or something fun... but blogging should, first and foremost, be about providing great content to readers. It's a special subset of the population that reads and supports blogs (and Pinterest has definitely helped with this!) but they are very easily turned off. No one wants to read the same boring review over and over. No one wants to be sold too 100% of the time!
If you started your blog to get free stuff, think again. It's never going to be authentic.
If It Doesn't Feel Right, Don't Do It
It feels like a hundred years ago, but back when I wrote Locked Out, I accepted a sponsorship from Vedette Shapewear. At the time, I was excited: they sponsored tons of bloggers (in retrospect, this should have been a warning sign) and had tons of followers on social media. I picked out the products I wanted to try, got the rules for my posts, and excitedly started creating content. However, when I sent photo and post drafts to them, they responded that they weren't happy: they felt like my outfits weren't showing off the shapewear appropriately. A big part of their campaign was wearing shapewear as daywear, which is fine in theory... but I'm not a high fashion model. I can't exactly pull of wearing a sheer bra in the day time. Instead, I'd worn a sheer top over it, as well as an A-line skirt. They wanted the photos and outfit to be sexier. Had they not looked at my blog?
In retrospect, I should have known it wasn't a good fit and, even at the time, I'd had my reservations. I should have said "No thanks!" at the start, but I was too excited at being offered a chance.
Moral of the story: if a sponsored post opportunity doesn't feel right, don't do it.
Stay True to You
Only you fully understand what you want from your blog and only you see what your audience loves most. When it comes to monetized content--from ebooks to sponsored posts--stay true to what you want to include... and remember what your audience wants. Taking the time to include monetized content is beneficial to you, but spending extra care to ensure that it remains authentic (and your blog stays amazing) is just as beneficial.
Do you have tips for monetizing your blog without selling out? Share with me on Twitter!