If you’re happily blogging along (or vlogging, Instagramming, Snap Chatting or whatever) you might be taken by surprised to discover that what you write or photograph is of little relevance compared to your conversion rates. What that means is your ability to convert what you show or talk about into sales for the brand concerned.
My inbox is literally bombarded with affiliate agencies pushing me to sell you stuff, digital agencies who’d like to swap a pile of make-up for me to promote a brand’s Twitter account or the brands themselves who’d like it please, if I could send them all my affiliate stats so that they can show their marketing team how good I am at selling.
Affiliate linking, as I’m sure you know, is a method by which a blogger/vlogger uses a specially created link which will cut them in on a minute profit (and believe me it is tiny) should you decide to buy a product you’ve seen on said blog/vlog via that link. Many bloggers/vloggers are open about affiliate linking – it’s really the norm now and I personally find that BBB readers are understanding about it; the option is always there not to click the link and source the products some other way and I’d take no offence at that whatsoever. Actually, it makes sense to have a look around to see if you can find the product slightly cheaper or with a better deal – I look, but I don’t always have time to do deep research.
However, I’ve never been under so much pressure as now to prove myself not as a blogger or beauty expert but as a salesperson. Unilever has just employed a new agency specifically to look at conversion methods – in a nutshell, to discover how they can make more money by converting conversations to sales. One of the first things that happened when I opened my Periscope account was a native advertising agency chasing me to ‘quietly’ promote products. It’s interesting that in 2013 Coca Cola found that on-line buzz did nothing in terms of short term sales, and yet other brands will say that social media is everything for their sales.
But, the bottom line is that everything you say and everything you do on line as a blogger/vlogger or whatever is being watched, monitored and converted into a potential sales mechanic. I don’t have any control of who is watching and why – I find myself on my affiliate sites looking at conversion rates to try to better understand my own ability to give readers what they want. If I know what I’m driving and where it’s easier for me to know what to write about – the things that interest readers, but I find it more than annoying to get an email every five minutes from affiliate agencies saying I’m not ‘performing as well as I could be’. Pushy isn’t the word for it. I’m also getting it from *cough* integrated digital PR offices… when once a PR might ring you for a coffee and a chat, now they’re ringing to see what you think you can sell for them.
Actually, slightly a side point, but I am seeing traditional PR completely undermined and ruined by ‘integrated digital and PR’ – it doesn’t work; employing a digital person who has no PR skills and more importantly, no press contacts, is fairly pointless, as is using a PR person who has few digital skills to improve digital outreach. ‘We’ll have to ask Marketing’ is one of the most common phrases I hear at the moment and I have never known PRs as undermined and powerless as they are now. It’s a chain of pressure – Marketing pressurises PR who in turn pressurise us.
Ultimately, many brands are just looking to effectively move blogs and vlogs into vehicles that work for them. There’s no point in harping back to the good old days when blogs were edgy and exciting voices on the internet – from personal experience, it’s hard these days to hold your nerve and be the chooser rather than the chosen when pound signs are flashed in front of your eyes. If you’ve put all your eggs in the blogging basket, your choices are difficult.
I feel despondent sometimes that nothing will change – this barrage will only get stronger – but along the way, this pressure is quietly ruining everything. Like anything that becomes a strong trend, it passes over time. There’s no long view in the strategy of pushing bloggers/vloggers to their limits; tides turn very easily and quickly and one day, the current stream of product pushers will be yesterday’s news. I could, quite honestly, go on for pages here – I could easily name and shame the worst offenders; the brands that push and push and push for coverage (and consequently sales) but can’t even be bothered to do a re-tweet or a re-gram. In fact, they’re rather outraged that they’re supposed to be part of a social media circle – surely a lipstick is sufficient? I can tell you that a brand that I used to love refuses point blank to be any part of social other than promoting their own channels, despite the fact I’m looking at £500 of sales converted from my site to theirs in a couple of hours. That’s why affiliate stats are useful to me – I can make choices. My biggest ever sales conversion was £11,000 worth of products in one day (and obviously I have the stats to prove it!!). It was as big a surprise to me as anyone and it’s certainly not an average day! On that count, I know I won’t miss any brand, but they’d miss me. On other days, nothing at all converts. Those stats are fairly small fry compared to bigger sites, let me say. So, it does give me a little bit of armour to withstand the pushing and strength to make decisions NOT based on being pressured or bullied but presenting what I think my readers will like. If you’ve bought a product because you want it, then I’m happy. I really couldn’t give two hoots whether the brand is pleased or not. I’m really over being pressed by marketing via PR to be their virtual shop assistant and somehow having to prove myself to the brand. How about you prove your product is worth its salt and stop behaving as though the internet is your free shop floor?
Right, I’ll shut up now but conversion is my current aversion!
All products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.