So something happened recently and I wana talk about it with you guys because I think it raises some important questions and discussions around bloggers and brands working together. You may be of the mind that only the biggest bloggers and vloggers out there get contacted by brands but you'd be mistaken. Bloggers of all sizes get contacted by brands BUT those of us that are smaller (or tiny in my case) will be having very different convos with said brands than those whose reach is in the millions. Makes sense though right?! They have millions of fans hanging on their every word...I have....a thousand followers on Instagram and slightly less on Youtube. Wrong! Here's why...
Bloggers work with brands in many different capacities. Theres sponsored content, collabs and lots of other ways in which a brand and a blogger can come together to benefit their followers. What you have to be careful of is to not be taken advantage of by brands, which can be a tough thing to navigate at any size but I do think comes with extra hurdles when you are small. If you are on Insta it won't be news to you that people regram eachothers images. Brands often regram photos taken by bloggers and so long as they asked for permission (and were given it) and then credit the creator accordingly, this can be a mutually beneficial activity. The brand gets good quality content with little to no effort and often you get to benefit from the outreach of the brand...their followers see your image, see you tagged and head over to your Insta to follow you for more of the same quality content. Sounds wonderful?! It might not be...
This brings me to what happened to me recently with a brand. But first, let me give you a little background so you can understand why I did what I did. I am a tiny blogger and vlogger. I am immensely proud of my following and my platforms but in the grand scheme of things I am under no illusion that I am anything but a small fish in a VERY big pond. And thats fine, I am ok with it and I know everyone starts smaller and I believe if I work hard at it the numbers will grow organically. It may surprise you then that I have actually collabed with brands in the past. When I was much smaller than I am now too! They reached out to me saying they loved what I do and it was the kind of setup where I could pick what I want from their websites (within a budget) and be sent it for free and get to keep it and they just wanted me to feature said items in a blog post. So I did. It made sense as I already loved the brands and had or would've bought their items myself anyway and they had bigger followings than me and when they shared my images I grew a tiny amount. I was happy. They were happy. WIN WIN.
But there is another situation I have been put in too many times to count and it plays out on Instagram. Nearly every time I post a flat lay or a photo I have taken of products that I have and love, the brand will reach out to me and ask to regram my image or to go further and use my image on all of their social medias. Some state right away that they will of course credit me. Others leave it out until I bring it up...the shade of it all. And I went through a phase where I was like hmm if all of these big brands keep asking me to do this surely others are doing it and its mutually beneficial?! Ok sure I'll just say yes to everyone for a while and see if I get anything out of it. That may sound odd but to me my photographs are my work, my art, my creation. I work alone on my blog and youtube channel (with the occassional helping hand from my boyfriend to focus the camera on me) and so everything comes from me. I come up with the ideas and concepts, I plan everything, I take the photos, I shoot the videos, I edit it all, I post it all. All me. So, with that in mind, I want my work treated as such. Yes it is a hobby and I LOVE doing it. No I don't live off the earnings I make from social media. But I still take it seriously, to an extent, because it means alot to me. And guess what?! I gained next to nothing from all of those Yes' and SUUUREE go ahead use my images everywheres. But the brand did. The brand got to keep ticking over, posting good quality content of their products every day to their huge followings who saw the images and then went to buy the products and they did nothing but hit regram. Does that not seem off to you?
What happened to me recently was that a big brand liked an image I had posted of their products, an image I loved and was proud of (it was uber cute you should totes go follow me on insta LOL). Then they followed me back. Then they commented on the photo just saying how cute it was and I commented back. It was a nice lil interaction with a brand I have adored for many years. Cool. Then a couple of weeks later I get a notification that tbh at first glance I didnt really understand. So I clicked on it and was like OH. The brand had taken my image, cropped it slightly, reposted it to their account, hadn't tagged me in the photo and had written some random caption promoting their Easter deals and then further down theres my name next to their hashtags. So I was tagged in the caption buuuutt it was oddly done and almost made it seem like the photo either wasn't mine or was created in a collab with them and it most definitely made it seem like they had asked for my permission to use it and I had said yes. Which never happened. Right away it didnt sit right with me. It felt weird, like they had stolen from me. Now I know there will be lots of you who go IT'S JUST A PHOTO IT'S NOT THAT DEEP and I get it. In the grand scheme of life, yes, it is not that deep and that is exactly what I said when I contacted the brand about it.
I commented on my photo on their insta (see?! weird!) and when I got no response I privately messaged them. I stated that they should always ask for my permission since it is mine. And that if they had I would have said no because I have done this hundreds of times and I have nothing to gain from it and you have everything to gain from it. I said I was aware that it wasnt that deep and that millions of other bloggers might be happy for you to regram their photos without permission and with a very vague way of crediting them but that I was not. I then went on to explain to them what I believe is the real problem with all of this.
"You're one of my favourite brands and I love to photograph and share your products but posting my photo in this way has made me uncomfortable because ultimately I know you would never collab or work with me because I am not 'big enough' yet in numbers but you are happy to share my photo on your page because I am good at what I do and you like it. Which is very sad actually. I think I would prefer if you took my photo down. I would love to work with you someday in the right way but small bloggers like me get used by brands all the time and I try hard to not let that happen. My original photo got less than 100 likes in 2 weeks whilst your regram got 500 in half hour and I gain nothing."
Obviously, I signed out properly with niceties because I of course don't want to put any brands off of working with me in the future but what I said was right. They had 5 times the likes I got in a tiny fraction of the time. All of those people saw the caption about their offers and deals and some commented about how they were off to buy their stuff and how cute the photo was and I sat there with not one new person finding my account. I did all the work, they got all the glory.
The brand went on to try and tell me their PR and blogger programmes are not about numbers *eye roll* but then further down the message said they like my stuff and would love to work with me...one day.... Now we still follow eachother and continue to like eachothers images. It's not that theres bad blood so if it truly isn't about numbers and you really love my work why not work with me now in some capacity?! We all know the answer to that, right?!
I know I said that I had worked with brands before even when I was smaller but those brands, whilst much bigger than me, were much smaller than this one. I'm not an idiot. I know why brands work with the biggest bloggers and I understand how it all works in terms of outreach etc but I am really fed up of brands pretending they are about community and quality content over numbers when nothing they do shows that. They will fly out the biggest bloggers around the world and pay them and then regram an image of theirs but with smaller bloggers they will just take your image and regram it and what?! you should be happy about that because you have a smaller following?! NAH UH HONEY!!! Numbers dont always equal the best content. I wish brands would acknowledge this and work with people who they truly believe in OR cut the crap and admit the truth- that this whole thing is really about outreach and money.
I'm not bitter about this interaction. Actually I felt really good about it. The brand whom I genuinely love said some amazing things about me and my work and whilst they (and most others) wont put their money where their mouth is, I know my worth. I am not a fool and I won't be used for your gain. I clearly don't do this for the money otherwise I would've quit a long time ago. I do it because I adore doing it. And I will continue to do that. I hope you do too. I hope you understand my point of view and I hope you realise that in this instance, and in all aspects of life, you can always say no. If it doesn't sit right with you, speak up! Stand up for what you believe in and protect yourself and your art at all costs.
Peace & Love xxx