So what is exposure and how are social influencers selling it?

Bloggers Vs Brands superimposed over a chess boardAfter some online fuss about  'social influencers asking for free stuff' I thought I'd try and clarify things a tiny bit. Bloggers, Youtubers and Instagrammers are all sometimes referred to as Social Influencers. The clue in the name is that via their online following they influence things. I see it when my teen has to buy a new coat because someone she watches and follows online has one.

I'm a blogger (d'uh) and if you are a blogger, Youtuber etc,  you'll know the answer to the question in the title of this post and the furore around 'working for free'. The phrase 'it's great exposure' will be a common term that you'll be extremely used to.

If you are not a blogger you might be thinking that bloggers are lucky, as they get 'free stuff' and also 'get to go places for free'.

Here is the news.

Bloggers run blogs, like this very one you are reading. There are costs associated with that (I know! who'd have thought it!) from the price and rent of the URL (the blog address on the net) to the server space if you are self hosted, the price of the photos and fonts and images you buy to use, or lighting and cameras if you take your own. And of course there is the blogger's time.

Some bloggers advertise things on their blog. They might be reviews, or a picture with a link in the side bar, a link in an article or a blatantly positive post about a product.

So bloggers are not selling exposure, they are selling advertising space, just like a magazine or a TV station does, except it's online. Yes it's exposing brands to the world, but it's an advert. And adverts cost money.

The brands that are looking to advertise can vary. They may be small brands that need to get people to see their product. If no one has heard of your cakes why would they buy them? You need to advertise, to get the word out. A brand can choose a blog with readers that like cake, a targeted advert like that can be really useful. And if several blogs mention the brand at the same time it can get even more people talking and tweeting and sharing on FaceBook. A meal or a box of biscuits, a cake or a bicycle are incentives to blog, or a thing to review and keep...if we look at the product as money it might make you see things differently. If i say "Wow you are lucky! Your boss gives you free money every month!" You'd be quick to explain it's not free money, you work for it.

When people advertise, they pay. Just as a magazine charges for running an advert or your newsagent charges to pop a postcard in the window for a week. When people receive product money for doing some work they are being paid. Bloggers are working and advertising, brands are paying for the work and the adverts. As someone once said "Exchange is no robbery"

Of course initially blogs need exposure too, if no one is reading you...how can you sell yourself as a good advertising platform? New blogs might choose to advertise big brands for little items or even for free until they build up a following...writing interesting articles will gather readers and only then can you show them the occasional advert.

The main thing to remember about blogging and brands and their relationship is that it should be symbiotic. It should be a win win situation. Both sides should be happy with what they are getting. And they should both ask, and agree or decline, politely. Haggling over price or product quantity or the amount of exposure advertising is fine as ling as it's polite.

"I'm sorry but your product is just not really aimed at the readers I have, so I cannot promote it at this time"
"No we do not currently have advertising budget to promote our product on blogs, we'll let you know if that changes"

My blog doesn't earn me a living so I can afford to review small items that I like, I can afford to work 'for exposure', but I don't have to. And I don't have to take on long blog posts and boring work for nothing.

If a brand wants to advertise they need to look at what they are getting. Giving a meal in exchange for a tweet or a blog post could be great value. But a blogger that uses their blog for their living and who needs to earn actual money cannot afford to offer advertising space for nothing, any more than a magazine can. A brand should be prepared to pay, just as they would pay for an advert in a local paper (though a blog is better value - it doesn't get used to line the budgie cage at the end of the week)

A blogger offering to post about a product needs to think about how much advertising they are realistically offering, be clear, be polite and be prepared to be turned down. If a blogger has a low following and a low domain score (non bloggers don't need to care what this means) they should price themselves accordingly. And we need to know our audience, and be realistic wbout our blog's worth too!


To sum up, blogs need exposure at first to become a known blog and get a wide reader base. Brands always need exposure to sell product (either on their own sites/magazines or via others). Once a blog is well known it is selling exposure advertising, so most bloggers don't want to be paid in more exposure. Brands are buying advertising so they should pay for it (in cash or kind as agreed). Bloggers don't get 'free stuff' they work for it.

Lucy has written about this too over at The Parent Game in a post called 'Blogging Vs Blagging'