I this edition of “Ask The Blogmother,” a 2015 attendee asks:
How do you identify legitimate solicitations for advertising or sponsored posts?
As a blogger, I give major side-eye to marketing/advertising professionals who don’t respect my time. They know I have 100 other emails in my inbox. Don’t make me try to figure out who you are, what you want and whether you’re legitimate.
If an email doesn’t from from an agency whose name I recognize with a full job title and contact information ( including a phone number), I ignore them. People who have done their research and want to form a legitimate business connection with me and my audience WANT me to know exactly who they are and how to reach them. And since I’ve been to my share of social media conferences, I’ve met real live human beings from most of these places so I don’t have to deal with anonymous strangers. But if you’re hellbent on entertaining email solicitations, here are my tips for identifying legitimate solicitations.
- Common Sense - If it sounds too good to be true, it is. If the email isn’t professional, it probably isn’t from a professional. Even if it is from a professional, you don’t want to work with unprofessional people. If an email is not addressed specifically to me. I ignore it. My name is not “Dear Blogger.” If the solicitation doesn’t have anything to do with my blog audience. I ignore it - it is just spammy. They are sending out a million emails hoping 1% respond. Don’t be the 1%. If I can’t tell who the email is from? I ignore it. I just don’t think I should have to work that hard to make someone else money - because you know the person soliciting you wants you to make THEM money, right?
- Look at the sender’s email address. Is the email coming from a general email account such as @gmail.com or @yahoo.com or is the email coming from george@CompanyX.com? I tend to ignore emails from unbranded accounts. I don’t even reply. If you can identify that the email is coming from CompanyX.com, then type in “CompanyX.com” into Google and see what comes up. If you feel confident that CompanyX is legitimate and not a phishing scam, then you might even go to CompanyX’s website and look them over. This assumes that CompanyX.com is not infected with vicious malware. In that case, it sucks to be you. Sometimes agency reps will create a gmail account to protect their company email account from solicitations from bloggers (which is ironic considering that they are soliciting you). Just because it isn’t from CompanyX’s email address doesn’t mean they aren’t with a legitimate firm, it just means their methods are questionable. Simply email back and ask them who they work for. Their response should be transparent and open. If not, run.
- Search for the name of the sender on Google. You should pull up Twitter profiles and Linkedin accounts. If they are legitimate, they have internet breadcrumbs. Again, why are you having to work this hard for someone who wants to establish a legitimate business relationship and respects your blog audience?
- Search for bad reviews. Certain ad networks are notorious for not paying on-time. If they do this repeatedly, there will be bad reviews out there. Don’t just settle for the first page of Google results, click through to the second and third pages of results because bad actors know how to push bad reviews off of the front page of Google.
- Use your blogger network. If you have ever attended a Blogging While Brown conference, you are a part of the Blogging While Brown family of bloggers. We have bloggers of every experience level in the network. They’ll tell you exactly what they think about certain offers.
- Ask questions. If you choose to reply ( I don’t encourage replying), ask the solicitor who they work for? Many major brands use large agencies who subcontract. So just because they are not working for the “agency of record”, they may be handling a smaller chunk of the contract - especially in the “multicultural” space. Ask details about payment terms and ask for the names of other bloggers they have worked with in the past so you can ask for references. Again, this is a whole lot of work being created by an unsolicited email aimed at making someone else money.
- Come up with a standard reply to these solicitations so you don’t have to think about them: What is the budget? How much compensation will I receive? What are the deliverables” What is the goal of the campaign? Reach or Engagement? how will you measure the success of my participation? What are the payment terms?
Once you’ve dealt with legitimate agencies, you’ll have a very low tolerance for anything else. Again, if they take you and your audience seriously, they will do everything in their power to make life easy for you. You shouldn’t have to be Inspector Gadget to vet an email.
Alternative to Email Solicitations
An alternative to waiting to be randomly solicited is to sign up for the numerous agencies and networks that are out there. Check out 80 + Media Companies and Networks for Bloggers. Sign up for all of them with a dedicated email account for paid opportunities.
Their sponsored opportunities tend to be legitimate because the people who run these networks want to get paid too :). The opportunities you get through signing up for these networks and their email lists should be more than enough to keep you busy so you don’t have to rely on random anonymous emails landing in your inbox.
If you’re looking to make money, don’t forget to sign up for the Blogging While Brown Affiliate program. We pay our attendees and alumni a 35% commission on each sale they refer - and you know who we are and where to find us :)
Hope this helps!
If you have a blogging question you’d like to ask The Blogmother, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.