I definitely feel like we’re at a bit of a crossroads in the bloggersphere. For so long we’ve been on an upward curve of positivity, commerciality and opportunity, but all of a sudden we collectively seem to be faced with more problems than we know what to do with. From Instagram alorythms and YouTube changes in advertising policy, to more aggressive rulings from the ASA on the declaration of affiliate links and general competitiveness across the board, right now the shine is certainly rubbing off being an influencer. Our readers may love what we do and brands may be falling over themselves to capture a piece of the tasty pie, but under the surface there are so many dodgy things happening that I feel like we need to address. Over the past few months my frustrations have been growing towards a handful of brands and agencies that are attempting to push us to our limits – and completely undervaluing the skill, time and effort it requires to create content. Their tactics are becoming increasingly sneaky and have everything but the influencer’s interests at heart: so if you’re a blogger, these are three (but by no means all) of the dodgy tactics that are being increasingly used right now and how you can protect yourself moving forward.
HOPING YOU DON’T READ THE CONTRACT
I’ve spent the best part of the last ten years with my head in a contract, so I know to always read them and question clauses I don’t think are fair; but I’m also aware that the majority of other bloggers aren’t necessarily the same and can be a touch too trusting. Over the last few months I’ve heard horrendous stories from blogger colleagues that have been roped into an opportunity that looked good on the surface, but when it got down to it they’d practically sold their soul for the sake of a nice dress. On a personal level I have to re-write contracts more often than not, removing clauses that prevent me from talking about competitors for a duration of three or six months, or giving the brand all inclusive rights to my content. That’s not on and that’s not what they’re paying for. If there are a long list of conditions or expectations, ensure you’re being paid appropriately; if there’s an exclusivity clause, then make sure it’s a fair one; if they’ve written into the small print something you’re not happy with, then question it. My advice is always to thoroughly read the contract you’re provided with, don’t be afraid of pushing back and always have someone on hand that’s more au fait with legal talk if you need some advice.
EXPECTING MORE THAN WHAT THEY’VE PAID FOR
A tactic that I’m seeing increasingly is brands commissioning one piece of content, only to request the original image so they can then use it within additional campaigns you’re not being paid for. This year I’ve been asked to create a sponsored Instagram image on more than one occasion, only for them to later ask for the image so they can use it for promotional purposes – with no additional remuneration for the time, effort or creativity that went into taking it. It’s like paying for a weekend break but expecting to have access to the room for the rest of the week just because you want it, or paying for a manicure but hanging around all day in the hope people just give you a massage and a facial; we wouldn’t expect it in any other industry, so why is it so common within blogging? I’ve also seen brands using unpaid Instagram posts from an event and promoting them across multiple channels with the singular objective of selling their new mascara; if there’s enough money to promote those images to millions of people online, there’s surely enough budget to pay the blogger for the use of their face. Say no and don’t be made to feel bad for doing so. If you give them an inch, don’t let them try and take the whole mile.
APPEALING TO YOUR VANITY & THEN TAKING THE MICK
One of the dodgiest things I’ve seen pop up at late is those rather annoying messages on Instagram that appeal to your vanity and our collective desperation to increase our visibility on a platform that’s currently going through an epic level of disdain. If you’ve not been on the receiving end of these comments, then they essentially say: “We love this photo and would like to feature it on our website. If you are happy to feature, reply #agree.” Sometimes they include a URL to T&Cs, sometimes they don’t, but what you’re agreeing to by replying is unequivocal use of your imagery. I recently received a comment on this image of a mascara; it linked to a set of T&Cs which left me horrified, and a snippet of which is below…
“You grant X BRAND a non-exclusive and non-revocable commercial right to reproduce the content in any form… throughout the world in any medium now known or later developed and without restriction or limitation… While X BRAND will make commercially reasonable efforts to give you credit for your content and provide a link back to your content or account, you agree that such credit is not mandatory and your permission for us to use your content is not contingent upon such credit being given. You waive any right to inspect and/or approve the finished work… Further, you waive any claims to royalties with regards to your content or our finished work.”
In a nutshell, by agreeing for a brand to use your image (which many of us assume means a regram, whoop!) you’re actually virtually signing away the image to be used in whichever capacity the brand wishes to use it – without consultation, credit or financial remuneration. That’s not ok. Many digital influencers spend hours creating that perfect shot, not to mention the money spent on equipment and props, and so deserve to be compensated if a brand deems it good enough to use commercially. Jane from British Beauty Blogger first brought this to my attention via a post on the issue, but in the days since I’ve had two of these messages from worldwide brands asking to essentially pimp out my imagery with absolutely no benefit to myself. Am I up for that? Damn no. Regram away, but don’t think you can get away with using my work to flog your products without even as much as a thank you. If you see these comments or messages pop up, just ignore them because it’s not worth a second thought.
The more we talk about these issues openly, the more we’ll all realise that we can and should be saying no. The more brands are aware of the fact we know what they’re trying to do, the more they’ll question whether they should be operating in that way. The more we say no and push back on dodgy terms, the more likely we are to be well represented. As an industry, the bloggersphere is booming and experiencing a waive of new opportunities – but with them comes the hurdles and hoops we have to jump through to ensure we’re fairly treated. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve 100 or 100,000 followers, we all deserve to be compensated for the time and skill required to do what we do.
Have you experienced any of these dodgy tactics by brands wishing to work with you? Are there any other slightly questionable approaches that you’ve been seeing or experiencing as an influencer?
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