The Bad, The Good And The Ugly
Talking about business relationships that went bad and what I learned from them.
In this influencer market, there is no one who will come running whenever there's a cry for help during a skirmish with a brand. There's no 'blogger police' who will come to your side to break up a dispute.
Influencers literally have no one. That forces us to grow thicker skin, whether we like it or not. Pardon my French, but I used to be a little bitch. I would comply to anyone and everyone who offered me free goods. While I thought I was gaining products to make great content, they were taking advantage of a marketing opportunity they didn't even need a budget to enforce.
This, however, wasn't the first time.
I had been working with a brand for almost a year. To me, I was getting on-trend items (although cheaply made) basically for the 'gram. In return, they were forcing me to pump out blog posts, which I did for practically each product.
However, their PR representative was very demanding, bossy and disrespectful towards me. Whenever I sent in a blog post, he would complain saying that I'm not doing my job when his instructions were unclear to begin with. I would include the appropriate links he asked for but he would complain saying I'm doing them wrong.
Eventually, I asked for more respect and wasn't happy with the way he were treating me. Instead of apologizing, he ignored my complaint and complained himself, saying I wasn't producing sales so they didn't need me anyway.
End of relationship.
To be honest, I'm happy it ended. I think it was a sign to finally cut ties with a brand that had their own priorities over the people they worked with. It just wasn't a healthy relationship.
I put a lot of thought and effort into my posts because I've made this a safe place to be honest and vulnerable. I've stopped putting banners and ads on the sides of my blog because of that. For my posts that I work so hard on, it just sucks when the brand only cares about what they're getting out of it, not what you guys get out of it, and you guys are my first priority.
Side note: Their reputation is horrible; they've hidden, deleted and blocked any negative reviews regarding their poor quality, delayed shipping and their scam of keeping people's money regardless if the customer is happy or not. I think that says a lot, doesn't it?
There was another time I took over a brand's Snapchat for the day (way before IG stories was invented), and before I could even post no more than two snaps, I got a message. I thought it was a follower that knew me or someone who wanted to say hi, when really it was an 'IG-famous' friend of the brand owner who was talking sh*t about me.
It hurt because I genuinely liked this user, whom I used to follow before this happened. She said things about how annoying I was for liking her pictures and how ugly I was, even shared screenshots of what her friends said about me. Not knowing it was me on the other side (although I highly doubt it), I suggested blocking me. I mean, it's that simple. To this day, I still don't understand why she refused to.
Eventually, I revealed I was behind the responses and tried to sort it out civilly, and maturely as much as possible. Instead, she continued to bash me, even though I apologized for 'liking her pictures'. Eye roll. That's what the app is used for, isn't it?
I went back to the shop owner, showed him everything and that was the end of my take-over. He issued an apology and another one a couple months later. He told me he didn't foresee a future in working with me.
For me, I learned that he never stood up for me. Maybe it's a numbers thing, and he cared more about what that IG-er could do to his brand's reputation versus me. I really tried to understand it from both sides.
I was investing myself in this business relationship/friendship believing he would have my back like any other friend would and the fact that he didn't said a lot. I see no value in people who aren't willing to do the same things I'm willing to do for them. I still respect and hold this brand in good wishes, but in the end, it truly wasn't a match for my own brand the more I evolved my style. It just wasn't meant to be.
This last experience is probably not as brutal as the others but I know this happens to other influencers all the time.
This brand reached out to me and it was a brand I was hoping would do so. They said they wanted to work with me but asked for my statistics. Unhappy with the numbers, they retracted their collaboration offer and for me to reach back to them when I have the numbers.
I wrote back saying that I had a more active engagement than those with skewed or fluffed numbers, making their marketing opportunity with me more fruitful and promising. Never heard back and that was the last time I was ever going to.
I never understood why a company would reach out to a blogger to collaborate, only to take back their offer. They see my numbers already so I don't know know what else they're looking to gain. It's like when you open the refrigerator to find no food, yet you open it again and again hoping there's more magically, but there's not.
It's just unprofessional, rude and it shows that as a company, you don't do your research well enough. I've learned that because numbers is all these brands care about, it's what tempts influencers to buy their followers. In the end, it's a lose-lose situation, isn't it?
As an influencer, you don't have the engagement to back up your follower count, and you're catfishing brands into working with you. Brands invest in your brand, only to gain zero sales. I always thought it was our job as an influencer to share products and services that we truly believe are great, not to be a part of the scam that is the market. Our followers trust us to be honest with them. Aren't we doing an disservice to them if we sell out to these greedy brands?
I think the biggest lesson learned is to really know your worth, then add tax on it. You should never settle for brands that don't seek value in you. You are a person behind all the filters and negotiations and you deserve respect too.
Brands believe they can get away with free marketing in exchange for product because newer and smaller influencers only want that. This is why they don't have a budget for bloggers that actually depend on blogging for an income. No one wants to pay someone to do something when they can get it for free.
A business relationship is successful when both parties are treated respectfully and professionally even if the collaboration may not work out at the time. As a brand, you never know if a blogger is someone you'd want to work with again and how they treat you throughout the process is a big factor - and vice versa.
If you think you deserve more, or to be paid for certain expectations or requirements of a campaign, then you have every right to ask for it. Don't overwork yourself if you're not reaping as many benefits as the brand.
As much as these experiences sound painful and frustrating, at the end of the day I'm just glad they happened and that they're over with. I wouldn't have the respect I have for myself or the know-how of when a brand is taking advantage of me and when they're not. If I didn't meet these hurdles, I'd still be slave to some of them or I would've gone crawling back to these brands.
These brands are not the boss of you, and just like there are many other bloggers to replace you, there are even more brands to replace the ones that are trying to rip you off.