Several months ago I released a few photos to a well know, full-time blogger who'd promised that she'd use them to promote my work. When she never posted them, I thought no biggie. Everyone gets busy. However, I recently saw the same photos used on one of her social media accounts. And get this: it was totally out of context.
I didn't even know what to think. I really looked up to this blogger. While I was certain she meant no harm, I couldn't help but wonder how she could be so unprofessional. I didn't even get a photo credit. Needless to say, I thought this slight could spark a larger conversation about general blogging etiquette. Here's a breakdown of a few of the courtesies I've learned along the way to help ensure not only a memorable, but professional brand.
1. Email etiquette is a thing. And yes, it's important.
At my first blogging conference (more details here & here), Carly from The College Prepster really gave the audience a feel for the nitty gritty side of blogging. During the business of blogging panel, she explained that she spends about six hours a day answering emails. Sure, her inbox is probably flooded since she blogs full-time, but this doesn't mean that email etiquette doesn't exist for small scale bloggers too.
Admittedly, this has been something I've struggled with in the past. However, I've come to realize how much of a difference prompt and professional email responses can make in securing sponsored opportunities and building your blog in general. Responding in a timely manner (i.e. within 24 hours, if possible) is crucial to establishing your credibility with a company right off the bat. But, what's just as important is responding professionally. Work to establish specific tone/voice for your brand. Each email you send should retain this tone that you've created.
Here's an example from Carly: Kate Spade never capitalizes anything, even in emails. It's just a part of their brand. Think about how you want to format your brand's responses. Will you use exclamation points? What about smiley faces? Make a decision, know it by heart and stick to it religiously. If content is king, consistency is queen.
2. Respect other blogger's work.
Oh, and never ever ever use a blogger's photos out of context. It's just not a nice thing to do! A lot of time and effort goes into drafting blog posts, so always be thinking of the best and most respectful move when using someone else's work.
3. Abide by the FTC.
Refusing to disclose sponsored items/posts isn't just sneaky, it's illegal. It really sucks when I'm reading a blog post and it's quite obviously disregarding FTC guidelines. It's disingenuine, and it makes me wonder if I can actually trust the blogger. Please do yourself and your audience a favor and always disclose when you're working with a brand.
4. Be genuine with your comments, and genuinely respond to others.
Commenting on other blogs can be a great way to boost your blog traffic and gain exposure. However, make sure you've actually read the post before commenting, so you can leave a heartfelt response. It's easy to tell when a blogger is just trying to self promote. Those kinds of comments usually read "Nice. http://..." Not only is this rude, but it's a waste of time because most people can pick out and avoid these advertisements.
There's also another side to comment etiquette: responding. While bloggers who get a large volume of comments may not have the time to respond to everyone, the least you can do is respond to those who ask questions or leave long responses. Everyone wants to know that their voice is being heard. Appreciate your readers' feedback just as much as you appreciate their page views.
5. Credit your sources of inspiration.
No matter if you're piggybacking off of another blogger's Motivational Monday or adapting a recipe from Pinterest, attribute your sources. It doesn't have to be much, just mention where you got the idea for the post. Unfortunately, this is one practice that is currently lacking in the blogging community, but it's nonetheless important. Think about what your reaction would be if you saw that someone used your content without credit.
6. Be honest and don't sell out.
It's easy to sell out once sponsored opportunities start coming in. The opportunity to make money off of your blog is exciting, but not at the cost losing your readers' trust. Only work with brands you genuinely like. This helps you to avoid trashing a company (not classy) or being completely dishonest with your readers to promote it (also not classy). Your blog should never become a billboard, featuring more sponsored than original content. It's difficult to turn down opportunities, especially at the beginning, but it ultimately helps to strengthen your brand identity. Not to mention, better opportunities will come.
Anything else you'd add?
Thanks for reading!