Let’s Talk About Money, Sponsored Posts & Blogger Transparency

Have you heard all the brouhaha about Lord & Taylor’s latest social media campaign? They had 50 fashion bloggers all wear the same dress (which of course sold out immediately) and post about it on each of their social media feeds. The problem with the campaign was that nobody disclosed to their followers that it was a paid promotional campaign. You can read the whole story here.

Since there has been a lot of chatter about this online over the past few days, I decided to use this opportunity to talk to you guys about money.

More specifically, how I make money off my blog and social media platforms.

As a blogger and what some would call a ‘social media influencer’ I think it is really important to be totally transparent with you all when I’m earning money. This is why I include disclosures at the bottom of blog posts when I talk about a product or company. If I ever receive anything for free or earn money through a referral code, I put it right there in the disclosure for everyone to see.

Often, if I feel like a blog post is in danger of sounding sponsored (when it isn’t); I’ll even put a disclosure at the end to let you know that it WASN’T sponsored. Just in case you were worried that I was selling out.

For example, at the end of every Stitch Fix post you will see this:

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by Stitch Fix, I pay for the $20 styling fee and any clothing I purchase with my own hard-earned money. If you enjoyed my review and decide to try Stitch Fix for yourself, the biggest compliment you can give me is by using my referral link. Thank you to anyone who chooses to click through and support my shopping addiction!

I appreciate the relationship I have with each of my readers and I would hate for any of you to think that I’m only writing about something to make some scratch. In reality, I only write about stuff I want to write about. Sometimes, I may get something for free to try it out. Occasionally a post will be sponsored. However, I NEVER write about something unless I actually want to. I have turned down plenty of offers to write about stupid stuff that doesn’t interest me.

Now let’s talk about sponsored social media posts. I have worked with companies in the past who have sponsored posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Whenever I am approached to participate in any social media advertising, I ask myself if this is something my readers would actually care about. If the answer is yes – and ONLY if the answer is yes – I will commit to a program. However, to make sure that everything is transparent I ALWAYS include the special campaign indicators such as #ad, #bh, #sponsored, etc. I also never say that I like something that I don’t actually like.

Here’s an example of a recent program I did with Jimmy Dean:

JD on twitter

I like Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches in real life. I thought other people might like them. So I participated in their campaign and hopefully made it clear to everyone that it was a campaign.

So, how do I make money?

Referral Programs
If I really like something and write about it, you will occasionally see that I have a special referral link in the post. I always have a disclosure at the end saying that I receive credit if someone uses my code. In the past, I have earned referral credits from Stitch Fix, True & Co, Hello Fresh and Birchbox. Referral credits don’t actually equal cash, but money towards product.

Affiliate Programs/Shops
The only Affiliate program I have used is the Amazon Affiliate program. I will occasionally link to items on Amazon.com when I’m talking about a product. If a reader clicks through and orders anything, I will receive a teensy tiny amount of money in my account. I previously had an Amazon ad on my sidebar, but I removed it a while ago because nobody ever used it and it was just cluttering things. Just to be clear, I haven’t even made $5 off this program.

I have a Zazzle shop where I occasionally will design and sell Pocketful of Joules branded items, such as the Ugly Ollie cup. I really just opened this shop because I think the stuff is kind of funny… as of today I have earned nothing off this shop.

Sponsored Posts/Ambassador Programs
I have worked with various companies on sponsored posts and have served as a product ambassador in the past. This is very rare because frankly I’m kind of picky. Also, I don’t have a million page views a day, so I am WAY too small to work with some of my favorite companies. I have earned actual money by doing this, but not enough to throw it on a bed and roll around in it.

Social Media Influencer Campaigns
I have had some really great experiences working with companies on social media influencer campaigns. Typically in this type of campaign, I am paid for a specific number of posts on Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook. Much like the Jimmy Dean example above, I always disclose when something is an ad and I make sure not to blow up your feed by doing this all the time.

Syndicated Writing for Other Websites
I have been really lucky to have been paid to write for other websites, and let me tell you it is kind of AWESOME that other people pay me to write!

How don’t I make money?

Fashion Affiliate Links
For those of you who aren’t sure how a fashion affiliate link works, this is a great article about it. Many fashion bloggers use special links embedded in their posts so that if you like an item of clothing and click through to purchase it they would make money. I DO NOT do this. The reason I decided not to participate in any of these programs is that I don’t want this blog to be about trying to sell clothes to my readers.

If I post about something fashion-related like, “Copycat Look: Anthropologie Outfit” I don’t want you guys to think that I’m only trying to get you to click through and buy every product I talk about so I can get rich off of you. That’s not the way I do things. I’m sharing about fashion because I LIKE to talk about fashion. Also, I really feel like I SHOULD talk about fashion.

So there you go… was that transparent enough for you?
{insert corny winky face here…}


Have you ever given any thought to whether bloggers are being compensated for posts without telling you? What do you think about this Lord & Taylor dress debacle? Are there any questions that you have that I didn’t answer?

Like what you see? Share me with your friends!

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Money, Sponsored Posts & Blogger Transparency”

  1. Transparency is kind of a big deal. I mean, whenever I get free books I tell people. Whenever I link to Amazon,I tell people. I also have ad network ads on my sidebar, but I think it’s pretty obvious that they’re ads so, yeah. BUT! They’re bookish ads, so, you know, my readers might actually be interested in whatever is being shilled. I’ve made a little money through affiliate links, zazzle, and ad networks, but it’s really only enough to keep me in books I can’t get without waiting forever for at the library.

    1. I think you do an awesome job at letting people know when something was free or you earn money. And I think bloggers that are good at their job should be able to be compensated… I just think that those who are intentionally murky are being bad, bad bloggers.

  2. I’m a huge fan of transparency with stuff like this, and of businesses and blogs that keep things honest. Doing the right thing is important to me so I like to support people and businesses (which are really just a group of people) who do the same. I appreciate this post.

    One question: What is #bh? I tried to look it up on the Google but I didn’t find an answer that made sense in context.

    1. Thanks Jessy!

      I wasn’t quite sure, so I checked with my contact and #bh stands for BlogHer and helps them filter out what is sponsored content by them.

  3. Transparency is huge. I work in Marketing. Trust me. It’s HUGE.

    I don’t have a problem with affiliate programs. Katie reads a book and reviews it. I choose to buy it based on her review, I’m going to use her link and I know she gets something out of it. That’s great.

    I’m not as enthused about sponsored posts where Bloggers are paid to test and write a review. They always come across as a big advertisement and there’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. Yes they probably aren’t writing things they don’t believe. Yes, some people have entire blogs about reviewing baby products or cosmetics and that’s their thing. I’m not a huge fan but I see the benefit of it as a reader and if that’s the purpose of your entire blog, go for it. But “regular” bloggers doing random sponsored posts very rarely comes across as genuine.

  4. I love your transparency, not only in your campaigns, but on this post. My question is, how do you get involved in things like this? Do you approach companies with a media package, or do they approach you? I’ve gotten a couple of random e-mails in my inbox, but I’ve only ever chosen to do one sponsored post. How have you gotten your sponsorships/referral programs/social media influence campaigns?

    1. When I first started, I’d send an email to the PR contact of a company that I really liked and would ask if we could work together. I got many, many, many “no’s” and a bunch more that just ignored me… but the few who responded were really great to work with. I’ve been lucky to also have some really cool companies contact me after reading something that I’ve written. As for the social media influence programs, I’m involved with the BlogHer Social Influencers, SITS Influencers and Influenster. If you aren’t already involved with BlogHer, DO IT now. I love them and they have been so supportive of me over the years. I’ll actually be attending my fourth (and most likely last) BlogHer conference this summer in NYC. =)

        1. My job usually pays for me to attend, but the new governor’s budget cuts have really affected us. For this year, they are paying for what has already been billed (conference fee, train trip) but I’ll have to pay everything else myself (splitting the hotel room with a friend, food, etc). I expect that next year they will not pay at all, and after attending 4 years in a row it makes sense to skip one (or more).

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