Okay – so we all know the giveaway game by now right? I’m specifically talking the instagram giveaways you see (gucci purses, macbook’s, trips, iphones, etc.). I’ve seen a lot of strong feelings, mostly against, giveaways altogether lately. I understand part of the frustration, I really do, but I don’t understand the hate I’ve read from some people, bloggers in particular. I won’t sit here and say I haven’t been a part of them and I won’t sit here and tell you I hate them .. that’s just not the case. But what I want to do is break it down and talk about the pro’s and con’s I’ve seen in the nearly two years I’ve been blogging so far. And yes, I’m totally raising my hand and admitting I wasn’t the smartest cookie in the beginnings of my blogging career. But again, I want this to be a learning experience for all of us and not something that’s completely trashing how bloggers choose to market themselves because yes, giveaways are a form of marketing. I’ll also share some of the hard lessons I’ve learned in my self-taught journey.. again, some good, some not so great. So let’s dig in, shall we?
Okay so let’s just begin this by saying Instagram can be the absolute worst. Do you agree? I think for new bloggers (and I mean those coming in now or even two years ago) getting visibility is only becoming increasingly difficult. For those who don’t know, I began my blog at the suggestion of a good friend. I’m one of those types who once they’ve got an idea in their head it’s all or nothing. I concentrate all my energy into that idea and making it incredible. I’m also insanely independent and stubborn which translates into me starting a blog without really knowing anything about it. I just figured I could dive right in, right? Wrong .. I quickly hired Megan from Lush to Blush to help create my brand and all the essentials. I really hadn’t done much research into growing a following and thought Instagram would be rather easy. Again – so wrong. I felt like a nobody with a very small following. Who doesn’t at some point? I saw all these amazing bloggers with 100K+ who didn’t seem like they’d been blogging for that long and wondered how the heck do I get there? Is that how I land partnerships and collabs?
I soon had a variety of giveaway hosts dm’ing me with giveaway opportunities. I thought to myself, “oh yea – I remember seeing those before I become a blogger! This must be how it’s done!” At the time, these were giveaways that gained roughly 600 to maybe 1000 new followers and they cost about 40$ to join. Through those and a more forgiving algorithm at the time, I grew my following to about 20K. Cool right? Sadly, most of the collabs I sought all shot me down because I didn’t have enough of a following. Not cool. It felt like a form of body shaming, but Instagram style. What was I to do?
I swear sometimes life works like blood in the water for sharks. There I was feeling like a loser when I started getting messages from mega-giveaway hosts. And when I say “mega giveaway” I mean gaining tens of thousands of followers through a single giveaway. I thought “Wow! I must be cool enough to be part of the group now!” because I saw LOTS of bloggers I considered “top bloggers” in on the mega giveaways. If they’re doing it, it must be the thing to do right? Wrong. So wrong.
I think at some point we all fall prey to insecurities and the need to be more than what we are. What I didn’t take into account was the quality of followers I was gaining from these “mega” giveaways. And I mean quality in these terms: Do numbers equate to dollars? Do those followers become interested and/or devoted to your brand and supporting you? Do they like and comment on your photos or better yet, read your blog? Do they buy that dress you were just wearing in your photo? Or worse .. do those hosts of the mega giveaways fluff up the follower amount by adding bots? Yikes!
I can’t tell you how many times I’d hear about or even experience a giveaway that used bots. And there’s literally nothing you can do about it except manually go in and delete or block those accounts from your following. It makes you look terrible in the eyes of brands and other followers, and not to mention eats hours of your time trying to fix it. Those giveaways could sometimes cost over 1K because they needed to pay their larger sponsors hosting the giveaway. Ugh .. one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned by far.
Now.. all of that being said – I’ve gained some of my most incredible and devoted followers BECAUSE OF giveaways. Have they all been a success? No. Have they all continued to follow me? No. Are the ones who do still follow me interactive and amazing? Absolutely. Some of these followers never would have found me without a giveaway and cross promotion between other accounts, and I’m so thankful they have. I have amazing conversations, laughs, and sometimes even tears with my followers across the globe. That to me is the best part about this job – not the selling of clothes or pushing products. Yes that’s fun but connecting to your audience, building trust and meaningful relationships is the ultimate privilege. Some of the negative things I’ve read from the mouths of others, and other bloggers, basically imply people who have done giveaways aren’t to be trusted because they’re essentially buying their followers. In a sense I can see that – you’re paying money to gain more of an audience – BUT I see no difference in doing that versus paying Instagram to boost your post to random feeds. How you choose to spend your money to gain an audience is YOUR choice because in the end, people choose to follow you or they don’t. It’s that simple.
Giveaways are a marketing strategy – but just be smart about what you’re choosing to participate in. I can guarantee anything costing an arm and a leg is NOT worth the insane price tag and almost always fails to deliver the “follower count” that was originally promised. I continue to take part in giveaways a couple times a year I think pertain to my “niche” – but I make sure the hosts are legit and proof of the prize actually being paid or sent is given.
I definitely don’t shame bloggers who choose to market themselves and reach greater audiences through giveaways. I don’t see it as cheating, I see it as marketing choice. You’re shelling out money to be visible to new followers. Same same in my opinion. How you spend your money is no one else’s business anyway.
Okay – this is a tactic I do NOT recommend. Over the course of two years, I’ve worked with different “marketers” who claim to boost your audience through a “variety of methods”. Again, not one of my finer moments. They would never say they used the follow/unfollow method until after I’d paid them. Then suddenly I notice huge spikes in the accounts I’m following or worse, a super creepy or inappropriate account I would never personally follow. Ew! I also have seen people send horrid messages because they claim you’re inauthentic or worse, unethical. A “newer” blogger once told me I was unethical for following/unfollowing her – and I had no clue what she was talking about. I had to laugh it off because a) she had some serious balls for sending me that message and b) I’m in healthcare and have a humongous foundation in ethics/unethical behaviors and situations. Had she sent a message saying hey, did you mean to do this or hey, explain this to me – I would have taken what she had to say more seriously. Attacking my “ethics” over something like Instagram is obnoxious and silly. Again, learn from my mistakes and just don’t follow/unfollow. I’ve also been on the other side when I was a newer blogger and saw some really “big” bloggers start to follow me only to discover a month later they no longer were. It’s definitely a wtf moment but I never actually sassed them up with a snarky DM. Treat others how you want to be treated, right?
Oh man. So many words on this. I used to think of RS/LTK as a “milestone” in becoming “legit”. I applied to RS four freaking times, and was finally accepted at the fourth try. The exclusivity and blatant lack of diversity of this platform now leaves a bad taste in my mouth – particularly after the RS the Con conference this spring. Yes, I ranted about it on Youtube because I’m super exhausted of the entire premise and the egos/mean girl troops this platform feeds. (No I don’t consider all RS girls terrible people, but man I’ve met some real brats here in Dallas). The world is already horrible about creating silos and making people super down on themselves – I don’t believe in a brand or platform that contributes to this, especially in the blogging world that is already super competitive. I’ve shifted most of my looks/insta shop/etc to ShopStyle and am loving it. Whether you choose to be part either one or none, my advice to you is to not let being in the “it club” define you. Be confident in yourself and know that you’re amazing – being invited (or not) to a platform doesn’t make you any better or worse.
Another lesson I’ve learned concerns the brands I work with. Brands who are concerned with only your follower count aren’t doing their homework. On the flip side, brands who want only sales also aren’t doing their homework. What I love love love about the brands (not all bust most) I’ve worked with is their goal of visibility. I cannot guarantee a certain number of sales with a garment or subscription box or whatever the subject matter may be, but I can offer the reach of my audience and posts across my various social media channels. Because who knows, maybe you don’t want the (for example) Tula mask I’m currently talking about in my stories, but you remember the name and when you’re going off on your travels, you then purchase their travel kit so you can take care of your skin while exploring the world. To me, that is success. If you’re turned down by a brand because of your numbers, I promise you they aren’t someone you really want to work with.
Final Tid Bits
In conclusion – these are all little tips I’ve learned along the way when it comes to your following/follower account as it applies to different aspects of your blogging career. It’s a difficult thing to let go of being “the top” and transforming my mindset into being “better” aka a blogger concentrated on quality and not quantity. Do I use the word unethical when it comes to giveaways? Absolutely not. That’s such a strong word and not correctly used in this context. Is it a difference in opinion and strategy to employ giveaways, yes. I do wish I knew better in the beginning – to grow my blog and/or concentrate more effort on my readership than I did obsessing over an Instagram audience. But.. there’s no going back – there’s only moving forward and knowing my mistakes. Is Instagram an important piece of the puzzle? You betcha. I really don’t know of a blogger that I can think of who doesn’t operate on Instagram. Social media is huge for blogging and generating blog traffic. Do I wish I wouldn’t have spent boocoo’s of dolla dolla bills on the “mega” giveaways? heck yes. Another important piece of advice: don’t feel like you have to do something just because the “cool” girls are doing it! Yes I naively chose to jump off the bridge but I was so encouraged to do so when I saw my favorite bloggers also doing it. Don’t fall for it yall.
My Instagram follower count has visibly been shifting – it was once max 280K I believe? Today it sits at 237K and some change. Why is this? Not because I have bad content or an ugly page – but because a LOT of those mega giveaways were filled with cruddy fluff, ghost followers, or followers who weren’t concerned with you but only the prize. Does it bother me? Not one bit because I know I’m losing the “crap”. I’d rather have my amazingly wonderful audience than fluff. Losing followers is OKAY – it won’t end my blogging career and I won’t lose sleep over it. I also won’t sweat the bloggers who turned their noses up at me because you know what? I’ve seen them do it too. I’ve seen them in the secret giveaways and sweating their numbers – so don’t feel badly if you’ve been in that mindset too. Instead, I unfollowed several bloggers who either made me feel incompetent and insecure or I initially followed just because they were an “it girl.” I can tell you not following them has done wonders for my inner peace and mindset.
Overall, trust in the work you do and love yourself all the more for it. Success is a mindset – not a number.