This might be a controversial one but here goes. I don’t like the term #Gifted.
To be fair it might not be something that is even on your radar, so let me explain.
Us bloggers, or influencers as we are increasingly being referred to, are required by the ASA to mark anything that we have been paid for, or sent for inclusion in a blog social media, as an advert. Told that we need to disclose a working relationship between ourselves and that third party. This is so that you, the reader or consumer, are aware when something is an ad. The terminology used by “mainstream media” varies greatly but you might see something marked in a glossy mag as being “advertorial” or it might just look like an advert. After all, why else is that full page advert for Garnier included if it isn’t an advert? Alongside a celeb interview that picture of glossy hair is clearly an advert so doesn’t need to say “advert”. The recipe pages of Hello though, where the meals have been prepared using a particular gadget, that should say something as technically it doesn’t scream “advert”. It screams “these all look tasty” and you don’t necessarily know it’s ad just by reading it (and it IS important that you do).
The latter case is more usual for bloggers as our stuff doesn’t ever scream that it’s obviously an ad and typically it just might not be. We might do five consecutive blog posts about our amazing holiday at Disney that we paid for ourselves, followed by two blog posts about a canal holiday on The Norfolk Broads that was as all expenses paid. Could you tell the difference? I blogged about Menorca for a week, followed by Barbados for a week. One was paid for, one was as guests of a villa company. Would you have been able to tell the difference if I hadn’t labelled them?
Which is why the ASA insist that the above suggested trip to Norfolk be marked as an ad. Or in my case, Menorca. It IS important that you know when something is an advert, is something that we have been asked to share with you.
There is much chatter in blogging circles about whether we have to use the actual word “ad” or if we can use “sponsored” / “in collaboration” / “review” and to be honest this post isn’t about that debate.
This post centres around the word “gifted”.
To my mind we shouldn’t be using that term at all. And here is why.
Most weeks bloggers will have something arrive on their desk that has been sent by a PR company or a brand. A product, a sample or an offer. It might come with no other instructions, no additional payment, no blurb asking us to share online and to tag the brand in. It could be everything from a 5ml sample of hand cream to bottle of gin.
The problem for me is that despite their being no “sharing instructions” this is not a gift. It comes with a desire, albeit unwritten, that it be shared on line. When the initial email asking for our address lands in our inbox it might contain the words “provided on a gifted basis”. So it isn’t a gift in the true sense.
A gift is something you give for a birthday or Christmas. It’s a present. It comes with zero strings. No hidden agenda. No quid quo pro.
By sending them to us the company behind it ARE hoping it will be shared online, therefore how can it be a gift?
I have been pondering this for the past few days, and even had a bit of an Instagram story rant over the weekend, all off the back of Deborah Ross’s piece about influencers. If you didn’t see it, you will have to Google it as I am not going to link to it or share a screen shot. Though this is my response: Dear Deborah Ross
I am guessing that Deborah Ross is not really alone in her thinking that influencers are “free loaders”, though I do hope she is in the minority of people thinking we are “detestable freeloaders” who should be ashamed to look in the mirror. The trouble is that generally thinking the greater public do think we have been sent these products for free. That they turn up on our desks “for free”. That we get sent off on holiday, “for free”.
Just today I have read yet another article in the press about a mum on Instagram who has been provided with “freebies” and how she has “amassed” a following of 15,000 people on Instagram.
They aren’t free. We just haven’t paid for them. What we offer in exchange is to try them out, review them, write about them, photograph them, edit those photographs, share that blog post on social media, or write about them directly on our social media accounts. Talk about them in the future if we see somebody say “anyone tried out the <insert random object>” we can jump in and promote it again if we liked it enough. We work our arses off on these reviews. All of that takes time, which means the product has been sent as payment in kind for our time.
It is not a freebie. It is not a gift.
So by using the word “#Gifted” are we our own worst enemy? Are we reinforcing the theory that it’s a gift, or a freebie when we use that term?
I really think that we should be using “#Review” on these products so we can really show that an item has been sent to us for review. That by talking about it online, that is what we are doing, we are reviewing it.
We aren’t freeloaders, we aren’t being sent freebies. We aren’t talking about gifts from generous PR companies and brands.
We are reviewing them. Earning our income, working hard at developing our followings. Providing content for Youtube, Instagram and blogs. We aren’t talking about gifts.
Unless it’s Boxing Day.