Mar. 12.

Waffle Wednesday: Are beauty bloggers just in it for freebies?

WW-collection-thWelcome to a gorgeous Waffle Wednesday. First things first. This post is only going up this evening because I’ve been outside enjoying the sunshine while we have it. Just saying that right now. Anyway, Waffle Wednesday is a chance for me to write about anything that catches my eye. It could be anything really, as long  as I want to vent about it.

This week is inspired by a conversation I saw on Twitter last Friday night. It was about beauty bloggers. Specifically, how one person seems to think that beauty bloggers are just in it for freebies. I can’t be sure whether they were being serious or not, but it got me thinking, is there really that misconception in peoples minds, and if so, what can be done to change it?


Just a small collection of things to tell you about, really.

One of the first points I saw in the conversation was that bloggers get things for free, and everything they review is brilliant. That’s both true, and at the same time not true. Yes, bloggers do get things to try, and a lot of what they review is positive. However, it is not quite as simple as given something for free=good review. While a blogger may be given something, it should be understood that they have to put time and effort into trying products, evaluating whether they do what a company says they should do, taking pictures of them, writing a review and editing everything together. While a member of the public may see just the product having been given, and a review, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that they don’t see.

As for only seeing good reviews – Most bloggers, myself included, don’t like writing bad reviews. We would much rather decide a product doesn’t work for us, put it aside and start on something else that we may like, than writing up a review of a mediocre product. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t do bad reviews. If a product is particularly bad, and that there is not much chance of someone loving it, then by all means we will say so. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, any blogger with integrity will say what they think, and give an honest opinion, even striving to point out flaws in an otherwise good product.

A point that is raised in the conversation is that of trust. If you are suspicious of a blogger, that they may be posting good reviews because they have been given something for free, the question must be asked: If you don’t trust what the blogger is saying, why are you reading it? Go find someone who you trust, and read their blog. It’s the same with newspaper columnists. If you think columnist x spouts a load of drivel each week, do you bother reading it? No, you move on to some other column, which you do trust. The same is valid here. If you read a blog which you trust to give you honest, helpful reviews and advice, should it matter whether they are talking about a product that they bought for themselves, or were given to try out? No. An honest blogger will be more than willing to say that a product is not worth buying, whether they were given it or not. You may be thinking that I’m contradicting myself and what I said about not writing bad reviews. How do you know not to buy it if a blogger hasn’t written about something? Any blog that I read regularly, and there are quite a few, have bloggers behind them that are very active on social media. If you are in doubt about a product, you can always ask a blogger on twitter have they tried it and what they thought of it? They will be more than happy to tell you!

Finally, the question of cost comes into play. Makeup, and more particularly, beauty blogging is a very expensive hobby. Any blog with its own hosting has costs for the website, then there’s a camera for doing photos, regular purchases of essentials, like shampoos, which may include picking up things you haven’t tried before, and wanting to buy all the latest releases, both for yourself and the sake of having the newest things to showcase on the blog, with the inevitable buying of things that you end up not liking. Then, as I said earlier, there is time and effort to prepare something for the blog. If someone is willing to put that much into a hobby, and is then noticed by a company, who decides to ask them to try something new, can we really begrudge them that? Just taking my nail polish collection as an example. There’s 95 bottles in there, of which 8 were samples. That still leaves 87 that I’ve spent my own money on.

I guess this is a very long winded way of saying not to tar everyone with the same brush. There may be some out there who just take the piss (the #prrequest hashtag on twitter can be a great demonstration of what I mean) but most beauty bloggers just want to share their love of makeup, and if you find a beauty blogger, or bloggers you trust, you’ll never go far wrong.

Now, I’m opening the floor to opinions. Is there a misconception about beauty bloggers? How serious is it? And if there is, how can we change it? Meet me in the comments and we’ll have a chat.


Note: I hope this makes sense. It was kinda written as a stream of thought. Amazing what comes out when you get going really.

By Robyn | Posted in Beauty, Thoughts, Waffle Wednesday | Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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  • absolutely brillant post. I think there are a lot of bloggers in it for the free stuff. Take the swap biz idea. It is a brilliant idea but bloggers have taken it over a little, which might put off business that could swap services or products.

    I myself find it handy to get items to try, never go out of my way to look for a freebie

    • It can be very difficult to find a balance there. I think something like swapbiz is a fantastic idea, but if there’s too many bloggers there, it does look a little needy. It’s why, while I mention that I’m a blogger, I concentrate on my skills as a graphic designer there.

      I’m also in agreement about not going out of my way to look for freebies. To me, there is no greater honour than being contacted by a PR agency, or a company who have found my blog, love it, and want me to try something out!

  • Great post as always Robyn! Yeah I’d say the misconception is out there alright, but I find the opinion mostly come from those who are not bloggers themselves. I’ve gotten a couple of PR samples ever, but I’ve easily spent hundreds on the products I’ve reviewed over the last few months.

    I blog because I am a beauty junkie, have read loads of other blogs and it inspired me to start my own. Especially since a lot of my friends don’t follow beauty blogs and are always asking what the latest tips are or the best products to buy, it was a way for me to collect my thoughts and answer all their questions too.

    Also of course an excellent way for me to justify spending money on makeup, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish…

    • It is unbelievably expensive to keep up with the latest and greatest bits and pieces, isn’t it!

      And, well, the beat beauty bloggers are just beauty junkies sharing their thoughts. They know their stuff because they’ve put so much effort into trying everything they can.

      And lets not mention the excuse to spend even more money on makeup 😉

  • Great post Robyn, very well put! à ‘ll be honest I love getting things for free (who doesn’t!) But I wouldn’t compromise my review on something just because it was free, it would be an honest review.
    I like you rarely leave bad reviews because I don’t think I should necessarily put someone off buying a product just because it didn’t work for me. Take my tan for example I swear by cocoa brown but hate another brand as it leaves me totally streaky so I wouldbt rate it at all. But my best friend swears by it and it looks amazing on her so ive never written about my bad experience with it as it clearly works (just not on me!)
    Whoops I’m waffling now but it’s agreat topic!

    • This is why we don’t do bad reviews usually. Just because we don’t rate something doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. Only if something is truly a disaster do we speak out. We all try to present an honest opinion though, so I will include niggling problems in a review, and, sample or not, if something needs to be said, I, like all good bloggers, will say it.

      And obviously, lets not talk about how much we spend on blogging. It is a scary topic.

  • Should also add that is be scared to add up just how much I’ve spent purely because I want to blog about certain products. Theres products I’ve bought that o would never have considered before and that I’ve only bought to try it out to review for the blog. It would actually scare me to tally up that amount!!

  • Bigblondegirl says:
    March 12, 2014 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Ahhh I totally loved this post Robyn! Love this topic as, like you have said, there is a total misconception and those who think bloggers don’t give bad reviews because they are getting free things or indeed blogging purely because people think they will get free things *facepalm* Oh dear. Fab writing :) xxx

    • There are, unfortunately, some bloggers who are just in it to see what freebies they can get, but you do tend to see who they are pretty quickly. The rest of us really are beauty junkies.

  • Great post, Robyn.

    Yes there are some beauty bloggers that might only be in it for the freebies, but to tar *all* bloggers with the same brush is nonsense. Anyone who reads beauty blogs on a regular basis will soon spot those that are in for the love of blogging versus those that are just after free stuff though and I agree with you that if you don’t trust the motives of a blogger then you’re not going to trust their opinion and continuing to read that particular blog is pointless. I’ve unfollowed a few for posting reviews of products they admit are press samples only hours after they have received them because there is no way they could have given stuff a proper trial in that time frame they just wanted to be the first ones to feature it.

    Personally, I think that things like IrishBizParty or SwapBizIrl are only useful if you have something other than blogging to offer in return because it can look like people are just after freebies otherwise.

    PR companies don’t have an infinite amount of samples to go round either. So, it’s not like *every* blogger gets *every* sample anyway. One of the first things I did when I decided to switch my blog from being solely beauty based and write less often was inform the PR companies that had me on their mailing lists. There was no point in me continuing to receive samples for make-up that I knew I wasn’t going to feature. They appreciated my honesty and although I do still receive press releases and sometimes samples they are now mainly skincare related and it does happen less often (as it should with me) and most of the things I blog about are products I’ve bought.

    As for blogs being full of only positive reviews, as you’ve said a lot of bloggers decide to only write about things that work for them/they like. Again, personally, I love reading constructive reviews about products that didn’t work for people/people didn’t like, but if that’s not a blogger’s style they’ll usually have stated so somewhere on their blog so it doesn’t make me suspicious of their reviews (I hope that makes sense).

    • The entire blogging community is built on trust, which is why openness and honesty is so important. If you are suspicious of the person writing and don’t trust them, the whole thing just falls apart. The first to feature thing is a real pain too. It is one thing doing a “first look” post (I did one recently for Shiseido) but you need to then back them up with proper, honest reviews of any products you’ve bought/been given to try for them to make much sense.

      I know PR companies have a limited supply to send out for review, which is why I am honoured to have been noticed and asked to review something on the odd occasion that it does happen. I also admire your honesty in saying to them that your blog is going in a different direction.

      The bad reviews one is a bit of a grey area. You can write only positive reviews and still be honest about the products. I will always try to add in any little problems I’ve noticed while still writing a positive review, but have it in my disclosure policy that while I avoid bad reviews, it could happen that I find a product really so bad as to require one.

      Oh, and it did make sense, all of it.

      • Oh yeah, first look/overview/new in posts can be a great way of seeing upcoming/new releases. It’s also good to see products in those posts featured again with more information on how a blogger got on with them.

        It’s always a privilege to have PR companies recognise your blog and feel that it is a good fit for the brands that they represent. Even if it only happens once or twice. Although I have found consistency is important, the more you blog good content the more likely PR companies are to notice and add you to their press release mailing lists/get in touch with you.

        I think I see bad reviews differently to most bloggers, in that I feel that if I’ve no problem giving something a good review when it possibly won’t work for everyone then the same applies when it comes products that didn’t work for me. I will be constructive about it, as opposed to simply saying that it was crap, and try to figure out why it didn’t work for me and who it might work for best. Having said all that there are times when I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t get on with a product and in those circumstances I won’t blog about it because I struggle to get passed ‘I didn’t like it’.

        • Oh, and I meant to say that I know what you mean about giving positive reviews while still mentioning any little niggles you had with a product.

          • Being able to see how it didn’t work for you and explain that in a blog post is a great skill to have, really! It can be difficult to do though. As you said, sometimes you can’t explain why you didn’t like the product!

  • I completely agree, it is very unfair to tar everyone with the same brush. I have accepted PR samples in the past, I don’t go out out of my way to get them and being totally honest did not even know about this #PRrequest thing. However, if I’m genuinely interested it I will accept it. I have made the mistake of accepting PR samples previously, taken the time to trial them only to be almost harassed by PR people looking for a review. Rome wasn’t built in a day and needless to say I did not review the product in the end as I didn’t want a bad experience with a PR person to effect my review. Bloggers don’t get enough credit for the work they put in sometimes.

    • Seeing a few people causing everyone to be labelled as just being in it for the freebies just annoys me.

      At the same time, while we do need to honour our end of it and write a review when we’ve said we would, being given the time to evaluate the product helps, and despite the PR rep needing to see a return on their investment, working with the blogger, as opposed to “harassment” as you put it, can only be mutually beneficial.

      • I agree that we have to honour our end of the it and this is the one and only exception I have made to that rule. I received 4 emails within a week of receiving the product, each getting more abrasive. In the end I sent an email of apology, saying I could not review the product because I felt that she was forcing my arm. She even gave me a few lines that she felt would be fitting in my review.

        I was turned off of blogging for a while afterwards – again I am not tarring every PR person with the same brush. I have had some very good experiences with the vast majority of the ones I have dealt with to date. None the less I am far more cautious in accepting products for review since.

        • It really is a two way street, and both sides need to work together to get the best outcome.

          I’m glad it didn’t put you off blogging outright though.

  • That’s awful Rebecca, there’s a company that I won’t accept from again because of similar issues, it’s made me much more aware of the negative sides to accepting pr gifts. Hope it didn’t put you off blogging too much, I guess there’s two sides to the blogger end and the pr end of it x

  • Great post Robyn. I don’t think that bloggers are just in it for the money/freebies as like you say there is far more amount of time and effort than there is to read it. I do trust the blogs I follow, but this has been followed up with Q&A’s on twitter and asking my own questions to the bloggers and I do feel that I get honest answers. Also I have been introduced to some other great blogs by following you beauty peeps on twitter and in my mind a recommendation is always worth checking out. There may be a few rogue bloggers out there, but then you can get that in every walk of life/occupation. You definitely can’t tar everyone with the same brush. The important thing is to make your own mind up, if you don’t like something you can always stop reading it xx

    • It does really come down to trust. Any blogger I’ve interacted with has been truly passionate about their blog and beauty in general. It is a case of, if you don’t trust them, why read them?

      Yes, there are some rogue ones out there, but when you see the time and effort most bloggers put into what is essentially a hobby, you have to admire it.

  • I really loved this post… I am a very new blogger only since Oct 2013 and the whole basis for my blog was the amount of my own money I had spent on products and also on the one to one lessons I feature in my blog have cost me a absolute fortune but because I love it so much I was willing to invest and then post all about my makeup journey. Of course it’s a privilage to be offered to trial a product but you are so right there is a huge amount of time then to trial it review it and post about it that is it is a product which doesn’t suit you or you don’t like it can make things very awkward. I am still spending a huge amount of my own money not to mention the amount of time I dedicate to my blog i think it’s very unfair people give out about trying samples. I would like to think people would like to hear honest reviews before they invest their own hard earned cash so it’s unfortunate some people have a negative view of something we are all so passionate about :) Fantastic post x

    • As I said about my polish box. 95 polishes (not counting treatments/base & top coats) and I paid for 87 of them. It is very expensive, but most of us do it because we love it. And you can really see with bloggers that care just how much effort goes into taking that perfect product picture, or carefully wording a review.

Go on, talk to me. I don't bite!


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