Product review etiquette for bloggers

There are many perks that come with blogging, but none so welcomed as the ubiquitous product review. That is, receiving free products from a company to review on your blog in exchange for an honest review or advertorial.

Some bigger blogs, in an ad network, are paid to do product reviews and smaller ones sometimes aren’t. It all depends on how you position yourself. If you’re able to successfully grow a loyal following, brand managers and publicists will notice and come knocking at your door.

The only rule everyone must follow is full disclosure. Tell your audience if you received products or payment in exchange for a review. If done right, your readers won’t mind and will support your hustle.

Beyond the full disclosure rule, here are a few etiquette points bloggers should follow to keep their sponsors happy and to position themselves for financial growth.

Treat your sponsors like clients

They are your clients, even if they aren’t paying you in cash and are providing you with free products. No rough handling, please! Care, attention to detail, and a basic understanding of their business goals puts you at an advantage for future business.

Respond in a timely manner

After you’ve done some preliminary research on the company to speak intelligently about their products, give them a call or respond back to their email as soon as possible.

Ask yourself if the product is a good fit for your blog

If not, let them go easy. Don’t burn bridges so the publicist keeps you in mind for future projects.

Give the sponsor a definitive time for publishing their review

Give a firm date even if it is months ahead and meet your deadlines. Plan your blog posts ahead of time or give a realistic estimate of the time it will take you to craft a blog post or film a YouTube video. Stay committed and make good on your deadlines so you don’t keep your client in the dark, waiting.

Make the product review honest and relatable but don’t kill your client’s business

Find kind ways to be positive about your client’s product. Yes, you can be honest with your audience and positive about a product you don’t necessarily care for at the same time. It’s all in how you word it. Your goal is to serve your clients and be honest to your audience while exposing new brands to them—not kill business.

If you are having a hard time crafting a positive post, communicate this with your client, tell them what you would change about this product to make it better. (Brands love constructive feedback especially from influencers like yourself.) Tell them about the review you will post and if you’re willing, work with them to craft a post that works for both of you. You always have the last say on what goes up on your blog.

Be grateful

Thank them for selecting you to review their products and keep in touch so that your blog/brand stays top of mind for future projects.

Bonus: After the review goes live, provide your client/ sponsor with post stats. They’ll thank you for the extra attention to detail and customer service.

Blogger’s delight: Lee Litumbe of Spirited Pursuit

Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

As the face and voice behind the popular travel and lifestyle website Spirited Pursuit, Lee Litumbe’s mission is simple: she is in spirited pursuit of travel, adventure, and new cultural experiences. Founded in 2014, Spirited Pursuit showcases dynamic travel stories, captivating photography, and curated city guides from culturally rich destinations. Geared towards curious and adventurous individuals seeking authentic experiences, Spirited Pursuit is quickly becoming the premier inspiration site for travelers.

As a visual storyteller, Lee uses photography to shape poignant narratives centered around cultural immersion and travel experiences off-the-beaten track. Driven by Lee’s Cameroonian roots, Spirited Pursuit’s primary region of focus is Africa. Other current geographic focuses include The Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, with some additional coverage of Europe and North America. Accolades garnered include features in USA Today, The Guardian, and Ebony magazine to name a few. Additionally, Elle Canada named Lee among the most “Inspiring Instagram Accounts that Make You Want to Travel”.

Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

With a blog that features photography, travel, adventure, and cultural experiences from you and many around the world, what led you to start blogging?

To be honest, Spirited Pursuit was founded as a result of my quarter life crisis. The idea for the website began to develop after I turned 25 and realized I had no idea where my life was going. During that time, I was working a job I despised, struggling to salvage a dysfunctional relationship, and battling a severe bout of depression which all left me with dangerously low self-esteem.

After spending several months curled up in bed feeling sorry for myself, my two older sisters encouraged me to get off my ass and get back to doing the things I love: traveling, taking photographs, writing, and just being creative.

Those passions combined with my desire to provide a platform for others to share their transformative experiences and stories with travel are what ultimately drove me to create Spirited Pursuit. The website now serves as my creative outlet, which has given my life a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

As seen on your blog, you are also a photographer, and a model. How have these hidden treasures furthered the success of your brand?

I think it just comes down to others seeing themselves in what you do. African (black) women are rarely used in major travel campaigns, so it’s a conscious choice to use myself as the face of my projects.

I want other young black girls and women to be able to see themselves traveling and being adventurous, while also giving readers the opportunity to connect with a real person. By using myself and my unique set of skills to capture destinations, I believe it makes my stories more relatable and attainable. It further demonstrates to my readers that if I – a young solo female traveler – can do it, so can they.Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

Although I use myself as a subject, the narratives I produce always focus more on the place and experience, not so much me.

Have you been able to monetize Spirited Pursuit? If so, through what avenues? If not, do you have plans to do so or are you not interested in monetizing?

Spirited Pursuit began as (and still is) my labor of love, so initially there was no financial motivation. Early on, I made the difficult decision to keep our digital space ad free to maintain a positive user experience, choosing to accept donations at the discretion of our readers instead.

However, as the platform continues to see tremendous growth, I’ve opened up collaboration and partnership opportunities to like-minded brands, tourism boards, and publishers that are interested in promoting powerful travel opportunities to our community through creative advertising. I also separately offer my creative services (content curation/creation, creative direction, consulting, photography, and writing) to other brands interested in elevating the quality of their digital content.

Pursuing earnings without compromising my reader experience is important to me. I am consistently working towards finding a balance between keeping the lights on and maintaining a quality, minimally compromised, user experience.Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit What are your plans for Spirited Pursuit? Where do you want to take the blog/ brand in the future?

The goal is more travel, more stories and more inspiration – particularly within Africa and the African Diaspora. I’m passionate about building a community and platform that takes the anxiety out of traveling to Africa by creating informative and inspiring resources and guides. By curating content that shows others that Africa is not defined by the poverty, conflict, disease, and socio-political issues constantly being projected in traditional media, my ultimate goal is to attract more investment and tourism.

And by attracting investment, I mean compelling and propelling business opportunities within the continent, not just charity. Beyond that, I’d much rather show you than tell you, so please stay tuned for what’s next for Spirited Pursuit and me. Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

What advice, would you have for African women looking to further their brand through blogging or social media?

The best advice I would give to others would be to speak on a topic they truly love and are passionate about; mostly because you’ll need that passion to stay motivated when things get hard (which they will) or uninspiring. If your goal is to build a large audience, focus on producing quality and original content consistently.

The people you hope to connect with will naturally gravitate towards your work if it’s genuine and honest, so don’t lead with trying to make money or being “popular”. I would also encourage others to add value to the lives of their audience by solving a problem they might have, while being as creative and original as possible in the execution of their ideas.

Finally, be sure to support others – particularly women. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey is that another woman’s success is not my failure. Your win is my win, and my win is your win. Instead of viewing other women as competition, reach out and build relationships with them so they become allies; there is enough room for everyone to succeed. Be kind and uplift others, I believe it will take you much further.


Enjoyed Lee’s insights? Share your thoughts and comments below. Have a favorite blogger you want us to profile? Drop us a line.

4 simple ways to keep up on the digital inbound marketing trend

digital marketing trends

Are you interrupting your customers this year or are they on the hunt for you like a daily vitamin?

As you are trying to peacefully creep through the pages of Bella Naija, I mean do important research on the latest happenings around your entrepreneurial purists, the last thing you need are those pesky ads interrupting your research.

There are a few alternatives to those google ads and they call under the umbrella of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing practices have been taking over how we interact with users digitally. Inbound marketing is the ability to draw your customers to your site and products by creating highly engaging content. I emphasize to my clients – instead of interrupting users through traditional marketing methods, find other organic ways to flow into users’ day. .

Inbound practices are not only friendly to the user but they are economically friendly to entrepreneurs as well. It allows you to connect naturally to your users without spending a fortune on ads. Below are 4 effective ways to bring customers in.

1. Opt-in Emails

The lists built with care.

Your users visit your site and sign up to be apart of the greatness you have brewing. It’s an opt-in because they chose and verified that they wanted to receive that information from you.

It can be as simple as a “Sign up for our newsletter” box to the right or generously offering a free give away for signing up for your emailing list.

For example, if you’re a branding extraordinaire you may offer a quick and easy digital workbook in exchange for their information.  

Positive: Anyone that signed up for this emailing list is looking to have you there.

Difficulty: It takes time and strategic positioning to gather theses lists. You may have to form multiple partnerships with other entrepreneurs / businesses/ orgs to create visibility for yourself.

2. Thought Leadership

Are you an expert in your field? Do you have a niche area that you can speak about better than anyone else? Are you the new technology expert that’s going to tell me how solar powered refrigerators are going to change my life? Thought leadership has become the ultimate trend for entrepreneurs willing to share the best and most up to date information about their field.

Positive: Thought leadership opens doors for more speaking engagements and business opportunities because of your expertise.

Difficulty: You. Must. Be. Consistent. To whom much is given, much is required. Taking the step to being a thought leader, especially in a very in-demand field, requires consistency to remain relevant. If those refrigerators can suddenly teleport, I’m looking to you first to tell me why.

3. Blogs

A form of expressing the thought leadership are blogs! Start-ups to larger companies such as Price Water Coopers are utilizing the buzz. Potential customers, competitors and collaborators want to what you’re up to and where your interests lie. Fill them in.

Positive: It’s a quick and easy way to get the information to people that are already following your work.

Difficulty: There is a fine line between too little information and too much. People want to be engaged, educated and/ or entertained in a matter of a few minutes. One platform that I absolutely promote the utilization of is: Medium.com. A quick and easy platform that allows you to connect to fellow bloggers, business owners and politicians.

4. Community Building

My favorite building trend. Yes, I am shamelessly biased to this form of marketing. When you create a community, you create a space for your customers/ readers to feel engaged,included and connected.  This is the first market to sample that great item you have on display.

As your continuously building that tribe of people who are invested in your product and expertise, they give you the right to infiltrate their inbox. What will you do with that power?

Community building is also a great leverage when forming future partnerships. This community is your direct audience; this is a selling point when meeting with potential sponsors.  Who can they really reach by working with you?

In sum, goal setting and discipline are a few keys to success! Pick one that you haven’t started yet and add it to your already bubbling list of New Year resolutions. All of these items build on each other, but choosing one to focus on first will allow you to measure impact and what is and isn’t going well with how you engage your users.

Quick 1 Min Guide: Tips to quality, engaging social media content

Social Media

Are you looking to improving your business? How do you engage your audience online?  

Below are 7 tools SLA Cofounder, Afua Osei, shared on enhancing social media strategy at SheHive Accra 2016.

1. Determine the objectives of your business

How can social media meet the goals of your brand?

 

2. Choose the platform(s) for your target audience

social media explained

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

 

3. Conduct research to help you generate content

What hashtags, pictures, and or videos are trending?

 

4. Be consistent in your approach to branding

branding guidelines

Use the same format (font, colours, logos, etc.) and language to communicate to your community every time.

5. Develop material that is unique to your business

unique-really_o_1463341Be clear about who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.

 

6. Proactively interact with audience

You can use an app like Crowdfire to manage your subscribers and tag photos of followers that use your product/service.

 

7. Gather and analyze data from your social media to see if your strategy is working.

You can use analytics from Facebook, Twitter or platforms such as Iconosquare and Bitly.

Blogger’s Delight: Love Mavin with Maggie Adofo

Maggie Adofo_Blogger's Delight

Editor’s note: Every two weeks, SLA will feature an African blogger killing the game. 

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Maggie Adofo. I graduated from the College of Saint Rose with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Marketing, and Public Communications.

I’m a part-time blogger and work full-time.

My blog brings aims to bring women who are interested in beauty and fashion together.

What inspired the idea of beauty blogging on Love Mavin?

Love Mavin started as Love Scrapbook during my Freshman year while I was in The College of Saint Rose. At the time, it was an online diary documenting my college experience, and it’s been a source of motivation for me to become a better person academically, socially and even professionally.

I channel my creativity through my videos and blog posts.

How do you balance a beauty blog (which includes your YouTube channel, your IG, being a Curls Understood brand ambassador) and a 9-5 job?

It has not been easy at all! After graduating college, my full-time required me to work 40 hours from Friday to Sunday. So Mondays through Thursdays were dedicated to developing my brand. I would shoot videos, take photos, and prepare content during this down time.

At the time, I had the opportunity of visiting Youtube Space New York for workshops and NYFW. Now that I work a regular 9-5, I have had to schedule the days on which I film, edit, post and promote. I rely on my planners to keep track of this.

The moment I get home, I dedicate a solid 3 hours to my blog before doing anything else. I try to submit one post / review a month, but I promote the brand on all my social media pages. Currently, Curls Understood is re-branding the blogger submissions which is really exciting.

Blogging takes a lot of time and dedication, but my passion and the satisfaction I get from posting supersedes the sleepless nights and stressful deadlines. 

Maggie Adofo _ Blogger's Delight

Have you been able to monetize Love Mavin? If so, through what avenues? If not, do you have plans to do so?

For about two and a half years, I was able to monetize my blog enough to be considered a full-time job. It was incredible! Google Ad sense wasn’t too bad but my primary source of income came from selling advertisement spots on my blog and external services like video editing, product photos and some graphic designing.

A lot of brands were also very generous with providing PR gifts to be blogged/reviewed so essentially, my ROI was great. I didn’t have to invest too much to begin with. At the end of the day, monetized content is great because you can earn with click throughs. It’s always nice to earn money when you are not around.

What are your plans for Love Mavin? Where do you want to take the blog/ brand in the future?

Personally, I am working towards creating a stronger relationship via collaborations with other bloggers and expanding my brand’s services. As I genuinely love my 9-5, and have no plans on quitting that any time soon, the goal is to maintain a balanced schedule while building a brand that will encourage and inspire others to do what they love and live a full life.

Love Maggie’s story and want more Love Mavin delight? Check out her website and follow her on social media here and here.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, click here

Sharon Mundia: I want a fantastic, mindblowing life

Sharon Mundia - This Is Ess

Sharon Mundia started blogging regularly three years ago, right after graduating from Monash University in South Africa with a degree in Marketing and Management. She had always had a passion for literature, even receiving a high school literary award, but practicality won out when it came to choosing an academic major.

Luckily for her, the background in marketing came in handy when she started to think of her blog, This is Ess, – which started as an online avenue for sharing little pieces of her life – as a platform on which to build her brand.

As her community of readers grew, companies sought her out to advertise their products. Initially, she would feature the free products she received from them without asking for anything in return. Blogging, however, took up time and energy.

She realized she would burnout if she couldn’t make it profitable. Her parents, who were concerned about her, gave her a time frame to figure it out. The resulting sense of urgency compelled Sharon to rethink her approach to her blog and to start viewing it as a business.

Turning the blog into a business

Sharon Mundia - This Is Ess

Sharon had to first stop accepting freebies as payment for featuring products on her blog. “Imagine Company X chose to advertise at a media house– would they tell the media house: ‘Can we give you five pairs of shoes to run this on your platform?’” she said. “They would never, so I started to think of myself as a platform for companies to share their product.”

However, she is aware that a “don’t accept freebies” policy might not work for every blogger. “It depends on where you are,” she said. “If you’re just beginning then you need some flexibility.”

She then came up with a rate card for potential clients. The card clearly spells out the cost of featuring on her blog and social media accounts. As a rule, she gives this rate card to anyone she works with – including pro-bono clients – as a way of communicating the monetary value of her work.

In order to give her site a more clean and professional look, she started working with Victor Peace, a skillful photographer who now takes most of the pictures for This is Ess. For special projects, she also partners with Corrine Munyumoo, a hairstylist, and Muthoni Njoba, a makeup artist, who both ensure that she is camera-ready.

For the most part though, This is Ess is a one woman show. Each post that successfully goes up requires a multistep process that Sharon runs on her own. First, she drafts proposals and budgets to send out to potential clients. Since This is Ess is a lifestyle and fashion blog, she approaches companies that are in those industries and that are a good fit.

Once she has received a yes from a client, it is then up to Sharon to communicate with them, organize meetings, and send invoices and post-shoot receipts. Sometimes companies approach her to work with them. She then has to assess whether the products that they are offering align with her brand.

As the creative director for the photo shoots, Sharon scouts for locations, picks themes and directs Victor Peace on the specific details she wishes to capture. After Victor has edited the pictures and selected the final ones, Sharon then adds the necessary captions or graphics, writes a piece to go with the photos and finally uploads them to This is Ess.

The entire process can take up to several days and a lot of emailing back and forth, yet the final product can be consumed by readers in less than a minute “Sometimes people think you just show up and take a picture,” she said. “But you don’t know how much time – how many emails, proposals, time for the shoot – went into making that product.”

Investing in the blog has also presented Sharon with several other opportunities. It has opened the door to endorsement deals, for example. Sharon is currently a brand ambassador for Store 66 – a Kenyan clothing store, and for the Samsung A Series.

Last year, her blogging caught the eye of Capital FM, a leading Nairobi-based radio station that was getting into online content creation. She now shoots videos and writes articles for the station.

To prioritize, Sharon divides her day into neat chunks for each activity. During her most productive morning hours she is working on content for Capital FM. Afternoons are saved for emails, planning photo shoots and attending meetings.

In the evening, she might have an interview or take photos for her blog. She doesn’t party, after discovering early on that partying on Friday night meant that she’d be recovering on Saturday morning instead of taking pictures for her blog. That is one of the sacrifices that she has to make as a mediapreneur in order to achieve her goals.