“Can you help me set up a blog so that I can get free stuff?” is a question I’ve been asked
When my blog began to take off in 2014 and the parcels started arriving at my desk, people couldn’t believe all the free stuff I was getting (and by people, I also mean me). From shampoo, to ice cream, to holidays, everyone wanted a slice of the action.
“I want free stuff too” they would tell me. “How do I get the free stuff?”
The honest answer? Hard work; creating good content, posting regularly, engaging with readers, giving up weekends and evenings to work completely unpaid. But these people didn’t want to hear that. They didn’t like it when I told them the truth, that I had started my blog in 2011 and it had taken three years to get to this point. They just wanted the free stuff. And regardless of my advice they were still going to go ahead and try to get it.
These people are called Blaggers. The evil twins of Bloggers. They look like us, sound like us, they’ve got all our moves down to a tee, they’re just missing one thing – the blog.
But do they even need it? With so many blogs out there now, literally thousands upon thousands, does anybody even check anymore? We all know the story about Hannah Ewens, the Vice Journalist who was photographed A LOT at London Fashion Week in 2014 and blagged her way into VIP events posing as a Fashion Blogger. She had no blog and yet that didn’t matter, she looked the part; OTT street style with a male photographer by her side and BOOM suddenly everyone wanted to know which online store she bought her iPhone charger necklace from (it was literally just a charger worn around the neck).
Now, I don’t actually mind Blaggers trying to blag themselves some free goodies. I mean, why not? I LOVE free stuff. I’d be totally lying if I said ‘free stuff doesn’t interest me’. It does, because, y’know, free means you don’t pay for it. And I’ve no shame in admitting that I’ve used my blog to contact brands with a few cheeky freebie requests and collaboration ideas (although before anyone gets narky I also want to point out that I only accept free stuff that I am genuinely interested in sampling/reviewing/writing about, so pipe down).
No, I don’t have a problem with people trying to get free stuff or pretending to be something there not, thats fine, and part of the new 2017 me is about me minding my own business and just letting people do what they want to do.
But what I do have a problem with is the Blaggers that are taking things away from the hard working bloggers. Whilst reading the March issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, I read an article by the Features writer Josie Copson, titled How did this women fool every bouncer in town?
Josie’s mission was to try and blag her way into as many VIP parties and clubs as she could, picking up tips and tricks along the way for the Cosmo readers. But one trick I was shocked to read about was snagging event information from someone’s IG story. You see, one person shared an exclusive invitation on his InstaStory and a gal that Josie was interviewing, lets call her an ‘Expert Party crasher’, showed Josie how easy it is to grab all the deets you need for a VIP event by simply watching this IGstory. The two of them were able to see the location, the time of the event and the oh-so-crucial RSVP email. Using these details they were able to blag themselves into the event and onto the red carpet that very night!
Okay, so it was kind of silly of this person to share that online, surely we all know by now not to post that kind of information on social media (it’s like the people who post the entirety of their boarding passes on Twitter with the hashtag #holiday, you mays well just hand over your passport too). But still, it made me wonder how many others are using that tactic when bloggers share their exclusive invites online? And although this expert Party Crasher may not have blagged her way in as the actual person from whom she snagged the deets off, if numbers for the event are limited or the place becomes at capacity, her attendance could mean others being turned away at the door, others who worked hard to get that invite.
But it’s not just party invites and red carpet events that are being swiped right before Bloggers very eyes, some Blaggers are committing actual fraud!
Two years ago, Lifestyle Blogger EmShel of emtalks.co.uk was the victim of Blogger Identity Theft. Yes, you read that right – Blogger Identity Theft – and yes, that is a thing. Someone had created a fake email account in Emma’s name and had contacted a whole bunch of brands requesting free stuff, from skincare products to, erm, jam!
Because this fraudster was using Em’s actual stats, which as an award winning blogger were pretty impressive, all the brands of course came flooding back with yes after yes after yes. It was only when the brands realised they weren’t receiving any coverage or reviews on the products they had sent out, that they one by one began to contact her via Twitter to chase her up. To which point Em cluelessly replied ‘but I didn’t request anything.’
This IS fraud and the police obviously had to get involved. It’s one thing to blag your way into a party, but it is astonishing to think someone would actually commit fraud just to get free stuff (and free Jam, really?) Not only was the fraudster wasting the time, money and efforts of the brands, but he/she was damaging the reputation of a blogger who had spent years building up her own brand.
There are always going to be people out there who want the goods but don’t want to put in the hard work. Let them be. These Blaggers may be unintentionally ruining a few things for the hard-working Bloggers, but here are my tips on how to make sure you are always completely identifiable as a Blogger and not a Blagger AND how to prevent people from using your brand/name:
BE A BLOGGER, NOT A BLAGGER
- Never share private information on any of your social media platforms, including your own address, the address of a PR or a brand or the address of a meeting place/event.
- Never share email contacts online and especially don’t share scannable barcodes online, not even on a disappearing image like on IG or Snapchat.
- Try to arrive at an event early or at least bang on time. The whole fashionably late thing is BS. Arriving on time, rather than an hour and a half later, not only protects your name or brand from me being blagged by someone else, but it also shows commitment and enthusiasm to your host (plus it means you normally manage to get first dibs on drinks & seats, ahem, just saying).
- Have your blogs email address somewhere on your homepage, as well as in your social media platform bio’s. That will hopefully make someone think twice about creating a fake one, and even if they do, having your real email address everywhere will be easy for brands to spot should they be suspicious of having a potential Blagger on their hands.
- Create a media kit with all your stats to send to brands to back up your credibility. Maybe send along examples of previous collaborations and previous campaigns or perhaps even screenshots of your WordPress or Google analytics. Anyone can send an email saying ‘I get ### hits a month’ but you can actually prove it!
- Meet your PR’s & Contacts. If they know you by face then they certainly won’t be letting in someone else using your name or website.