As a blogger who has been reviewing and the like since 2009 (in fact January marks the 5th anniversary of Family Panel's launch, which is crazy), I've been part of lots of different schemes and brand link ups.
Some have been great, others, not so much.
In the beginning when brands and PRs first started to engage with the very small amount of us there were back then, we all learned how it could work together. It was easy back then to say what we liked and what we didn't like, how often we expected to engage with a brand and its programme and likewise PR's and Brands could tell us what they wanted to see in return.
Now, Ambassador programmes are everywhere, run by brands and, in some cases, third party groups who have sprung up offering blogger engagement and signing up as many bloggers as they can find to bump up their virtual address book.
In this third party and Brand race to sign up interested bloggers though, we have, all of us, created an issue with the quality of engagement and the ability to be mutually beneficial. This has left some feeling programmes are no longer for them, and are run from a one sided viewpoint weighing heavily towards only the Brands benefit.
I'm not going to name and shame here, and anyone reading this who blogs and reviews probably has a good idea of who they feel offer worthwhile engagement and who to avoid.
Blogger groups from Facebook and beyond offer the ideal place for writers to vent- and vent they do with gusto, telling each other who not to be bothered with and who is the most coveted to become involved with if your name gets passed to them.
Of course, what works for the vast amount of bloggers may not work for others.
On venting about one such third party group, I received a mixed response, with just as many agreeing with me as disagreeing.
Its true that as with anything in life, what works well for some will be a complete waste of time for others. Third Party Ambassador programmes are great for new bloggers or for bloggers just getting started in brand engagement. To more established bloggers, more used to doing things for themselves and not waiting in line to be contacted, they can be nothing more than a click through ad nuisance which takes up blog space which could be sold off for a real advert.
That's another problem with certain programmes. The "I'm a Member" badge.
Some programmes only ask you nicely to display the badge, but don't count you out for not. Others make it part of your sign up to display the badge and wont put you forward for opportunities if you refuse.
Which is fine, but what happens if you display this badge, offering an advert that you endorse this site (and which could normally be sold for Affiliate or direct marketing) and then receive nothing in return?
The same group I vented about asks that bloggers involved display the badge. Yet despite doing so for a year plus, I have not actually received anything in return for space which could have earned me actual cash. In fact, the first I knew the programme had actually started was during a chat about the wait for anything to happen with another blogger!
It turns out this third party, who made massive promises and who wanted me to join as they felt my being involved as a well known blogger would be great and persuade others to join too, have had days out, parties and adverts running through other blogs for months, not to mention reviews and brand engagement.
What have I had? One email. Nothing else.
What its worth remembering with third party groups is that the more of us that sign up, the better they look. It can be lucrative for those who are happy to set up a cheap website, and pretty easy to make cash doing so. The more of us they get to sign up, which is as simple as sending out a #BloggerRequest on Twitter for free, the better the return when it's time to contact brands who will pay to let someone take out the hassle of blogger engagement. Who wants to spend hours scouring the net for bloggers, rake through dead sites, or input lots of web addresses into a Page Rank checker when they can pay these third parties to do it for them (who, in turn, have already gained this info for free from the blogger on them signing up).
On contacting the Third Party to ask what gives, and why I have not got so much as a tweet from them, did they apologise or offer to look into it? You'd think after the email I got from them asking me to get involved with them they would bend over backwards right?
Nope. They blamed me, saying my blog obviously wasn't quality enough for their clients and my stats are clearly rubbish.
It was pretty much a standard email too- saying I needed to bring my Page Rank up from low (mine is 3, which is pretty much great for a blog, and the average for bloggers who covert a decent number).
To me, I laughed and ditched the badge. But if it's not bad enough to swallow up as many bloggers as they can find, when they fail to come good on their promise to work with us all in equal measure they blame the blogger! And to some newer bloggers, this can, of course, make them wonder why they bother.
With many schemes, even those not run by a third party, many feel they grow tired of seeing the same old faces working with the brand and being lavished with gifts as promised to all and grow disillusioned.
So, why do some programmes find it so hard to work with bloggers fairly? Have they got too big? And what would you like to see to bring them back to a fair for all, small scheme?
What programmes work for you and which don't? Or do you refuse to work with any at all? Let me know in the comments.