Well, it’s that time of year again. *cough* I’ve been trying to sort out all the holiday deals and promos to post about, and mixing in other content in between to keep things interesting. *cough* I also have a bad cold, although I think it’s on the way out.
As of this morning I passed 10K followers on Instagram. Woo?
Rant – Scroll Down to “In Other News” to Skip
As mentioned, scroll down to current events if you’d rather skip the following rant. If you’re interested, here are some things that have weighing me down about what has happened to the tool magazine/review industry. If not, “In Other News” is the next heading.
Part of me worries that I’m too sensitive to things, as social media growth has changed the way web content is viewed and digested, but you can be the judge. But, talking about things helps me feel better about them, or at least it clears my mind so I can focus on more important things, so here goes.
Okay, so to start, I received an email from a 3rd party company, saying [blue home improvement retailer] had “hand-selected” me to be “apart” of their new paid collaboration campaign. They answered a question and not others, and then stopped responding. *shrug*. The typo, where they said “apart” instead of “a part” seems to have been accurate after all.
Hmm, is that why I’ve been seeing an uptick in [blue home improvement retailer] Holiday tool deal coverage?
I was curious, but not seriously interested in accepting anything for sponsored Instragram posts. I thought maybe we could reroute the discussion and talk about toolguyd.com advertising? But then they started referring to YouTube and that was the reply I ever received.
I guess I’m too small an “influencer” for [blue home improvement retailer]. Oh well.
I emailed a different company last night, a tool brand. They sent me an offer a few weeks ago, as I understand it, to pay our way to STAFDA, plus “any other fees” in exchange for a “content plan” agreement. They and some other brands have been paying for influencer attendees in recent years. Last year things fell apart when they expressed they weren’t interested in journalistic coverage, but in “posts that drive excitement for the brand.”
Now, I’m seeing “WOW, this [product] was awesome” posts in my social media feed. I only saw a couple of paid-partnership, sponsorship, or #ad disclosures. So, fed up with it, I emailed that brand yesterday to see if this was their policy to not enforce proper disclosures.
This is a brand I do like, and one I do hope we can work with in the future, but only if their ethics are aligned with our own.
I’m all for advertising and sponsorships. Interested parties can email me here, maybe we can work something out! But transparency is becoming all too rare these days. It’s important for readers, followers, and audiences to be aware of any material or monetary connections.
Things are getting complicated. Let’s say 10 social media influencers are paid to promote a tool, other product, brand, retailer, or combination of things. These patterns tend to become apparent to me. Plus, people talk.
And then I’ll be asked to share something here on ToolGuyd, for free. Okay, sure, shall I make that my top priority?
When this happens, I end up having to make tough choices. Do I ignore the topic completely, so that readers don’t mistakenly think we’re part of the paid campaign, or do I somehow make things clear that we’re not being paid for it? It’s been a source of frustration in recent months, and I have seriously contemplated adding a “not sponsored content” tag to posts.
There’s a question that has popped up a couple times now. If everyone else is being paid for glasses of milk, why am I giving it away for free? Then I tell myself – it’s for the readers. If something is post-worthy or interesting to review, I’m not going to hold back because others are being paid to do the same. Posting and choosing topics based on personal and reader interests has gotten ToolGuyd this far. I’m not going to stop now.
I keep telling myself that “pay to play” is not the new norm, but that’s just wishful thinking. It’s not policy here – never was, and hopefully never will be. But when mega-billion dollar companies say they don’t have any budget for digital advertising, and then pay for “excitement-building content plans” on social media, it definitely pushes me in that direction a little bit each time. This is a complicated matter, and I don’t think it’s going to disappear.
I have not yet fully embraced that digital advertising has evolved, but I’m at least open to it. I wrote up a sponsorship proposal recently, and although my ideas are unconventional, I think they can be effective. More importantly, they work for me and would fit in well with ToolGuyd ideals. This is something I’ve been brainstorming about for more than a year, after two potential advertisers expressed interest in proposals that offered a little more than just banner ads. But, we’ll see.
While I’m airing out things that have been weighing on me…
I have been hearing – and with increased frequency – that some reviewers and influencers are selling their tool samples. No, you can’t do that, or at least you really, really shouldn’t! Not even talking about what happens if or when the IRS audits you, when you directly equate tool samples to profit, what will that do to your voice?
Here’s a hypothetical example: “Hey tool brand, can I get that [$600] power tool to review?” (Saw comes in.) In a post: “Hey guys, I’ve been using this saw and it’s a fantastic piece of kit, look how well it cuts. Wow, amazing.” (They then sell the saw for $400).
I don’t know how widespread this is, but I’ve heard it’s being done.
Over here at ToolGuyd, I won’t accept anything for a tool sample – it’s policy. I can’t even consider things on a case by case basis. I donated something to the local preschool maybe two years back. I was done with a test sample and figured that I could check back after some time for additional long-term feedback on the tool. They were appreciative, and it took some effort to explain that no, I can’t even accept a gift card to the local family restaurant.
Someone might say that they can sell tool samples for cash and remain objective, but how do you prove that? If someone converts tool samples to revenue, cash, profit, will they ever talk about that tool’s downsides? Or will they shower it with glowing praise so that they can successfully request another big ticket item the following week?
I enjoy posting to social media, and the discussions that follow, and there are plenty of channels and influencers that I trust and enjoy following. But things can be dirty beneath the surface. There’s gossip and infighting, feuding, and even sabotage! You know what? I’m going to stick my fingers in my ears, go “lalalala” and keep on believing that everything is peachy.
In Other News…
I’ve been scouting out the holiday tool deals, and they’ve been okay. This image wasn’t from a holiday shopping season, and I don’t know why my son has hat hair, but it seemed appropriate. My kids have tagged along on some of my trips, a convenient tradition for 5 years now, and that has become part of the fun. Fun? I mean work. Who am I kidding – you guys know I have fun with most things ToolGuyd-related.
Frustratingly, my local stores don’t have all of the deals. My Lowe’s store has VersaStack tool bags, but nowhere I could find them. One Home Depot that’s not very close has a display with Milwaukee penlight 2-packs. I went to my closer store the next day to buy a pack (hypocritically too, after replying to a social media commenter that they might not need backups), and the display was nowhere to be found. It also seemed that store associates were searching for a stack of misplaced ladders that were supposed to be on sale.
You can find all of our tool deal coverage here, and I have also been trying to curate and organize links at the top of every page for easier reference.
Our Instagram Posts You Might Have Missed
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