How Bloggers/Tweeters Get Exploited By Agencies & Companies

A Week Of Exploitation

A few years ago, a certain Bangalore-based PR company organised a week-long social media conference. My business entered an arrangement with them and we were listed among their partners. After several conversations and some work, we were suddenly dropped from the listing, without even the courtesy of a conversation. When we followed up, one of their people told me that she had checked my blog and that “You don’t have that many followers.” I’m not sure how one checks ‘the followers’ of a blog, especially one that doesn’t list its readership stats publicly. And if that were valid criteria, shouldn’t that have been asked for and assessed before the work began?

This year, I was approached to conduct a workshop for the same event. I found out later that the workshop would be a paid one and that the proceeds would go to the PR company but that they would not pay the speakers/workshop trainers.


This Is Not Getting Paid In Kind

The real problem here is that I know many newer bloggers, tweeters and other people on social media are promised things like ‘visibility’ and ‘opportunities to network’ instead of being paid. For one, social media by its very nature offers visibility and networking opportunities FOR FREE. One doesn’t need to pay someone else, let alone do free work to get this. If your work is good enough to merit a brand or a company riding on it, then it’s good enough to get you visibility and people who want to connect with you.

Blogging Is Work

Secondly, content creation is work. Followership is garnered through steady, quality work (whether you do it for a living or not). None of the other fields that do this operate for free. Ad agencies do not create ads for free. Media houses do not run brand campaigns for free. Event companies do not host their events for free. So there’s no good reason a blogger, tweeter or social influencer should do this work for free.

If you belong in this space, don’t undersell yourself and don’t accept such exploitative behavior. The industry will only give you the respect you deserve if you claim it.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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8 thoughts on “How Bloggers/Tweeters Get Exploited By Agencies & Companies

  1. coutoivanx November 9, 2015 at 19:38 Reply

    Absolutely agreed,Ideasmith. But for that one needs self confidence and the courage of our own convictions


    • IdeaSmith November 10, 2015 at 21:06 Reply

      @coutoivanx: True of any industry. Commercial entities are poised to exploit individuals, unless you speak up/protect yourself.


  2. vishalbheeroo November 9, 2015 at 21:26 Reply

    I think it’s ridiculous for the PR firms who say that you don’t have so much hits and all. What matters is engaging content and now everything is business. Sometimes back, when I reached 100k-which doesn’t mean anything of course, someone who claims to represent Top Indian Blog listing pinged this to me on FB:

    ‘We didn’t want to dampen your spirit and not make the fact public before your friends, but dear, hits don’t mean anything. If at all, page views or visitors have some significance. ‘


    • IdeaSmith November 10, 2015 at 21:05 Reply

      @vishalbheeroo: I don’t believe they had any visible metric to measure my blog’s visibility/popularity. I would have shared my blog stats if they’d asked and I did refer them to Klout and other collation services (none of which they had heard of). They dropped us for whatever reason and did not have the professional maturity to close it properly.

      Personally, I think hits, page views and visitors, subscribers and Klout/Kred/PeerIndex scores all have significance for different things. It depends on what the objective of the activity is.


      • vishalbheeroo November 11, 2015 at 14:01

        It’s unprofessional immaturity and agree to that,, hits is relative and too over the top!!!


  3. Ketharaman Swaminathan November 10, 2015 at 17:45 Reply

    Welcome to the real world.

    1. The best practice is to drip feed information, only what’s required to drive a CTA at a given point. PayPal will let you sign up and publish its code on your website and let you accept credit card payments in 30 seconds. It’s only when the money starts coming in that they’ll ask you for more and more info (e.g. certificate of incorporation) before they let you withdraw your wallet balance to your bank account. It’s called Progressive Profiling. Smart operators don’t ask and assess additional criteria upfront.
    2. It’s a myth that social media / blog following is driven solely by quality of content. Showcasing at events is a much bigger driver of driving visibility.
    3. They won’t do it for everyone but It’s a myth that “Ad agencies do not create ads for free.” It’s called “spec” for speculative work.

    Without being judgemental about any of this, it’s naive to imagine a real world that is or should be very different from it.


  4. IdeaSmith November 10, 2015 at 20:56 Reply

    @Ketharaman Swaminathan: 1. Even in our initial discussions with them, they did not appear to know much about the social media space. They were completely unfamiliar with services like Klout or how influencer management worked. As it turned out, they were not the smart operators that you talk about.

    2. I disagree with this and you haven’t explained why you believe so. Also, I’m a blogger/content creator, not a business for whom social media is just a side activity. Content IS actually the sole driving factor of quality. Showcasing at events has had little to no impact on my influence base, my credibility, the work that comes my way or what I’m able to charge for it, across my blogging career of over 11 years.

    3. The kind of spec work you’re talking about is taken on, as the cost-of-pitching by some businesses. This is based heavily on what kind and value of business they expect to receive. It is certainly not applicable to a model where a blogger is asked to create content for free solely for ‘visibility’ and ‘opportunities to network’.

    I think you’re thinking of a very specific, localised scenario. This is not applicable to most other businesses or professionals in the digital space. To assume it is, seems naive to me.


    • Ketharaman Swaminathan November 11, 2015 at 23:26 Reply


      (1) In the email notification of your comment I received, it says “1. I’m not sure how your first point is relevant to this discussion.” Whereas I see something different in your comment on this website. So I take it that you’ve figured out how my point is relevant to this discussion. However, my point had nothing to do with the said PR agency being a smart operator by way of knowing about Klout etc. They’re a smart operator because they know what metric is most impactful to project to their audience – stakeholder, shareholder, customer, whoever – at each stage of the funnel and work back towards selection of the criteria, which will keep shifting at each stage of the funnel. Once they gather enough traction by way of interested applicants, at the TOFU, they can tighten the screws on the additional criteria at MOFU and BOFU levels to filter out the final number of participants. This tallies well with the experience of some other commenters saying the criteria kept shifting between PVs, Subscribers, etc. That’s why the additional criteria wouldn’t “have been asked for and assessed before the work began”.

      (2) You’re right – visibility doesn’t impact the work that “comes your way” or your pricing – these are BOFU activities. But visibility is a massive driver of how much work comes your way, which in turn is driven by activities at the TOFU stage. Most businesses can’t survive purely on the basis of what comes their way. They have to proactively go out to the target market, create awareness of their offerings among people who otherwise didn’t know of their existence, spot some area of working together, then persuade them to send that work their way – i.e. TOFU and MOFU activities. Visibility in events plays a very important role during this phase, which is also called Business Development.

      (3) Your post contained a sweeping statement, “Ad agencies do not create ads for free.” I merely pointed out that they do. Why they do it is besides the point. Why you don’t is your prerogative. But, when asked to create content for free for distribution via large communities, many people accede to such requests and accept visibility and networking as good enough compensation for their efforts. While you may not wish to do so, this is a form of “guest blogging” and it’s a very standard practice all over the world. Good luck trying to tell people that it’s exploitation and asking them to stop following this practice.


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