Bloggers, influencers, Instagram royalty. What we might have considered a hobby five years ago can now be considered a fully legitimate job title. But, whilst full-scale editorial blogs have always been covered by the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) regulations, advertising on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms have largely gone unregulated. Now, however, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has issued new guidelines for influencers which seek to change that. To find out more, we spoke to London-based influencer, creator and curator of Nerd About Town , Stephanie Yeboah on how she sees this making a difference in the influencer community.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog.
I started Nerd About Town in 2009 at University as a beauty, tech and gadget blog, in 2014 I introduced plus-size style.
Do you still like to blog about tech or is it more fashion now?
Despite always having a love for the gadgets, my blog definitely has a fashion focus. When I started blogging I wasn’t very confident with how I looked, but blogging and being involved on social changed that. Fashion has always been my biggest love, so when I got to a point where I felt comfortable enough to have pictures taken of me, I started to incorporate style into my blog. It also came about at a time where a lot of stores started creating plus size styles so it became easier for me to show off clothes I actually wanted to wear.
How big is your blog and how do you keep track?
I use WordPress, which tracks how many people have subscribed to my blog and who reads each post. Google Analytics is also super useful to see visits. Right now I have about 30,000 blog subscribers, 12.9k Twitter subscribers and 14K followers on Instagram.
Twitter is my primary portal for saying what’s on my mind, and it’s a place that I’ve been able to connect with larger media producers. Via Twitter I have been picked up for some great opportunities, including: being a guest on BBC4 Woman’s Hour, speaking in parliament and being a guest on Good Morning Britain discussing intersectional feminism, race, body positivity, self-love and the plus size community in general.
A lot of fashion bloggers team up with brands, what brands have you worked with during your time as a blogger and how was the experience?
I’ve worked with Boohoo, Simply Be, River Island, Harrods, Evans, The Body Shop, and Alexander McQueen – randomly! Westfields as well. Some brands will be happy to pay you to post something, and some brands will gift you an item in return for tagging the brand in a photo. Being in fashion, it’s sort of been a mixture – but either way, there is always some form of return for my work.
Have you ever worked with a brand where you’ve had to change your style of content to incorporate them?
No, I need to have a motivation for wanting to post. Writing for a living, I get a lot of opportunities and some of them are really uninspiring. I’m not a blogger that will post stuff solely because I’m getting paid to — that’s very transparent. Even if there is payment involved, I want to be as honest as possible — if I don’t like an element of a
product I’ll say it. With this in mind, it’s really important to put this as a disclaimer before working with any brand.
What do you think of the new sponsored post guidelines for influencers?
The guidelines have caused a huge and controversial change for blogging community; there are still a lot of bloggers who don’t like to disclose that they’re doing an ad, but that’s unfair on your readers. Your followers should be given the option whether they want to consume sponsored content and by not disclosing the ad you’re not giving your readers that choice. The guidelines will promote honesty in the blogging community — it’s the right thing to do. My readers who have been following me for a long time know that I only post about things I truly believe in, but I think it’s good to have this measure for those that don’t.
Do you think it’s easy to tell without labelling the post as an ad?
You can often tell when a blog has been sponsored because there’s no passion, no love for the brand and no enthusiasm. Sometimes if you’re doing sponsored content with a brand, they give you copy they want you to post which can sound so out of place. In this climate, it’s very difficult for bloggers to do that because they want to curry the favour of the brand and form relationships, which can lead them to be dishonest to their followers.
Ads can be great — they pay the bills and it’s always nice to work with a brand. If they’re endorsing a brand that I know they would use and like then I’m like yeah get your coins sis!
What’s the biggest problem with not declaring an ad?
The real danger is when it comes to health. You have to be so careful because you could be promoting products which haven’t been properly tested. It can also reflect badly on your integrity as a blogger — if someone uses something you’ve promoted and it doesn’t work for them it can cause followers to question your honesty.
Are there any bloggers that you follow you think cover sponsored content well?
Gabi Fresh, she’s one of my favourite bloggers. She actually inspired me to start my own — her Instagram feed is just gorgeous and she does sponsored content in a really natural way. She’s recently teamed up with Herbal Essences and in her sponsored posts shared her experiences of growing up mixed race and difficulties in having different textured hair. She’s dyed her hair with the product but the message is about learning to love your curls.
Another great one is The Slumflower. She’s just started doing sponsored posts with Nasty Gal and she looks so amazing. When she posts she’ll state that the post is an ad, but she looks good in everything and it all really fits in with her brand.
And finally, Shirley B. Eniang. Her aesthetic on Instagram is really beautiful with lots of neutrals, whites, and inspiring quotes. She actually did a message to her followers a while back when she first started doing ads saying, “look I’m going to start doing ads because a girl needs the money”. She was really upfront and I really respected that. A lot of other bloggers have started doing that as a template, which is a really good way to move forward.
You said that it’s a bit of a shakeup in the blogging community, how do you think it’s going to affect new bloggers?
I think the new bloggers and influencers coming in will be fine —the issue is established bloggers and influencers. There’s been a lot of bloggers who have been getting away with it for a long time, especially on Twitter. A blogger will write something like “I really like this sparkly top” then include an affiliate link. More likely than not it will be from a third party where they turn an URL into a traceable link, and won’t add ‘ad’ or ‘sponsored’ to the post. I think so much emphasis is put on Instagram but Twitter is important too — people just throw in random links with no one enforcing or checking them.
Because these rules are relatively recent, bloggers who’ve been around for awhile don’t think it applies to them. They know what they’re doing, but they’re quite stuck in their ways. I think it will take a little longer for the older bloggers to adjust.
Do you think they’ll lose any of their influence?
I think it depends on how successful they are. You have bloggers like Zoella who are at a point now where even if she starts placing ‘ad’ in her content, people might be put off but it’s not going to affect her clout.
So what things would you suggest social media users look out for when it comes to sponsored content?
Be mindful of the copy. If the content doesn’t sound like it’s coming from them it’s probably sponsored content. Also, watch out for hashtags. Sometimes the brand will give you autonomy over the content which can catch you out. However, most of the time they’ve used a specific hashtag which doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the post and that’s something to watch out for.
It’s super easy to spot on Instagram now, as underneath your username where you would usually put your location it will say sponsored or paid partnership.
And, finally what advice would you give to newer influencers looking to work with brands?
Choose to work with a brand that you genuinely like. Your best bet is working with one that you’ve used or bought from before as that enthusiasm will show through.
Influencers are there to sell a dream, and it’s your responsibility to be people who want to be like them and will buy the things they’re endorsing, so make sure you trust it before you endorse it.
Make sure the collaboration is on brand. Judge whether the collaboration is right for you and your audience, and only put it on if you do genuinely like the product.
Stick to your aesthetic on Instagram. If you’re really into flat lay or you like action shots keep to that theme. If you do something that’s really random then people are going to be put off and it will make it really obvious you’re just doing it for the coin.
Keep a good balance of organic and paid posts. Otherwise, you’ll just look like an online magazine and your feed will be pretty vapid. I’m not saying don’t do it often, just remember you have an audience there because people like you and your impartiality as a blogger.
Always disclose ads. It makes you more trustworthy and it’s just good practice. It’s also a good idea to read up on the current ASA standards so you don’t get caught out when it comes to editorial or social posting.
Thanks to Steph we’re feeling pretty clued up about the world of influencers. Social media and the guidelines surround it change so rapidly we’re not quite sure if these new guidelines are going to have a lasting effect; what’s new today might be gone tomorrow. Guess we’ll just have to keep up with the Nerd About Town and keep our eyes peeled for those #ads.
Still stumped when it comes to social and working with influencers? Get in touch we’d be happy to chat.