“The View From the Blogger Manager’s Window” – by Kess Crystal
I was approached some weeks ago now to write an article for SL Blogger Support about the other side of the fence…the life of a blogger manager. As well as being a blogger myself I was also responsible for the blogging team for both MadPea and SwagBag as part of my past role as Marketing & PR Director for MadPea. I’ve recently decided to move on from there but as blogging is such a love of mine I am sure it will feature in whatever I do next.
Blogging in Second Life has changed a great deal over the last 14 years and there are probably more bloggers in SL now than there was at the peak of SL’s popularity in 2006/2007. I’m told that back then it was much more about reviewing an item and that bloggers felt more of a partnership with the creators they blogged for than is sometimes the case now. I didn’t blog then so I don’t know if that’s hindsight through rose-tinted glasses or factually correct. I suspect it’s a little of both but I can see, from both sides, why that may have changed over the last few years.
I’ll suggest some of them here:
Collectives – producing content in a post mesh Second Life requires a range of skill sets from 3D meshing, rigging, texturing etc. I know great meshers who can’t rig. Awesome texture artists who can’t mesh etc etc. Groups of designers/creators have come together to pool their resources and work on their strength areas. There is often not just one creator/designer for bloggers to have a working relationship with. I don’t believe that these collectives are the norm but they are far more prevalent than they were.
Events – The rise of the Second Life event and it’s impact on blogging and the designers and creators is a huge subject and not one that I have enough time to go into in detail in this post. The number of items a designer is producing per month has grown exponentially in parallel with the rise of the number of events. Designers are spending the vast majority of their time creating and that does of course impact their time to be doing the ‘softer’ niceties of the brand owner job…i.e. Getting to know their bloggers
Fragmentation of channels. – Through those history glass lenses you see a blog, with a beautiful picture or pictures, gloriously detailed text reviewing the product, hints and helpful information and credits. You might have seen the picture on Flickr too but no biggie if you just had the blog. Zoom forward to 2016: as a blogger or creator you now have many more channels to promote your work on, which on the upside means you could potentially gain a wider audience for your work but on the downside all take a large amount of time for both sides.
All of the above have contributed to the rise of the ‘Blogger Manager’ role that there has been so much talk about lately. I often hear the term referred to in such negative way which I find quite disappointing. I imagine the person behind the screen screwing up their nose like something smelling rather horrid has just been dropped in their lap while they gasp “ewwww…I hear they use one of those horrid things….a….*lowers voice to not be overheard while looking around to make sure no one is watching* a…blogger manager!!!!’
I’ve given quite a lot of thought to why I think there is so much disdain toward this role and also taken on board the feedback I’ve listened to and read at the SL Blogger Support Chats. It seems that out there, across all the hundreds of stores, the thousands of creators and events…and I know this bit is going to shock you all…..there are some not very good ones!
Guess what! There are some not very good bloggers out there too but how would you like to be tarred with the same brush?
..many Blogger Managers who are hired with a job definition akin to an ‘enforcer’
When I was looking after bloggers it was a very small part of my remit and fortunately, as a brand MadPea was a big enough name to attract a large number of applications and be very choosy about who we asked to blog for us. In addition at the time we didn’t have ‘hard’ rules and I took the view that if we continued to send out quality products then the bloggers would continue to blog them without the need for rigid minimum requirements. On the whole that seemed to work in all but a very few cases.
I was in the fortunate position of being the person who made the decisions about what the requirements were for our bloggers and how we wanted to manage them but this isn’t the case for many Blogger Managers who are hired with a job definition akin to an ‘enforcer’. I asked a Blogger Manager recently what she considered her job to be in one sentence and her answer was ‘to make sure the bloggers stick to the rules’. I found this more than a little disheartening but I understand where its come from. It comes, in a lot of cases, from the creators and designers who have hired them and told them that that is now their sole purpose. Add into the mix language barriers or communication issues both in terms of style and the fact that people imply tone in written communications, and you have a recipe for stressed bloggers churning out rushed, poor quality posts to meet a deadline or tick off a box.
You shouldn’t need a manager with a stick lurking over you ready to rap you on the knuckles if you don’t do something.
Now, I see both sides of this issue and it’s a situation that continues to spiral. When you offer your service as a blogger to an organisation you are entering a professional agreement. You are a grown up. You agreed to a set of rules that you were able to read and digest before you applied. You shouldn’t need a manager with a stick lurking over you ready to rap you on the knuckles if you don’t do something. That said, creators and designers with onerous layer upon layer of rules and regulations that need policing so stringently should also rethink if this is really what they want from this valuable marketing channel in my opinion.
What did I consider my role as when I looked after bloggers? I saw it as an opportunity to mutually promote each other within the blogging community and further afield. I wanted to be a resource and a support for the bloggers within the team – the person they could come to with questions or ideas. Yes, I wanted to ensure quality (over quantity) of posts and I wanted to encourage consistency.
conversations not confrontations
Even with minimal rules there have been in the past people that have been unable to meet the requirements, or seemingly haven’t, and those are difficult conversations but they are just that…conversations and not confrontations. No one likes to have to approach someone about a misgiving or concern but that’s just life and adulting. The key is in making it as painless for both sides as you can and usually the tone for the communication will be set at the start by how the initiator opens the conversation. This goes both ways. I had reason to contact a blogger manager this week for one of the brands I blog for because I was worried that I wasn’t keeping up with a sudden increase in the number of releases. We chatted, resolved the issue, she settled my nerves and concerns and reassured me that there was a peak but it would slow off again and I had nothing to worry about.
There was a lot more I could have done if it was my sole responsibility and role and that’s why I encourage bloggers to consider it as a positive if one of the stores they blog for hires a Blogger Manager. It should mean that the creator believes in the channel enough to show it special attention and to hire someone responsible for overseeing it. It should mean that they realise how important their bloggers are to them and that they need someone to be a point of contact when they are busy with their heads in other programmes making and designing for the next release or event. It should be the window to a mutually beneficial relationship for both and if it isn’t I’d move on to somewhere where it is.