I decided to write a review about the new service that I’m sure everyone with a Bloglovin’ Account has been contacted about recently: Activate By Bloglovin’. Please read this entire post and share it with everyone you know. I was offered the opportunity to participate in Activate by Bloglovin’ but as you will see, all opinions are very definitely my own.
Bloglovin’ is an RSS site where people can follow blogs they like, and it’s not a very good one when compared to others such as Feedly. They recently emailed me about a new venture called Activate by Bloglovin’.
According to the email, Activate by Bloglovin’ is a way to “Monetize Your Influence!”
The whole concept of bloggers being influencers is ludicrous anyway, who exactly are we supposed to be influencing? It’s mostly used as a cover to hide the fact that we are the end consumers in the sales chain (like Avon, Ann Summers and all those other direct multi-level marketing type jobs), and whatever happens after us is immaterial as long as we have spent money on a product. When they ask you to pay postage or give you a “reviewer’s discount” or ask you to write a post for a free item of low value that you wouldn’t have bought for yourself, by the way, you have spent money, because you should have been paid properly for your time and work.
The email I received promised that I could be rewarded for all my hard work writing my blog, and claimed that I would get to write paid posts if I signed up to this new service. I have no interest in writing paid beauty or lifestyle posts, but I have been considering accepting paid travel posts, if such things exist (or starting a new travel blog website that does this), so I decided for the sake of curiosity that I wanted to see what sort of money paid posts paid out, and what sort of things people got paid to write about, and I thought if I’m already signed up with Bloglovin’ (the blog following website) it should be as easy as clicking a button to sign up, take a look at what cross section of the market they’re cornering, with the option to un-sign-up straight after, right? Oh how wrong I was!
I signed up using my Bloglovin’ login and was immediately bombarded with a bunch of forms to fill in which proved that Bloglovin’s new venture doesn’t give a shit about the safety of bloggers or protecting their privacy. No, you don’t need my town AND state AND country. State and country should be good enough for American bloggers, and country should be enough for non-American bloggers. If I’m from Kazakhstan, are you really telling me that any, rare paid post opportunity looking for a Kazakh blogger is going to care which Oblast I’m from?? I find it highly doubtful. This straight away made me wonder what any blogger was actually going to get out of this. You don’t need my full postal address to pay me via Paypal, and who are you giving this information to? Where are your data protection and privacy statement? Why demand this information upfront when 90% of the people using this will never get to write a paid post? It’s unnecessary.
I filled it in with trepidation. I don’t make a huge secret about where I live but at the same time I don’t want it plastered all over the internet. It’s another way of subtly controlling bloggers – if they have all your details, you’re less likely to write something truly controversial because of fear of backlash.
Been there, done that, pretty sure Activate By Bloglovin’s got *nothing* on the tabloids and TV channels that were all over me last June for my incredibly controversial topical article on another website.
So we came to the screen where it wanted to connect to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Google Plus and Pinterest accounts. What I didn’t like was the fact that the person who designed these apps made them unnecessarily intrusive, so the “connect your account” (which is actually an app, you’re just not the end user) wanted permission, for example to write posts on your wall/tweets on your timeline/etc. Why did Activate By Bloglovin’ want to take over my social media? Their stated reason was so they could see how many followers I had. As you can see, this whole signup process has “invasion of privacy” and “controlling” plastered all over it.
There is no legitimate, benign reason that an app needs to have that level of control over my social media accounts, and they only do it to hijack my social media and use my followers to broadcast their message. Usually, it’s a fairly inoccuous seeming messsage such as “InvokeDelight just updated her status on ThisApp” but it’s still an unwanted, spammy message that turns my followers off actually engaging with my self-written content. An app can very easily be designed to work properly for the purpose of telling a website your follower count without needing that level of control. The best part? Their Pinterest one can’t even GET your follower count, you have to put that in manually, but they still insist that you connect and give them permission to use your Pinterest account! WTF??
So against all judgement, for the sake of a good review, I connected my Twitter account (tentatively). I have 1140 Twitter followers at the time of writing. Activate By Bloglovin’ was given all the permissions it demanded from me so it could verify how many Twitter followers I have, and somehow it didn’t manage this. It returned that I had no followers. But I did get points for being on Twitter in the first place!
Did I say they score you on a points system?
It’s not based on SEO or number of unique views per day or bounce rate or number of people following your blog by email or anything else that is tangible and useful, that could actually help a brand find a suitable match to advertise their product, it’s based on how many people follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (of all things), Google Plus and Instagram. Because the bloggers with the most followers in these areas are clearly the ones who “exert the most influence.”
Never mind that people engaging with other people on Social Media do so as equals not as some sort of weird hierarchy where everyone who’s added you is clearly a “follower” and you’re a “leader.” It doesn’t work like that. Otherwise, with my 100% follow back policy, I am being led by my 1140 Twitter followers. Hardly.
Because Activate by Bloglovin’ failed to verify my 1140 Twitter followers (seriously, take a look at my Twitter), and because I decided I could not be bothered to connect other social media platforms that I would only have to disconnect an hour later when I deleted this whole thing (or so I thought), I got told I’d only completed 20% of the profile. That’s right, there isn’t an “I’m not on Facebook” or “I don’t have a Pinterest” button. If you don’t have these exact social media accounts then they penalize your “score.”
So let’s talk about this scoring system. Out of a possible total of 100 points, I scored 6. SIX points. People who can’t spell their own name but who have a Facebook page will come more highly recommended than I will for professional writing services.
How is this score calculated?
This screenshot explains it all:
So they basically give you the most social media points from Facebook, the least from Google Plus, and they claim to also use sources such as Alexa and Google Analytics but I don’t genuinely believe that they had any means to do this with the information they had been given (to use Google Analytics, you have to paste code into your site. Alexa doesn’t even verify metrics on WordPress sites which is 60% of all blogs ever).
The bit I found most intriguing was their third measure: “Activate Infuence.” What they mean is, one of the ways they decide how influential you are as a blogger is based on how many Bloglovin’ followers you have. This is delightfully recursive because anyone who was on Bloglovin’ in its early days will have gajillions of followers because it ranks blogs to follow in order of popularity. Anyone who was on Bloglovin’ after the first 1000 bloggers signed up will have a moderate number of followers because they’ll still be visible to really determined readers. Anyone who signed up to Bloglovin’ in the last 12 months will have very few organic follows. If, like me, you’re on WordPress, you will either get WordPress followers or Bloglovin followers, but not both, because why would anyone sign up to get multiple updates for the same freaking blog? Add to that, if you’re on WordPress, you’re more likely to get WordPress followers because many people like the strong follow back culture and the ability to interact with posts quickly and easily on Reader. So Bloglovin’ only works for people who got their foot in the door early, OR who don’t have any other way that someone can get updates for their posts. So if you’re using Blogspot you’re probably sorted for Bloglovin; but then, you can also clutter your pages with Adsense on blogspot so it’s seen as a more commercial venture anyway (let’s not talk about WordPress vs Blogspot, I’m clearly Team WordPress because I run a WordPress site), perhaps this is the target bloggers they’re trying to attract.
So between my followers all using WordPress, Email and RSS to follow me instead of Bloglovin’ because it’s possibly the worst blog-following RSS site in the world (or at least the slowest loading with terrible visibility and functionality), and me not being on Facebook, I scored a measly six points out of 100. Apparently it’s “relative to other bloggers” so as more people sign up to Activate By Bloglovin’ my score will go down. This makes me laugh. A lot.
To break it down, I lost 26% from refusing to connect my other social media apps (BTW, I went to Twitter and deleted “Activate By Bloglovin” app – it’s still claiming it’s connected, I’ve had to report it to Twitter to get rid of it), I lost 32% from having something like 10 followers on Bloglovin’ and I lost the other 33% because their metrics don’t actually work on my site. That dropped me 91 points. The other 3 must be down to the relative weighting they talked about in the screenshot above.
To add insult to injury, they told me I needed to add an “Activate By Bloglovin'” Button to my site. You know, to go with the “Follow Me On Bloglovin'” Button that’s mandatory to “claim” your blog. Given that several weeks ago I deleted my Bloglovin’ button from my website to make it less cluttered (because the clickthrough rate is poor, because Bloglovin’ is clunky and slow), I don’t think the Bloglovin’ corporation likes me very much anyway. Well, the other reason I deleted it is because the Bloglovin’ website is a very flawed system anyway. You see, instead of showing you a random selection of blogs or occasionally showing you a new one that you didn’t see before, they always show them from most popular to least popular – so the popular ones get more popular and the newest ones languish in invisibility. For the stated aim of something like “makes it easier to manage and follow your favourite blogs” I find it isn’t fit for purpose, I use Feedly instead. But instead of fixing what was wrong with Bloglovin’ by speeding it up and adding something like a “stumble” button, they decided to use that very flawed system to make money out of PR companies.
So then I added five categories (which ranged from general such as travel to overly specific such as luxury travel, just to make it more ridiculous because I don’t trust brands to know what they’re looking for in a blogger anyway), and after all that hassle I finally got to the part where I could see what sort of campaigns they offered.
Aside from a campaign to spread the good word about Activate by Bloglovin’ (in which I am not participating, strangely), there was one campaign.
Just the one.
And before anyone says “maybe you didn’t qualify to see the others” this campaign was so woefully inappropriate to my blog that it was very clear it was actually the only campaign on offer. In their defense it was extremely well paid at $500.
It was a campaign requiring “Southern Bloggers” (yeah, the company was so clueless they didn’t seem to understand that every country in the world has a south not just America) and when you clicked on it, they actually wanted bloggers from a handful of specific states to invent recipes using their food. The food in question? Something that you put on pork. As someone with multiple allergies I had to conclude that this Activate By Bloglovin’ is not set up with any kind of respect to the bloggers, it’s designed to boost your ego only so they get more brands working with them. Because if you feel like an influencer, Activate by Bloglovin’ can sell the idea that you’re an influencer and get lots of money from brands paying Bloglovin’ to access their database of “influencers.” As a blogger, you’re just an entry on a list to make the popular bloggers look more popular than they really are. Which was the fatal flaw with Bloglovin’s original purpose. It’s basically a way to monetize Bloglovin’ which is effectively a social pyramid scheme.
Of course Bloglovin’ are the people making all the money out of this. I already knew that. We the bloggers are just the tins of beans on the shelf, the brands with their paid posts are the shoppers, and Activate by Bloglovin’ is trying to get them to spend as much money as possible. They don’t care if you never get a PR campaign. They don’t care if the brands are giving you dangerous products or are asking you to lie and say the advertisement they want you to post is actually a guest post. They don’t even care if the brand ends up spending a lot of money on a blog that no-one reads (but has a lot of likes on their Facebook page) and no-one buys more of their products as a result of the paid post. Activate By Bloglovin’ (and similar companies like Brandbacker, although this review is NOT about Brandbacker who by all accounts are competent) get money from the brands and PR companies to find them some bloggers and that’s it. Which would be fine if they were transparent about that instead of making out they have accurate analytics and only matched the most appropriate bloggers with campaigns which is clearly untrue. It’s like the marketers at Activate by Bloglovin’ read about the concept of a unique selling point and missed the part where they actually need to deliver results in order to get repeat business. With the model they’re using, they just can’t deliver those results to brands. If you’re wondering how to find someone to write a paid post for you, this really isn’t the best way to do it.
As a tin of beans, I demand to be treated with respect, and I dislike having a label all over me telling anyone walking past my full name, where I live, my email’s password (Google Plus, Gmail and Youtube use the same password, I would NEVER authorise a money driven app to get that password), my phone number…. These companies that want you to review their products are just direct marketers (those people who also put leaflets through your door and email you about casinos) with a new audience – you, the blogger. I spend most of my life trying to avoid spam, why would I invite it into my life by giving these people all of my contact details?
What it comes down to is trust. I don’t trust a site that was clunky and slow-loading and whose marketing spiel is packed with distortions aimed at getting brands to spend lots of money on incompetent bloggers. I don’t trust a site that demands my passwords and expects permission to follow, unfollow post and delete posts using my social media account. I don’t trust a site that has turned blogging into a popularity contest and is now trying to monetize that. I don’t trust a site that demands overly specific information about my blogging niche then lets me apply for any old crap. There is nothing in this process that makes monetizing your blog quick, easy or even certain. Not only that, but it’s really only aimed at beauty and lifestyle bloggers anyway, which they could have specified in their email and saved me a lot of time and effort with being predominantly a TRAVEL blogger and wanting to write about TRAVEL. Speaking of which, why is it that you’re allowed to add 5 categories in “Activate By Bloglovin” but in actual “Bloglovin'” where people follow you (oh, I’m sorry, I meant “endorse” you), you are stuck with one category even if you blog about more than one thing?!
The best part of the whole thing is that once you’ve signed up, you can’t un-sign up or delete your account, there literally isn’t an option for this. I’m sort of hoping they’ll read this and delete my Bloglovin’ and Activate by Bloglovin’ accounts so I never have to hear from them again, to be perfectly honest. PR and paid post aggregation companies don’t tend to like people who give genuinely honest reviews.
Which leads me to the conclusion that either Activate By Bloglovin’ is a harmless site that’s just woefully incompetent (like those inexperienced managers at job interviews who still believe that they can make a hiring decision based on whether you accept a drink from them or not), in which case I don’t want to throw my fortune in with them, or they’re collecting highly personal data from bloggers so they can sell it, in which case I REALLY don’t want any part of this. Either way, for me personally it’s an absolute waste of time.
I think I’ll stick with my affiliate links.
This review was written from an email invitation sent by Activate By Bloglovin’. All opinions on this service are, quite obviously, my own.