September 3, 2009
fashion blog karma – Bargainista
The coolest thing about my series of Toronto Fashion Blogger Brunches was the tremendous diversity of the attendees – not all of us were university students or recent grads – we had some bonafide adults in the group including Eden Spodek of the Bargainista shopping blog. Her perspective as an online professional, hobby fashion blogger and mom made for some fascinating conversations over coffee and eggs. Besides scoping out deals for Bargainista, Eden also collaborates on the Community Divas podcast and has a day job in PR. She’s always a terrific person to talk to about blogging and developing professional relationships online and in real life. I asked her a few more questions along those lines here.
You have a unique perspective being both a shopping blogger and a PR professional. What do you think fashion blogging has to teach PR, and vice versa?
Wow, Danielle! That’s a loaded question. All bloggers and PR professionals can benefit from learning how to work well together. There are several agencies that have been working with fashion bloggers for quite some time. I don’t know them well because I tend not to get out to Fashion Week. From what I’ve seen, some have done a good job of getting to know individual members of the Toronto fashion blogging community and tailor their approach accordingly.
The Toronto fashion/shopping blogger community can show PR practitioners how communities will grow organically and be self-regulating without following any rulebooks, codes of conduct or social media thought leaders.
You are very active in a number of online communities and have an interest in communities in general. Given the breadth of your participation, do you have any comments on the fashion blogging scene in particular?
The local fashion blogging scene is a relatively mature online community. It’s a tight, passionate and supportive community that has always been welcoming to others – for instance, Anita Clarke found me online and asked me to participate in TFBB (a group you founded).
It’s mature in the sense that its members successfully demonstrated their knowledge and influence early on. Independent retailers, designers and PR companies specializing in fashion recognized the influence of the fashion community early on and invited members to participate in the same events as traditional media, did their research and engaged bloggers on their terms. (That’s not to say there weren’t and still aren’t some hiccups along the way.)
We were discussing a certain “coming of age” for personal blogs recently. When turning a personal or hobby blog into a business venture, what are the pitfalls to avoid?
I’m probably not the best person to ask about this because I’ve made a hobby out of keeping Bargainista a hobby. <joking>
In all seriousness, the most important thing a blogger has is her reputation. It’s worth more than money. Her blog is influential because it’s an authentic representation of her passion, her perspective. If she does anything to compromise her integrity, her reputation may be gone for good.
Pitfalls to avoid – ghost blogging, pay-per-post, not disclosing when you’ve been given a product, service or access to an event because of your role as a blogger, dishonesty.
My advice: be careful of whatever decisions you make, be transparent and disclose any relationships that may be perceived as a conflict of interest by your community.
What has being a shopping blogger taught you about shopping?
I’ve learned that online conversations really do influence purchasing decisions. It’s one thing to see crowds gravitate towards an iPhone app or a book on Twitter, but it’s another when you meet a regular reader of your blog who shows you all the things she’s bought because of your blog posts. Customer review sites are going gangbusters. Fashion bloggers are showing up in Holt’s windows. Things are changing. Blogging is becoming more mainstream. Google is a shopper’s best friend.
Not enough retailers appear to be aware of the online discussions taking place around their stores or competitors. At the very least, they should be monitoring online conversation.
Once I had an employee from a North American retail chain get involved in the discussion about a change in their return policy. She seemed quite jaded and her comments towards customers were somewhat harsh. Another employee chimed in who would have made a great online ambassador. She told us the policy had been overturned after a three-month trial period and that the company does listen to customer feedback about such issues. Unfortunately, both employees remained anonymous except for initials. The company would have benefited by having a social media policy in place to govern employee behaviour online and possibly cultivating online ambassadors who could openly engage in online conversations with customers and potential customers.
What do you think the future of the fashion/shopping blogging trend will be in the next decade?
The next decade? Online technology and adoption is moving at such a rapid pace that I’d be remiss to predict what it will be like even two years from now. However, I think we’ll see more online conversations with more brands participating. We’ll see a greater reliance on peer reviews and online customer review communities. I think online shopping will increase, especially as 3D web becomes commonplace and the barriers to entry decrease.