Siân To is the founder of Cybher, a UK female blogger event. Also a founder of former mummy blogger event CyberMummy, Siân created Cybher to target all female bloggers rather than just mums. We asked Siân to explain her views on bloggers and their relationships with brands.
In 2010 I was already starting to feel the negativity surrounding mummy bloggers and with the second CyberMummy in 2011 we only made that worse. There were too many brand sponsors and too many bloggers on the take. We’d spawned this whole new generation of mums thinking that they could get all the freebies they could ever want, if they started a blog.
Brands were (and some still are) lacking in knowledge and so they started throwing product around like it was going out of fashion. Blog coverage became a tick box on client reports without anyone being asked to quantify quality, reach or return on investment.
Parent blogger networks and events like CyberMummy simply accelerated what was happening. A blogger didn’t have to be able to create a good blog or even string simple sentences together because, to the brands, they were still the next best thing.
Parent blogs were all about reviews. Even the more established bloggers were getting sucked in. People stopped writing about the passionate stuff that drew them to blogging in the first place and great content was replaced by lame, unoriginal reviews that swept the community.
Traffic stats started to be over-inflated, sponsored posts weren’t being declared, comment rings sprung up in closed Facebook groups and the community shared, over shared and shouted about just how much money they’d been able to screw out of brand and how they only had a couple of blog visitors a week.
So I created Cybher, a conference event for all female bloggers, not just mums.
From the outset, Cybher was the cool event in town. Bloggers didn’t feel it was appropriate to beg for personal brand sponsors to fund their adventure and I didn’t want Cybher to turn into that. I concentrated on creating good content and workshops that were run by inspiring speakers.
The women buying Cybher tickets were established bloggers with loyal readers, reach and influence. They weren’t the new breed of blagger bloggers.
I limited brand sponsor opportunities, banned the crappy swag bag mentality and secured a partnership with The Leather Satchel Company that allowed me to gift every delegate a bespoke Cybher Leather Satchel that could be used forever more.
Post event, sales went through the roof for The Leather Satchel Company and we proved that brands could still benefit from working with the right bloggers.
My biggest disappointment was that Cybher was still being classed as a mummy blogger event. I turned away so many interested brand sponsors because I refused to compromise and allow baby brands in.
In order to further differentiate myself from the parent blogger events, I focused hard on best practice, produced factually accurate content and encouraged bloggers to learn and make informed decisions about the way they conduct themselves. Criticism came (it was only to be expected) after we publicly announced that links in Cybher sidebar badges had all been made no-follow. The reason? Well Cybher is a commercial business and as such our little ‘See you at Cybher’ badges could be seen as ads by Google and we weren’t willing to risk that.
We are confident in the natural growth of our site’s page rank because of the content we post. We aren’t about boosting numbers in order to shout about our huge influence to any brand or agency willing to part with their budget in return for event sponsorship or useless Twitter parties.
Our best practice approach ruffled a fair few feathers and people were shouting from the rooftops about Cybher being the blogging police and that we had interpreted Google’s T&Cs incorrectly. We stuck firm, and slowly (and very quietly) others began to follow our lead.
I want what I do to be different. I don’t see any point in replicating what’s already been done and I certainly don’t try to screw every brand for every possible penny they have and then fail to deliver any tangible results. I want brands to want to work with Cybher again and that mentality works.
Cybher 2014 has been confirmed for Saturday 31 May 2014 at 8 Northumberland Avenue. Sian will also be running a master class called, ‘Effective Blogger Outreach in 10 Easy Steps’ at Social Media Week London on 24 September.