No mummy bloggers allowed – Why I founded Cybher
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.
Can i just ask something – so what if people blog for collaboration with companies? Some people might call that a job? Look at the top bloggers…pretty much every single post that they write is dripping in sponsorship and pr samples yet it’s the newbies that are getting ‘told off’ for wanting to follow in their foot steps. There are no rules to blogging and there certainly shouldn’t be a rule as to who can and can’t attend events.
I agree that companies need to be more considerate in choosing who to give things out to but at the same time is that really any of our business on who does what with their blog?
Don’t exclude the Mummy bloggers just because you want to stand out from the crowd.
Whilst I agree with some of the things you say I also have to disagree too
I’m a bit confused. So are mums not allowed at CybHer?
Great article and very timely. Sian may have used some generalisations but it’s no mystery who she’s talking about? It’s self-evident from the blogs. Perhaps all of you responding with that self-righteous, bitchy tone so often heard in the forums of certain bloggers networks with ‘mum’ in the title are a little worried she might mean you?
It used to be easy to find great blogs to read, with thoughtful insights into parenting, society, gardening or OCD, but now more and more posts are sponsored, reviews or (worst of all) competitions to win a spa day or kids yoga-wear. It’s all become a bit church fete – amatuer and tacky without the religiosity.
Mind you, some of these women have inflexible, narrow views to rival the most committed religious fundo, tearing into anyone who doesn’t share them with a haughty rudeness that alienates just as many as this article is purported to have done. And that thing where you go tell all your mates so they can pile in too? Not cool.
I’m not sure what a mummy blogger is. I’m a freelance writer, a mother and I blog. Maybe I’m one – but I know I don’t have enough in common with them to be part of the clique – nor do I want to be. It’s disappointing that these primarily female groups always end up conforming to the backstabbing, catty stereotype. I know of blogging groups on Facebook that have been shut down because of the vitriolic comments and infighting.
Those of you imploring for celebration of differences amongst bloggers might want to take your message there first.
From what I can see Sian has called it like it is, and her emphasis on quality content and best practice is nothing new – it’s always been the mantra for successful blogging.
Contamination from the oily influence of brands has spread across the blogosphere and changed it from something motivated by creativity to something motivated by money. Reader trust is being eroded . Bloggers in brand pockets lose their integrity and it won’t be long before the blogs with the least brand affiliation will carry the most value in terms of trustable content.
Kudos to Sian for offering a lifeline to those caught in the brand net. If any of you self-styled entrepreneurs actually cared about your industry, you’d be less defensive and more considered in your responses.
I agree with much of what Sian has written, if not perhaps the tone.
As soon as any metric is introduced, be it Cision or the Tots100 or whatever, people look for ways to manipulate it, whether it’s closed FB groups, or comment circles or whatever, it’s sad that it happens. It probably happens outside of parent blogging but, taking the lead from the US, parents are particularly targeted by brands so it becomes more “important” to have good figures.
I’ve seen people review baby products when they don’t have babies, link to ebay days after they’ve received a product to review- the list goes on and on. And I have met people who are proud of how much they have managed to screw out of PR’s, as Sian put it.
I’ve see 10 people post a sponsored post within an hour of each other on the same subject with only a minority disclosing it too.
You can bury your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t happen but it doesn’t make it go away.
I would love to see a link to these “comment circles”.
If by that you mean Linkys, then way to go upsetting yet another faction of bloggers! There are some amazingly successful linkys which have been running for many years. Facebook groups are what they are- there are plenty to choose from and no one asks you to join or stay with one you don’t like. Likewise, I’m sure plenty of private emails and DMs go flying back and forth with a much smaller readership party to them.
I fail to see how one could manipulate scores from Tots, Klout etc, which are all available for whoever wants to view them, and, in the case of the Tots (which I’m not a member of for the record) it’s done automatically by a tech wizard, no one is asked to provide their own stats. Again, I’m not a fan of stat lists or rankings in general but I don’t think it’s fair to make a comment that they can be manipulated when they can’t.
With regards selling of items, I’m sure Parent bloggers are far from the only one’s who do that, beauty bloggers often sell items they’ve reviewed on their blogs, and I’m sure journalists must sell the odd freebie as well. I give anything my children have grown out of to charity (I volunteer in a pop up charity shop). I personally don’t review unless its relevant to me, I am known for popping up on Twitter and offering a review opp to an interested party.
Yes, there will always be those who manipulate the system, and who set up a blog with the wrong intention (when I set mine up in 2006 there was not a hint of a freebie, post, or anything other than a comment), but that is a very small minority and prevalent in more than just the parent blogger circuit.
Bloggers work really hard at what they do, whatever type they are. If the post wasn’t meant to be construed in a certain way then unfortunately with even the best intentions it has been. The best idea is to now apologise, rather than making excuses.
On the whole, I think this is an insightful article. I went to Cybher and think Sian is a clever lady. But the apparent desperation that Sian felt to disassociate herself with mummy bloggers leaves me feeling a bit baffled. Why would she think that people who blog about kids and family life would blag or break blogging rules more than any other type of blogger?
I’m not sure whether the headline and the negative lines about mummy bloggers are designed to ruffle feathers and get everyone talking about Cybher, or whether they were just a bad judgment call, but either way, I’m a bit susprised by it.
I stumbled upon this post yesterday, hot off the press and stood back after reading it. Today I have re read it and the comment I saved yesterday still stands:
I am saddened by the tone of this post. While I see that a number of points raised are valid and the sad reality, there are also some sweeping generalisations. The post, to me, reads like a sensationalised article in the Daily Mail rather than the professional voice that I have known the author to have.
With regards to the brand – blogger relationship, is it really that different to the more traditional brand- journalist/celebrity/media person relationship? Complimentary products and services get exchanged for coverage. For example I can’t really see any of the traditional print press travel supplements existing without heavy (and not obviously stated) sponsorship from interested parties. Am I totally wrong?
Through this new blend of social media and traditional press we have the power to instigate change! I commend anyone who picks up the batten for this.
There is so much more potential to brand-blogger relationships too, than what brands and bloggers are getting out of it at the moment. That pool of “mummy bloggers” has some incredible talent, resourcefulness encapsulated in it’s ranks!
Finally, I am a mummy blogger, proud of it and really enjoyed both Cybher 12 and Cybher13 too. Thanks to events like this I feel I am a much better blogger (and know I have far to go still.) Yet I’m not sure how to interpret the title: Am I really not welcome at Cybher14?… this is the part that saddens me most.
I can see this article from both points of view.
The sweeping generalisations were a bad idea. It wasn’t worded very sensitively and I can understand why bloggers are taking offense.
I can also understand what Sian is saying about quality content, building readerships first, and learning from her own experiences in the industry.
I am a mummy blogger who writes reviews. I have no problem with the label. Maybe I’m a blagger, maybe I’m not. I only work with brands I like, I do my best on SEO and my reviews are some of my most searched blog pages. I intersperse reviews with personal content.
I wasn’t offended by this article. It’s one persons opinion. It has rings of truth in it around disclaimers and people starting blogs purely for freebies, but I’d hope that self respecting bloggers wouldn’t violate those things. It also has parts I disagree with, or feel could have ben worded more kindly.
I’d like to attend Cybher to learn some more about things like SEO and building readership. I’d like to meet female bloggers from other genres than parenting. I am still a mummy blogger.
Of course people may accuse me of bias so I will chose my words very carefully.
As an ex-advertising sales manager within regional newspapers, I have watched the shift of ad spend from traditional to social media with a mixture of interest and bewilderment. We had to sell advertising on the back of independently audited results and collect data on our publications in a format which was accepted by media and advertisers alike. Failure to do this would lead to serious decline in sales. Whilst I appreciate social media is new and developing, there seems to be no industry accepted and relied upon means of measuring blogs. So I look at what is happening with my old and cynical eyes and admit to much jealousy as serious money is being thrown at blogs without the justifications that we had to (in the old days).
Anyway, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that sooner or later this will have to change as Marketing Directors at brands start to ask some obvious questions.
Although you may think, what is all this got to do with Sian’s article? Well, I would suggest based on actually READING the piece, several times that she is actually trying to give some important pointers for bloggers who are serious about their blogs and also to brands who have been caught up in the social media “thing” without honestly understanding why.
In my experience there was resistance to change from us old boys to that thing called t’internet and I think there is a large change in blogging looming as to survive as a media it needs to get itself into shape. From the comments I have read and tweets I have scanned I can see the mistakes of my generation repeating itself, albeit on-line.
I can see some some real polarisation of views out there and some notable silences, which is disappointing. I am glad for the more zealous dissenters that libel laws haven’t really come into this arena yet, because in my day (again) we would certainly have taken some comments further.
As for the dissenters, seriously, read the piece again and see it for what it is. An honest and pragmatic view from someone who is at the forefront of your industry.
I’m not surprised at this post as the author has long believed herself to be somewhat above the rest of us normal bloggers. I did attend CybHer this year and thought some of the workshops were good, but it was spoiled for me by the cliquey atmosphere and a few ‘queen bee’ bloggers. Sorry, but Sian has bitten the hand that feeds her and im bored of her constant berating of bloggers who do reviews and sponsored posts and don’t keep to her rigid rules.
I’m a bit disappointed by this, I’ve done reviews in the past for sure but certainly not as many as some, but Im not about judging others and their choices. I desperately wanted to attend Cybher last year but couldn’t financially manage it. I don’t consider myself a ‘mummy blogger’ or feel that I have actively ever sought out free stuff, but I cant help but feel this is creating and fostering a ‘them and us’ in female bloggers which isn’t helpful. In truth I feel very strongly that women should support not denigrate each other, pointing out the faults in others alternate opinions and views and what’s ‘right & wrong’ feels like a bit of a low blow. I feel sad and a bit surprised by this post and what it suggests. Oh and I clearly haven’t been part of the right networks as I haven’t personally seen any comment rings or sharing/over sharing but thats maybe as my content isnt worth the effort.
What a shame. This had the potential to be a really informative and useful post, and yet it’s title and it’s sweeping generalisations have served to alienate a huge section of the blogging community. However many grains of truth may have initiated the sentiment in this article, they are so rashly over-inflated that they pay enormous disrespect to a very talented group of writers; and all for the purpose of putting the minority in it’s place. Such a shame.
my partner is a mummy blogger and i am a harsh critic of many things. i heard your post has caused a mini uproar and was asked to read this for my opinion.
i think you are clearly a proud blogger who is very brand conscious – as in your brand a blogger and PR. With my very limited knowledge of other parent blogs I know first hand how bad some blogs can be, and have seen the blaggers at work.
people seem to have the opinion that you are against parent blogs from this post. i read this as something different, that you are against blagging bloggers, and suggesting that parent blogging as a media source is infested with blaggers?
what is your opinion on quality parent blogs who also take the perks of the trade in equal measure? who perhaps still write with their original passion, but take freebies because they can?
I am sat here a little stunned after reading this, I am not sure what to say but i do feel i have to defend myself as I personally blog about in part my children but also about many other factors within my life … does that make me solely a mummy blogger?? does that make my blog not worthy of reading?
I may of missed the point however surely the fact we all blog in such different ways about different things should be celebrated not mocked or labelled? bring on differences and let celebrate them not belittle them.
Bitter much? Reads like a mummy blogger who wanted the brands all to herself – and became upset with the number of other good, up-and-coming writers stealing her thunder. Oh and by the way, brilliant way of alienating a huge portion of your potential customers.
I am a mother and a blogger, I wouldn’t describe myself as a mummy blogger though I know others do. I find a lot of comments in this post pretty offensive with sweeping generalizations:
“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” < I would say that reviews are not solely done on parent blogs, fashion and beauty blogs can be very review heavy – are they somehow 'more preferable' to Cybher ? If a blogger wishes to write a review why should they be made to feel bad for it? And there are also some jolly superb and creative reviews out there.
"Traffic stats started to be over-inflated, sponsored posts weren’t being declared," < May be this happens in some cases, but not all and it's not some rife problem that is the scourge of mummy blogging.
"Comment rings sprung up in closed Facebook groups" < So what? What possible harm comes from that?!
"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." < I've never seen that…
I do like this post.. It’s good to have different communities for different things.. I have been sucked in to the sponsored post/review thing and for a time got lost in it…. I guess I was made to think through your post about passion which shines through when someone is writing for them , not anyone else. I started my blog about PND and I guess it was about helping people.. My blog has since grown arms and legs now but I feel I was grounded again after reading this.
I am I guess, a mummy blogger but I’m also a ranter and raver, and I blog about what I feel feminism means to me.. I think we need all types if bloggers for inspiration and for debate etc..
Thanks! Yeah he & his sister seeemd to love being out in the garden again after so long. Not ofr too long though it was still pretty cold.
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