Business Education

How giving freebies to bloggers can backfire

Offering swag, access or money to bloggers for product reviews doesn’t generate more positive response

Blogger swiping cheese out of a mousetrap

(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)

Giving bloggers free stuff doesn’t necessarily bring positive endorsements, according to researchers from Penn State University. The study surveyed 173 tech bloggers who received free products and other compensations for reviews. The bloggers reported feeling more empowered in exercising their leverage with companies, rather than indebted to them.

“The idea behind this is that if someone is paying you, or someone is giving you a really cool product, you may be more likely to write more positively about product,” says Marcia DiStaso, associate professor of public relations at Penn State. “We found that a lot of bloggers don’t think they are in the role of influencers, but they clearly are.”

Bloggers explained they approach public relations representatives for stories and not as a source of income, while public relations indicated they approach bloggers to make their products and services known to the public and not as a way for endorsement. “The bloggers want to write a review about a product and you can’t do a review without the product,” said DiStaso. “At some point there has to be a balancing of needs.”

Bloggers also realize that writing positive reviews for bad products would hurt their credibility with readers, and ethical public relations representatives would not use compensations to try to win favours with bloggers. “Asking for a positive review for compensation would kill a relationship with a blogger,” said DiStaso. “No one benefits when a relationship is entered into with the expectations of a positive review.”