Businesses and Blogs: A Love-Hate Relationship
In researching the role of sex bloggers for the debut of the NoveltyBiz section’s Blogger Spotlight, I reached out to some of the professionals I assumed were benefitting from the increased attention that sex toys were getting thanks to the rise of the blogosphere. However, I was introduced to a volatile business-to-blogger dynamic that almost resembled that of a couple of exes trying to reconcile but plagued by deception, exploitation and shortsighted interactions.
Raw, unedited and uncensored, the role of the sex blogger is perceived by outsiders as that of a connoisseur and educator. Opinionated writers that wear their sexuality on their sleeve put on their “expert” hats and dole out words of advice, glorification and condemnation of anything sex-related — and that doesn’t exclude the sex toy companies that furnish sex toys for free, for them to review.
While criticism can be helpful to consumers and manufacturers alike — on the web it’s the scandalous manufacturers and the degradation of their products that goes viral, and fuels resentment from the industry that enables it. The burning of bridges is inevitable when a blogger turns on the companies that have invested time and money in developing a partnership. An October XBIZ.net thread showed that there is no fool-proof way to dealing with the tribulations that social media presents.
Pipedream Products’ Kevin Johnson said: “Let’s just say it’s a defective product or they’re complaining that they don’t like it. You can publically say you’re sorry they’re unhappy and a representative will help them immediately.
“If you spell out how you help the customer, especially if you’re going outside your warranty policy to replace something you technically don’t have to, then you’re inviting an onslaught of people hitting you up for free stuff. Say it’s on a Forum in Eden Fantasys, where someone has called you out on a rumor circling about what your product is really made of, or the quality of an item. If you don’t respond publicly, then other people are going to think you’re just skirting the issue … that doesn’t look good.”
Smear Internet ad campaigns, open letters to the industry and blatantly terrible reviews are rampant in the sex toy blogosphere, however when it comes to publicity, even bad press has its benefits. Kevin will admit that “there’s the bloggers who take a negative news story and help it spread around the world in a matter of hours or minutes. When something like this goes viral, no matter if it’s a positive or negative news story we see a spike in traffic on our website and social networking followers because everyone loves a scandal!”
One of my favorite blogs, ScarySexToyFriday.com, comically rips apart “scary” sex toys every Friday — is the author setting the fetish biz back by shaming their niche products? I don’t think so. Much like a Celebrity Roast, ScarySexToyFriday.com is honoring the eccentricity of product design by making fun of it and if the comments are any indication, consumers are eating it up and possibly opening their minds to the full spectrum of bedroom freakiness.
Some companies are benefiting from establishing massive networks of qualified bloggers — such as CalExotics with its Sexperts program that closely monitors the reviews, reaction and web traffic of its bloggers month to month — however such an operation requires investments of money, time and man power that not everyone is willing to shell out.
The ultimate solution is balance. Establish a relationship with a blogger by appealing to them personally and materialistically. It’s not necessary to woo reviewers with costly product — an ethical blogger will entertain an introductory - level freebie and/or a press release that speaks to them with just as much enthusiasm. While steering through the sea of bloggers, companies should embrace their advocates — though not the point where it affects a blogger’s credibility with biased reviews — and engage critics just enough to where any misconceptions are cleared up, otherwise they end up looking like that bitter ex.