Opinion | On Reviews and Credibility

stylelab opinion on reviews and credibility

When you’re buying and receiving a lot of beauty products to test for the site you do end up with some ‘bad‘ products. And by bad I mean in the sense that they do not fit me due to various reasons. Some might be personal and sometimes when a lot of people agree on this, it might actually be that the product is lacking in some aspects.

Are bloggers losing their credibility?

More than once I stumbled upon a Twitter conversation questioning the credibility of some bloggers regarding the items they receive and stating that they lack critical reviews. And rightfully so. You have to be critical about everything you hear, read and see, no matter where the info comes from. Does that mean all gifted posts are biased? It depends. I do believe gifted products are more likely to be blogged about. I mostly give priority to gifted items over the ones I bought myself simply because of the huge amount of products that need to be written about outnumber the limited amount of time I have to actually do it. But stating that all of these posts the products are viewed more positively would defy the true meaning of what a blog supposed to be. And as I am a blogger myself (who’s lucky to be provided of testing material every once and a while) I will strongly deny that is the case, at least for my own blog. I can’t speak on behalf of others since I don’t have a clue about their work ethics.

Anyone who reads my blog will know I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty on some subjects. So why would it be any different for product reviews? I think being honest about your experiences is the main charm of blogs and staying true to yourself and your readers is extremely important. I even use my own blog as a reference to keep track of the things I tried and (dis)liked in the past and use those experiences for future purchases.

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So the big question is; why aren’t there that many negative reviews? The response I often hear: ‘because they are gifted’ doesn’t make any sense to me. Most bloggers are not paid for these reviews and why would anyone want to receive a product that sucks anyway? Any thoughts, because it’s a bit confusing..

All of these things put aside.. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Bloggers are only human, and sometimes they’re persuaded to pick the forbidden fruit. There have been times when I heard a blogger say they thought the quality of brand X sucked. But when there were exclusive event invites and presents that were handed out; they happily accepted them and afterwards stated brand X was one of their favorite brands. You have to be aware that it happens.

Staying positive

So why aren’t we seeing more negative reviews? I’ve confronted some bloggers with this issue and I keep on getting the same response that they are trying to maintain a positive vibe on their blogs. And I get where they’re coming from. You’re trying so hard to create this positive experience for your readers, using beautiful pictures and carefully written texts, in the hopes of making them regulars. And you also want to create this positive feeling for yourself. It’s one thing to mention a product you think is bad. Spending hours on a post for a product you really don’t like is something else. By overthinking all of the reasons why it is you don’t like this product, you’re surrounding yourself with negativity, and that can be very tiring and difficult to keep up in the long run. I blog as a hobby and there are other ways I’d like to spend my free time that are more positive. So yes, I tend to avoid blogging about these products, but that doesn’t make me any less critical.

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I like to arrange my product reviews into 3 categories; 1) products I really like 2) products I think are okay (depending on the traits I’m looking for in the product) and 3) the products I don’t like. The products in the second category are the hardest to write about.

A word of advice

Bear in mind that as a blogger your credibility is your best asset when it comes to building and maintaining a following of readers. Your readers will reward you with their loyalty as long as they know you are straight with them. If your readers feel you are too biased in your product reviews you will lose credibility and your readers will lose their faith in what you have to say.

My golden review tips for bloggers:

On reviewing

  • learn to say no: only review stuff you would actually buy yourself as if you were just another ‘normal’ customer in a store (in other words, things that pique your interest)
  • let the company or person whose asking you to review a product know you’ll be fair and unbiased in your review. This isn’t the easiest step as a lot of brands will simply send you random stuff once they get your address. I’d personally prefer it if they contacted me first so I could tell them if I was interested or not. It’s not always the case.
  • publish a disclaimer somewhere on your blog in which you discuss some of your key ethics on reviewing
  • be a consumer first, then a blogger (what would you tell your friends when they asked you about it?)
  • never ever accept an offer from a brand to write a ‘good’ review when you haven’t even tried the product yet or you don’t like it.. even if they want to pay you.
  • always do your research

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Dislike a product?

  • keep the balance: hey, it’s okay…to talk about the things you dislike. Just try to find a certain balance between the positivity and negativity. For example: explain where the product is lacking and offer suggestions for improvement
  • emo is a no-go: don’t be emotional and keep it short or your post will turn into an incoherent rant
  • sprinkle it with humour: use humour to take the emphasis away from the negativity
  • be objective and use neutral language: not “bad” or “terrible“, but “this didn’t work for me” or “I didn’t like“. It is personal after all.

My golden blog tips for readers:

  • get in touch: don’t be afraid to contact the bloggers you follow if they have any experience with a product you’re interested in. I’m sure they have so much advice to give on products, good or bad, but too little time or space to share it on their blogs.
  • blogger expertise: a blogger does not an expert make. Everyone can be a blogger, so it might be interesting to check their background before you blindly follow their every opinion.
  • subjectivity: a blogger’s review is subjective, it’s based on experience and expectations that might not be the same as yours. What doesn’t work for them, might be great for you and vice versa. Try to read as many posts on the product as possible.

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Blogger Ethics

America is way ahead of us when it comes to blogging, so it’s no wonder they have put together a list of guidelines bloggers need to follow when talking about products that were gifted, ads or posts they were paid to do. (This blogger explains everything nice & clear). To date, there has been any legal document that lists rules for online platforms in Europe. We’re basically free to do whatever we want. Lucky? Or does this create some sort of unfair competition between the bloggers who do enclose a disclaimer and the ones who don’t? And this goes even beyond that. What about magazines, celebrities or even the sales people at the beauty counter (they also get commissions based on what they sell)? Do they need to mention it as well? That’s a tough cookie.

In case you’d like to start disclosing, here’s a nice post with some tips on how you can do it.

The big Q

So my question for you guys; how do you feel about the bloggers’ credibility? Do you want to read more negative reviews? Do you rely on these reviews even when you know the product was gifted? Do you think negative reviews make a blog more credible?

And bloggers, have you ever felt the pressure to write a positive review? Do you think there’s a need for a general code of conduct (with guidelines) amongst bloggers regarding reviews? Do you have some other advice on reviewing & disclaimers?

Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I’m only an individual and therefore I do not represent the blogosphere. Obv.
Sources: WWD, Twitter, IFB, FTC