I have seen many recent posts and questions concerning tea blogging and our value to both the consumer and the industry. There is also a community established on G+ for discussion of these and other issues.
Many of the posts seem somewhat controversial, in addition to posing the age old question, How to make money from what we do?
I’ve had several conversations with the three communities (bloggers, industry leaders, consumers) and found these questions biased or unclear in many respects.
I ask myself several questions
Why do I blog? – To have a voice in a community that I adore.
What about readership? – This point does not concern me as much, I write to share my thoughts.
Every once in a while I wonder if I have an audience as many people do not leave comments although my Google analytics number indicates people are reading.
Writer vs. Blogger – there is a difference in my mind. I do not consider myself a writer per say, as I am not trained as such.
Though pearls of wisdom sometimes find a home on the page. I consider blogging a more informal method of communication.
What is my responsibility as a blogger? – To keep some type of continuity to the number of posts I create (currently, on average 3 per month) providing information of interest or education to the best of my ability or musing.
To keep my commitments to my host site, my patrons, and myself.
Blogging vs. Marketing – I have chosen to separate the two, as they are mutually exclusive in my focus.
I personally get bored with blogs that constantly promote their products. In my e-store I have a blog on the site that is dedicated to the topic children’s tea. This forum is where I market my product. I have tried to keep my general tea interest blog clear of marketing for myself, though I may write about products of others that I find new and exciting.
Speaking to someone in the industry the feeling is, writing a blog to be considered a blogger (for the benefit of press passes and such) must be an unrelated medium to a marketing blog.
I understand this point completely especially when it comes to attending shows. I consider it my responsibility, once committed to attendance, at no charge, my job and duty to focus on the event at hand. Attendance is not purely for my own enjoyment (networking, tasting, buying for my benefit and such) I am there to report on the event including conducting interviews with vendors and communicate within the various avenues available including social media.
I have in the past shied away from press pass requests as I like the flexibility of working the show, buying items for my company and writing about the event for the benefit of readers, without the extra burden of timely posts and professional photos. I leave this to the experts.
The requirement that a blogger with a press pass stick to certain guidelines and expectations is not unreasonable.
My Value As A Blogger – I blog and influence my readership good or bad to purchase product, investigate ideas, read other blogs, visit websites, come to your place of business, connect people, make a difference.
Tea Reviews – I have also stayed away from reviewing tea though on occasion I may write about teas that I try, I am also cognizant of my own palate so my reading of blogger sites that review tea is selective.
Note to tea reviewers: If I read your review and try the tea you rave about and it does not appeal to my palate, I get an idea about your palate and may not be willing to try your suggestion of the next best tea.
I have identified many bloggers that review tea and I have a list of those whose recommendations will be a must for me to try, as their palate is more aligned with mine.
Then there are those who have spent time and money searching out and specializing in certain tea variety, I may look to them for guidance as I approach my own exploration.
By the way I am a pure leaf kind of gal and only have a few blends on my shelf.
Once I receive them I am committed to try, make an unbiased assessment, and respond to supplier. I have a choice on how to approach this and utilize the many forums that are available. I may use a blog, social media or testimonial on their site to communicate my assessment. I also make a point to respond directly to supplier if the tea is not one I prefer.
I read something on Linked in recently from a tea retailer about bloggers requesting tea for review. I am not privy to the extent of his circumstance.
This was the question posed: “As a retailer how to discern the value of the blogger, reviewer etc to determine its value to you? How do you determine what is a good opportunity when inundated with requests for samples of teas?”
I want to share with him about my personal experience working with his company. I needed tea to be sent to a friend who had just lost her son. Wanting to get the tea there quickly, I felt using a local company would be expeditious. I asked for a recommendation from a blogger I respect, she gave me his name. I took a look on his website and made my choice though as it was a solemn occasion, I wanted specific packaging. I called in my order and mentioned that I was recommended by this blogger, not for any special consideration. I wanted to credit this bloggers value to his business. When I spoke to him I did not get a warm tea feeling, based on his comment I am more understanding of his response to me.
To the company owner note: not everyone wants something for free and the mentions you get from bloggers/reviewers have worth.
Also note my friend enjoyed the tea and now has become a customer you might have never had.
I have found that there is a question many retailers almost never ask “How did you find me” it is a simple question and worth the effort.
One could also make it hassle free online by creating a drop down on your check out page with a list of choices for your new customer to select and giving them a small surprise discount reward if they do.
Tea/Product Review – One thing I am clear about, I am not here for free tea.
I believe it is also my responsibility to support the industry I love. I will buy samples if they are available (please make them available for purchase I can’t always invest in 2 to 4 ounces and then find out the tea is not to my liking) and it will be highly possible I will spend more for a host of samples instead of one 2 to 4 ounce bag of tea to justify shipping costs.
Also note I am not beholden to you to write or give feedback to you about your tea it is at my discretion if I choose to communicate, so please do not flood my inbox with feedback requests :-).
Those of us selling tea and tea products are for the most part, small businesses every penny counts! We take the time to research, buy product, blend tea, keep abreast of the marketplace, attend industry shows/fairs and write about our findings. All these endeavors have a cost attached.
Making Money Doing What You Love – for many of us, currently an unrealized expectation
I don’t expect to make money with my blog that’s not why I created it. My e-store yes and this will come to pass. Some bloggers promote company ads on their sites I have no experience with this, though I have read that one should not look to become a millionaire from this alone.
Some bloggers offer their writing skills to retailers who have no time to focus on blogging. This is an area that I would like to see expanded and bloggers get compensated for.
We have a plethora of great writers in our mist, with amazing creativity and expertise that would welcome a job writing reviews/educational posts/travel posts and are willing to do the work it takes to complete.
More Information – By the way I will take the opportunity to plug an upcoming core conference offering at World Tea Expo 2013, “How to Use Blogging In Your Business” a must for anyone who would like to incorporate “Content Marketing” into their business. You will hear from a number of tea experienced blogger panelists who have used this medium in their marketing strategies. You will also have an opportunity to ask the questions you have on your mind.
FYI I am not a panelist 🙂
There are many avenues one can take to earn a living in this industry and just like any other industry it requires hard work and commitment.
As we romp among the tealeaves I hope we all will enjoy that “special cup”.
Thanks for reading, comments welcome.