They say nothing in life is free.
Except it is, according to the latest guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority, who want bloggers to start using the hashtag #freebie when an item has been gifted or sent for review purposes.
Using the hashtag #freebie on social media is fair enough, I initially thought, if you have indeed been given a product for free.
Until I thought about it a little harder, and realised it’s not fair enough at all. And I won’t be using the hashtag #freebie.
Why I won’t be using the hashtag #freebie
I’m all for being transparent – you will find all my paid-for content clearly labelled ‘#ad’ or ‘#sponsored’ at the beginning with a disclosure detailing the nature of the collaboration either within the copy or at the end – but to trivialise a review, which involves testing a product or visiting an experience; writing about it; taking and editing pictures and uploading that content to multiple platforms with the hashtag #freebie is, quite frankly, insulting.
There’s nothing free about spending your (valuable) time researching the background of a product or brand in order to write an informed review of it, there’s nothing free about the time it takes to shoot and edit images and there’s nothing free about building a brand that results in other brands wanting to send and offer you things for ‘free’.
As Nell Heshram, who blogs at The Pigeon Pair & Me, puts it in a post on why it’s time for the ASA to treat bloggers and influencers fairly over on the BritMums website, the trouble is these rules are often made by people who have little or no understanding of what it is a blogger actually does.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the ASA has come under fire for how it regulates online content (BritMums quite rightly highlight the glaring contradictions in rules for online and print content, for example) and it won’t be the last.
In the meantime, I won’t be using the hashtag #freebie. I think it’s misleading, it undermines what it is a blogger actually does and I think it sets a dangerous precedent: that products or experiences sent in exchange for review are perks, and not part of the job.
Instead I’ll continue to tag my ‘freebies’ with the hashtags #gifted and #review, which I think far better reflect the nature of the content and relationships I have with brands. And I’ll be joining BritMums, who have coined the hashtag #nofreebie. Because, as we’ve already established, nothing in life is free.
What do you think? Are you a blogger and how do you feel about the term #freebie? Do you use it, or do you prefer to use another kind of disclosure? I’d love to hear your point of view!