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This is it. I’m fucking done.
Video killed the radio star. I’m killing the mommy blog.
You won’t want to hear any of this, but someone needs to tell you.
Let me preface with a few important things. I
am was a mommy blogger. I have three kids, and I’m popping out another one this fall. I have a background in marketing and had “real jobs” in the “real world” working with PR teams on the daily. I started this blog in 2013, thinking I could combine my writing talents with professional experience and rock this new industry of influencer marketing (before it was called that). And I did, I guess.
The American Mama reached tens of thousands of readers monthly, and under that name I worked with hundreds of big name brands on sponsored campaigns. I am a member of virtually every ‘blog network’ and agency that “connects brands with bloggers”. I’ve attended all their conferences and been invited on free trips to swim with dolphins and sip bougie cocktails in exchange for instagram snaps. I even founded and briefly promoted my own company, American Mama Media, working as the middle man between the hundreds of pitches I was receiving each week and the tribe of bloggers I’d collected information and stats from.
I hosted dozens of giveaways sponsored by brands wanting me to promote their products. I gained hundreds and then thousands of email subscribers, and social media followers, by requiring a follow in exchange for a giveaway entry. I used social media management services to connect with similar bloggers on twitter and instagram, and then unfollow those who didn’t return the follow. I paid a virtual assistant to post my links in round ups all over the internet, for back links and extra traffic. I joined blog directory sites, where asking readers for clicks sends you to the top of the list, and some PR intern googling “mom blogs” then finds you when they want someone to review their product. I sent out my media kit with embellished stats and highlights about my ‘targeted audience of mothers who make purchasing decisions for their household’ and negotiated my rates for free products and paid reviews.
I made thousands of dollars during months I was focusing and working hard to dig through box after box of shitty as-seen-on-tv like products and share “my 100% honest opinion” about them, that weren’t at all influenced by the page after page of “key messages” the brand requested that I include in my review. You won’t find most of those posts on this blog today. They aren’t gone forever, and I do plan to revive some of them. But for the most part, they are dead and I want them to stay buried forever. Because, like 90% of the fake nonsense I used to share on the internet as a mommy blogger writing about my fake life and oh-so-happy marriage, they are pure bullshit.
And yet here we are. So there’s my “I’ve been there” argument. Now for fuck’s sake, please listen to me and understand that I mean this in the most loving and well-intentioned manner:
Your mommy blog fucking sucks.
//nobody is reading your shit
I mean no one. Even the people you think are reading your shit? They aren’t really reading it. The other mommy bloggers sure as hell aren’t reading it. They are scanning it for keywords that they can use in the comments. “So cute! Yum! I have to try this!” They’ve been told, like you, that in order to grow your brand, you must read and comment on other similar-sized and similar-themed blogs. The people clicking on it from Pinterest aren’t reading it. They are looking for your recipe, or helpful tip promised in the clickbait, or before and after photo, then they might re-pin the image, then they are done. The people sharing it on Facebook? They aren’t reading it either. They just want to say whatever it is your headline says, but can’t find the words themselves. Your family? Nope. They are checking to make sure they don’t have double chins in the photos you post of them, and zoning in on paragraphs where their names are mentioned.
Why? Because your shit is boring. Nobody cares about your shampoo you bought at Walmart and how you’re so thankful the company decided to work with you. Nobody cares about anything you are saying because you aren’t telling an engaging story. You are not giving your readers anything they haven’t already heard. You are not being helpful, and you are not being interesting. If you are constantly writing about your pregnancy, your baby’s milestones, your religious devotion, your marriage bliss, or your love of wine and coffee…. are you saying anything new? Anything at all? Tell me something I haven’t heard before, that someone hasn’t said before. From a different perspective, or making a new point at the end at least if I have to suffer through a cliche story about your faceless, nameless kid.
You’re writing in an inauthentic voice about an unoriginal subject, worse if sprinkled with horrible grammar and spelling, and you are contributing nothing to the world but static noise.
//there’s no way in hell you are actually that happy
Why do you put exclamation points after every fucking sentence!? Why is this a thing?? I get it, you want to be seen as positive and really excited about a brand or product or experience or whatever the hell you’re writing about. But nobody talks like that in real life. If you do, nobody actually likes being around you. Love my hubby, love my life, love my kiddos, love jesus, love cupcakes, love it all! No. You are not that happy in your every day life. Nobody buys it. And if they do, you’re just making them feel bad about themselves. You’re watering down all the rest of your content because every single subject cannot possibly be that exciting. People are not idiots. As a reader, I cannot connect to someone who writes like they are hard-selling broccoli to kindergarteners.
Life has dark days. Real and raw is relatable. Even if your personal style is only focusing on the positive in life, you can do it without sounding cheap and robot-like. Relying on punctuation to make your point is weak writing. If you are telling a story and telling the truth, you can let the world know how much you love something without using an exclamation point at the end of every sentence.
Side note: The last brand I worked with sent me back my blog post draft edited with at least a half dozen exclamation points added. It may or may not have slightly inspired this post and my attitude about finally saying fuck it, I’m writing only what I want, when I want whether that means I’ll lose sponsored work or not. What’s the point of having your own space to write if you’re being paid to sound like you work for a corporation?
//your goals are just as confused as you
What are your goals? At all the conferences I’ve attended and in all the Facebook groups, I hear women with the same answers. “To gain traffic. To grow my blog.” But why? What are you going to do with that traffic? What’s the point of any of it?
Do you handcraft brilliantly unique things and you want to promote your Etsy shop? Are you an excellent writer and you want to connect with people who read and relate to your stories? I’m guessing no. I’m guessing you’re a bored housewife or working mom who has heard that blogging can earn you some extra cash. You like getting free products and feeling like you are a special snowflake. No. Just no. If your entire goal is to make money, please quit. Go get a traditional job.
I’m not saying you can’t make money like that. There are endless numbers of brands and companies just now jumping on the blogging bandwagon, willing to send you free products and pay you a measly $150 a post for way more hours of work to use the product, photograph, edit, write about, and promote than you’ll even admit to yourself. If that’s your goal, fine. But how long term is that? Who are your loyal readers?
//you are wasting your money
So you paid $434 for a conference ticket, $389 for a flight, $252 for a hotel that you’re sharing with your bloggy-bff, $150 for a new outfit that makes you look more professional than the torn yoga pants you wear every day, and $30 for business cards to make sure you don’t miss a single networking opportunity. Oh, and last week you paid $45 for a new WordPress theme to make sure your blog looked conference ready. You were so excited to meet some top execs from the big brands they promised would be mingling in your cocktail hour. But now you’ve sat through a day of speakers and realized only one thing: that you’re doing everything wrong.
Because they are experts, right? God, if only you were so smart and able to get such amazing partnerships like these big bloggers and business women. So now, you better go pay $3500 for a web designer to make your site look professional, because they said no one gets work if they are using a cheap template with bad coding. And you really have to put your social icons at the top right of your page, because if not, no PR manager will take the time to click through your page. And if you don’t have the exact location and age of your children listed in your about profile, you also won’t be worth a dime. Oh, and personality? Save that for somewhere else, brand managers don’t have time to read your cute story about who you are.
But at least now you’ve got solid advice on how to grow your following right? You can’t wait to get home and use the six pages of notes you scribbled down during sessions, gaining so many new followers on social media and using their proven formulas for popular digestible posts. A list of ten things? Brilliant. But you’ll need a subscription to a stock photo service, at least until you can buy yourself a DSLR camera for $500 and take that $195 photography course they said was a must-take. And now all you have to do is post 11 times on Facebook, scheduled of course, daily, and then 23 times on Pinterest, but make sure you’re sharing other bloggers’ content too. And retweet, don’t forget — wait. Slow the fuck down.
How can you not see these conferences, and better-your-blog courses, are just making money off of you? If they had the secrets to success, don’t you think they would be running their own successful blogs? Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, in any given room of those 500+ women attending, how many of those will actually be blogging in a year? Five years? It’s a waste of your money. Everything you need to know can be learned by trial and error, or taking a course in a specific subject you’d like to better yourself in.
There is an entire industry waiting to take advantage of your insecurities when you want to be a better blogger, and in reality all they are doing is shoving tips down your throat about how to make their jobs easier, how to put more money in their pockets by building an army of cookie-cutter bloggers who will keep paying for conference tickets and ‘exclusive’ insider info. The more mediocre bloggers they have with the exact same design layout and the exact same voice, the easier they can sell themselves to clients willing to pay them tens of thousands of dollars for a few reports showing ridiculous monthly page view stats. In the end, you get chosen for one $150 post every couple of months, a headache and a half trying to write a shitty post on your boring blog, and you spent 4x that amount becoming a part of their clique. Maybe you met one or two interesting people while all those other bloggers were trying to get their business card in your face.
You are wasting your money and they are laughing all the way to the bank.
//pr friendly = “I have no soul”
Have you seen this in your “favorite” blogger’s twitter bio? Maybe it’s listed in your media kit. Hell, you might even have it as a link on your blog menu with contact info for brands to reach you. Do you know what this says? PR Friendly says “For the right price, I will be anyone you want me to be.”
It screams desperation and says you really have no idea what the hell you are doing – just that you are willing to do backflips for basically any company that will throw a big enough bone in your direction. Oh, but let me guess, you’re a lifestyle blogger? I blog about our life, so really I can cover a variety of topics and brands. No. I used to say that shit too. What you’re really saying is that you have no direction and although you may be passionate about one hobby or particular area of life, you’re too scared to narrow that down because what if you decide to write only about one thing and you could have so many more opportunities with different products your family could use?
You see this a lot in blogging networks that work with big brands. “We’re looking for 100 bloggers to come up with out of the box ways to show your readers how they can use our bladder leakage products to make their lives more enjoyable! Write about your shitty kid not listening to you at the park and running off, and how you were able to chase him down without pissing your pants! Or, maybe brainstorm a creative craft or eco-friendly plant starter – the possibilities are endless!” Seriously? No. If your possibilities, and what you’re willing to write about, are endless, then you are doing it wrong.
Stop selling your soul for peanuts. You have no credibility left when you do this over and over.
//building your own prison with copycat guards
Do you really think that big companies see you as valuable? When I hear the argument that brands “need” bloggers, I die laughing. In a way, this is true, but not at all in the way you think. I could go on about this for hours and probably will write a dozen more posts about it.
Just ask yourself this: When a brand sends you a nice little note, pays you to write about their product, often asks you to buy it in store and take photographs of the place you picked it up in store, and includes a dozen bullet points of positive things you can say about their brand…. are you more likely, as a consumer, to purchase that brand in the future? And when a big brand runs a campaign that consists of 10 “rounds” over a series of several months, and by the end of it, they’ve paid pennies to thousands of women with mommy blogs to talk about their product, do you think they really care about your original outtake on life and trust you to market their brand? They just gained thousands of loyal customers, who are now terrified to ever speak poorly of that brand, and more likely to personally purchase their products on their weekly shopping trips.
Would you buy those products otherwise, and not just make them at home or buy cheaper alternatives? Do you really need twenty different beauty products for different body parts? Do you really need these materialistic things? Do you know how many products are introduced to the market every single day by big corporations and small companies, all hoping to snag the attention of women just like you? By running a mommy blog that readily accepts a hundred dollar bill and a box of sugared cereal in exchange for 300-400 words and some crappy iPhone pictures, you’re handing advertisers the keys to your home. They no longer have to deal with the middle man, marketing for billions on mass media and hopefully reaching you via television commercials and print ads. They are knocking directly on your door, convincing you why you need to buy their products, and patting you on the head for “helping” them to do so and telling all your friends. Congrats, mommy blogger, you’re such a great writer!
I’m not claiming some crazy conspiracy theory that all brands are out to get us and manipulate women into brand awareness and consumerism. But it’s not too far fetched. Midcentury advertising tactics, that did exactly that with no shame, are very well documented. Results of those campaigns, and how the marketing industry has improved upon those tactics to produce more sales, have been studied endlessly in the decades between then and now. Regardless, marketing is very much a copycat game. Whether or not this business model even works, or if a few corporations at the top have a team of psychologists studying the effect of influencer marketing on bottom line sales, the trends still trickle down.
The PR manager who just emailed you about receiving their crappy parenting book or colorful potty training tool? They have now adapted the exact same “rules” and guidelines of how to work with bloggers. They do not know any better when they offer you stuff in exchange for “exposure on their twitter!” or practically demand that you share only glowing sentiments in your reviews. And we won’t even get started on the legal issues that can arise when you sign contracts, without any legal experience or guidance, as an independent publisher for a company.
I know you want to take yourself seriously. But unfortunately most brands don’t. They are just testing the waters because it’s a cheap, trendy way of getting the word out about their products right now. They are using you to build your own prison of commercialism, and the sheer volume of copycat marketers and bloggers following along sets the standards and expectations of this relatively new media. The foundation is rocky and even the brands that “just want numbers” are relying on stats about retweets and impressions that come from PR companies taking half the cut when they connect influencers to campaigns. I’m not saying blogging is dying, but this specific little monster branch of it, sponsored content disguised as horribly written “day in the life” stories about your kids and pets? It can’t possibly last. Do you really want to be stuck on the inside when it crumbles?
//sunshine and fucking daisy reviews
On the note of being manipulated by brands, have you ever seen a negative review on a mommy blog? Ever? And if you did, have you ever seen one that still said “This post was sponsored by XYZ brand, and opinions are all my own” at the top?
Fuck no. Because every single blogger is terrified to tell the truth. I’ve seen women in blogging groups dish about how much they hated a product, or how it broke in the mail, or how awful the customer service team was to deal with. They ask their fellow bloggers what they should do about their moral dilemma of being paid to post about it (or receiving the product for free) and in real life being terribly disappointed. And every single fucking blogger in the group responds with something like “Well, you don’t want to upset the brand…” or “You don’t want to post anything negative about a product or company, even if you don’t want to work with them again, because other brands might see it and be scared off.”
Are you fucking kidding me? You have no spine. If you are so scared about telling it like it is, and you rely that much on putting up a sunshine and daisy front for potential sponsorships, then what is the point? Go work for a company instead of yourself. What happened to your argument that “brands need bloggers” anyway?
This shit would never fly in traditional journalism. Whether you’re getting paid or not, if the product you’ve been asked to review is complete shit, why would you lie to your readers? Refund the payment if you have to, return the product, whatever. If your blog is your career and you consider yourself a professional, why are you selling your readers’ time knowing you aren’t writing the truth?
//giveaway entries are not real fans
In November 2014, I followed some regurgitated advice about blogging and ran a big giveaway. I purchased a Kitchenaid mixer with my own cash, and asked readers to sign up for my newsletter and follow me on social media for a chance to win. I gained 600 email subscribers and thousands of fans on Facebook and Twitter, sure. I gained a loyal reader that won the mixer. I even devoted my winner announcement post, on Thanksgiving, to charity, asking readers to help end childhood hunger. Because of that, I was invited on an all-expense paid trip to tour a certain chicken corporation’s headquarters to hear about how much money they donate to said charity, and then roped into a writing a post about that even though I didn’t agree with the ethics of the company at all. All of this sounds great, and there are many positives, but in the end? I gained nothing.
If you are incentivizing people to join your mailing list, or follow you on Facebook, then they are not real fans. If you are purchasing Instagram followers to make your numbers look bigger, or tossing goodie bags in the mail for everyone who shares your big post a certain number of times, you’re fucking cheating. If you are interesting, if you have something worth saying, and you say it well – you need none of this. People will find a way to follow you, and they will click your social media and subscribe buttons with their own free will.
In February 2016, I wrote an angry, heartfelt letter vaguely directed at my ex in regards to not paying child support. It was the most real and vulnerable shit I’ve ever posted on the internet thus far, and I was terrified to hit publish for many reasons. Within a week, it went viral, and as of today it’s been shared more than 312 thousand times. How many times would I have killed for a sponsored post to do that well?
In the last week, I unfollowed over 2200 uninteresting people on social media, and I’m not finished. Someone asked me “But what if they all unfollow you?!” And my response? #byefelicia I’m not interested in having fake friends in real life, and I’m certainly not interested in having fake followers that I don’t even like, on the internet.
Genuine content, with a genuine voice, is the only way to gain real readers and connect with real people.
//you are wasting your time
“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”
― Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
What could you be doing instead of writing your shitty mommy blog? Would you spend an extra hour in the morning cuddling with your toddler? Would you read some intellectual books or find a hobby? Go back to school and launch a career? Would you leave your marriage? Would you travel? Would you lose weight and be more active? Would you make some new friends you actually enjoy talking to? What hole are you trying to fill by calling yourself a blogger?
Just quit. Quit now before you get burnt out and feel guilty. Quit before you realize you wasted years of your life writing bullshit about your kids’ childhood and your relationships instead of being actually involved. Quit before you get caught up in some legal mess with a brand contract and your house is cluttered with shit to review that you do not need and nobody else needs either. Quit before you feel like a failure instead of finding the intersection of happy and fulfilled.
Quit because your mommy blog fucking sucks. And it’s not going to get better. There are probably a dozen things you are actually good at.
Find what you love, and what you do better than anyone else, and do that.
A former typical ‘mommy blogger’ whose blog sucked just as bad as yours