I have been sitting on this topic for a while…watching while one person after the other talks about the downside of a blogger management tool called Blogotex. How it stifles creativity, how it tempts bloggers to take more items than what they can blog, how it’s anti-social, and so on. There are content creators who need help with managing their brand, and they believe tools such as Blogotex help them a great deal.
What is Blogotex? According to their inworld information, “BLOGOTEX is a Web / SecondLife based solution that takes creator<–>managers<–>bloggers cooperation to whole new level by providing an environment, automation and functionality to ease the whole process and make it time efficient.”
I’ll start this discussion by talking about my experiences with Blogotex, then address concerns people have with it. And then, give my opinions on them all.
My Experience with Blogotex
When Blogotex came out I think in early 2017, there were a lot of mixed feelings in the Second Life blogging community. Since none of the stores that I blogged for at the time for used Blogotex (and those particular stores still don’t), I talked with my blogger friends a great deal about the new system. I even was privy to a few conversations exchanged between content creator and my blogger friends when they had issues.
There were a lot of hard feelings among creators because they were repeatedly getting burned from bloggers taking items and never blogging them. And when Blogotex came out, a number of bloggers felt the system was too rigid. For a brief moment in time there was a rating system that would rate bloggers on a number of things, even including stuff like getting suspended for not blogging, and I think if a post was rejected. Some content creators liked the idea because they felt it would give them a good indicator on whether a blogger was someone who would take items and never blog them. There was a HUGE backlash, and the feature was quickly removed.
When I became a blogger manager (after the advent of all of the events in SL), I noticed that the brand had some issues with bloggers not blogging the items. Upon closer examination, I saw that bloggers were prioritizing posts to stores that used Blogotex. This was because Blogotex automatically suspends bloggers for not meeting the requirements. There were no excuses – you did not submit your blog links – you did not get credit for the post. When the brand switched over to Blogotex, all of those inconsistency issues went away. Another store that I managed did not use Blogotex, and also had posting inconsistencies, as well as blogger retention. But Blogotex would not had fixed those issues, because there was a quality issue with the items being created.
I recently got accepted to blog for a store that uses Blogotex, and I admit before I hit “submit” for submitting my posts for review, I feel a bit apprehensive. Will they like my work, or will I get that rejection notice? But after thinking about it, I feel this way because I am blogging for a new brand, not because of Blogotex. The other brands I have been blogging for years, so I know what they expect from me. So why is Blogotex giving a number of bloggers issues?
Issues bloggers have with Blogotex
* Deadlines make bloggers feel stressed out.
“…I Just took ***** from *****, with only 5 days to blog it, I no sooner take them and up pops the message saying you have 5 days left How ****** up is that?
Now, I wonder why this is the case. Even when you rent a parcel or a skybox, reminders do not start immediately after the person has started the rental…usually it starts from 3 days prior to time running out. So why so soon? Would a content creator want to be reminded every day to put a release out in their main store, or event site? I can’t see that going well.
Even in inworld groups, blogger managers may send a “motivational message” reminding people to blog. I have done it myself when I see not a lot of posts are being submitted. Do sending reminders help or hinder bloggers’ work production? Or, does it make no difference? In her blog post, EXIS says, “I’m well aware of my deadlines. And the notices are definitely not helping me do my work any faster. “
* Bloggers will take more items that they are able to reasonably blog.
“….I’ve seen many other bloggers find that [incoming] new [items] can tempt a blogger into accepting more jobs than [they] can handle.”
With inworld groups and mail delivery systems, you get all of the items from the brand, and then it is up to you to pick and choose what you want to blog. With Blogotex, there is more accountability to look at the items that you feel you can reasonably blog, and then accept those items. But what if an item that you thought would work for a look or a scene does not go well? Then the pressure comes in when you are throwing something together to meet deadlines. And then, you may get comments such as, “…So I completely understand if you are not capable of being creative with your posts.” Or, “…don’t you think you insulted our trust and our hard work by taking you in our team and not getting what we expected?”
* Blogotex is impersonal and discourages interaction.
Independent on which package a brand chooses to get (only platinum package has live chat), I think how a brand chooses to interact with the bloggers has nothing to do with Blogotex, and all to do with the environment the brand creates. I will say across the board, in my inworld groups and on Blogotex, no one really talks. They will say that the server is down, or they are glad they are accepted in the group (both inworld and Blogotex), or post a blog link in the chat (inworld). A possible option would be to allow live chat to be available for all packages, or at least included in all packages after the basic package.
* No one likes to see their post get rejected.
I have seen first hand that bloggers will leave a brand if they receive 1 rejection notification, or even a suggestion on how to improve their blogging. In the past, I myself have gotten IMs inworld from managers that I did not meet posting requirements, or that I blogged a release late. Yet, I am still with those brands. So that boils down to how well you can take critique from others. Should you take abuse off of management? Absolutely not, and I will be the first to offer up my IM box if you need to vent about it, as well as brainstorm possible solutions on how to proceed. But if you can’t tell the difference between constructive feedback and abuse, then maybe you are already showing signs of burn out.
* Blogotex treats bloggers like robots/ industrial workers.
Continuing with the deadlines topic, it does seem like with Blogotex, the emphasis seems to be more on making sure a certain amount of posts are created. Without taking into consideration the amount of time it takes to do a quality post, it may seem like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. When everything is going smoothly, all is well. But when you go on vacation, get sick, something comes up in RL, or simply have a creative block – there may be guilt for not being able to blog. Do creators have the same guilt when they are late with releases, or opt not to participate in a certain event for a particular month? I am just curious. I already know that some creators feel that it’s not very hard to make a single blog post compared to them making the item for promotion, and lack empathy towards bloggers.
Why use Blogotex at all?
If Blogotex has so many issues, then why is it so popular?
Blogotex allows creators to have an advertisement budget, which they can use to advertise that they are looking for bloggers. Even though the budget seems to run out quickly, a good amount of bloggers do apply.
* Easy to organize bloggers
I used to play around with spreadsheets galore before Blogotex. Not everyone has the time to collect such data. With Blogotex, I do not have to chase bloggers down to get them to submit their posts to the Google form or sheet, and I can relax and read their posts and look at their Flickr links while drinking my iced coffee ^^ This allows me more time to express enjoyment of their posts, offer insight on how they can improve their blogging, or catch minor mistakes that are made.
* Blogger retention
Bloggers can easily communicate with the brand(s) if they need to take a break or go on vacation. Since everything is recorded, there is no such thing as not getting a message or a notice. In inworld blogger groups, I have seen bloggers stay in a group, but not do any posts. This is probably a reason why bloggers as a whole has gotten a bad reputation for grabbing “freebies”. Blogotex takes care of such cases easily – simply set a number of posts to blog in a certain time, and kick them out if they do not blog. I know there are stores who still wish to allow bloggers to blog what they want, when they want, and there is the option to have no time limits on posts.
* Easy to get product information before you choose to blog an item
For a particular release, there is the option to get information on the item being blogged, a photo of it, and a demo. This information helps the blogger to decide whether or not they would like to blog it. I know some brands do not provide all of these things, but that is brand side, and not Blogotex’s fault.
* Easy to gather blogger and product statistics
At a glance, creators and managers can see which item has been blogged the most. Also, they can easily see how many posts a blogger has made for a particular month, or in total. If there are any issues (e.g. blogger getting suspended for not posting), the matter can easily be resolved. Sometimes mistakes are made, and the blogger can easily be reinstated to resume their blogging.
Are there any cons to using Blogotex?
Blogotex is not free, and if you do not have a consistent cash flow, it can be hard to keep up with fees. This is why I would not recommend Blogotex for smaller brands. Other brands have a strong core of bloggers, and implementing a costly system may not be necessary.
* Learning curve
I think every creator and manager who is new to using Blogotex goes through ups and downs on how to implement certain features. This can cause stress for all parties involved (creator/manager/blogger). Bloggers may get wrongly suspended, products may not be set up correctly in the system, deadlines may be too short to blog comfortably, etc.
* Need for a web browser
Nowadays, people are used to having a browser window up while in Second Life. For people who like a more immersive experience, this takes away from that. Also if you have an older computer set up and it is hard to open a browser and SL at the same time, this can be problematic.
* Limited feedback/comment space
This is a reference to the concern that Blogotex is impersonal. I have found that if I want to go into a bit more detail as to why a post is rejected, or to make suggestions, I do not have the room to do so. So then I have to decide whether a short message will suffice, or do I need to contact them inworld or on Facebook with more information.
I believe that in 2013, a company I was working with had the idea to create a system where bloggers submitted their blog posts. Once their posts were verified, they would be cleared to get another item from the kiosk. I didn’t like it because the system had some kinks, and also because it was something I did not think would catch on. Maybe a year later someone else came out with a similar system, and even though some used it, it was not popular. So Blogotex was definitely not the first system to manage bloggers.
If someone is stressed out over their work load, one would think to automatically reduce one’s load. However, I find that some people blame Blogotex. Sometimes it is easier to blame external factors than to see how you are contributing to your own stress. A friend and I were talking about how at one point she was blogging for 8 stores and events combined. I said I remember because she was doing 25-30 posts a month, and she would say that she was falling behind. She eventually reduced her load by leaving some brands, either from problematic management or lack of time for the brand.
There is no way you can tell me that people who blog for 10+ stores and events are not feeling some sort of stress. With all of the requirements you have to keep track of and juggle, stress is inevitable. For those who blog for 20+ stores and events, that is approaching real life full time hours. Blogotex or not, you WILL burn yourself out. And I do not think it is fair to blame a tool for something that you willingly participated in. Stores all list their requirements. With the advent of events, items need to be blogged within a certain period of time. So Blogotex decides to be helpful and puts in a countdown/reminder system to help people meet those time restraints. In theory, this makes sense. But the execution from what I can tell needs to be tweaked some.
In order to avoid taking on more than what you can manage, I strongly believe you need to know your personal brand. Bloggers nowadays seem to want the prestige of blogging certain brands, but would they actually go and buy said items on a regular basis? You hear bloggers say they wouldn’t even know what to wear if they were not blogging. “I would wear the same thing every day!” “I just throw on a full body alpha…lol”. You would never hear a RL fashion blogger say that – they pride themselves on having a distinctive look – they get paid for having that look. Their blogs (and the social media they use to promote their content) are a curation of their personal style. So are Second Life bloggers actual bloggers? Or are they are just a summation of all of the brands that they blog for?
Now, the exception may be for Home & Garden (H&G) bloggers. In order to create the beautiful scenes that they do, they need an extensive inventory at their disposal. I think this is why services such as interior decorators in Second Life is a thing. There are many who cannot pay upward of 20K L to get their desired aesthetic. So why not rent furniture from a decorator? And I do notice that the top H&G bloggers have a certain style or look to how they decorate. I do not know too much about blogging H&G personally, but I do know that H&G bloggers will get burned out as well if they take on too much work at once.
I find that Blogotex support is top notch, and they are open to suggestions. I do not like the fact that Blogotex is getting scapegoated for issues that is brand related. Blogotex is NOT the big bad wolf in this, it’s the people interacting with the tool that determines how good of an experience it is for all parties involved. As a matter of fact, I wrote to Blogotex and asked if they would consider having bloggers opt out of getting reminders for deadlines, and showed them the blog post from EXIS. Why? I don’t like having this strong of an opinion about something, and not hearing what a person/place/brand has to say about the matter. We had a nice conversation about the issues, and I explained that bloggers tend to have their own schedule for meeting deadlines, and if they blog for a number of stores, all of the notecard reminders can come off as spam at the very least. They would still have the deadlines set by the creators of course. I gave the example of a friend getting a reminder as soon as they got the release, and I was told that 5 days was a tight deadline. I was also told they would look into the feature of opting out of getting reminders, and thanked me for bringing it to their attention.
It’s no secret that due to the increase in shopping events in Second Life, creators need ways to manage their brands more now than ever. Will Blogotex implementing the opting out of reminders stop bloggers from getting stressed? Yes and no. If you are still blogging for a number of brands and juggling requirements, the deadlines are still there. If you are bothered with the reminders being in your face all of the time, then you will be less bothered. I do not understand why bloggers say they want to blog for the brand, but not while using Blogotex. Why would you want to blog for a brand that implements requirements that causes you stress? Don’t blog for stores that have tight deadlines, that you would not willingly buy their items, or if it does not fit your personal style. And bloggers, if you use Blogotex, then you must see the tool as something that suits you as well. Do not be afraid to contact support with any questions, suggestions or concerns.
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