As you may recall, last year I penned an open letter to the running/run blog community about how my social media feed had become so overblown with ads, offers, incentives and general garbage, all coming from my favorite runners that I felt enough was enough and it was time to say something.
If you hadn't read the post you can find it here, but if you just want the highlights, essentially I told bloggers and running Brands to knock it off. Of course, I did it with more charm, giving examples of how bloggers and Brands could work together responsibly so as not to a) exhaust the attention of their audience and b) not to look like the ultimate corporate shill. So, what have I noticed over the past year?
First things first, the post was incredibly well received from the running community, with many of you responding with words of encouragement and feelings similar to mine. For that, I thank you. Truthfully, I was concerned I was the only one feeling the fatigue, but your responses proved I had tapped a growing frustration with many of you.
Now, let's talk about what I've noticed in the run blog/social landscape since my post a year ago.
With regards to sponsored posts, for the most part I've really seen a reduction in the superfluous branded posts. Especially, the ones that really have absolutely zero relevance to anything, i.e. "I love to run and bike, so let me tell you about this garden hose from Target that really made my running life so much better. #ad" (BTW, the #ad is my favorite part).
It seems a lot of big name running bloggers have cleaned up their act, save for maybe one or two bloggers who have seemed to pick up where everyone quit. Seriously, there are two bloggers in my FB/Twitter/IG feed who won't stop selling, it's gotten so bad I can't find a post that doesn't have #ad attached to it. Now, I just follow them to see how far they go. Believe me, their pitches stretch pretty far and it's gut-wrenchingly hysterical.
So, for 99% of you out there who may have reevaluated your social because of my post, kudos to you! You've made it through to the other side, where running and talking about running is now better than trying to get that free coupon for hemorrhoid cream.
One thing that still has me perplexed, though are the personalities who still use the term "influencer" in their profiles/posts. I mean, c'mon, really? Why do you do this? Now, I can see the argument made that in order for Brands to find them, they have to connect the title. Well, here's a little inside knowledge, when selecting personalities for Brands for my work (my day job requires me to sometimes work with Internet talent), the last people who get picked are the ones who call themselves out as influencers. Hand to god, if you're going to brag about your internet following married with the crummy content you produce, you don't get a second look. If your story is good, don't worry we'll find you. Be like the Fonz and just play it cool. "Aaaaaayyyyyyy."
Secondly, the reason most "influencers" (gag) use that term is to get free stuff from Brands. You know it; we know it; you know we know you know it. For that reason, I have no sympathy for the folks that follow them. If they are interested in being sold harder than the ShamWOW guy, then by all means, vaya con Influencer!
Oh, hey Brands, I was truly hoping you would be more choosy of personalities based on their content and not on their followers - well, looks like we still have a ways to go with that one as a lot of Brands seem to continue to find audiences and not stories. Guys, I can't stress this enough, find people who have good stories, tell them well and who are genuine; not ones that write a paragraph with your name in it and cash a check. I mean, it's your budget I'm just trying to help you out.
So, for the most part, I'd say we've come a long way, but there still is a long way to go. By my own admission, I don't believe my little post cleaned up the running world, but I hope in some sort of way the post either got you to open your eyes to the epidemic, made you reevaluate who you follow and why you followed them, and/or helped you to review your own relationships with Brands and how you support them through your social media/blog. But, the main reason I believe it's working is because of you, the reader and runner, who one way or another wouldn't stand for what was happening and shut it down. You guys are the stars!
Lastly, how has my little post affected my own personal relationship with Brands and the running community? Well, my inbox, once jammed with offers from race directors, Brands, et al. seemed to immediately dry up. Whoops. It looks like my word got out to a pretty large audience and it seemed not everyone was pleased with my observations and suggestions. My response? "So be it." It wasn't my intention to single anyone out, except for that one running company in my post who can't seem to figure out what their brand stands for, so I can't say I'm upset. I knew going into the post there may be some collateral damage. Eh, I'm sleeping well at night. Especially, thanks to Dr. Nodz Sleepy Time "Extra-Booze" Sleep Aid - Shhh, make sleepy time a heavenly experience with Dr. Nodz (see what I did there)?
My current ambassadorships with nuun Hydration, Dirtbag Runners, ProCompression and Momentum Jewelry continue to be strong partnerships. As you could probably tell, all those brands have some things in common: positivity and community, two crucial tenets of why I run and write about running. As long as they continue to champion those two very important aspects of running, I will continue to support them. But, I will continue to do it in a way that is unique to me, organic to my audience and beneficial to them and not act as a billboard.
Finally, I wanted to give a public shoutout (without naming names) to those who gave me encouragement to write the original post, especially when I was struggling with how to make it positive and not just an angry rant. So, a special "thank you" to A and M, you guys were an incredible help and source of inspiration.
You can bet this won't be the end of the story. I urge you to continue to #JustBeARunner, but also feel free to talk about and support your favorite brands. But, keep an eye out for when you think things are heading too far down the sales-y path. Only you can help to restore order in the running community. I'll keep a watchful eye out, too, except when I'm snoozing thanks to Dr. Nodz. That stuff is amazing (#ad).
Until next time.
Run fast. Run smart.