When did we become…”swatchers”?!

I’ve been blogging since February 2009.  That summer, I started really focusing on nails (I’ve since evolved again to being a mixed bag of reviews and features across beauty, but nails has always been a favorite!). I reached out to numerous companies I’d purchased from, nails- and beauty-related, to build relationships.

I wanted to receive press releases, and stay updated on new collections and trends so I could be a thoughtful, in-the-know blogger. I created a list of companies, I did research online, and I sent emails off.

That might appall some people, who don’t think we should be reaching out to companies. Hold that thought.

Sure, I ended up on sample lists with my outreach, China Glaze was the first company that sent me any polish! Over the years I’ve been on and off so many sample lists, but it’s not something that defines me, and it’s not my end goal or my source of enjoyment from blogging. I am more upset if I’m not receiving a press release from a brand than if I’m not getting a nail polish! And you hardly ever see me post releases, so this might strike you as odd; but for me, releases and advance info is a tool to stay in-the-know. To be able to talk about trends in advance of them, to see that every brand is coming out with that “specific” hue of blue, etc etc.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because it’s very obvious that the nail world has evolved. Not only are there many, many more nail-only blogs than when I entered the world, the number of indie nail polish makers has exploded, too.

With that evolution has come an interesting dynamic. Suddenly, I see bloggers referred to as “swatchers.”

I see bloggers putting themselves out there on social media to “swatch” for brands. I see indies posting looking for “swatchers” or trying to figure out ways to cap the influx of requests they get for bloggers who want to “swatch” for them. Sometimes this causes drama on the interwebs.

But what I want to know is, when did “swatching” become something more than what we do in the privacy of our own home in order to take pictures to post on our blogs and share on social media to educate readers about the color and formula and application of a nail polish?

When did we become some “gratis” hungry?! When did the relationship-building between brand and blogger become a public thing? Because as far as I’m concerned, I don’t need to post on a brand’s Instagram and ask them if I can “swatch” for them. If I want to work with them, I’m finding the appropriate email address or contact form on their website, and sending a private, brief thought-out note to them, telling them that I’d like to stay up to date on their product and brand news. In some cases, I have had brands reach out to me and those instances feel really nice, because I’ve been noticed without reaching out.

But reaching out? It shouldn’t be taboo, if it’s done the proper way.

I understand that indie makers must be swamped with requests, because of their massive popularity and accessibility among their fans! They are so blogger friendly, and they become friends, which is mostly different from how relationships work with larger brands! I imagine how frustrating it is for indies to hear from 45717923414935894 bloggers who want to work with them, as well as those who are only out for free stuff. I get it. There are “bloggers” who think blogging is the secret to free stuff, who don’t realize that samples are a TOOL in our kit, they are WORK, and they are a PRIVILEGE.

Those people will get weeded out eventually, I have to have faith in that! Anyway.

This goes back to my point about folks possibly being appalled that I reached out to brands in the beginning. Reaching out was how I started developing some of the relationships I still have today! I might not receive samples from China Glaze regularly anymore, but I still have a relationship with their PR. Same with OPI. Polish is not the end game. Being a “swatcher” is not the end game. Having a relationship with OPI, without being in their network, has led to opportunities that have nothing to do with swatching. Like getting an interview with Suzi for a freelance article I did last year, and getting an exclusive peek at a holiday collection a couple years ago. Those were great benefits to having a “relationship” vs. being a “swatcher.”

“Swatcher” is just such a limiting term!!

When I reached out to brands in the beginning, if a bigger brand didn’t want to work with me or put me on their press list, they mostly just didn’t respond to me. Like MAC Cosmetics? I never heard a peep from them. I wasn’t offended. I moved on.

As much as I think we need to keep the inner workings of our brand relationships something private, I also think indie makers need to find ways of managing the flow of requests, and find a canned response or just ignore those who bug them on social media, rather than making the relationship an overly public, competitive thing. And WE need to realize that these people are running businesses! Why should we be offended if we inquire with a brand – no matter the size – and we don’t hear back. It’s BUSINESS.

If this is a hobby, it should be relaxed and fun and the desire to be a “swatcher” seems to take away from that, in my opinion. A “swatcher” in the terms that I see it meaning, today, I mean.

I know a bunch of indies who have blogger programs or contact forms, and I think that’s a great way for them to operate. I think it’s great that they promote them. Some of the large brands do that as well. There are so many bloggers out there, why NOT let them contact the maker, so that the maker can have a bunch to look at and choose from? It seems mutually beneficial to have a form or way of saying “if you are chosen, we’ll reach out to you!”

We have come to expect a different level of service from indies than what we get from mainstream brands. We don’t get a handwritten note when we buy a Zoya at Ulta. But we get a thank you and a smiley face and even pieces of candy when we order from indies! But again, indies are a business and I think they have every right to not have to answer every request from “swatchers.” ESPECIALLY when you can smell a “I’m trying to get free s@#!” person from a mile away. I’m not saying they don’t need to reach out, because I know some want to do that and there’s nothing wrong with it but if they’re finding it frustrating to keep up, why should they have to?

I don’t work with many indies and I’m very selective in the ones I buy from and work with. I am grateful for the relationships I have with the indies that  I do work with.

Anyway. What all I’m driving at is what bloggers do is MORE THAN SWATCHING. Can we NOT let this term define us? We are bloggers. We SHARE swatches. Swatching is one of the things we do, we are not doing it FOR THE BRAND, we are doing it FOR THE READER to help them decide if they really need that purple or will be OK passing on that green.

I know my little soap box post is not going to change the nail world, people are going to still ask to be “swatchers” and things will continue to evolve. But I just wanted to throw that out there. I think we’re ALL so much more than that!!