For those of you who were unable to attend CatalystCon last weekend, I’m making the panel I was on, “Will Write for Dildos: How and Why Companies and Reviewers Should Work Together,” available in both audio and written form right here!
While I understand this is the ultimate TL;DR, it’s also HELLA APPLICABLE. So if you can stuff it onto your iPod or phone or Kindle and read it on the toilet or listen to it in the car, do that.
There are tons of great nuggets of info in this panel — we learned that Jenna keeps a secret spy file about all of our genitals, why I sometimes seem unnecessarily bitter in my reviews, and which analogy Lorax uses when talking about writing a venomous negative review. And much, much more beyond all of that. Like, Jenna gave us all chills at one point.
Also check out my resource page for the panel, which includes links to good reviews, affiliate programs, companies who know how to use Twitter, and more.
(Thank you FOREVER to Kynan, Girly Juice, Scarlett Seraph, Krista, and Sexational for doing much of the transcription. Go give them virtual drinks and hugs!)
Here’s the audio on SoundCloud, which you’re free to download and comment upon, followed by a linked list of all the questions we tackled.
- What do you look for in a company/reviewer partnership?
- How do you break the ice when you’re starting a reviewing partnership?
- What makes a good review, and should negative reviews be subject to pre-screening?
- What if you’re going to hate a product and you know ahead of time? Do you still review it?
- Can you make money doing this? Are affiliate programs a necessary part of the equation?
- But what do the companies get? Why should companies even bother sending stuff to us?
- Audience Q: Suggestions on starting a sponsorship relationship?
- Audience Q: Thoughts on affiliate link loyalty?
- Audience Q: Advertisers as an alternative to affiliates?
- Audience Q: How long did you review toys that you already owned before you started using it more as a business?
- Audience Q: What all do companies take into consideration when looking at potential reviewers?
Lorax: And this is Will Write for Dildos, so… welcome everybody. Our hashtag is #cconreview. Please Twitter often, Twitter early… we usually Twitter a lot, we’re up here so we can’t, and it makes us sad. So, welcome everybody, hi!
I’d like to quickly introduce everybody who is up here on our panel today. I am Lorax of LoraxOfSex.com. I am a blogger, reviewer, educator, I also work in a store; I sell dildos and make rope for a living, it’s great fun. Next to me, we have Epiphora of HeyEpiphora.com, blogger reviewer extraordinaire. Next to her we have Krista, social media, PR, and affiliate executive for Lovehoney, and last but very much not least, we have Jenna of Tantus. And if ya’ll don’t know who Tantus is — after the panel, down a couple doors, the vendor room, check it out, learn some shit, they’re awesome.
So, we’re just going to sort of dive right into this talking about the relationship between bloggers, reviewers, and companies and manufacturers, and the importance of that relationship. So, I think we’ll start at the end of the table with Jenna…
What do you look for in a company/reviewer partnership?
Jenna: Basically when I start looking for reviewers and scouting and reading blogs, my first focus is to try and get as diverse a group of bloggers and reviewers as possible. Tantus is one of the few manufacturers that has a prototype testing function. When we bring out a new toy, part of my job is to send it to people and have them test it. And I look for people of different heights, and different sizes, and different body types — so that we can make sure that our toys are fitting as broad a spectrum of people as possible.
I kind of do the same thing with the affiliates and reviewers. I want to look for… if I come away with all female reviewers, or all reviewers that are over the age of 30, that doesn’t really do me any good. I want a big group, so that there’s something for everyone out there. I also look for people who are a good values fit with what we represent: a commitment to sexual health, quality, integrity, truth in product package labeling. That’s a little difficult sometimes because, again, a lot folks don’t know sort of the lay of the land when it comes to sex toy manufacturing.
And we’re also chronically busy, often understaffed, and we’ve had to grow the affiliate program more slowly I think than we would be able to do if we had a lot more folks on board. So I, on a personal level, I like folks who are nice to me when they are faced with my problems about time, and not having enough of it.
Epiphora: Nice people. Yeah, I mean, I think that the “values fit” thing is interesting because for me, when I’m looking for companies to review for, one thing that I do is I go to their dildos or butt plugs section… and if I’m just accosted by jelly atrocities, like, yeeeah, no. That solved it. If that’s all you have, and you don’t know that there are silicone butt plugs and dildos… that’s a problem. But that’s like the baseline. You’d have to be way better than that still, but… [laughs]
And then of course obviously I look for people who will send me whatever I want… isn’t that what we…? [laughs]
No, I really don’t, but I do like people who trust me. That’s a big thing. Trust that I will finish my review. I’ve been doing this for awhile, and I don’t really like being prodded. I know sometimes people do it out of the goodness of their hearts; they really just want to know, “when’s the review gonna be done?” But I am so slow, and if you wanted it done sooner, you should have told me in advance because I can’t, I just, I’m terribly slow.
Also the people who always email me feverishly asking when something’s going to be done are always the people who sent me the shitty shit that I don’t actually love at all. And I’m like, “you really don’t want to know when that review’s gonna be done, because you don’t want to read it ever. You’d probably rather me not publish it.” So I just reply and I’m like, “it’ll be done; I’ll email you.”
And then availability… just kind of, respond to my emails? If I have a question about your product, answer it for me. And do nice things like create coupon codes and banners, tell me about your sales in advance… and help me spread the word about my review when it goes up! What is that? This happens all the time. You’re like “here’s my review, it’s wonderful!” and you never get a reply, and they never talk about it on social media, like it never happened.
Krista: So what do I look for with reviewers? Definitely like what Jenna said, I really look for a diverse group. There’s a lot of women out there who are reviewers, and it’s kind of a very similar demographic you’re working with. And so we do like to go out and find people who have different topics, whether they’re male reviewers reviewing male toys, or they have a BDSM focus.
But definitely it’s a professional situation. If someone comes just kind of comes at it flippantly, or they’re just like, “send me some toys, I’ll review them for you,” but then you receive this email and it has no information about the person, you know. And I have to write back to them saying, “well, what’s your URL? Why do you want to review toys?” And if I have to pull that information out, that’s making more work for me.
So you want to approach it in a professional way. You’re looking for people who take it seriously, and aren’t just, “oh, I bet I could get a free dildo out of this if I reach out to this company.” Or someone who looks like they’re reaching out to every company.
Epiphora: You can smell those people, I’m sure. They smell like jelly toys. [audience laughs]
Krista: This is true.
Lorax: I’m right there with Epiphora on this one, as a fellow reviewer and a fellow blogger. I’m looking for folk who understand that I work two “real-world” jobs; I work seven days a week. So I don’t just sit at home stuffing toys into myself all day. I mean, that would be great, I would love that. If I could do that and still pay my rent and feed the cat, that would be great. But I’m human, and I get sick. Things take time, and also research. I do so much research.
I’m looking for more than just a toy to review. I’m looking for the design of it, is it safe, the materials, all of these things. And so I do a lot of research and that just takes time. We all went through school, hopefully, I think. We’ve all done research papers. You’ve got to go study some stuff, you’ve got to Google, you’ve gotta go to the library still sometimes — not everything’s on the internet. So there’s that.
And I also, I need some sort of mutual support going on, like you said. I’ve published reviews, and I’ve emailed the company, and I’ve tweeted it, and I’ve put it on Tumblr and I’ve put it on Facebook… and there’s nothing. There’s no retweets, there’s no reblogs, there’s no email…
Epiphora: Retweet. That’s like the easiest thing in the world. One fucking button.
Lorax: One click, retweet, done. Easy. There’s no, “hey, thanks!” There’s no, “oh, we didn’t think of that!” There’s nothing. So that sort of mutual support, and that back and forth open communication is really really important to me.
So off of that, and Krista sorta started on this, is breaking the ice. We’re all accustomed with first dates, and first encounters with people. They’re really awkward, and you’re like “hi… I’m Lorax… how are you…?” And you come off as a really weird, like, mouth-breather.
Epiphora: I feel like a good example is meeting a celebrity, too. You’re all nervous, and you’re just like…
Lorax: “Hi, you’re really cool, I love your work!”
So how do you break the ice when you’re starting a reviewing partnership, or when you’re being contacted for a review product, or when you’re contacting?
Krista: Working with Lovehoney, you know, I’ve done a lot of outreach to a bunch of bloggers that I know and work with. But I’m also always on the lookout for new people to work with the company. So when I see a site that I’m like, “these guys are a good fit, they probably would enjoy talking about our toys,” I’ll find their contact information, find the contact form. I think there’s someone in the room who I reached out through their website this way. Give them the information they need.
And it goes both ways. So if I’m reaching out to someone, I want them to have the links that they need to find out what the terms are of becoming an affiliate, I want them to have a little bit of an idea. But also I don’t want to send them a laundry list of everything you need to know, because maybe they don’t want all that information. So it’s kind of going with the appropriate information that they need at the time, to get them interested, get them to respond to me.
I also do review toys, and I had the scenario where someone from Tantus actually found my website and reached out to me. Oh, now I get this experience of being the reviewer, and being kind of coveted in that situation. But again, it’s a business communication, that you want to give the person all the information that they need.
Epiphora: But not more than they need. Never more… people don’t have time. People are much lazier than you realize.
Krista: Yeah, you want to make it simple. Let them know how you want them to respond, you know. If you’re interested, get back to me, and let me know your web URL…
Epiphora: That’s a good point.
Krista: Or send me an example of a review you’ve written in the past, so I can just get started on what I need to do, and we don’t have to keep going back and forth.
Jenna: For me, I’m definitely more interested in a reviewer’s blog than the initial contact email. I want to see what you’re putting out in the universe, into cyberspace. Show me what you’re passionate about and what you’re really interested in. Again, a thoughtful review is great, but for me, the messaging around quality products and safe materials kind of has to be in your blog for me to really take notice. Because again, that’s what we’re about at Tantus.
At the very least, though, I’m hopeful for somebody who isn’t trying to undo all the hard work in educating. Metis, our founder, has been educating people since ’97 on safe toys, and it’s hard for me to see people who come in and are like, “well I’ve never had a reaction to a jelly toy, so I don’t understand why people are saying they’re not safe.” Again, if you can give me an honest review and maybe not sort of try to take back some of the work, that would be great.
Most of the people I come across are from social media interactions. People who are interested in Tantus and who follow the Tantus Twitter, and who are participating in those conversations we’re having. And that’s great, because I can get kind of an idea of where they’re at before I even start that interaction.
If I had any advice to give new reviewers, it would be to really kind of feel out a company’s social media presence. You can tell the difference when a company isn’t very genuine, or if it’s a bunch of canned marketing stuff. The companies I personally love are the ones who take the time to interact with people, answer questions, are timely in their communication. And granted, it’s not lightning-fast all the time, but certainly they should be open to what you’re saying as well.
Epiphora: I think the kinds of accounts you’re talking about are the ones that are like, “here’s a sex fact! Sex fact of the day!” And you’re like, “really didn’t need a sex fact every day.” You look at their whole feed, and it’s just sex facts. “Did you know this, about sex?” And they’re probably not even true. [audience laughs]
Those, I don’t know why companies think that that’s how do you a Twitter account. Like, where did they get this idea? I think it’s such an amateur mistake to do that, as a company.
But I think it’s interesting that you mentioned you kind of like being approached on social media, because I usually tell bloggers not to do that. I think it’s somewhat informal and a little, like, slightly lazy… just, you couldn’t even look at the website to find the email address to email them? And also, social media limits your… you know, Twitter, you can’t write a lot.
So I usually say, send an email — but again, also, keep it short, keep it to the point. Have some sort of direction. Tell them who you are. Tell them, maybe, if you’re interested in a particular toy.
Oh, the main thing: tell them why you like them as a company. Because you need to offer yourself, like, how do these two things go together other than “I like sex toys, really like sex toys.” It’s not quite enough. If you want a certain toy, they might be into you saying that, but not, like, a $300 njoy Eleven. And you can’t be pushy and long-winded, yeah.
Oh, and make sure your blog has content! Make sure there’s shit there, and that…
Krista: And that it wasn’t stolen from her site…
Epiphora: And that it was not stolen from me!
Krista: ‘Cause I’ll know if you took it from her site.
Epiphora: Yeah, and she’ll tell me. And I’ll be like, “ooh, fuck you guys.”
So yeah, and if you don’t get a response in a couple weeks, you can send a follow-up, it’s probably good to do that. But if you don’t a response to that, it’s over, just let it go. They don’t want you, maybe they don’t accept reviewers, maybe they’re too busy.
Lorax: Please, please, please, for the love of tap-dancing dildo gods, to coin a term from a friend of mine — pay attention to the name and the gender of the person that you are contacting.
Epiphora: Look at that signature.
Lorax: Look at the signature, look at the name that they’re blogging under. Don’t sit there and like, Porn Wikileaks the person you’re contacting and be like, “hey, real-legal-name, I found your blog and would love to work with you!” That sort of sets a weird creeper vibe. And if we consistently sign our emails Lorax, or Epiphora, address us as such — even if you know our legal, driver’s license names.
I contact people both as my store, and as a blogger; so I have two names, and I keep them separate for that reason. So if you’re getting an email from my work account, and it’s signed Lily, then that’s me as a store and doing my store thing. If it’s signed Lorax of Sex, loraxofsex.com, that’s me as a blogger. They’re separate entities. It’s one of those things, I mean, it’s a small detail, but some people don’t use their legal names out there, so respect that.
And gender is a thing, it’s an important thing. Not everybody is the gender that you might assume they are based on looking at what they’re wearing today…
Epiphora: Or what dildo they’re reviewing…
Lorax: Or what toy they’re reviewing. Some men have vaginas, some women have penises, these things happen. So respect that, and let’s respect people’s gender identities. Look on their blog, they probably talk about it.
Epiphora: Yeah, look on their “about” page, it’ll sometimes say “pronouns preferred,” or, if it’s written, you know, in the third person, that’s obvious.
Lorax: Or if your web address is “Mr. So-and-So,” and you’re calling them “she”…
Epiphora: That might be a problem.
Lorax: It might be a hint. And like Epiphora said, also, going back to the Twitter vs. email thing — don’t pester me on Twitter every time you email me.
Epiphora: Oh my god.
Lorax: Don’t. If you’ve emailed me, and it’s been, like, a month, and you haven’t heard back from me, you can be like, “hey, I sent you an email a while back, did you get that?” That’s cool. But every time you send me an email, I don’t need the “hey, I emailed you, check your inbox, I haven’t heard back from you.” Just don’t, please. That’s what direct messages are for, that’s what follow-up emails are for… social media is not a place for private business.
Epiphora: Right, ’cause everyone can see that.
Lorax: So, onto the meat of this goodness… reviews. It’s what we’re talking about
What makes a good review, and more to recent events, should negative reviews (because they happen, we don’t like everything) be subject to pre-screening by the companies?
Piph, you wanna take this?
Epiphora: Pretty sure I have some opinions about this.
Lorax: I don’t know, do you?
Epiphora: So, I’m really difficult to impress when it comes to reviews, I’ll be the first to admit that. I actually put together a resource page on my blog about this panel, and it has links to what I consider good reviews. Because, I can tell you what I want, but when you read it, you’ll really understand.
I think that a good review is entertaining, it’s well-written, it’s informative, but it’s not jam-packed with stuffy information. So, the further you can get from a canned, manufacturer description, the better, in my opinion. ‘Cause it’s a review, it’s about you, how you experienced the toy, not what the manufacturer has to say, that’s it’s seven inches long, it has settings. And of course, it’s always good to be funny if you can, which can be difficult, but it does make the reviews memorable.
Oh, and honesty. That’s the big one. You would think it would be obvious, but it’s not. People are really too easily swayed by free sex toys, it’s kind of creepy. You have to care more about the reader than paying back a perceived debt to the company that sent you the toy. That’s just not how it works. You need to be honest. And readers can tell when you are sugar coating; it’s so easy to spot. And once you’ve lost their trust, they’re not coming back. They don’t trust you anymore.
So, the pre-screening thing. This was wonderful, ’cause this just happened a couple weeks ago and we already had this as the [panel] description, and we were like “oooh, real life example.” ‘Cause I’ve definitely had people before ask me about if they could read it beforehand, and I’m always like,”nope.” And that’s never been a problem.
But there was a blogger recently who agreed with the manufacturer that the manufacturer could “proofread” the review before it was published — that was the word that was used — and the blogger said “okay”… don’t do that. It’s a bad idea. It’s a red flag, is what it is, because it’s kind of a sign of a company that’s controlling, and they sort of don’t understand the landscape. That’s not how things work, and if you wanted everything to be sunshine and roses then you shouldn’t be getting a reviewer.
And then the manufacturer was mad because the review mentioned an orgasm. So that’s weird… [audience laughs]
Lorax: Um, are we writing about sex toys?
Epiphora: I guess not? I’m not sure? And threatened to sue her if she published the review at all — which, by the way, you can’t do. Talk to Davis here at Sexquire, they’ll tell you that if it’s your opinion it’s pretty much not defamation, and it cannot really be seen as such. But the moral of that story is: trust your instincts, and if you get a sense that someone is going to go batshit insane, don’t work with them. What do you got to say, Metis?
Metis Black, in audience: I also want to say how quick the network of bloggers is…
Epiphora: I actually have another paragraph about that! Yeah. We talk to each other. Really quickly. And you may not see it — it may be in emails, it may be in a protected post — but it’s there, and we all know now that we are never working with you again.
Lorax: Our phones blow up.
Epiphora: And then when we review your toys, we have this weird, unnecessary anger, if you don’t know the story. [audience laughs]
You’re like, “she seems kind of bitter about something, but okay.” So that’s how that goes down. So don’t agree to pre-screening, it’s stupid.
Jenna: You know what, I personally think all reviews are worthwhile, even if they are negative. Maybe someone found a toy too soft, or thought that it angled wrong; customers who are reading that are going to still take that information, and that’s good to know. Particularly for Tantus toys, which tend to be a higher price point.
There is nothing more heartbreaking for me when I’m answering the phone than someone calls up and says, “I saved for months to get this toy, I was so excited about it, and I got it and it was completely different than what I expected.” That’s so hard for me, ’cause I know what I would feel, and I’ve put myself in that position.
I work really hard to try to get a feel for what toys might be a hit with a particular reviewer. I was talking to Lorax and Piph last night, and they were kind of surprised to hear that I keep files on all of our affiliates…
Epiphora: I love this.
Jenna: I have a drawer full in my office where I keep…
Lorax: Like C.I.A. files.
Epiphora: It’s like a spy file.
Jenna: I call them the dossier. And basically, I list all the toys they’ve tried, things they like, what they don’t like, do they like anal toys. That’s part of my job, is to make sure that I’m trying to match the reviewer to the toy in the way that I can — now, it’s not to say that they’re gonna love it. But I at least make the effort and do it my best. You know, if they hate toys with texture, and I send them a Tsunami or something, then I shouldn’t expect a glowing review. That’s just dumb.
Epiphora: That sounds like you sent them a natural disaster. [audience laughs]
Epiphora: That is a toy they make. It’s pretty cool.
Jenna: A lot of times we’ll do a promotion, and let affiliates know ahead of time. For example, next month the big promotion of our website is going to be anal toys. I have reviewers who do not test anal toys. So I’m not about to just send them an anal toy that they’re not even gonna use, because again that represents an investment for Tantus.
Lorax: I’ll take theirs.
Jenna: OK, good to know. They created this toy, and there’s a cost to that. So what I’m trying to do is get a return on that investment — and in a smart way that is going to build our business and grow our business.
I’m really hands-off when it comes to pre-screening. I don’t look at reviews. I check them over. I think I’ve only ever asked for one change, and it was a typo. We have a toy called the Anaconda, and someone called it the “Anacanda”… and I talked in a Boston accent for like a week and a half because I thought it was so funny. But she changed it.
I would be really wary of companies who want editorial rights. In a sense, bloggers are sort of the new journalists, and there’s a journalistic integrity that needs to be preserved there. So I’m gonna try and do my best to impress you, and I hope that this toy does. And if it does, great! And if not, then let’s try again and talk about it.
I’m also lucky in that I’ve never had anybody publish anything that I felt like was malicious. Do you know what I mean? Most of my reviewers are really intelligent and…
Epiphora: It’s because you treat them well.
Jenna: They’ve never done anything sort of underhanded.
Krista: Yeah, I would say that every time I send out a toy, it’s not for a guaranteed positive review. It’s for a review of the toy. And an honest review that’s gonna help someone else make an educated choice about whether that toy would work for them. And sometimes, that’s not just saying, you know, “oh, this was my experience with the toy,” it’s sometimes looking at the toy and saying, “what could someone else’s experience be with this product?”
But honesty is really what we’re going for in the exchange. We’re not paying people for a positive review. And I don’t pre-screen reviews. I’ve gotten negative reviews back, and we have a great return policy, so that’s the one thing I’ll say is, “if you didn’t like the toy, could you just mention we have this wonderful return policy?” So if someone still thinks they want to try this toy, they have the opportunity to return it and do better. Because I think we all have the same goal of really helping people make these decisions about what toys are gonna work best for them.
Epiphora: Yeah, ’cause what Jenna was saying, if someone hates something that you thought they would like, it really bothers you. That’s my nightmare: someone emailing me being like, “I just spent $100 on the Pure Wand and I actually think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever put in my vagina.”
Lorax: Sorry, Piph, that’s me.
Epiphora: Which, that’s not the worst thing you’ve put… [audience laughs] And you have the most articulate anti-Pure Wand review that’s ever been. But that’s my goal, is to be so honest, so ridiculously honest, that no one could ever get something they hate. Which, obviously it’s gonna happen, but it is a terrible thing.
Lorax: So, speaking of negative reviews…
What if you’re going to hate a product and you know ahead of time? Do you still review it?
Lorax: So I’m actually gonna start off on this one, because this is where I have opinions.
There are definite times where you hate product or you don’t like a product, and you’re not sitting there going, “this product is AWFUL!” It’s more just like “you know, I don’t really like this, and it’s not really worth my time. I’m not full of vitriol and seething rage… it’s just sort of… white bread.” And those are times where you ask if you can pass.
Or I’ll tell a company my feedback and I’ll say, you know, maybe there’s a better option of a toy I can review. The dimensions on this are a little off, or the angle on it’s a little off, the texture’s a little off. But you have this other model that’s really similar; can I review that and maybe do a comparison? Say, you know, “hey, I got sent this and I was like ‘eh,’ but I got this other one and I was like ‘woo!’ And this is why. So make your selection between these two very similar toys based on that.” That’s not really censorship, like we talked about. It’s also really really fucking hard to write about something that you’re just blasé about.
Angry reviews are the easiest thing ever in the world to write. Sometimes you start writing it before you’ve even gotten the product.
Epiphora: Oh yeah. Oh, I’ve done that so many times. Let me critique your website, please.
Lorax: It happens. It’s really easy to just pour that vitriol out. Rave reviews can sort of go either way; they can be really easy to review if you want to sing from the rooftops that this is the best thing ever. But they can also be difficult to write because you’re like, “I love it! It’s great! Um… words.” Too-long-didn’t-read version is, “I love it, it’s great, go buy it… yeah.”
But there are times where you think, “I don’t like it. It’s awful. If this were food at a restaurant, I would send it back to the kitchen, walk out, and tell everyone I know and Yelp and call the local newspaper and get them shut down.” And those are the reviews that you write because you hate it. And I love those. So it’s amazing that Jenna ever wants to send me anything because I feel like I have the fear of God in me.
And because sometimes companies don’t actually test this shit on actual genitals. Fun fact.
Epiphora: You can tell.
Lorax: And sometimes they get suckered into their own junk science, and their charts and graphs and their pretty pictures… which mean nothing. I’ll admit to once or twice requesting a toy that I knew I was going to hate, because I had to tell the world it was horrid. And I wanted to set it on some train tracks and make a Vine of that shit getting run over by a train. You know, the world deserves to know, and I am not sorry about this. So, yeah. Sometimes, you hate some shit and that’s the way it goes, and obviously I have some feels on this shit.
Coyote Days, in audience: I’m just not super clear how you can write vitriolic hate about a product before you even have it.
Epiphora: Oh. Marketing…
Lorax: Color, design, website, marketing. They way they approach you, mansplanation. These sorts of things.
Coyote: What’s mansplanation?
Lorax: I’ll let Piph take the mansplanation question, ’cause she loves this shit.
Epiphora: I do love that word.
Lorax: Love, and I use that word quite wrongly.
Epiphora: I definitely can write shit before I’ve received the toy, because it’s not just…
Coyote: Before you’ve reviewed it?
Epiphora: Before I receive it. I’m saying, like, I look at the website, it’s gendered, it’s badly written, it’s ugly, and the way they’re marketing the toy concerns me. Maybe their Twitter account, something like that. So yeah, I definitely get a headstart there. It takes me a while once I get the toy, because I have to try it, and it’s a lot easier to write about writing than it is about a toy. But yes, all of it is kind of the entire package, I think.
Mansplanation, so… [laughs] mansplaining is when a dude tries to tell you, as a woman, how something is, when you actually know better because you’re a woman. And I do kind of use it very loosely, and potentially problematically, but I just think it’s a great word.
Lorax: “Oh, the world is so hard for you, you have a vagina! Let me tell you about the fact that I can’t get into a women’s-only space because I have a penis.”
Epiphora: Right. So, the way I apply it to this is that I get companies where, if I don’t like the toy, I know that if I email them and tell them that, they are going to mansplain to me. They’re going to say, “you know, there’s other settings on this toy. Did you know there’s another button there, and you hold it down for two seconds and something happens?”
Lorax: “You know, it’s an external toy, not an internal toy.”
Epiphora: Right. Or like, “maybe you should try a different position, you know?” Something like that. And I’m just like, I really don’t want to hear it, because nothing you tell me is going to make me do a 180 and suddenly love the toy. So if I get that sense about the company, I just won’t email them. I’ll just write the review. But companies that I do like, that are nice to me, if I have an issue, I will write to them and talk about it — because I feel like I’ll be heard and I won’t be shut down and I won’t be told that I’m somehow wrong.
So, this actually happened fairly recently with Krista because she sent me a Lovehoney rabbit and I just was so indifferent, so painfully indifferent about it. I was just starting to loathe the thought of reviewing it because it would’ve been boring for everyone. That’s what it comes down to. And so, I was talking to a [blogger] friend and my friend mentioned that she wanted to try this particular rabbit, and I was like, “um, I have an idea! Would you like this rabbit, and then you can email Krista and see if maybe she would let you review it, instead of me?” And somehow this was agreed to, so that worked out really well for everyone, I think.
Krista: Yeah. I mean, it’s about the communication.
Epiphora: It’s a weird reviewer thing.
Krista: That doesn’t happen every day, and they obviously had that connection. The review community’s pretty robust, as you can kind of tell from all the inside stuff that’s going on here. But yeah, I mean, when you have that kind of relationship between the company and the reviewer, and you can kind of communicate, and she can say to me, you know, “I actually don’t really love this toy, don’t really hate this toy, don’t really want to write about this toy, but I have an alternate solution,” and then I can say, “well, you were honest with me. I don’t want to force you to write about this toy.” We have kind of, you know —
Epiphora: We go way back.
Krista: We’ve had a lot of toys between us —
Epiphora: [laughs] That’s kind of weird.
Krista: — that I’ve sent out and she’s done a lot of reviews over the years for me, so just that one toy, you know, we can make the exception. If it was a reviewer where that was the only toy I’d ever sent them and they were like, “can I send this to my best friend?” Well, sure, if you’re going to post a review on your site, you can have whoever you want review it… but if you want to make a special situation like that, it’s just all about communicating and being open to different options when it’s not working out exactly how you would have hoped.
Lorax: So there’s another aspect of this that we get asked about a lot and it’s sort of the $10,000 question, or the $39,000 question, depending on how you look at it — and that’s the question of money.
Can you make money doing this? Can you actually pay your bills doing this? Are affiliate programs a necessary part of the equation?
Piph, I’ll let you kick this one off. I think you have feels.
Epiphora: I have many. I have many. My answer is gonna be kind of long about this, but that’s okay, I think. People always ask, “can you make money? Can you make money?” Well, you can, with the affiliate programs and advertising and stuff, but only if you’re realistic and you really put the work in. You can’t just set up a blog and put some links in it. If no one reads it, no one clicks the links, and you don’t make money.
So you have to be extremely persistent and you kind of have to become a trusted voice. You have to have a couple years, maybe, I’d say, under your belt before you start making affiliate money, just from my experience.
You shouldn’t do sex toy reviews for money. That shouldn’t be the reason. It should be because you love toys and you love to write. If it’s not, and it’s just the toys, you’ll end up quitting before you even get to the point where you start making money.
For me, though, because I’ve been doing this for a while, coming up on six years, I have made it my personal policy to almost never review for a company unless they have an affiliate program. Because for me, free sex toys are not payment enough anymore. Maybe when I started, it was exciting [laughs] and everything, but now, you know, I think that if I love something, I should get a percentage of the sales from that review where I freak the fuck out over how great something is. And orgasms can’t pay my rent…
Lorax: Or buy cat food.
Epiphora: Or buy cat food, or vet bills, or any of that — which I wish. People think that orgasms are so good that it makes up for everything or something, but it doesn’t.
So yeah, I think that if you want to work with reviewers, you should probably have an affiliate program — some sort of incentive program for the people you work with, to show that you value them beyond just the initial 800 words or whatever that they write about the toy.
So I have an example of a company that shut down their affiliate program, and the reason that they gave was kind of infuriating. So I’m actually just gonna read it, because it’s great. It says:
If we have to pay our customers to recommend us to their friends, then we probably don’t deserve that recommendation in the first place. In addition, the cost of managing and paying out on an affiliates program can alternately be invested back into our customers in the form of better promotions and sales.
So, this sounds good, right? Sort of, you’re kind of like, seems legit — but what they’re actually saying is that the customers matter but the people sending the customers, putting out the good word, doing their work for them in some cases, don’t matter. And they are misrepresenting what an affiliate program is, because it doesn’t pay for reviews — it just rewards them. So that is something that kind of bothered me. If you’re gonna shut it down, maybe just don’t even write about why, because there’s no real, good reason. But they tried to make it sound like it was for the good of everyone involved, even the affiliates, and I was like, “hmm. Interesting.”
Krista: Good answer, there. “We don’t have the resources.” Just leave it at that.
Epiphora: Yeah, just be super vague about it. Exactly.
Oh, and I did want to point out that if you can’t do an affiliate program for some reason, you know, there are other ways you can do things. Like you can set up a coupon code that’s specific to an affiliate, and then anyone who uses that code, the affiliate gets a percentage of the sales. Like, you pretty much can’t convince me that you can’t implement that. [laughs] The only way is if you don’t have a coupon code system, so… if you value us, you can do it.
Lorax: Krista? Or Jenna? Either of you, do you have anything to add?
Krista: Well, I’ve definitely encountered people who have contacted me and said, you know, said they don’t want to become an affiliate but they’re interested in reviewing a toy or a product maybe because they just need content for their site and they already have plenty of advertisers. They’re not trying to necessarily make money off of the review, but they want to talk about the toys.
So there are instances where someone might not be interested in an affiliate program, but we still go through the same kind of… if someone’s just, “I’m lazy, I don’t want to sign up for the affiliate program, but I want you to send me a toy, and look it, I’ve got a blog,” it just kind of makes you wonder how much effort they’re really gonna put in once they get that toy… and if they write a review, whether they’re going to follow through any further than that.
But for the most part, I mean, an affiliate program can really be incentive to keep going and I also think that, something that I’ve noticed — if you have a very focused idea about what your mission is, what you’re talking about on your blog, it might not even take those two years for you to build up that traffic. Like, there’s this site that some of you might have seen that’s called Oh Joy, Sex Toy… just came out within the last few months…
Epiphora: Yeah, she was like, successful immediately.
Krista: And immediate traffic.
Epiphora: ‘Cause people know who she is.
Krista: So if you have a background in something and you really focus what you’re good at, you know — don’t try to copy what Piph is doing, don’t say, “oh she’s successful, she’s doing it that way, I’ll do it.” Figure out what your passion is, and then you’re gonna enjoy doing it and people are going to come to see that.
Epiphora: And then buy shit. [laughs]
Jenna: You know, Tantus is kind of in a weird position when it comes to our affiliate program because 95% of our business or even more is the manufacturing concern: we make toys, we sell them to the trade, we sell them to the retail shops, and they sell those. The web store, which is kind of where the affiliate program is focused, really only represents a very small percentage of Tantus’ overall business. So it’s not a huge financial driver the way it would be for an ecommerce site.
And so for us, you know, an affiliate link is nice for me because it helps me track exactly what’s happening with bloggers. It’s an easy kind of metric to use. They’re making a lot of commission, it looks like, and so I know they’re bringing me a lot of traffic. We also pay very close attention to who’s sending us links and where people are clicking from.
So I have, honest, all the time on my screen, when I’m at work, 9 hours a day, the Google Analytics page with the live feed so I can see — if you hop onto the Tantus site, chances are, I’m getting a little light on your state showing me where you’re coming from, which is kinda cool. So I do sort of track that as well.
The reason we have a reviewer and affiliate program is kind of twofold. Number one, it allows us a huge testing ground for potential new colors, sizes, design… we get a lot of market information. It’s a way to build relationships with people who are thought leaders in these kinds of circles. We get great feedback. It’s one thing to send a toy out to somebody, but if they only tell me, “yeah it’s great, it’s wonderful, I used it with my wife and she loved it,” that’s not really helpful for me because our toys are intended to be anatomically targeted. Tell me how the toy worked for you and why it did, and a thoughtful review is really necessary. So that’s one reason we have this review/affiliate program at all.
I also think that it creates pull for our sales department. If customers are learning about Tantus and they’re reading reviews online, you know, they’re doing research before they buy. Then they go into their local brick and mortar and they say, “hey, do you guys carry Tantus?” And the store owner says, “no, I’ve never heard of them, maybe I should get in touch with them. People are coming in and they’re saying ‘Tantus Tantus Tantus Tantus…'” So, for me, that’s even more valuable necessarily than even just the affiliate program. Metis did you…
Metis Black, in audience: Bringing it down to about 1% of our sales come from our website. It’s really a testing thing for us to see what colors are hot, what sizes are hot, and get more spec data than we do when a buyer is buying. Case in point: Good Vibrations, we used to make a mint color that Epiphora would have loved…
Lorax: It was so gorgeous!
Metis: And Good Vibrations chose Silks in this lavender and this green and the green made the top ten of our list of the time because they were buying so much. So, buyer’s choice can skew what we have a success with.
The other thing that I wanted to say is, I hope and I try in social media… if Good Vibrations had had someone review a Tantus toy, I want to plug them, I want that affiliate program to succeed, and I want to send that — whether it’s Lovehoney or Good Vibrations or whoever — I want that review to be seen by more and more people… as many people as can possibly be seen.
Epiphora: Yeah, I’m always surprised that manufacturers don’t jump on that shit.
Jenna: I do!
Epiphora: You’re one of the only ones, though.
Krista: I can say it’s interesting for the company in that regard, because sometimes you have, from people higher up, they say, you know, “we don’t want you to be tweeting everybody’s affiliate link; those people are supposed to be going out and finding new people, not tapping into our community.” But I’m of the same way, I’ve always felt like, these guys are making reviews for us. They’re creating content about our products. We want to support that and retweet and all those things, but sometimes you have the official protocol of the Twitter or whatever it is that says you can’t do that so much because we don’t want everyone to think we’re… we don’t want to send links away as much.
But as a manufacturer in that situation where you’re working with a retailer as well, you’re just trying to get that name out there. So we kind of have lots of layers: you have manufacturers, you have retailers, you have the bloggers, reviewers…
Lorax: And so we’ve got one more question for us up here on the table before we open it up for the rest of you. And that is, so we as bloggers and reviewers, we get readership, right? We also get free products — sometimes it lasts through the testing process and sometimes we cut it open to see what’s on the inside because science!
But what do the companies get? And why should these two wonderful people here sitting at the table — why should they even bother sending stuff to us? Why do that?
Krista: Well, I think a lot of it is the word of mouth that we’re just talking about. It’s getting those links out there, kind of boosting the SEO, the Google seeing your links out there in the world, seeing people talking about the products. Getting the feedback. On Lovehoney, we have a huge resource of reviews. We want people to review our products. We really do want people to make educated choices. And reaching out to the community and people who are really knowledgeable about these toys to give their feedback helps us all get to the point where we’re finding what we really want in the first place. So I think it’s just getting that word of mouth out, because a lot of the toy companies don’t necessarily do a lot of paid advertising, and so this is a way for us to really get word of mouth out that’s more authentic.
Epiphora: Slightly more genuine, yeah. I mean, the obvious stuff, of course, is the companies get publicity, they get their name out there, people see it, they get links. But what a lot of companies don’t understand, or believe, I suppose, is that even a negative review is driving traffic to their site. I’ve seen the referring URLs. I’ve seen them! Well, I try to. Some companies won’t show them to me. But I want to know which review led to a sale. And it’s the same: negative, positive, it’s all going to the same place.
And the reason is, I think, a person is reading a sex toy review because they want to buy a sex toy! And they’re gonna read it and go, “huh, well that one sucks… but this other thing that’s also on this website doesn’t look like it sucks.” Or maybe I’ve recommended something else instead of the toy. So they’re still gonna buy a sex toy, it’s just not going to be the one that I just massacred in front of their face. So yeah, I think it’s bullshit when they’re just like, “well, negative reviews don’t get us any traffic; no one buys from us from that.” It’s a lie.
Jenna: So what does Tantus get out of reviews? I’m gonna kind of veer off Tantus script, if you don’t mind, Metis, because it’s kind of a personal answer. You know, I love retail, I love the pace of that, sort of making my goals, and being financially successful. But really, at heart, I want to start a revolution. I think there’s a lot of really damaging and negative messaging about sex in this culture. I hear from people every single day who are ashamed about their sex lives, or think that they don’t deserve pleasure, that their sex life is not working for them, and that’s just the way it is, and they give up. That has an effect on people, and I hear it in our voices. I hear all kinds of stories. Come sit down at the bar afterward and I’ll tell you all about it. [audience laughs]
I have a great job in the world because I get to spend 40 hours a week talking about the importance of good sex education, and ways to improve access to medically accurate sexual health information. For some people who call me, I am their only resource for sex ed information. You know, it’s one thing to be in L.A. or New York and have access to really great shops. But what if you’re out in rural West Virginia or northern Idaho, and there’s no sex stores around, and you don’t know who to ask, and your doctor is not willing to answer your questions — and heavens, if you even ask them, they’d think you’re some sort of crazy weirdo? I have people tell me all the time that they are just so isolated where they’re at.
So again, I think that what I do is part of a larger movement, and I’m really excited at the prospect of a culture where pleasure-based sex is okay, and I look forward to seeing that world someday. I’m really hoping that we do. Tantus is on board with this in a way that I haven’t seen other places. Tantus sends out toys because it’s important to educate people on what makes a sex toy great: quality materials, thoughtful design, but also commitment to this idea that everybody deserves sexual health and sexual pleasure, and you can have both. And that is your birthright. And that you deserve both. [awed silence]
Krista: I just got chills.
Lorax: Shit. [audience laughs]
So in today’s modern world, you know, linking is important. Krista mentioned SEO and Google Analytics, that sort of thing. You have to have an online presence if you want to make it in this world as a retailer, if you want to make it in this world as a company, as a manufacturer. You have to, or you are going to die in a fiery pit of death. So web presence is important — Google PageRank, all of that.
But more than that, we get the discussion out there. Krista mentioned, you know, sometimes people say, “oh, well, we’re not here to push their affiliate codes. They’re supposed to be helping us get a new audience.” Well, so the people who follow — we’ll use Lovehoney for an example. People who follow Lovehoney on Twitter, yeah, they already know about Lovehoney. But they don’t know about all the products and all of the toys… they don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of this. So they’ll see a review come by and they’ll be like, “oh, hey! That’s really helpful.” That helps you get more information.
Also, I’ve had people say, “hey, I saw this review about this toy and I thought of you. And I thought you’d love it.” Or, “I thought you’d hate it and you’d want to rip it a new one.” Either way, you get people who will then refer somebody who doesn’t already know about it. Somebody will email it, somebody will tweet it, somebody will retweet it, and then you are accessing a whole ‘nother audience that you didn’t have before. So that’s really important.
I work in a retail environment, and for me, reviewers are priceless. That’s how I get product knowledge information that is not canned from a company. I can talk all day about what Company X and Company Y tells me about their new, amazing, revolutionary, groundbreaking, never-before-seen three-ring circus of a toy. But how does it actually perform in the real world?
I send customers constantly to Epiphora’s site. Especially gentlemen I send to RuffledSheets.com, an amazing gentleman out of the U.K. who is one of the few male reviewers out there really doing this. And that’s a voice that’s not being heard. So that’s a really important thing. That, to me, is priceless.
And, you know, it goes to the usefulness of a toy, and helps people know if something is actually a poor performer in real life. It may be endorsed by Oprah Magazine, and you may have seen it on Sex and the City, and the Real Housewives of What’s-it-Who, and all of this stuff. But what does that mean? That means they have good product placement and they’ve got a good PR manager. That doesn’t speak to the toy. And anyone who is unwilling to flat-out provide gratis for me to review a toy, and insists that the only means for me to review your product is to buy it myself? You’re getting the side-eye. I don’t trust that. And it makes me wonder why — what don’t you want me to know? What don’t you want me to say about your product? At least for me, that’s a big thing.
So, we would like to open up the floor to some questions, so that we can hear if there’s anything that we didn’t say that y’all want to hear! Or if you just want to hear more funny weird stories from us.
Attendee, in audience: I have a question for Krista and Jenna. Beyond a review relationship, can you offer suggestions on starting maybe a sponsorship relationship for events, or a web series, or that sort of thing?
Krista: From my experience, it really is going to depend on the company and where they’re at. A lot of the companies, for example Lovehoney, we don’t do any paid sponsorships. So going in, you just know that that’s not an option. But there are smaller companies that might be putting a lot more into an advertising budget and might be a better fit for something like that. Unfortunately we just don’t do that type of sponsorship.
Jenna: Generally speaking, we have a really small, sort of nascent marketing department. We’ve only had it maybe the last year and a half. And for a long time it was me — I was the marketing department. We’re lucky enough now to have a staff of three. We don’t do a lot of financial sponsorship of things, only because we’re a small company and we don’t have very big budgets.
But if you’re looking for something like, you know, toys for a giveaway, you want to run a contest, you want free Tantus buttons and stickers to give out at an event, you want information, you want those kinds of things — I’m absolutely happy to try and help support events that kind of fall within our values and guidelines. Generally, there’s not really a policy on this, but basically come talk to me and we’ll see what we can do. I can’t promise anything huge, but certainly if you’re looking for things like raffle prizes, contests, we’d like to do a giveaway on our website, absolutely. We can usually manage that.
Metis: And universities.
Jenna: Yeah, universities. I’m sending a whole bunch of stuff to Harvard. Our toys are going to college! [audience laughs]
Krista: In that case, you know, you just want to do the same kind of type of professional outreach. Even if you don’t know what they have to offer, be flexible. If you have different options, maybe you could use just a toy donation… just kind of reach out and say what you have to offer, what you have in mind, and be flexible to negotiate — to get something out of it for everybody.
Jenna: And if you can give me a reason why you’re choosing Tantus and not… I can tell the emails where they’re just calling every toy manufacturer in the phone book, and the emails where they’re actually interested in Tantus because of what we do, and what we do differently than other companies. And that’s where you get my heart.
Penny: I have a question for everyone about the idea of affiliate link loyalty. Say one manufacturer or one company sends you the the toy. Is it okay to include multiple links to different affiliates?
If it’s a manufacturer it seems like it would make more sense and that’s more okay, because they just want the toys out there. But if it’s a retailer, do you need to be loyal or not? Where’s the line there?
Lorax and Epiphora in unison: Um.
Epiphora: I have things.
Lorax: I have things. [rock paper scissors twice, both a draw]
Epiphora: That is the kind of thing I think you should talk about with the company. If a manufacturer is sending you something, yeah, it sounds like you should be able to link wherever. But, you know, if you think it’s a possibility that they would misunderstand this, and they would be like “sorry, you need to just link to our website where there’s no affiliate program” — like, that’s a problem for me. So if I’m reaching out to a manufacturer, I let them know, “I do want to review this, but I’m going to be linking to affiliate shops that I’m with, because you don’t have a program.” Yeah, I wouldn’t quite assume. And then if a shop sends you one, usually it’s just shop links is what you can only use in that review.
Lorax: In my experience, I have a personal rule I do hold: if somebody sends me a product, and I have an active relationship with that company — footnote — I do hold to linking to products through their store, unless I am recommending something that they do not carry.
Epiphora: Yeah, it sucks.
Lorax: Those of you who read my blog, or if you read my blog later, you will see I’m a big proponent of oil-based lubricant for butt fun. Many of the so-called feminist sex-positive sex stores do not carry oil-based lubricants because they’ve been very vagina-centric, and oil-based lubes are not the friend of the vagina. Which is totally cool, but when I’m talking about, you know, Tantus’ amazing butt plug that I really love, and I want to tell people this is my favorite lube to use with it — I can’t necessarily link to the company or the store that sent that toy to me for my lube reference.
And so I will tell them, “hey, all the links for everything else are going to be to you, but I’m gonna link to these other people for this one product because I have to. Because you don’t carry it.” And that also tells them, “hey, you should carry this shit.”
My footnote on that being “active relationship”: I have been sent toys that were in my review queue that I was interested in reviewing, and in that time period between, that relationship has dissolved for various reasons. At that point, I treat that toy as if I have purchased it of my own money and my own volition, and I link to whoever the fuck I want to.
Epiphora: Go rogue.
Lorax: That is me going with either who has the best selection, who gives me the best kickback, who do I like this week…
Epiphora: I think another good solution to that is have reviews of all the shit you wanna link to. That works out for me!
Lorax: Well that’s you because you’ve been around for like, six years. And we love you for it.
Epiphora: I really like Sliquid lube, and so I just wrote this post that was like, “my favorite lube is Sliquid anything,” right? And I wrote it, honestly, mostly so I could link to it. Because whenever I talk about lube, I just link to it. You can connect the dots. So then I don’t have to link to a shop, and they can find out why I specifically like the lube.
Joan Price, in audience: You haven’t mentioned advertisers as an alternative to affiliates.
Epiphora: Advertisers are a totally different thing, yeah.
Lorax: You have no scruples with taking advertising.
Epiphora: I don’t. Mostly my policy is: I will sell my soul for sidebar advertising, but the content is sacred. Unfortunately, I wish I could take money just from really great reputable companies, you know, and put those in my sidebar, but that’s just not how it is. A lot of the companies who are spending the money are new, and they don’t know what they’re doing. And I’m happy to take their money, because I think people aren’t clicking those ads, honestly… if you want the truth. People are clicking the links in the reviews, and the things in the posts and on the website.
I don’t know. It’s a kind of awkward area, because you want to be like, “it’s all good toys, all the time” on this website. But you’ve got to make money somehow. One of my goals is definitely to never have to have advertising partnerships with people I don’t really like that much… but not yet.
Lorax: I don’t do much by way of paid advertising… for that reason. My sidebar I do use for my affiliate links and that sort of thing. I’ve had one or two people approach me about advertising, and I made the judgement call at that point, with the way that I have designed my site, that text links don’t flow well with it for me. And I’m not really willing to put a full sidebar button up for somebody that I don’t stand behind. And that’s my personal decision.
Does it mean that I don’t make money on my site? Fuck yeah it does. I don’t have to pay taxes based on revenue from my site because I don’t make much off my site. And I’m okay with that. Like Piph said earlier, don’t do this because you want to get rich off dildos. You’re not gonna be a dillionaire doing this. [audience laughs]
Like, you’re just not. This is because you love giving out good sex ed information. This is because you love toys. This is possibly because you love writing… sometimes you realize you didn’t really love writing.
Lorax: This is because you have a passion to be on that soapbox and to be spreading that information and that truth, and that love or that vitriol. And that’s why you do this.
Joan: If I could just offer something from my experience. I work with a set of advertisers whose sites I endorse and that I vetted, but I also will go approach companies that I like. “You know, you should really be advertising on my blog, because it reaches this demographic that you need.” And nine times out of ten they’ll say no, or “not at this time.” But then the tenth time, there’s a yes. So we don’t have to patiently wait for people to come to us.
Epiphora: Right. I mean, I think I would do that if a company didn’t have an affiliate program. But if they do, I already have their banner. If I’m doing it of my own free will, putting it there, then I don’t know if I’ll make any more money from a flat rate. ‘Cause someone could go and buy $500 worth of sex toys in one sitting… and I want that to happen.
Lorax: We have time for one more question.
Lyndzi: How long would you say… I assume when you started your websites, you were reviewing toys that you already owned.
How long would you say that you reviewed toys that you already owned, or went out and bought new toys, before you actually started using it as more as a business, that you were getting things in return?
Lorax: I started off posting about toys that I had, and posting informational content. I do not just post reviews. I also post… I have an epic lube post. If you want to read about lube, if you love lube, please go read it. Not tooting my own horn, but it’s about lube and it’s great. It gets linked to a lot. I’m big about the education aspect. So for me, I also write about: I’m kinky, I am part of the BDSM community, I used to be an active part of the leather community — I’m not, I write about that too and why. So for me, and for what I’ve seen with people in my vein, it’s less about how many reviews you’ve done, and active content and active engaging.
I also had… a little bit of a background… I used to make a thing that were called “zines”… [audience laughs]
Lorax: They were these paper things and you Xeroxed them, and you stapled them and folded them, and you handed them out at your local punk rock venues. And I used to have a zine in which I wrote about this stuff, back in the day of paper. And so I had a little bit of a background there, which I feel like helped get my foot in the door.
Epiphora: Yeah, I’m totally different. This is wonderful. I actually started getting them for free. However, that’s not really how it happens a lot now. ‘Cause it used to be, there was kind of a time when —
Lorax: It was the Golden Era of Sex Toys.
Epiphora: It was like “dildos, for everyone! You can all have them!”
Lorax: “Dildos for everyone!” It’s like Oprah.
Epiphora: So I was kind of spoiled at the beginning, although I did review crappier things then, right, like lower price point things that I probably wouldn’t want to try now. Also because I didn’t have a lot of experience, so those were all still new to me and exciting. Like, “oh a slimline vibe that’s plastic, that’s awesome!” Now I’m like, “no.”
So then I just started working with a bunch of different companies. Again, it was a good time for that, to get in with the companies. Now I think it’s a lot more difficult. But if you have stuff, you should definitely review it. And if you don’t, you should spend a little bit of money. And yeah, pad it out maybe with some other stuff. You do have to spend a little bit more up front, I think, now if you’re starting out now. Because there’s not these programs that there used to be. But you can get lucky sometimes! So just send the emails and see what happens.
Lorax: And write about why you want to do this. Write about what your angle is, if you’ve got a unique angle and you’ve got a unique community that you’re coming from, definitely give that…
Epiphora: Yeah. Use that shit all the time. I don’t have one, so.
Attendee, in audience: I have a question for you two [Krista and Jenna]. What you were just talking about. I have some very nice — thank you for the Realdoe, by the way. Well, no, you didn’t give it to me, but thank you for producing that. But, you know, so I’m going to work on those reviews. I don’t know who’s looking at my blog. I’ve been blogging for about a year. I have a very modest number of Twitter followers at this time.
How do you take that into consideration when you’re looking at potential people? Do you look at their Twitter followers? Is there a way to figure out who’s looking at their blog?
Krista: I kind of look at everything. Like, how often do you blog? So it’s not super often, but is it consistent? Do you seem legit? If you send me a link to your site and it has three posts, and you tell me you have six thousand followers, and I can’t find any of that in the real world, then I’m skeptical.
But at the same time, like Piph said, we usually have a range of products. Somebody who is just getting started might not be in the running for a $150 sex toy, but if you just want to try something new, usually there is kind of some wiggle room there. And if it looks like you’re gonna stick with it, and you’re not just a flash in the pan, then you know, we’re kind of willing to grow with you.
Jenna: And I would say all of that as well as, again, I look for that core values sort of fit. You know, I’d be willing to send a toy — try it out, see what you think, write a review, see if we’re getting some traffic for that, and we’ll go from there.
Krista: It can happen with somebody who’s established that you think they’re never gonna disappear. Those people will disappear too after you send them a toy. So every time it’s a gamble. But just show that you’re actually taking it seriously and that it’s something that you are putting some effort into and being honest about timelines and things like that.
I wanted to say, also: take the toys that you get at this conference and review them, and then get back in touch with those companies. Because that’s why they’re here! And if you say “I got your We-Vibe Thrill and I reviewed it, and here it’s on my site,” you’re starting a relationship with that company. And when they come out with the We-Vibe 5, you might be on their list if they really enjoyed your review. And it’s not just the traffic that came to your site — maybe they can reprint some of that on their own site, and give that insight out to other people.
Epiphora: Yeah, make the connections early and keep them. And if you like someone, stay with them.
Lorax: I believe that is our time. Thank you, everyone! Please do come talk to us, we don’t bite unless you ask.