This got to be a little more complicated than just 5 simple things, but more knowledge is good…right?? Right. I’ve also asked some veterans to weigh in. Epiphora made this great post for sex toy reviewers but I wanted to see if we could narrow it down and make it less about being a newbie and more about “continuing education”. So Tip #4 comes to you from Piph! I want to be clear and say that a lot of these things don’t apply to your average blogger who is just blogging to have an outlet, a writing voice, etc. That type of blogging is no less valid; you’re in it for you and nobody else and that’s awesome. But if you want to be a reviewer and be given things to review from companies, then you need to treat it like a job in some ways.
1. Know about sex toy material safety and proper care and cleaning. Familiarize yourself with truth vs myth. We’ve dispelled a lot of myths in recent years – like we know now that pure silicone sex toys can be all up in each other’s business with no ill effects. There shall be no melting, no deformities. We once thought this to be true because so many companies tried to pass TPR off as silicone. It’s not, nor is there such a thing as a TPR “blended” with silicone. I, at this very moment, have a drawer full of silicone dildos. I have an over-the-door shoe rack and I have multiple sex toys shoved in each pocket. Nothing bad has happened. Yet I still see people cautioning that you must store each sex toy in its own bag and don’t let them touch. I also still see a lot of people singing the praises of how good a certain dildo feels, despite the fact that it stinks, but hey it feels so good that I’m gonna overlook that little issue with the smell. That’s fine if you want to risk your health and welfare, but at least educate your readers about porosity, toxic toys, and safe sharing at a minimum.
2. Understand what your audience actually needs from a sex toy review. Spend fewer words describing how the toy functions in extreme detail and fewer words describing the packaging in detail. This isn’t to say you can or should avoid this info all the time, but it’s less important. I’m a reviewer but I’m also a buyer. When I am reading your sex toy reviews, I am going to go straight for the “what does it feel like” section. I want to know if it’s rumbly or buzzy and how powerful it is and what you would compare it to – comparisons often help me decide. If you say it’s slightly less powerful than the Lelo Gigi, that’s a big tell for me. Of course, how you feel about specific toys overall helps me, too. If you feel that the Lelo Gigi is ultra-powerful and rumbly, then your reviews aren’t going to work for me. I’m not saying that your perception of vibration intensity is wrong….I’m saying it doesn’t match my perception. For some people, most vibrators are intensely powerful. For other people (like mahself) there’s a small list of vibrators that are powerful enough / the right kind of powerful. And please…..don’t be afraid to talk about your body. Someone with an exposed clitoris and minimal labia, who is also thin, will have vastly different opinions on some vibrators than I do. There are simply some designs that do not work on vulvas like mine – fleshy outer labia with a very recessed clit.
3. Write reviews to benefit your readers – not your affiliate account, not the company you’re reviewing for. Your reviews should be for your readers, to help them determine if the sex toy will work for them, and that goes beyond vibrations or girth. Being overly positive, refusing to write a negative review, trying to find silver linings on shitty toys, proclaiming a weak toy as being “great for beginners“, not discussing serious flaws in design or use…..these all do a great disservice to your audience. They need to trust you and your opinion and THEN they will buy from your links. Worried about not making money from a negative review? Recommend something else similar that you feel is better. IF the flaws aren’t great but the design just didn’t work for you, then try to think of who it WOULD work for. And, equally as important, don’t censor your reviews just to appease a company. There are many retailers and even manufacturers out there who want good reviewers and a quality, honest company realizes that negative reviews are worthy and a fact of life. Companies that listen to negative reviews and use them to make their products better are few and far between, but they do exist. If I have a company tell me that I need to be more upbeat, more sunshine-y, then we’re not a good fit. If you want me to have a “classy review” devoid of discussing the vibrator’s ability (or not) to make me come? You’re in the wrong place. You’re also What’s Wrong With This Industry.
4. “There is no formula. Your life as a blogger will be a lot less stressful if you banish almost every notion about what a sex toy review blog should be (except, you know, the part about good content). Taking inspiration from other bloggers is fine, but if you spend all your time modelling yourself after them, you’ll never discover what makes you unique, happy, and ultimately, reputable. If I had to put every toy in each of my orifices and then write a 2,000-word screed about it, I would have burned out long ago. But some people are really good at that! I just let them be good at that while I do my own thing.” ~ Epiphora – HeyEpiphora.com
5. Be Professional. This covers everything from your blog to social media. On your blog, your writing is often all that people see. Your writing should be a reflection of you and it should dress to impress. This means clean up the typos, run spell-check and have a basic knowledge of grammar. Their/they’re/there and that sort of thing. If you don’t care enough to do just that amount, then why should I trust your reviews?
The other side of professionalism is knowing how to present yourself on social media. If you want to work with companies, if you want to have advertisers and if you care about making a side income then you need to care about what you say and how you act on social media. Tone down your ego and sense of entitlement – be grateful for every “yes” and humble and respectful of every “no”. You’re not the only game on the block. Therefore, don’t take every rejection so personally. It might be personal but it is more often a decision based on numbers and metrics and their own quotas. Respect that. I’m sure you’ve heard this job interview tip: “Don’t bash your former boss”. Apply that to this situation as well. There are some grievances and opinions that absolutely need to public knowledge….but not everything. When a company sees you publicly bashing the fact that another company turned you down, they’ll be reluctant to work with you for fear you’ll turn on them publicly as well.
I’m merely a fellow reviewer, so I wondered what the advice would look like coming from a company. I asked my favorite “boss”, Sandra of SheVibe, to give me her top 5 tips for reviewers:
In my time with SheVibe I have watched so many sex bloggers blossom, it’s been awesome. When we first launched the site, we didn’t have a review program. We kind of watched was going on from the sidelines, made sure we understood the nuances – the culture so to speak. When we felt like we had something to offer we entered the arena, always treating it as a reciprocal relationship where both parties learn and grow. My advice to newcomers and veterans alike is this:
- Know who you’re reaching out to. You better believe I’m going to know who you are before I agree to you reviewing for us. I check to see what the overall attitude is. I understand the need to share parts of one’s personal life – it’s important to inject pieces of yourself to connect with your readers, but there’s a fine balance to keep in check. If you’re constantly airing your dirty laundry, that is a red flag for me. I will also check old posts to see how or if you’ve grown. I look at social media also – this is often where people show excessive combativeness or a tendency to “overshare”. Again, I understand that this might be considered personal space, but if you are treating your blog as a business, then you may want to consider a separate persona for your personal needs.
- Presentation is everything, from the initial email you send me to how your website is designed. If you don’t present well, it is going to be hard for you to build a readership and readers are $$ in the eyes of the retailer. In other words – spelling and grammar matter! Clean up your typos! Check your attitude from ego to temper.
- Have a well-rounded world view and don’t try to serve too many masters. By this I mean, have the presence of mind to know that just because something doesn’t work for your body type or is outside of your taste preference doesn’t mean that everyone will have the same experience. This is a mistake I see a lot of newcomers make and kind of ties in to #4. By serving too many masters means that if you are reviewing for several companies, it’s likely that none of them are getting your best work. It also smacks of someone just trying to get as much “free stuff” as possible. I find that the most successful bloggers tend to connect with a handful of companies they like and respect. There are some bloggers I will do pretty much anything for – they have shown us loyalty and support and I will absolutely reciprocate. You can’t develop that kind of relationship if you’re all over the place.
- If you are going to speak in absolutes, you should absolutely know what you are talking about. I have come across some instances where a reviewer will say something along the lines of, “trust me, you will hate this….”. I still see a lot of mis-information about lubricants and materials. Or I’ll see off base comments about how something is manufactured. There’s a lot of misconception and lack of understanding. Very few bloggers really take the time to understand this business soup to nuts. I get it, it’s a lot to know. But you can’t speak about things you know nothing about or don’t understand and I would much prefer you ask rather than take the opportunity to leave bad intel in your review just because you liked the way the sentence played out.
- If we aren’t able to accept you into our program now, it’s not personal. Work harder, get better, build your audience, love what you do. You are scrapping for readership in an ever changing, tough industry. If you are passionate, trust me, it will pay off.