If you read my blog on tips for working with brands for bloggers then you’ll know one of my biggest blogging world frustrations is when bloggers take advantage of brands. The thing with bloggers and instagramers is that things are rarely what they seem to be and this can result in a lot of misconceptions about the results that giving a blogger a product will get you. I wanted (needed) to get all this out there to give brands some insight into the blogging world while also answering the number one question I get from brands: “how do I tell the difference between the good bloggers and the ones who just want free stuff?”.
The big brands have super strict collaboration rules, contracts and detailed visual guidelines.
I want to work with a blogger, where do I begin?
Much like bloggers who want to work with brands, the first step is to figure out who your target audience is and make sure yours aligns with the blogger(s) you select. For example, if you want to reach the high fashion crowd, then you probably wouldn’t reach out to an influencer who posts about food and fitness (even if you love to follow them yourself). As for bloggers who seem to post about everything, take a look through their feed and see which posts consistently perform the highest. They may post equally about beauty and home design, but their beauty posts may perform way better. Also take a look at how their posts are that feature other brands through collabs. Do they post about the brand with their product front and centre? Or do they push product off to the side and try to disguise it as a non-sponsored post? All of this is important consider while picking who to work with.
HEADS UP – make sure you know the audience: Don’t get stuck thinking that the influencers with the most followers are the only ones to reach out to. Big numbers doesn’t necessarily mean big influence in your niche or location. With so many people faking followers (and even likes!) it’s easy to get tricked and burned by people with big (fake) numbers. If you love someone’s aesthetic and vibe but suspect they may have purchased or faked their following make sure you ask to see a screenshot of their follower analytics first. Anyone with a business Instagram account can pull this data easily and it ensures their following is actually from where it seems to be. They may offer a media kit instead which provides similar insights but in a more polished format. If they decline to give you a media kit or try to make you feel bad for asking – move on. If you receive the info and it doesn’t quite add up then put some thought into it. Trust your gut.
Some of my favourite products started as collabs. I was terrified to reach out to Bare Skin Bar but I’m so glad I did because I love the product and adore the business owner.
Come with a plan
When you email or DM an influencer for the first time make sure you already know what you can offer and where you draw the line. If a blogger comes back and says they want free product and $100 is that something you can do? Would you want to? Is it worth it? What if you want three posts and they are only going to post in their story? Make sure you have this sorted before you slide into the DM.
It isn’t uncommon to go back and forth to determine the rules and parameters of the collaboration. Keep in mind – in most cases a collaboration is a business conversation so don’t get caught off guard if the influencer treats it as such. ALWAYS make your arrangement clear before you send anything.
For example make the rules of engagement explicit: This collaboration requires a minimum of 2 posts and 1 unboxing story that feature the product front and centre with no other brands mentioned in the post. Both caption and photo have to tag @yourbusiness. If you do not like the product it can be returned to Location within two weeks of receipt and posting will not be required.
Most small brands that I have worked with are a lot more causal than this but I think that it’s because they’re scared to establish something so rigid that will scare influencers off. I have heard so many horror stories of people sending bloggers products and then they disappear or a post goes up for an hour or less. Any influencer that takes your collaboration seriously won’t have an issue with an explicit agreement and if they seem hesitant or resistant you have to question if they truly want to work with you or if they just want product without commitment.
TIP FROM THE PRO: Small business extraordinaire and my friend Sam from XX Balm recommends using discount codes to track how well influencers are performing. You can see the exact benefits based on how many times a purchase is made using the code. No purchases made? That doesn’t mean your influencer did nothing. They still spread the message of your brand but you didn’t see any solid return on your investment.
How to deal with collaboration requests
A lot of brands get dozens of requests to work with bloggers. I’ve seen some pretty crazy collaboration requests through some of my friend’s businesses and I’m sure you have too. When you get a message asking for free product, think about the following before replying:
- Are they in your target market geographically?
- Would your product fit in with their posts?
- Do you like their style? Does it align with yours (consider the reposts)?
- Have they been following you for a while? Do they engage with your posts?
- Do they tell you why they want to work together?
- How many followers do they have and would providing them product be a good investment?
If it fits then holla back to them and start to establish your collab!
If the answer is no…that’s ok! You’re running a business and can’t give product just because someone asked. Write a simple and sweet decline that thanks them for their interest. Keep in mind that they may have been nervous to message so you when you craft your decline don’t be too harsh! Another alternative is to offer up a discount code instead so that they can still collaborate with you but you don’t have to take a huge hit to your bottom line.
One more thing…
As much as I hate when bloggers take advantage of brands I hate when brands take advantage of bloggers just as much. It takes hours to put together content and sometimes it’s really hard to get the perfect shot. Show love for the people you collaborate with who put in the time, and show love for the photos that people post of your product that they bought. You have no idea how much a like and comment mean when a brand you worship notices your post.
As always if you have any questions reach out via email email@example.com or slide into the DM @sugarandsam!