Influencer Marketing & The Art of Working with Bloggers
This post was originally shared on Casual.pm.
We can all agree that it’s increasingly challenging to get your brand noticed. Finding your online tribe and generating trust can feel like an impossible task. This is where Influencer Marketing comes in. It is an effective tactic to grow your brand awareness on a shoestring budget. Influencer Marketing enables you to build a tribe of brand advocates, establish trust, increases your brand awareness and helps your SEO by generating backlinks to your website.
The main challenge brands face when trying to reach out to bloggers is getting a response back. The more influential the blogger is, the trickier it is to catch their attention. Influencer Marketing is also more expensive than it was a few years back. Bloggers fees can range from $500 to $50K per post depending on their level of popularity. Working with influencers/bloggers can be a frustrating trial and error process.What if I told you, you can change your luck by simply being more methodical? You can turn your NO’s into Yes’s by simply following these steps when pitching to influencers.
Learn The Basics
How can you get bloggers to write back and collaborate with you? What does it take to set up a winning campaign? Most importantly, how do you measure your results and get more leads from your efforts?
First by learning the basics. Influencer marketing is the process of selecting and collaborating with bloggers to gain brand awareness. Influencer Marketing is effective yet extremely delicate since we are dealing with real people. Unlike creating a Facebook Ad where all it takes is tweaking the copy, image and your target audience; Influencer Marketing requires to build relationships with bloggers in order to really make a dent.Many brands forget that blogging is a business. They contact influencers without any respect for their craft. They immediately pitch their product and ask for favors. They assume that blogger will want to work with them if they send their product for free. Another common mistake brands make is contacting extremely popular or extremely “green” bloggers. They also dismiss to analyze the blogger’s audience to ensure it matches with their brand’s customer profile.
Before you get started, you must determine how you can create an appealing pitch to bloggers. Do you have a new product launching which you would like them to test? How can you position your product in a unique way that blogger will be onboard to help & tell their following about it? How can they help bring more value to your brand?
For Influencer Marketing to be effective you need to ensure you are giving a specific call to action to bloggers you are working with along with thoroughly managing your campaign. Let’s jump through the nitty gritty to get you started.
Set-up Campaign Outreach
Before you reach out to bloggers, you must package your campaign offerings and clearly define your goals. Simply asking bloggers to plug your product to their followers will lead to disappointing results and a poor return on your time investment. The majority of influencers are constantly seeking content ideas. They need stories and the opportunity to show their audience something interesting.Your relationships with influencers is very give-and-take. It’s a win-win relationship for both if you can provide them with relevant content that piques their interest. I have worked with influencers with millions of followers on Instagram for FREE. In this case, my client was carrying a designer label that the influencer loved and couldn’t find anywhere else.
Set Your Goals
Before you get started clearly define your goals. Influencer Marketing can increase your brand awareness through referral traffic, testimonials. Ask yourself the following:
· Would you like to grow your Instagram following?
· Would you like to get more referral traffic - building more links to your website and hence increasing your SEO?
· Would you like to get more testimonials so you can generate more trust
· Would you like to increase your sales
· Is there a specific product you want to start promoting
· Do you want people to sign-up to your newsletter and get more subscribers
· OR all of the above?It’s best to pick just one of the goals from above so your campaigns are easier to track and also so the blogger working with you finds it easier to follow-through.
Now you should also write down specific numbers - how many referral links would you like to gain? How many testimonials would you like? Having a number / goal in place will help you figure out how many people you should reach out to.
Establish your marketing goals. How much traffic or email sign-ups do you want to generate? Based on your marketing goals, you’ll determine how many bloggers you should collaborate with per month and throughout the year.
What budget can you allocate monthly to influencers? Decide how much inventory you can giveaway per month, and include a monthly budget for more established bloggers. This determines what collaboration scenario you can commit to. What makes the most sense for you, based on your available time and monthly budget allocation?
Finding influencers and reaching out to them is time-consuming. How much time can you dedicate to this task? Can you be more hands on, or do you need help from a team? Depending on the level of experience you have working with bloggers, start small and refine your strategy from there.
Define A Budget
What type of budget can you allocate to this campaign? Most influencers with over 10K followers will ask to get paid even if it’s just $100. If you don’t have close relationships with these individuals, don’t dismiss that you might have to pay these bloggers. Decide how much inventory you can giveaway per month and include a monthly budget for “more established” bloggers. How much time can you dedicate to finding an influencer + reaching out? Can you be more hands on and manage a contest? Should you work with an agency or an Upwork assistant? But next, you will need to pick a collaboration scenario that best suits your campaign goals. (Not to worry, we will go over the different types of influencers campaign you can set-up shortly.)
Package Your Offerings
When reaching out to Influencer, your goal is to package your offerings in an appealing way. Bloggers live to make their subscribers happy and provide them with unique content so they can continue growing their fan base. Brands who have a collaborative mindset and find ways to help bloggers achieve their goals; excel in Influencer Marketing. Blogger want to wow their audience – determine how your product can help do that for them? Do not spoon feed ideas, influencers must keep their creative voice, instead select an offering which will best work within your time, budget, and other constraints.There are four ways you can package your offerings: as a barter; a contest; an affiliate program or a paid collaboration. When picking a collaboration scenario you must reflect on time, budget and how it can benefit both parties involved (you and the blogger). Let’s go over each scenario.Click to enlarge image(1) Barter: The barter or exchange model is when you gift your product in exchange for a review or a shout out. It can be great if you are just starting out and need testimonials. When bartering with bloggers, you must spin it so bloggers understand the editorial value in working with your brand. Stress the exclusiveness and excitement surrounding the offer. For example, let the blogger know that you value their opinion and would love their feedback on your latest product. Explain to them how they will benefit from the collaborations – perhaps if you are a bookkeeping iPhone App, you can add a half hour call to help them set-up their accounts. Put yourself in their shoes, and evaluate how they will benefit from your offer.
The pros of the barter is that there will be very little cost involved. You will either pay for shipping or the other small cost involved with barter. The con’s however is that you might be limited to greener influencers. It will require more creative strategies to get bigger influencers onboard. However, if you are starting out, best to grow your influencer network by following barter model so you can build relationships with these individuals.
(2) Contest: Contest can be a good option for brands looking to increase their engagements. It’s a fun way to exponentially grow your & the blogger’s audience. The challenge with contests is that they must tie back to your brand. It will require you put your creative hat on to brainstorm ideas that will bring you quality leads back to your website, etc... Simply giving away an iPad will get you lots of engagement but with very poor return on your investment, as your leads will be only interested in the FREE iPad and not necessarily your company. Just like giving your product away for free might not get the results you wished for, most people won’t know who your brand is and won’t necessarily want to interact.
(3) Affiliate: Affiliate is a commission based program in which you provide bloggers a percentage based on sales they bring your way. You will collaborate with bloggers and let them earn based on how many sales they bring your way. Typically brands give anywhere from 30 to 80% commission depending on how green and how popular the blogger you are working with is. When picking this scenario, be prepared to set-up marketing collateral, whether it is blog posts, photography, discount codes which they can share with their audience.
(4) Paid Collabs: Paid collabs have become an industry standard. Most bloggers want to get paid for reviewing and offering their opinion about a product. It can go from $100 to $10,000 per post for celebrity bloggers. When doing paid collabs, it’s key to spend extra time screening bloggers and spotting fakes. Based on how many influencers you would like to work with, set-up a budget you feel comfortable with. Let’s say you have $1,000 to spend, best to work with 10 bloggers and pay them $100 each versus working with one bigger blogger.
Pick a scenario that best suit your budget, time, and goals. Remember that some of the scenarios above such as contest, affiliate and barter will be more time consuming than a paid collaboration for instance. Additionally, if you are green with Influencer Marketing start small so you can get acquainted with influencers in your niche.
Create your packaged offering with all the information highlighted so you can have better clarity on type of blogger you should be working with. Start thinking as to which type of Influencer you would want to work with – a blogger – a YouTuber – an Instagram or Snapchat celebrity, etc. based on your campaign ideas and scenarios picked. Remember that working with bloggers is most effective if you do it regularly. Allocate budgets monthly to do influencer campaigns and test different ideas / scenarios as highlighted above.In short: be buttoned-up, show professionalism, and have a clear idea of the collaboration type. Most importantly, create a bloggers kit. It tells your story, demonstrates expertise, and avoids a lot of back and forth emails.
Create A Bloggers Kit
Now that you have figured out how to package your offerings, you can start putting together a Bloggers Kit. The Bloggers Kit will avoid you all the back & forth communication with bloggers and save you a lot of time. The Bloggers Kit is where you will answer most of the questions bloggers might have about working with you. It is a PDF which you will include in the email you send to bloggers. While creating your bloggers kit, you must decide on which collaboration scenario is right for you.What’s inside a bloggers kit?
1. Your brand value proposition + objective: This is where you provide a brief overview of your brands philosophy & mission statement. This is where you give the bloggers a glimpse of what your brand stands for. You also explicitly spell out the overall objective of the Influencer Marketing Campaign you are launching. You explain why you are interested in getting the help of bloggers and the type of goals you hope to generate, whether it be brand awareness, contest, product reviews, etc...
2. Terms of collaboration: This is where you highlight the type of collaboration you are interested in. You specifically spell out the type of products you will send their way and what you expect in exchange. You will share collaboration scenario and overall mechanics of the campaign. You will share the workflow you will use while working with influencers. You can include a roadmap and provide a deadline for submission of content. The more detail you include in this section the better – so bloggers understand you are professional. You can also ask them to fill out a form for example to get their information or make them sign a contract. If you are sending them a physical product, you can ask them to sign a contract and even a small deposit which you will return to them once they write the article.
3. Campaign and content expectations: This is where you highlight what type of content you are looking for; whether it’s a video, blog post, Instagram post, etc. and the quantity you are looking for. Now, keep this open and provide suggestions. Simply highlight channels you would like to create content in & give them creative freedom. Tell them you are open to suggestions but want to provide them a few ideas of what you are specifically looking for. You can also share here why your product would interest their audience and angle you would be interested for them to explore.
4. Payment terms: The workflow you use while working with influencers is where you lay out the payment terms of your agreement. If you decide to do an Affiliate, you can simply tell them the percentage you will offer them for sales they bring in. If you are paying them a flat fee, you can simply state that they will be paid once they have published the post. You can also state if you sent a free garment, that you will re-issue the deposit of the garment once they write the post etc...
5.FAQ: FAQ is a great way to sum up the information inside your bloggers kit. It is the digestible version of your bloggers kit. This is where the blogger can quickly browse the proposal to decide whether or not they are interested in your campaign.
Compile Your Influencer List
Now that you have set-up your campaign, you can start identifying influencers who will fit your campaign needs. The number of followers don’t tell the entire story. In fact, it’s been proven that Instagram influencers with fewer followers receive a higher level of engagement than bloggers with massive followings. These micro influencers are quickly catching up amongst brands who are looking to get more out of their marketing budgets. Therefore, you must find the right balance. Don’t only contact extremely popular bloggers who are represented by agencies.Analyze the blogger’s content and audience to ensure it matches with your brand’s customer profile. Reach out to bloggers despite their level of influence. Instead, look for influencers who are professional, relevant, produce quality content, and can give you the value you are looking for.
While compiling your Influencer list, you will need to ask yourself following questions:
Does the Influencer’s audience qualify as a potential customer for your brand?
Do they regularly work with brands?
How do they feature the companies they work with?
Will the Influencer Marketing package you created appeal to them?
Is the Influencer niche similar to your brands?
Does their overall tone and creative sensibility match with yours?
Is their audience loyal?
How many likes, interactions, and comments do they average per post?
There are a few different ways you can research influencers: hashtags, influencers’ platforms, and surprise: “Google”. You could pay an agency to gather a list of influencers for you – but nothing like building your own relationships and growing your network. This is why I always recommend hashtag research because you will have ability of finding up-and-coming bloggers with plenty of potential.
1. Hashtags: Hashtags are a great way to find influencers on Instagram or on Twitter. Start with a few keywords that best describe your industry. Insert these hashtags within keyhole.co (there are other platforms out there – but keyhole.co is my favorite). The more niched your hashtag keyword, the better your chances of finding relevant bloggers. Keyhole.co will provide you with a list of influencers who are using these keywords. Write down names of all the Influencers you find at first. Research 10 to 20 hashtags which are relevant to your industry and find bloggers associated with these hashtags.
2. Google: Yes obviously Google is our best friend for anything search related. You can data-mine influencers on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube by using a simple formula. Supplement your Hashtag research with this method. Your goal should be to have a list of at least 100 influencers which you will sort through to review their relevance back to your brand.
Ex: use Google's 'site:' queries and time filter to search your target influencers - - - Google Research | site "Instagram" + "la" + "fashion blogger"
3. Influencers Platforms: Complete your research by checking blog directories, and exploring influencer platforms like Naritiv, Famebit, or Grapevine.
4. Sort Through Your Influencers List: Now that you have a list of Influencers, you will need to review one by one the work and the level of Influence of each blogger.First, you should ensure that Influencers you are reaching out to have blogs. Review the content within their blog & decide whether or not it fits with your overall brand messaging. You will also want to ensure they have worked with brands in the past. How was the article they wrote about the brand? Did they truly test the product and inject their opinion? Additionally, review how much engagement their blog and Instagram post receives. Do they have a community who regularly comments? Finally ensure the Influencers demographic is similar to yours.
This is a rigorous process which might feel time consuming – but once you have a base list of Influencers to work with it will make your life so much easier. Not only will you get better results if you take the time to comb through your list but will also really get to know these influencers so you can better pitch to them. Now, if by sorting through the list, you feel no one is matching your requirements, go through process all over again. Your aim should be to contact anywhere between 20 to 50 bloggers – or more based on your budget.
Reach Out To Influencers
Now comes the fun part, reaching out to Influencers. Your goal when reaching out to Influencers is to peak their curiosity and get them onboard to find out more about your campaign. Your goal is to get them to reply to your email to start the conversation. The more professional and buttoned you come across the more influencers will take you seriously and hence reply back to your offer. Work hard to have positive relationship with influencers, and establish trust from the beginning with a collaborative approach.Most brands out there put very little thought when reaching out to influencers. Some of the common mistakes include:
An Impersonalized Email: It doesn’t include the name of blogger you are reaching out to or mention what you like about their blogging style. How will their content fit with your brand? You need to convey how your product appeals to their audience.
Writing A Long Email: Most bloggers get hundreds of emails. Get to the point as soon as possible. If you don’t hear a response, send a series of 3 follow-up emails spaced out over a one-month period.
Not Thinking Through Your Proposal: You assume bloggers will work with you only by sending your product to them. But you need a business proposal in place where you lay out expectations and the type of exchange you are looking for.
No Passion: If you don’t show any enthusiasm, how can you expect bloggers will be sold right away? Showcase what's so great about your business and what got you started in the first place. You have your list in, your blogger kit and campaign ideas in hand. Next you must craft a compelling pitch. Your first step in creating a compelling pitch is by having a short email that gets to the point.
Craft A Compelling Pitch
You should contact bloggers the same way you would pitch your customers. You must reach out as a business but yet display the personality of your brand. Your email must be fun and engaging. Use powerful words to convey the passion behind your business and what you are trying to accomplish with the influencer marketing campaign. Overall, you must put yourself in the blogger’s shoes and promise them an amazing collaboration. Be transparent and convey why you think their fan base might be interested in your product. What makes your product so good of a story? Don’t spoon feed ideas and let it be known that you are open to their creative input – but all while doing that you also want to stress how amazing your product is.Finally, you will want to personalize each email. You should include their name, their blog at the very least. I suggest taking it a step further and looking at a post you like and mentioning it in the email. I personally love using a tool like Pitchbox to draft all my email sequences. This brings us to second step needed when reaching out to influencers, an email sequence.
You can also use different outreach channels beyond email. Try Instagram direct messaging or Facebook Message, but don’t come across as spammy or desperate!
Don’t expect bloggers to write back to you right away, it might take up to 3 emails for them to finally write back to you. Bloggers are bombarded with requests daily. Brands that are persistent and have professional requests get higher responses rates. By using Pitchbox, you can automatically set-up your email sequence. It also helps you manage replies.Now, it is a standard practice to send 2 to 3 follow-up emails. Space the follow-up emails 3 to 4 days apart. Make them fun & don’t sound too pushy.
A simple “Hello did you get a chance to read our email? What were your thoughts?” is enough. If the blogger is interested in working with you, you can schedule a call with them to walk them through your campaign requirements. I suggest setting up a call because it’s a great way for you to set-up a relationship with each bloggers. When you are sending your pitch email, along with bloggers kit – remember that Bloggers always want to WOW their audience to keep their eyeballs - how can your product do that job for them? When you have answered that question you will be golden - you might want to look at some of the past stories they have done and see how they can incorporate your product for instance - so yes I know I said earlier you don't want to spoon feed ideas - but it doesn’t hurt to have some high level suggestions you can share with them and let them comment on it.
Personally - the way I like to share these ideas is once I have grabbed their interest and jump on a call with them - this way they know the brand and I have put some thought into how we can help grow their audience.
Now once you get a reply back from them. You can set-up another email sequence, where essentially you provide them steps needed for them to run the campaign and further instructions.
You have sent your emails to influencers, they are ready to get onboard with you. Now you can go ahead and start running your campaign. This is where you go through list of influencers who are working with you and send them either their Affiliate links (you can either use something like Bitly and do it manually or use LinkShare.com). You can also set-up promotion codes with any contest software or manually.
Essentially, you will follow-up with Influencers provide them with all they need to run the campaign, whether it be codes, links, photographs of your product, logos etc... You can easily set-up a Dropbox with a library of all your digital assets.Here is your checklist:
Send influencers Affiliate or Promotion Codes or Hashtags to use
Send Branding Assets · Send Products
Put in place a deadline
Send an email close to the deadline to check on status
Re-post content – make sure to give shout-outs to influencers
Thank You Email to all influencers once they have delivered the work.
Provide them a deadline, and ensure to follow-up with them closer to the deadline. Ensure to set-up thank you emails once they have posted & delivered your content. While the campaign is running, it will be important for you to constantly monitor website traffic and social media following. This brings me to final step, measuring results.
Once the campaign is running, you will want to keep a close eye on your analytics and measure the overall health of your campaign. Some key metrics you will want to measure include referral traffic, post engagement, increase in followers, hashtag performance, increase in sales, affiliate links, and overall influencers performance.
Now you can track results by either using an Influencer Marketing Platform (like Triberr.com or others..) or you can simply create an excel sheet with each influencers name and their corresponding metrics.
Now, if you are doing affiliate marketing, and paying influencers based on the sales they bring in. I recommend you set-up a LinkShare.com to make your life easier. Or you can set-up specific Bitly URL’s with Google Analytics trackers if you would like to measure your Affiliate results manually.
Overall, you will want to set-up a Bitly enterprise account, so you can give each influencers their own Bitly URLs. You will be able to know exactly where your traffic is coming from and how effective your influencer campaign is. You will also want to make the Bitly URL easy to remember so users can easily go back and check it out in the future – something like Bitly.name of influencers and a number works great. You will need to ask each influencers to include links in their Instagram (if you are asking them to post on Instagram and/or their blog post). This way you will be able to measure how many clicks each influencer is generating along with getting a more granular breakdown of their overall URLs performance.
Make sure that you have logged how much traffic you are getting already so you can get a better sense of the increased traffic the Influencer Campaign is bringing in.By referring back to your increase of referral traffic, you will be able to have a true understanding of the success of your influencer marketing campaign. Finally, you will have clarity on whom is a better influencer to work with in the future.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on likes, shares and engagements of the campaign. You can also track the performance of your hashtags by using a tool like Keyhole. Now, these metrics will help you determine how viral your content is – but if they aren’t creating backlink traffic (meaning people coming back to your website – even though you have high engagement – you might want to revisit your call to action in the future).
And finally, beyond referral traffic, you will want to track actual sales you are getting from the campaign. Did you see an increase? Track your sales metrics on a daily basis while you are running your campaign. If you have set-up LinkShare, you will be able to know firsthand which influencer is bringing you more sales.
Overall, you will want to keep a close look at your overall campaign success and the performance of each influencer so you know who to work with in the future and what you should do to refine your initiative next time around. Your goal should be to bring as much referral traffic to your website so you can capture email addresses of these new visitors. You can also monitor your overall audience growth. Did you see a spike in web traffic/followers during and after the campaign? Did you receive a spike in social mentions during the campaign?
Remember that likes only don’t tell the whole story – you must look at each metric to be able to understand what worked and didn’t work with your campaign
Don’t get discouraged. Influencer marketing takes time – the key is to start small and build relationships with bloggers.
If you follow each of the steps highlighted in this article, you will not only get more blogger / influencers to work with you and say yes to collaborate on your campaign. You will also get to build a relationship with these bloggers. These relationships will make your life easier next time you launch an influencer marketing campaign and in return help you grow your business.