Many brands strike deals with media giants like The New York Times and The Washington Post to create sponsored content. But others choose to work directly with influencers and bloggers based on affordability and/or distribution channels.
Though it may not cost as much, working with bloggers and influencers requires you to do more homework. Here’s what influencers and bloggers want you to know about the best way to work with them on your sponsored content.
Done poorly, sponsored content can jeopardize the influencer’s relationship with their audience, reducing the trust they’ve worked hard to earn. Done well, sponsored content gives content creators opportunities to bring solutions to the problems their audience faces.
Prepare before you reach out
I’ve had companies reach out to post sponsored content on my blog. I’ve worked with some, but I’ve rejected plenty. The ones I turned down hadn’t taken the time to reflect on the three questions every quality influencer asks themselves.
1. Is this brand’s audience similar to my audience?
Look at your brand’s personas and market segmentation to inform your influencer selection. Ensuring you and the influencer have the same or similar audience is critical for striking a possible partnership.
Several companies that reached out to me didn’t do their homework first. Working with them would have meant creating content for an audience that was different from mine. I said no to these requests for two reasons: First, their audience wouldn’t value my input as much as my audience does and, second, creating content for an audience that doesn’t align with mine won’t help me in the long run (even if the brand paid me).
Too many brands operate from the misconception that they should reach out only to the influencers with the biggest followings. The reality is that you’re likely to get much better conversion rates if your audience aligns with the influencer’s, independent of follower numbers.
Micro-influencers, loosely categorized as those with fewer than 100,000 followers, have highly engaged and niche audiences. They can work well for your brand long as you go about things in the right way (i.e., you work with influencers who are relevant to your audience).
2. Do this brand’s values align with mine?
An influencer’s values make them stand out and are often what attracted their dedicated following in the first place. Make sure your company’s values are closely related to theirs. If not, that influencer might turn you down or create content that conflicts with your brand.
For example, one of the values I keep top of mind is my commitment to open communication with my readers. If a company proposes a sponsored content pitch that requires me to hide or not disclose certain information to my readers about that service, I promptly deny it. As a content creator, my audience is the foundation of my business. If I’m not honest with them, then what’s the point of writing?
It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll find out more about an influencer’s values after your initial outreach. For example, some might value editorial control over all the content they publish. If your brand insists on approving the post word for word, then those influencers wouldn’t work for you.
3. Would I talk about this brand outside of sponsored content?
With the audiences and values closely aligned, the next question concludes if the brand and influencer are a good match. If an influencer’s job is to help their audience, and your company brings a solution to that same niche, then congratulations; it’s a match made in heaven.
If your influencer helps their audience and your company has a good solution in that niche, congratulations. It’s a sponsored #content match made in heaven, says @jrdnbshp via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
More partnership considerations
If an influencer can answer yes to all three questions, they’re likely to be a good partner. In addition, the sponsored content will be easier to create because it’s genuine, ultimately granting you valuable prospects of potentially loyal customers.
Make it a win-win
Whenever you strike a partnership with a blogger or an influencer, you’re both in it for the win. Your success means their success, too.
Take a post I wrote about virtual mailboxes. One of the brands mentioned in it contacted me requesting a partnership and a higher placement on the list. Since my first responsibility is to my readers, I needed to see if their claim (that they are better than the other companies) held any water. I decided to anonymously try out their services. Once I had, I agreed their offering was better than some of the other services I mentioned. With that knowledge in hand, we agreed on a monthly fee they would pay for a more favorable position in the post, and I moved them up. (Note: CMI recommends all creators identify the sponsors of any specific post or contribution in their content.)
All it took from them was a simple email to get in touch with me. All I needed was to try out their service. After that, I was more than happy to adjust their placement on the list, because I believed in the value of their product for my audience.
Remember, exclusivity comes at a price
A lot of brands like to establish partnerships that place them as the dominant company or product that the influencer offers in a particular category. This exclusivity comes with higher expectations from the influencer.
If you ask for exclusivity during a certain period, expect to pay a higher price. If a brand related to my niche, let’s say an online bank, reached out for an exclusive partnership, I price it to cover the revenue for that period when I won’t be able to talk about other beneficial products for my audience.
It’s worth thinking about the payment model, too. Many influencers only work with brands that offer upfront payment. Increasingly, though, some influencers opt for payment based on engagement, which can be a win-win.
Long-term partnerships produce better results
Many influencers prefer to stick to a handful of partnerships, at least for a while. If they accepted every relevant sponsored content opportunity presented to them, they risk losing credibility in the eyes of their audience.
Besides, long-term partnerships are beneficial for your brand. The longer a content creator posts naturally about a brand, the more its audience will recognize and become familiar with that brand. This minimizes the perception that it’s just paid or ad-type content and makes it feel more authentic, which makes it more likely to be well received.
Influencers are your first sponsored content ‘audience’
Sponsored content is a tool meant to be beneficial to three main targets: the influencer, your brand, and a shared audience. Striking a durable and successful partnership is harder than it seems for brands. Here’s what every influencer and blogger wants you to remember:
- Research and look for influencers in the same or similar niche.
- Look for influencers who have similar values to your company.
- Let influencers explain their guidelines for sponsored posts before imposing yours on them.
- Acknowledge influencers may be willing to accept help in getting the sponsored content to perform well.
- Expect to pay a higher price for exclusivity with influencers.
- Aim to build long-term partnerships with content creators instead of one-time posts.
Once you fully understand what influencers wished your brand knew, most, if not all, content creators will be more likely to partner with you.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute