OK, so this whole “Influencer” malarkey is relatively new to us all. But what is it all about and how do you approach an Influencer when wanting to work with them?
So here’s the deal…
In simple terms, this is the deal. A person gains themselves a social media following on a platform, for example via Instagram or their blog, thus becoming an Influencer. Brands approach that person to work with them, on either a gifted or paid basis, to help promote their products to the Influencer’s “audience.”
And here’s the problem…
So far so good. The problem with this being a relatively new arena for everyone – and in some ways the secrecy that surrounds it – means that the approaches made either from a brand to an Influencer, or vice versa, can be clumsy, resulting in neither party reaching their desired aim.
In this post, I wanted to offer some guidance to small brands on how to approach an Influencer.
I consider myself really, really lucky to be approached on almost a daily basis to work with brands in some capacity or another. The fact that a brand has looked at what I do, and would like to work with me, is something that I never take for granted. But here’s the thing: sometimes the approaches are clumsy and whilst I don’t mind in the least, I just know that others might. I also think to myself “I’d love to drop them a line to let them know what to say in their approach.” But then I feel that it’s slightly patronising. So I don’t.
You see, as I said above, this is a whole new arena and both brands, and Influencers, are literally feeling their way through in the dark – so there’s no fault or blame involved. These ideas shouldn’t cost a brand any more time, or money, both of which I understand are really important considerations. They may just involve a little more thought and planning – that’s all.
An ideal approach
OK, so everyone’s idea as to the ideal approach will be different but here are some things that small brands may want to keep in mind when making an approach – whether they have a budget to put behind a collaboration, or not;
- Different approaches work best for different people. I suggest that the brand drops an Influencer an email, with follow up DM to the effect that there will be something pinging into their inbox from them. That way the Influencer can choose the method that best suits them by way of a response;
- Make it personal! Some approaches are clearly from a template, others are genuinely well thought through and others are really impersonal. A simple, friendly, approach which shows that a brand has invested some time in taking a look at what I’m up to, my demographic, my style etc, is great;
- If as a brand you don’t have a budget, be clear from the start. It doesn’t matter. Something along the lines of “As we’re a newly established small brand, we don’t have any budget for a collaboration at this stage but we would love to gift you a product” is fine – many Influencers are happy to support new brands as well as larger brands but it’s good to be clear;
- If at this stage you have a strategy, outline it: For example you may then go on to say “However, we are looking to work with a few Influencers whose work we really admire and if in the future a paid opportunity arises, then we will look to those Influencers first.”
- Although you can’t ask for anything directly, you can outline hopes/expectations: The approaches that I feel really probably don’t work well with most people are the ones which start “In exchange for (eg) a scarf, we expect 1x insta post and 2x insta stories and they must be posted within 7 days.” Errr why?
- A better approach is: “We realise that you must have a lot of scheduling commitments and we don’t want to add to that load. Also, we appreciate the need for you to space sponsored content out (even gifted items need to be marked #Ad). So if you were able to include a post for us within the next two to four weeks, we would really appreciate it.” You see I like that sort of approach because I want to help lots of small brands but sometimes I feel backed into a corner and I start to hyper-ventilate. This approach would make me breathe a sigh of relief though and I would probably prioritise it and go “Hec yes, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
- Many Influencers are happy to borrow things and then return them: If a brand is new or fledgling, I’m really conscious that they may not have a lot of spare stock and I’m only too happy to borrow, and then return items, so that they can be sent elsewhere. Again, just been honest and ask if this is something that they would consider.
- Be organised: In order to give an Influencer time to receive a product and fit it into their scheduling, they need to be given a couple of weeks’ grace – so make your approach well ahead of the day/event that you would like the image to go live;
- Be prepared: If it’s a product that you’re marketing, be prepared for Influencers to want to try it out for a 30 day time period first, just to see whether they like it. It’s really important for Influencer’s not to abuse the trust vested in them (I know that sounds really far up one’s butt but it’s true!) so a little grace is always good;
- Don’t be put off by an initial rejection: I said to a brand only yesterday that I didn’t feel that I could help them at the as I couldn’t give them the attention that they deserved, or that I would like to give them (see hyper-ventilating point above!) I really do think that honesty is the best policy. However, if they come back to me later in the summer with a follow up, hopefully I’ll be able to accommodate them;
- Don’t be afraid to give an Influencer a nudge: I honestly don’t mind if a brand gives me a nudge to feature something. I don’t think that they ever have but if someone has invested in me and if I haven’t delivered, then a gentle reminder is fine. I hate to admit it but I can’t always remember who has gifted which pair of earrings (I’m taking steps to remedy this) so in some senses it would be really helpful, even if it’s only to make sure that I remember to tag them in properly;
- Trust your gut instinct: I am aware, through working with both larger and smaller brands, that there are some Influencers who take advantage of the opportunities that come their way. So if it doesn’t feel a good fit, don’t proceed.
I really hope that this is helpful for anyone running a small brand or business on how to approach an Influencer, whether to discuss products or services. Please do let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. I’ll also be doing an upcoming posts for Influencers on how to approach brands – so do keep your eyes open.
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