Sunday, 25 September 2016

5 Things To Check Before You Collaborate With A Brand on Instagram or Anywhere

Instagram is a major source of income for a lot of people right now, I'm loving the innovative ways that people are marketing products and services through all these social platforms, but there's a danger that with individuals managing their own collaborations, things can turn sour if neither party are experienced enough to make sure all bases are covered - this isn't meant to scare you off from collaborating with brands and beginning to earn an income (or maybe even just some free make-up!) from your carefully-curated Instagram feed, just a checklist of things to make sure you know before you agree to anything.

If you get approached by a brand looking to send you a product, or do a paid collaboration, you need to be sure you are going about it the right way and asking the right questions. Both of yourself, and of the brand. I’m going to share some tips that should be useful when you reach this stage, please feel free to share your own tips and experiences in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!

1.       Are they legit?

Key point. I’m constantly getting requests for the Influencers that we represent to endorse products or web-based services that turn out to be something they are not. If you have to sign up to a platform and enter your bank details – do your research. Some platforms are very legit and they offer a streamlined way for Influencers to pick up exciting jobs with major brands, who quite often only use this method of reaching bloggers – but some are not, or actually have an underlying ulterior motive. This isn’t meant to put you off, or cause too much worry, but there are companies less than legitimate that go around offering paid collaborations just to get you to sign up to a platform, and then you have to wait for a brand to select you – there was never any paid collaboration, the agent just wants to get people signed up to make their platform more appealing to brands and agencies that have their pick of 100 identical ones. I personally don’t recommend signing up to anything – if a brand wants to work with you, do it directly or through an agency that represents you (more on that later) Don’t be fooled into signing up for multiple platforms that aren’t going to do anything at all – they are using you to attract brands and you’ll very likely not receive a penny. If this happens to you, feel free to send me an email with the name of the platform, I will be naming and shaming companies that do this in future blog posts.

2.       Do you think your audience will be interested in the product?

Something seriously devaluing Influencer marketing is people will do anything for cash. I’ve seen legitimately incredible content creators go down this road more than once. They get a few big jobs, then nothing happens for a while, then they are approached by a company that doesn’t fit in with their aesthetic but they do it because they’ve quit their day job now and need the money. As soon as your audience call you out for promoting a product that doesn’t fit with who you are, you have totally devalued yourself and you’ve immediately reduced your earning potential – the whole appeal of Influencer marketing is that more than X amount of people trust your feed to be authentic, that’s why they are following you. Do everything you can not to lose their trust and if this means turning down collaborations that aren’t quite right, don’t be afraid to do it - it will add value to you as a brand overall.

3.       What exactly does the brand want from you?

If they want to send you a product, are you obligated to review it in a positive way? This is different to a company sending you a product for you to try with no obligation for you to create content around it. You need to be very careful with what you agree to when you are writing emails or communicating via DM’s.  I would suggest steering clear of companies that specifically request a positive review – this is a very grey area when it comes to native advertising and with the laws on disclosure for paid collaborations (and in this context, ‘paid’ means either a financial or product reward) set to change before the end of the year, you could be causing yourself serious issues in the future. There have been some very high profile cases of people being paid to do positive reviews and not disclosing that the opinion being shared wasn’t necessarily their own. Keep yourself legit and be sure you are being honest with yourself and your audience.

Be sure to check the brands disclosure policy. Agency advice would be that you disclose everything that you are paid in any way to create or post with the hashtag #ad and I don’t think there’s any reason why you shouldn’t do this. Be honest with your followers and they will become a more loyal community.

4.       Will the brand be using your photos on their own social media feed?

This is a very important question and one you should ask early on. If you create content for a brand, and they pay you, this does NOT automatically mean that they have the right to use your images featuring their product. This is a concept called ‘Usage’ and they should be paying more if they want to use your content in this way. When you first start communicating with the company, ask them this right away. You should expect to get paid more for campaigns in which the company will be sharing content created by you on their own accounts. Another grey area here, because some apps allow ‘regramming’ or resharing of Instagram content, but make sure you know exactly where your content is going to be used and if you are going to be credited for it. It maybe that the opportunity is a great one and you are happy to be featured on their feed - but there’s nothing stopping the company sharing your content and not crediting you. This is obviously more worrying if your face isn’t in the images, but even if it is, it’s good practice to know where your content is being used and for how long.

5. What expectations does the brand have, 
How will they deem your involvement a success?

Influencer marketing, like most forms of advertising, is a numbers game. It starts with how many followers you have, what your engagement percentage is (I'll be doing a post on working out your engagement rates this week - don't forget to follow me on Bloglovin' so you get updates!) and moves quickly on to how many likes and comments you get on individual promotional posts. It's worth finding out from the brand offering you products or cash - how many sales/engagements/downloads do you need to generate for them to be satisfied with the collaboration? 

Something to bear in mind when you are talking about this. The benefits of Influencer marketing extend behind the initial 45 minute flurry of activity on an Instagram post. Building brand awareness is a key factor and it's something that is much less measurable with traditional metrics. If you want to build ongoing relationships with brands, think about working on a number of posts featuring their products over a period of time. For a six month collaboration, you can expect significantly more money and there's a defined period for your involvement to have an impact - plus it will be much easier to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign overall. Upsell yourself by suggesting this route to your interested collaborators - especially if a single post campaign seems to have gone better than their expectations, it's an ideal time to pitch yourself as a great ongoing investment for them.

Don’t feel worried about asking brands these questions. Legitimate brands who want to build successful relationships with Influencers will be happy to discuss these things - they need to ensure they are getting as much bang for their buck as possible. 

But, if you are worried, think about hooking up with an agent. Legitimate Influencer agencies are the best way of ensuring you are valuing yourself correctly, they'll do all of this work for you leaving you to do what you started this venture for in the first place - creating amazing content about things that you (hopefully) love. I'll be posting more about this in the coming months, but if you are getting approached once a fortnight or more, it's probably time to get someone involved who can manage interested parties - they'll take a fee, but you'll get significantly higher overall payments  and exposure to brands that never would have found you otherwise. 

As I said, I'd very interested in your opinions and what questions you have found important when starting a relationship with a brand. There's a lot of secrecy and misinformation surrounding Influencer marketing and I'm hoping that I can use my blog as a platform to change that - you thoughts on any aspect of this would mean a lot to me :)

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