For those of you that don’t know me, I sit on both sides of the fence when it comes to blogging – as well as having written this blog for the past 6 years, I’ve also worked at a number of digital marketing & PR agencies. So I’m often asked for tips about what agencies look for when searching out influencers to work with.
It’s also a subject that I spend a bit of my free time researching, not just because I want to ensure that I’m making my own blog as ‘appealing’ to brands as possible, but because I find the whole thing fascinating. So the following post is based on information I’ve gleaned from two sources:
First up, I’m sharing information based on things I know from my current role at a Digital PR agency, as well as the ten years I spent at an SEO and social media agency. But secondly, I’m basing it on information from other marketers like myself – both ones I have worked with as a blogger, and also industry friends.
That being said, this is obviously all fairly subjective – I’m certainly not going to profess to speak for other people in my position, and you’re welcome to heed or ignore any of these tips as you wish. I’m only providing them as a bit of friendly guidance, since so many people have asked me about this topic.
So, without further waffle, let’s get started.
NOTE: This is the first attempt at this post, and I expect I’ll update it down the line based on feedback and other questions it generates. It’s also going to be a bit of a brain-dump at first, since I’m writing this on a warm Friday evening with a glass of wine in hand. Forgive me!
Anyway, here goes…
Don’t bother trying to artificially inflate your numbers
As tempting as it can be to try the variety of tactics to increase your social followers, it’s really not worth the bother. Only the laziest marketer will go on your follower number alone, and some of the seemingly most intelligent tactics are fairly easy to see through.
With Twitter for example, a high following to follower ratio rings alarm bells straight away, as it looks like you’ve engaged in tricksy follower-baiting tactics. Having a very high number of followers compared to your number of tweets or account age are two more alarm bells. A good agency or marketer will interrogate your followers stats to check for the percentage of fake followers, the quality of your audience and other stats like that.
My advice is to try to earn your followers naturally – by putting out good content and building an audience slowly, but surely.
Make it easy to contact you
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many bloggers hide their contact details away on some obscure deep page, or worse still don’t provide them at all. If you want agencies and brands to be able to contact you, make life a bit easier for them by telling them how to do so.
For extra points, provide information upfront about what you do and don’t want to post about. I have a “Sponsorship” page which lays out some of the things I will and won’t do, which helps to fend off some of the time-wasters, at least some of the time.
Don’t just use YouTube for the sake of it
Bit of a left-field one this, but something I am hearing a lot of talk about in marketing groups. It seems that many bloggers over the past year have decided that blogging is no longer good enough, and have started YouTube channels – presumably having heard about how much money there is in YouTubing.
Now don’t get me wrong, many bloggers have made this transition really successfully – but three times as many are wasting their time for one reason or another. Whilst I’m no expect in how to make a successful YouTube community, I do know that the ones who have “made it” have put a hell of a lot of time and effort in, and success is far from guaranteed. So my point is: think long and hard before you make the switch to video. You might be better in the long-run focusing on improving your blog.
Have a good spread of presences across different social networks
If you want your “influence” to work harder for you, try to ensure you’ve got a decent sized community on the major social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. This will help you to avoid being pigeon-holed as a particular type of influencer (i.e. “She’s a big Instagram influencer”) and allow potential approaching parties to see your offering as a bit wider. If nothing else it’ll mean you theoretically qualify for a wider number of campaigns.
When discussing a potential partnership with an agency or brand, don’t be afraid to negotiate – any marketer with half a brain will be happy to discuss terms/costs/deliverables, and you might get yourself a better deal in the long run.
Whilst some canny marketers will promise you that they’re going to have bigger budgets down the road, my experience has been that the price you settle on first is probably going to be the price they expect you to work at later – so don’t cave in at the first sign of an okay deal.
Don’t just accept free guest post submissions
Not a day goes by when I don’t get at least one lame email request asking me to host a guest blog for some dodgy brand, or worse still, somebody pretending to be a “budding writer” who would LOVE to write for your readers. 99% of the time these people have ulterior motives, so don’t cave in. At the very least push back and tell them what you ARE prepared to work with them for – as often as not I get a positive response to this, though it’s rarely an offer I’ll be keen to agree on.
Bare in mind the ASA regulations
Familiarise yourself with the ASA regulations for blogging and influencers, because you’re likely to come across them more and more. Either via a cautious marketer who wants to make sure you’re not going to inadvertently get them into trouble, or because somebody will ask you to do something that you’re not sure on the morality of.
The ASA website has a very handy guide to what they recommend, so read up on it and decide where you want to stand on the matter.
Try to give your site a particular hook – make yourself easier to categorise
Whilst it can be tempting to try to write about anything and everything, the harder you make it for a brand or agency to see how they fit into your world, the less likely they are to want to work with you.
That’s not to say you have to only blog about one thing – far from it. But try to “specialise” in a few things, and make it obvious what those topics are – either through the information you provide on your About Me page, the site’s title and/or branding or through a consistent content approach.
Don’t rebrand or move websites too often
Renaming your website every few months, or worse still, changing your website address more than once makes it REALLY hard to gain traction with potential collaborators. It can also set you back in any search engine optimisation efforts you’ve made, and can confuse any visitors to boot. Try to find a name/brand and stick with it.
While we’re on the subject of SEO, I wrote a post about some simple SEO tips for bloggers a while back – so I won’t cover too much of that now, here.
Try to remain humble – don’t be braggy
All agencies and marketers will have a list of people they like and don’t like to work with – I know I do. Getting on the ‘naughty’ list can be a pain – not just for your relationship with that particular marketer, but potentially others. You might not think we talk to our competitors, but believe me – stories get around.
Bragging too much about your suggest – whether your latest award win or how much money you make from blogging – is a sure-fire sign that you’re going to be tricky to work with. So try to avoid it if you’re keen to stay on people’s good sides. You might be the Number 1 influencers in this that or the other, but if you’re going to be a prick to work with, chances are we’ll bypass you.
Be honest, especially with reviews
I won’t name any names, but I know of at least two bloggers who have got an industry-wide reputation for trying to shaft the people they work with – in one case by posting made-up reviews after they’ve sold the product they’re supposed to be reviewing on eBay. Try to be honest and easy to work with – it’ll help you a lot longer in the long run, believe me.
Don’t be afraid to approach companies directly to offer your services
Whilst it’s not always a foolproof or successful tactic, there’s definitely no harm in contacting brands or agencies directly and offering up your services. Only yesterday I approached a brand whose products I like and offered to do a review in exchange for some product to test, and got a really positive response.
What’s the worst that could happen after all? Your email might go unread or you get a polite decline. But the potential positives could be huge.
Keep in touch with PRs when they move jobs
When you’ve been doing this a few years, you’re bound to have run into a few agency folk who have moved on to pastures new. If you know where they’ve gone, and you’ve had a positive experience working with them in the past, why not reach out to them and see if they’re doing similar projects at their new workplace? I’ve had a few positive outcomes from this kind of tactic.
Does DA matter to PRs?
Even though I said I wasn’t going to talk much about SEO, the subject of DA (Domain Authority) seems to come up a hell of a lot – partly I assume because sites like the Tots 100 will often refer to it in work requests. So is “DA” important?
The easy answer is “sometimes” – depending mostly on WHY the marketer is contacting you. If they’re looking to work with you on an SEO campaign (even if they don’t explicitly say this) they will probably care about DA. Simply because it’s a lazy way of them knowing whether or not you might help their clients SEO.
The majority of PR or content agencies, however, couldn’t care less about your DA – so you only need to consider it if you want to host a lot of SEO posts, accepting the slight risks that doing so sometimes entails.
Have a media pack but don’t lie on it
Just like making your contact details easy to find, having a media pack with selected details and numbers relating to your blog can make it easier for some agencies to work out whether or not to work with you. That being said, don’t bother inflating your numbers or lying on these things – we’ve got numerous ways to double-check the figures, and even if you don’t get found out straight away, the likely outcome is that your post won’t deliver what your numbers promised and they won’t want to work with you again.
As the old saying goes, better to under-promise and over-deliver!
Remind them that you’d be happy to work with them again
This one sounds like another no-brainer, but people often forget it: if you’ve enjoyed working with a particular agency or brand, let them know. Chances are they are going to have other campaigns in a similar vein in the future, or other clients looking for the same results. A polite follow-up a few weeks after you’ve worked together might just land at exactly the right time – at the very least it’ll make you seem easier to work with.
Engagement always helps, but reach too
The subject of “Insta pods” and other group-back-slapping tactics seems to be very popular at the moment – and are probably working for some. But they’re also just as likely to be a waste of your time – so think carefully before putting too much effort into them.
Whilst some regular comments under your Facebook posts or Instagram photos might make you look popular, any marketer worth their salt will be able to see through this from a mile away – and if they don’t, they’re more than likely to be disappointed when your campaign doesn’t deliver the engagement that your other work would suggest was the norm.
Ask about payment terms upfront
One of the most common bones of contention I seem between bloggers and agencies is the issue of payments, especially late ones. Despite having done this for 6 years, I don’t think I’ve ever suffered hugely from late payment – and that’s because I always clarify payment terms up front.
That way, if the agency pay you late, you’ve got slightly more of a leg to stand on when complaining about this.
There are no typical prices – have a ballpark figure and stick to it
Another question somebody asked me before writing this post was for an indication of ballpark figures they should be charging for certain posts – and the answer to that is “it’s up to you”. If there’s payment involved, most marketers will have a budget they’ve got to stick to for one reason or another – and whilst I highly recommend negotiating, the simple answer is to work out a fair price and stick with it.
I’ve got a minimum figure that I won’t go below when working on paid opportunities, and whilst I’ll often suggest a higher figure (we can but try!), I stick to my minimum at all times. Of course you could gradually increase this minimum over time, especially as your influence grows, but make life simpler on everyone and set some benchmarks.
Well, that’s my advice for starters – as I said at the start, I may update this a little later down the line if I’ve missed any glaring questions – and I might try to tidy it up a bit too!
I hope you found it useful. Remember me when you’re rich an famous?