Working With Brands: Sponsored Posts Explained
This has been very highly requested so I'm excited to finally be sharing it with you all! Everything in this post is what I've learnt in my personal experience of food blogging on Instagram so far (September 2016 until January 2018).
I'll separate this post into a few different sections after a short intro: 'Do You Need Thousands Of Followers To Get Sponsored?', 'How Much Should You Charge?', 'Getting Sponsors: The Process', 'Matchmaking', 'Giveaways' and 'Affiliate Links and Discount Codes'.
A Short Introduction to Brand Collaborations and Sponsored Posts
Just a couple of things to note before we get into it! When you get paid for doing a sponsored post on Instagram, the money for this payment comes from the company that you're collaborating with, not from Instagram. It actually has nothing to do with Instagram apart from the fact that you're posting the photo on there, as you would with any other photo on any other social media site.
Second thing to note: if you're being paid for posting a photo (i.e. it's a sponsored post), you should include '#sponsored' or '#spon' in the caption to let your followers know that you're being paid for it. This doesn't necessarily mean though that whatever the influencer has written in the caption is fake, because influencers should only really work with brands that they like and that they want to share. It should be an honest recommendation. More on this in the 'Matchmaking' section later in this post!
Lastly, is it #ad or #sponsored? A lot of people don't know the difference between these, but an advert (or 'ad' for short) is a photo or video (usually) that the company has designed/made themselves. A sponsored post however is a photo/video that the influencer has made and has been paid for.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's get into it!
Do You Need Thousands Of Followers To Get Sponsored?
First up, here's a short timeline of what it's been like for me in terms of gaining followers and getting my first unpaid and then paid posts.
My following: I started getting into food blogging on a regular basis in September 2016 when I had around 400 followers. I then slightly changed my photography style in July 2017 simply by buying some dark tiles to use as a backdrop; this is when my following began to grow more quickly, and I reached 1000 followers in August 2017. My following continued to grow, during which time I began reaching out to companies and vice versa (more on that later!), and started doing unpaid and paid collaborations. Now, in January 2018, I have just under 4000 followers and have collaborated with six different brands.
My sponsored posts: To begin with I didn't know that I should be getting paid for 'sponsored' (or in those cases not sponsored) posts. You should get paid by the company you're collaborating with, for your photography and your time! My first collaboration was in September 2017 and this was unpaid because I thought that getting sent the products for free was the payment. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the collaboration and got along well with the company. I soon learnt from watching one of Laura's YouTube videos that I should be charging the companies with whom I do sponsored posts. So, my first sponsored post was in October 2016 and it was so exciting to be paid for the first time! Since then I've worked with another three companies tat have paid me for my work, and done no further unpaid collaborations.
So do you need thousands of followers? Well, the main reason why brands/companies collaborate with bloggers (which is known as influencer marketing) is because they want to show their product to as many people as they can, which in-turn may result in the brand gaining more followers. So therefore brands will often look for influencers who have whatever the brand considers a 'big' audience. Bigger and more well-known brands will usually only work with influencers that have bigger followings, and smaller brands will more likely work with influencers who have smaller followings as this is less expensive for them to do. Big brands have a lot of money to spend, small brands have less. The companies who I've done paid sponsored posts for, and what their followings are currently (January 2018), is as follows: Perk!er (6579 followers), Fitmart (51.4k followers), Koro (29.6k followers on their Germany Instagram and 1743 followers on their UK Instagram), Freaks Of Nature (1923 followers) and All Around Vegan (2065 followers). A huge range!
How Much Should You Charge?
Some influencers base their rate on their number of followers, some on their engagement rate and others on their website traffic (although this one is often for a blog post on a website, not just an Instagram post). I've personally only ever based my rate on my following but of course feel free to look into the other options!
What I've heard of most is that the standard rate charged by influencers for one sponsored post on Instagram is between £5-£10 per thousand followers (ptf for future reference). I started out by charging £5 ptf. So when I had anywhere between 1000-1999 followers I charged £5 for a sponsored post. A couple of months ago I changed that to £6 ptf and so now that I have over 3000 followers I get paid £18 per sponsored post/photo.
But how do you know what in that region you should charge? Generally knowing this comes with practice. If a company says your price is too high then it may well be too high and you'll likely go through a short negotiation process. If however they say 'yep that's great!' straight away, then your prices are probably a little too low! Once a rate is agreed though it can't really be changed, so learn from it for in the future. If a company says they can't pay you for any reason, then I tend not to go through with any agreements and turn the offer down. Even if it means just getting free products, you should be paid for your work and your time.
Getting Sponsors: The Process
Sometimes a company will approach me first, either through an Instagram DM or by email, and sometimes I'll approach them. When it comes to companies approaching you, you generally just have to wait and see what comes up! But in terms of approaching companies this is what I tend to do: every time I find a company on Instagram that I think would work well with me and my blog (see the 'Matchmaking' section below), I take a screenshot of their Instagram account and save the photo in a 'Companies To Contact' folder on my phone. Then about twice a month I go through them, find them on Instagram again and send them an email! I introduce myself, let them know how I discovered them, let them know that I'd like to collaborate with them on a sponsored post (or sometimes a giveaway - more on those later) and attach a few examples of my photography. If they reply, which they mostly do but sometimes you'll have to follow them up on your email, then they'll either say they're up for it or they aren't. If they are then brilliant! As influencer marketing is such a well-known method of advertising these days they should be expecting you to charge them for your work. So now you can let them know what your rates are and see what they say.
Asking a company for money for the first time can be pretty scary. If they turn your offer down don't be disheartened. It probably just means they weren't the right company for you. It's also important to note that this is a negotiation - you don't have to agree with everything they ask for but usually a sponsored post means including the product in the photo, as well as tagging the company in the photo and in the caption.
Once you've come to an agreement on your payment, what you need to include in the post, the time-frame in which you need to post it, and when they'll pay you by (usually within 30 days of when you send them an invoice), you'll probably need to or will have already sent them your address so that they can send you the products to photograph. Then, you can get taking those photos and share them on Instagram!
By matchmaking I mean making sure you collaborate with brands that have the same values as you. For example, as a vegan food blogger who only shares photos of vegan food, I wouldn't try to collaborate with a clothing brand, or with a fully non-vegan brand. At the moment I only do sponsored posts on vegan food products from partly- or fully-vegan companies.
Another thing to consider is aesthetics. I've worked with some companies whose products just don't look right in the background of my photos, whether it's because of the colour of the packaging, the size or something else. So make sure to check them out before you send over an email!
In summary: I only collaborate with brands that I want to be associated with, that I believe in the values of and that I want to share. Honesty, values and brand consistency over money, always!
If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that sometimes I run giveaways. So here's a bit about how they work, from the blogger's perspective.
If a company agrees to run a giveaway on my page, they send the giveaway products to me. This is so that I can photograph them in order to post about the giveaway, and because this takes time and is my photography, I get paid for it in the same way as I'd get paid for a sponsored post. During the negotiation process through emails or DM (as explained previously) the rules for the giveaway are agreed. I then get to keep these products for myself. When a winner is chosen, they send their address to me on Instagram which I then pass onto the company. The company then sends a new set of the giveaway prize to the winner.
Affiliate Links and Discount Codes
Affiliate links: This is a link to a product online, and when a customer uses this link and then buys the product, you as the influencer (or 'affiliate') earns a percentage of the income from that purchase. For example, let's say a bowl costs £20.00. You've collaborated with the company selling that bowl, and they've given you an affiliate link through which you get 10% of any purchases of the bowl. When someone then clicks on that affiliate link and buys the bowl, you earn £2.00 (10% of £20.00). The bowl isn't any more expensive for the customer - you just get some of the income in return for helping the company make a sale. If you have an affiliate link, you should let your followers know that you'll be earning something from their purchase and that this doesn't make the product any more expensive for them.
Discount Codes: These are different to affiliate links, and chances are you've used a discount code before (such as a student discount, for example, or when an online shop has a flash sale and they say 'use the code SALE20 at the checkout'). So, if a company that you're collaborating with offers to set up a discount code for you then this means that your followers can use it to get money off the products you're advertising through a sponsored post. In short, you're helping your followers save money. The discount code that companies set up for me is usually 'allytheearthling' or something to do with my name. The number of purchases that are made using this code can be tracked by the company (the same goes for affiliate links, too, although you can usually track affiliate link sales as well as the company, because you're earning an income from it and should keep track of how much you need to be getting paid!).
So in terms of money, affiliate links are more useful for the influencer (as a source of income), and discount codes are more useful for the influencer's followers (as a way of saving money).
I hope that this blog post has helped explain brand and influencer collaborations in a little more depth than I can do just on an Instagram story. If you have any questions then feel free to send me a direct message over on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sending lots of love to each and every one of you Angels! Ally x