Today I’m putting on my Community Manager hat to share some of the insider scoop on what brands look for when they reach out to bloggers and influencers.
For purposes of full transparency and for this to make sense, it’s important to know that at the time I wrote this piece I was the Community Manager (aka I run all of the social media accounts) for Bai Brands. They’re a healthy beverage company that makes Bai 5 and Bai Bubbles, both are antioxidant infusions made with coffee fruit (the stuff that surrounds the bean) and sweetened with stevia and erythritol (both natural low calorie sweeteners).
I started my job back in June 2014, and as a blogger myself, I knew how powerful of a platform blogs are. I’ve discovered and fallen in love with products like Siggi’s Yogurt, Purely Elizabeth Granola and Califa Farms Almond Milk all through blogs and social media. Not only that, but once I put my stamp of approval on a product I’m not shy about sharing it. I’ve turned friends and family (and readers) onto different products and recipes that they now love. Blogs are powerful stuff (but you know that). Since then, my partner and crime (Rachel) and I have been working with bloggers in the healthy living space to talk about Bai. Rachel has been an avid reader for years (and recently started her own blog) and I’ve been a blogging for over a year.
My advice comes from my own experience of working for a healthy drink brand. I’m in a unique position because I fully understand and can relate to both sides of the table. I have goals at work and I also know what it feels like to work with brands as a blogger. Hopefully this will be helpful to you if you’re looking to work with healthy food/beverage brands in the future.
There are 4 main categories that we care most about: The Right Fit, Content, Audience and Engagement. Not every blog has to perfectly fit each category, but they must balance each other out.
The Right Fit
Starting off with an obvious one, but before diving deeper into a blog, we need to check to see what the blog is about. Do the topics covered make sense with our brand? If your blog is about politics would it really make sense to have a sponsored post from a beverage company? Probably not. Even in the realm of food blogging and specifically with a health focus, there are so many niches and we’re careful to choose blogs that fall into the niches that would reach more potential customers. There are blogs we love and would die to work with but we know that it just isn’t the right fit for our brand. It doesn’t make them less of a spectacular blog.
Put simply: Does this blog look legit? The first things I look at are the design and photography. From both a brand and a blogger’s perspective I’ve learned and believe that simpler is better. That doesn’t mean you can’t be unique, but distracting background colors and too many bells and whistles on your homepage can be overload and doesn’t look professional. Usability is key, if links are broken or the navigation is difficult to figure out I’ll likely be frustrated before I even get to read your posts.
Voice & Authority
Ok, now that we’ve landed on our first post, the blog looks good we’re ready to read. Things I always ask: Is this blogger a good story teller? Are they relatable? Do they have any authority and confidence about the topic they’re writing about? Do they use humor? How does their writing make me feel? Inspired, empowered, excited, happy, amused, emotional? If they’re a food blogger are their recipes approachable? Easy to follow? Hopefully these are questions you’re asking yourself already, but it never hurts to get a friend or fellow blogger you respect to help you answer these questions and identify any potential weaknesses.
Audience & Engagement
The second and third biggest things we look at are audience and engagement. I’m lumping these together because they go hand in hand. This is also why smaller bloggers shouldn’t be discouraged by numbers. First we look at your social media audience. In our case Instagram is crucial, followed by Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. Not every brand will feel the same, but in our case Instagram is one of our most important platforms and having a presence on that network is a major component. But before we make a judgement call on the audience size we look to see how you engaged your audience is with your content.
For example, if someone has a great looking blog with professional looking photography and design, but their posts have zero comments that sends up a red flag. A large part of what we look for are people who can compel their audiences to try new things whether it’s a recipe, a new workout or in our case a new drink. In fact, I’m willing to forgive some poor photography and design if I see that the blogger’s audience is engaged and excited about whatever the they are writing about.
The same goes for social media. If you have 20,000 followers on Instagram but are only getting 200 likes on your photo that’s another red flag. We’d rather work with someone who had 2000 followers with 200 likes and 30 comments because it means people care about what they post. The bonus is when we see the blogger responding and commenting with their audience – this shows a real connection that can help close the deal.
Those are the big 4, but there’s still more that can make or break a deal.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to brands you love that you want to work with!
Start engaging with them on social media trust me, community managers love that stuff – when people tweet at us, take photos of our product and comment on our posts we notice. Don’t forget that there are humans behind the brand and they’re most likely huge nerds about their products so share your passion!
Know your value, but also recognize opportunities beyond money. Budgets might not be huge for some smaller companies, but if you go above and beyond for a sponsored post even if you’re just getting free product (not a bad gig if you ask me) people remember that and when bigger opportunities come along we use people we trust and are professional and fun to work with.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
I’d love to hear your thoughts and feel free to ask any questions about working with brands as a blogger