In the last week two clients have asked me how to handle their incoming influencer requests, where influencers are approaching the brand and asking for free product and in exchange they'll produce sponsored content. If you're running into the same situation, we have some advice as to how you should they handle this.
First, you have to understand that there's a significant difference between an outbound campaign that you create designed to drive a specific business objective (such as a new product launch, a new product feature, or a traffic driving campaign) and one where you're just benefiting from the serendipity of a product placement with an influencer.
Once all that's understood, you and your team need to figure out how you evaluate each influencers request. An ideal way to do this would be to create a playbook. In this playbook you need to determine criteria for who you'll give free product to, and who you won't. There are lots of ways to cut this, but here are a few considerations we recommend:
- What's the size of the influencers audience?
- Is their audience made up of your target audience?
- What channel do they thrive on in particular?
- What type of return do you expect?
- Why type of infuencer are they? (Lifestyle, Foodie, Mommy Blogger, etc.)
- Do they work with my competitors?
Factoring in all those variables can help you create a good playbook to decipher when you should and when you should not do it.
Now once you've got that playbook, the next step is to activate on an ongoing basis the regular incoming requests and then filter them out and fulfill them - unless you decide not to do it at all. Why would you decide not to do it at all? Let's say your product is relatively inexpensive for you to produce and ship (at least compared to a big ad campaign), and you're getting some value. If you have experience with this in the past, look back on about the last 10 posts that influencers created created in exchange for free product and answer these questions:
- Is the content worthy of your brand?
- Can you see any meaningful engagement that's about your brand?
- Can you see a lift in search traffic or direct traffic in the day or so following that post?
If your answers don't pan out, you may come to the conclusion that these partnerships aren't the best use of your time and effort. For certain brands this can be highly effective, and for other brands it will be a waste. It's important to factor in the value of your time, the value of shipping, the value of following up, the value of figuring out what you're going to do if you give an influencer your product and they don't do their assignment at all.
So while it isn't an easy questions to answer, creating your playbook and then developing a system will put your team in much better shape.