By James Nord
Before this industry was even an industry, people who built followings online were THRILLED to receive free product and never really thought about being paid. I remember back in the old days when I was one of the most followed photographers on the internet, and getting something for free was a huge treat that was more than enough payment for talking about that product.
That was, however, eight years ago now, and I don't really need to elucidate all the changes that have transpired since then, but needless to say, it's getting harder and harder to make gifting work for your brand.
We (and the rest of the industry) are currently seeing a substantial ‘anti-gifting’ movement. In general, Influencers are feeling like they should always be compensated for product coverage with specific messaging, and are also increasingly feeling a responsibility in supporting the environment / not wasting products that are sent to their homes. This doesn’t mean that gifting campaigns are impossible to execute – rather, it just means that we need to be more strategic about the way we approach gifting activations, and I’ve outlined a few tips and tricks below.
1. Who are you?
Let's first remember this is a relationship-orientated business and if your brand isn't luxury or doesn't enjoy widespread brand recognition, your first job is to try to build a relationship with the Influencer(especially if they are top tier). Even though you are offering product, it comes with the expectation of the Influencer doing work, and if they don't know you or your brand, it can feel dismissive of their work to assume they’ll cover your product without payment. When reaching out, it’s important to use non-binding, casual and positive language saying that you’re launching a new product, you think they’d be really into it from looking at their feed, you’d love to get it in their hands, and that of course you’d appreciate any coverage should they enjoy it. You can even acknowledge that you don’t have a budget and you realize they would typically charge for posts, but that you’d still like to get the product into their hands so they can become familiar with it. Instilling a ‘no-pressure’ sentiment in your email will be received with more respect, and you’ll get more respect back.
2. Get personal
Take the five minutes to actually write an email to the Influencer that says why you want to work with THEM, specifically. People are, at their core, self-involved creatures and telling them why you love their feed or linking to specific posts goes a long way in showing you care about them. Why should they spend time making content for your brand if you can't be bothered writing a personal email to them? Flattery is key. Our platform has a Content Search feature so you can discover influencers who have spoken about a topic relevant to a brand/product and link to their post in your outreach.
3. Product Value and Expectations
It is essential to know your product’s value, as well as your brand's value and perception before going out to influencers. If you’re a new brand with a product worth $50 that you’re looking to send to an influencer with 300,000 followers, and you're expecting to get an in-feed post, you are 100% setting yourself up for disappointment. They could be charging $2,000-4,000 for that post, so it doesn't make sense for them business-wise to give up that standard fee for a product worth $50. Understanding your brand and product appeal will give you a more realistic foundation in your gifting efforts.
4. Cut through the noise
Influencers get a huge volume of emails every week from brands so you need to find a way to cut through that and get a response. If you haven’t spoken to the influencer and you're reaching out cold I would suggest 3-5 emails spread out over a month before giving up. Sometimes you just need to catch the person at the right time.
5. Play the long game
I always tell influencers I think they should be doing free posts for brands they really want to work with and build a relationship with. To this end it's important to try and sell this gifting opportunity in as the start of a longer relationship if this is truly a matter of testing the response and a budget could be unlocked down the line. I would be willing to do something for free for a brand who I thought might turn into a long term paying customer, but not for someone just looking to get a post out of me in the short term.
6. Get buy in
I do think it's important to get the influencer to opt into your gifting. There is so much waste in the world and if an Influencer says they don't want what you're selling, don't send it. It's not good for you, not good for the Influencer, not good for the earth.
7. Validate your brand
Nobody wants to be the first to do something so link to other Influencers who have talked about the brand, make it feel like this is something all their influencer buds are going to be talking about soon, and puts them ahead of the curve.
8. If you want influencers to post your gift, make it look nice.
A visually creative box and a personalized note go a long way here. With that said, if your budget is tight, don’t use funds for a creative mailer, just a simple white box, and a note that you’d prefer not to Story the unboxing.
9. Marathon, not a sprint
Don't get too discouraged if you don't have success in the short term. The more influencers post about you the easier it gets to build these relationships, so you have to go in with the mindset that this is a part of the business that you're going to try and figure out, and build over time. You'll have wins and losses and that's ok.
I hope these tips are helpful and at the end of the day, if you don't want to do this yourself, you can always reach out and have us run your gifting campaigns. We are really great at it.
To learn more on how brands can better navigate the influencer space, sign up to Fohr CEO James Nord’s weekly email. You can watch our YouTube video on gifting campaigns with best practices for influencers here.