SPONSORED SOCIAL MEDIA &/or BLOG POSTS: I'VE GOT A FORMULA FOR THAT!

Are you an influential blogger with a large and identifiable audience? How about a social media rockstar with an interactive following? Some of you might even be both! Regardless, this post will benefit you as you begin to get noticed by brands who want you to sponsor their services or products. It will alleviate some of the confusion surrounding these strange new relationships and also attempt to answer many of the questions you probably have. The best part? I have a helpful formula that you can use when trying to determine your monetary value - this might come in handy when trying to negotiate price! 

Believe it or not, blogging has been around for about 20 years now (I know...makes me feel ancient, too). Social media, on the other hand, has only been around for about 10 years but the evolution of both have been quite remarkable. To keep this short and sweet, I'll spare you the entire history of blogging but just in case you're curious, click HERE to browse a timeline by NPR. 

At some point along the way, a genius realized the value in blogging for business and in driving social media traffic to their website using a link to the blog post - this continues to be the foundation of a business' social media marketing strategy to this day (hence my blog post from last week). 

Facebook, however, has other plans for us: in the very near future they are re-launching Notes. Not the Notes that you remember, though ("If you're my friend, please list 10 things you remember most about me"...um, no.) - instead, it will be a major blogging platform that is customizable and easy to use so the masses can draft, edit and publish posts within the Facebook ecosystem. Basically, they are expecting us to use their platform to publish blog posts (as opposed to your own site) so you keep your audience on Facebook, making it easier for them to read and enjoy the content (Facebook's official statement is HERE). 

Facebook Notes: Old Vs. new. Updated version more of a blog format. 

Bow down to the rulers of our universe. This is a game changer, y'all. 

Unfortunately, since I do not possess the ability to see into the future, I can't tell you how this will change blogging as we know it today. What I can tell you is that even though it might seem like a more efficient way to reach your audience, Facebook is a social platform and you are a user of that platform. In other words, Facebook is rented space and since social media is known for being unreliable, you might want to proceed with caution: continue to use your own site/blog as your main form of publishing but copy and paste it into Facebook Notes to take advantage of the benefits they offer. This is just a suggestion, of course...I'll have more to contribute to this topic later. 

Ok. While we wait for what's to come, let's talk about those that have dominated blogging and social media up to this point... 

Regardless of whether you dominate one or both, if you have a large number of followers that actively engage, you've probably been contacted by someone interested in sponsorship opportunities. Usually, these people are representatives of a brand looking to get their products and/or services in front of your audience. Sounds great, right? Well, it is and it isn't. 

It is great because you get to "do you" and get paid for it. It isn't great because it's basically uncharted territory in the wild wild west - you are navigating this harsh terrain by yourself and you have a lot of questions. How much should I charge? Should I post on my blog and on my social media? How do I determine my "value"? What if I am being taken advantage of?

Cue the stress, anxiety and subsequent melt down... 

No worries, though, I've got you! 

First, answer these questions to determine where you stand: 

  1. Will you promote any brand that contacts you or do you prefer to only promote those you have used and are familiar with?
  2. Are you prepared to write a negative review if you are not satisfied with the product? 
  3. What type of promotional introduction would your audience respond to the best - a more natural approach or a more direct  one? 
  4. Will you admit openly that you are a paid affiliate? 
  5. How often will you include promotional posts on your blog or within your social media content? 

Now, let's break down some of the sponsorship opportunities that exist: 

  1. Advertising space on your site and/or blog (header, sidebar, etc.)
  2. A blog post: either a natural post or a promotional post with a tag and mention when you share the blog link to your social media accounts. 
  3. Social media: posts, giveaways, contests, brand ambassadors, etc. 
  4. Other collaborations: you contribute to a blog post the brand is publishing or you "take over" their social media account for the day. 

If you are confused about what you think you should do, let me give you a few examples: 

Some people that I have worked with refuse to advertise brands on their blog because they feel it is viewed as too spammy. Others, however, are more than happy to rent those spaces out to brands they believe are a good fit for their audience. Some are very selective about the brands they work with and are adamant about natural introductions (they usually negotiate a longer window of time before having to post so they can capture the use of it in everyday life), while others are not as selective and are perfectly fine with writing a post dedicated to nothing but a product review. Ultimately, you have to decide what is best for you, your brand and your audience. 

Over the past year, I have worked with Amber Massey of PB+J Babes, a blogger with a large following on her website, Instagram and Pinterest. She has built a loyal audience through consistent blogging and her ability to capture her life in awesome pictures - these prominently feature her latest role as a twin-mom + one (hence the name of her site): 

She blogs about her firefighter hubby, juggling life with twin toddlers + an infant, her job as a nutritionist (even sharing yummy kid-friendly recipes) and her many interests: party planning, make up, fashion, interior design, etc. When you read her content, you feel like you're chatting with your best girlfriend - this being a big reason why so many of her followers are women and/or mothers between the ages of 24-35. They relate to her & love looking at her awesome photos (did I mention this girl has the most adorable littles on the planet - seriously)! 

Screenshot: Amber Massey (@masseya): Instagram

Screenshot: Amber Massey (@masseya): Instagram

Amber's primary audience is a target demographic for a lot of brands so it's only natural that they are interested in working with her. Due to the multiple sponsorship requests she was fielding almost everyday and after attempting a few negotiations, I designed a branded media kit for her to disperse as needed (more on this below). Since then, we have encountered some interesting scenarios together (remember, I mentioned this was the wild wild west out here)!  

These rules are NOT made to be broken: 

One example of what could have been a sticky situation for Amber involved a major brand (::ahem:: not trying to throw peeps under the bus so we won't be mentioning names) that requested she create a Pinterest board on her profile, specifically for their products, and pin accordingly. She shot the email over to me and I began to research the possibility. As it turns out, Pinterest has a few things to say about this in their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP): 

Good to know...

So, to put it bluntly: 1. Brands CANNOT compensate influencers to pin the brand's content on the influencer's Pinterest boards. 2. Brands CAN compensate an influencer to pin on the Brand's Pinterest boards (with restrictions). 

The bottom line? Given that this brand is a recognized name, Amber could have easily trusted that their request was legit. Instead, however, she shot it over to me (guru of best practices and ethics in social media - hence my biz name) and with a little research, we discovered that had she followed through with their request, she would have been in direct violation of Pinterest's policies and could have been removed from their site...not good for someone who has worked to build a solid following on this platform! 

MAKE SURE that you are aware of the rules & regulations within each social medium that you plan to offer sponsorship opportunities on. 

In this show down, you shoot first! 

When you're facing off with an opponent, you want to have the upper hand, right? I mean, in this analogy, the alternative is death...so, yeah. That said, you're going to want to have two primary documents that you can whip out and shoot over before they even have time to think: a media kit & contract. Boom! 

Media Kit Sample (Page 1) -  Designed By Social Graces Media 

Media Kit Sample (Page 1) -  Designed By Social Graces Media 

A media kit is a customized and condensed summary of your brand with important statistical data. They usually range from one to three pages and include information pertaining to collaborations you have participated in, testimonials, pictures, social media stats, website/blog stats, and more. These kits are the most efficient way to provide interested parties with the information they are seeking without having to waste a lot of time going back and forth via email or phone - and time saved is always a win-win. It also conveys the message that you are familiar with what your brand can offer them and are educated in the opportunities that exist. 

If you are wondering where in the world you are going to get a media kit, fret no longer: Social Graces Media is happy to offer these as a service - simply click HERE for more information and to order yours today! 

Your contract, on the other hand, is a legal document that protects you as a business. Even if your relationship with a brand (or brand ambassador) is temporary, you will want to have a signed agreement that outlines the relationship and expectations, including the duration of the agreement and prices agreed upon. If a brand contacts you, they may have their own contract that they expect you to sign (& this is fine, by the way) but you will need to read it thoroughly so you are familiar with what they want you to do for them and how you will be compensated (not to mention, any other perks or incentives they may have offered you). 

MAKE SURE you have an awesome media kit with all of the necessary information & stats and that you have a contract so you are protected! 

Give me the formula, or else! 

Ok, ok...without further ado, here is the formula I promised you - a simple way to determine how much you should be charging for sponsored blog posts and sponsored social media posts. I'll even throw in a few tips for negotiation...because I like you. 

FORMULA

Your formula is based on the cost to reach 1,000 people (CPM). The average CPM for blogs and social media range between $5, $7 and $10. So, the formula looks like this: 

$50 per post at $5/CPM

$70 per post at $7/CPM

$100 per post at $10/CPM

In determining which one of those best applies to you, look at your numbers! How many thousands of people are following you or reading your blog? 

BLOG POSTS

For your sponsored blog posts: add your total social media follower counts (from all mediums) to your "unique visitor" views (the number of new visitors to your site monthly - this can be found via Google Analytics). Then, divide by 1,000 and multiply by either 5, 7 or 10 (the CPM number that best represents you). 

Example: Amber has a total social media count of 37,000 followers + she gets (on average) 16,000 unique site visitors per month =  52,000. Divide this by 1,000 = 53 and multiply by CPM (7) = $371. So, if she were to charge a brand $400 per blog post, she would be right on point. 

37,000 + 16,000 = 52,000 / 1,000 = 53 x 7 = $371 

SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS

For your sponsored social media posts: round up your follower count on that medium, divide by 1,000 and multiply by CPM. 

Example: Amber has 31.4k followers on Instagram so 32,000 / 1,000 = 32 x 7 = $224

She could then use that number to determine her posts & giveaway pricing for Instagram. Maybe $250 for a post and $225 for a giveaway. 

NEGOTIATION

To begin using a CPM of 10, everything has to be high: your blog traffic, unique visitors, number of social mediums, social media follower counts, engagement rates, Google page rank, Alexa score, Klout score, etc. So, as you can see, there are a number of things that can alter how much you inevitably charge a brand. Make sure to consider all of this before finalizing your numbers. 

Ultimately, a brand wants to know that if they pay you to post on their behalf (whether on social media or on your blog), their services or products will be seen by the vast majority of your audience and they (the brand) will benefit in a big way. Hence the reason your media kit is such a valuable tool - this packet includes all of the need-to-know info they are looking for and they can quickly determine whether or not they want to work with you. Also, if you are using the formulas above to determine your pricing for sponsorship, the brands that contact you will be pleased to see that your numbers are realistic and that YOU have been doing your homework (wink, wink). 

But you don't have to wait for brands to contact you - feel free to send your kit to anyone you think would benefit from your audience! Since there are so many businesses utilizing social media these days, they might not have found you yet.

MAKE SURE to get what you deserve. In other words, if a brand tries to negotiate you down, you have to decide whether or not you agree with their reasoning. If you have a few secret weapons you can pull out (lower follower count but stellar engagement rate, for example), go for it and stand your ground! A brand is more likely to pay higher rates if they think your people are more likely to "act" on your post by sharing it with others or purchasing from the brand because of your recommendation. 


There you have it, my friends. Congratulations to those of you that are dominating blogging &/or social media - it takes time, consistency and a lot of hard work to build a loyal audience! If you have experiences with brands that you would like to share, please comment below and tell us about it! 

Note: In the very near future, Social Graces Media will be releasing an e-course called Bloggers & Brands. In addition to a deeper understanding of the information presented in this post, I will provide document templates such as a media kit and contract for you to use as needed, insight into what to look for in Google Analytics and more on how to up your CPM. If you are interested in being one of the first to gain access to this course, sign up for the newsletter, shoot me an e-mail or comment below!  

WHY THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY SHOULD BE A BLOG (or these for those that detest writing)

Would it surprise you to learn that during my initial year of business as a social media manager, the vast majority of clients I met with or worked with, were NOT interested in blogging as part of their social media strategy? 

Only two actually blogged and only one did it as a way to speak with their professional audience. One. Out of more than 30 business owners. 

Would it also surprise you to learn that the one that blogged was the most successful out of all of them?

Regardless of whether you offer a service, sell products, or feature a combination of the two, blogging as the foundation of your social media marketing plan is imperative. Having one without the other just doesn't make sense. So, why are there so few who actually follow through with this strategy? My experience has given me three main reasons: 

First: There is a major misconception about the role of social media for business.

Contrary to popular belief, social media does NOT exist to serve your marketing needs - shocking, I know. Initially designed as platforms for people to connect and communicate, social media thrives because they have remained true to that very purpose. Each medium prides themselves on their unique "personalities" and are pretty strict about how you present yourself and engage with the overall audience featured on their turf - those are their people and they will protect them...especially from promotions-heavy marketers!  

My point: as the population on each swells to the size of a small country, marketers have no choice but to respect each medium and learn how to play the game so we aren't considered spammers and promptly removed. To put this in perspective: 

  • According to worldometer, there are 7.4 billion people on our planet
  • Facebook, alone, has reported 1.6 billion active users, as of January 27, 2016, via techcrunch. Basically, Mark Zuckerberg has *almost* satisfied his goal of connecting the entire world. 

The. Entire. World....on Facebook. Who could have ever imagined this?

And did you know that this is probably the main reason the FB algorithm exists - to filter the newsfeed so people aren't bombarded with annoying ads and promos all the time. 

Don't get me wrong, social media isn't against marketers...they've just made it a priority to find a happy-medium between us having opportunities and access to their small countries, while also protecting their people and making sure they always have a pleasant experience on their platforms. It's all about balance. 

So, now that you have more insight into social's agenda (and the potential that exists), here is the role of social media for business: 

Think of the social mediums as channels. Your objective: to funnel your valuable information links into the channels and to filter your audience out, driving them to your landing page or website, where they will subsequently get their reward = access to your valuable info or resources. That's it.

For you? Congratulations. You have successfully driven the people most likely to buy from you, onto your little piece of virtual real estate, giving them the best opportunity to purchase your products and/or services.

Boom! Sounds easy enough, right? Except it isn't. 

In order for you to grow and develop a core audience of loyal followers and for them to consistently visit your website (and potentially purchase from you), you need three key ingredients (see graphic):

 

The most widely accepted form of rich content is a BLOG and the best way to develop an emotional connection with your audience is through the combination of your social media efforts and BLOG (if seeing the word "blog" in all caps makes your anxiety spike, there are other options for you below...keep reading). Here's the kicker, though - your blog posts have to be planned and thought of in advance, they should be part of an overall strategy and should appeal to your audience. In other words, you don't determine what your value is, your audience does. Pay attention to what they engage with most and if you are having a hard time, just ask them!  

FOR EXAMPLE: one of my previous clients, a jewelry boutique, was expanding her brand to become more of a "lifestyle brand" - to do that, we narrowed her brand elements into categories and began increasing her inventory of products accordingly. Even though the new stuff included trendy pieces like scarves, mugs with gold accents and tote bags, her audience wasn't feeling it - engagement and sales on these products were low. Since it was right before Christmas, I created a post on social media that asked her audience of over 100k what they would choose if they could only put ONE item from her shop on their wish list (with the incentive that we would be granting one lucky person's wish). The response was overwhelming - her audience preferred what her business was initially founded on: custom jewelry pieces, with their absolute favorite being designs from her handwriting collection. These pieces were what  they valued most and they proved it through engagement and sales (see the graphic for specifics) - basically, they wanted the things that made her unique vs. the mugs, scarves and bags they could buy elsewhere. Lesson learned. 

Screenshot of top 5 products by revenue for jewelry boutique client - the numbers show that her customers valued the designs she ultimately founded her business on: custom pieces, including her handwriting collection. 

Using the example above, you can sense the emotional connection her audience already had with those particular designs but in order to expand into a lifestyle brand, while still remaining true to her roots, we knew we would have to communicate her brand's "lifestyle" to them through other methods - can you guess what that might have been? Yep. A BLOG! 

When she writes about her life, her business, her family, her designs, etc. - her people devour it! The blog allows her to communicate with her audience in a way she can't on social media. Ultimately, she recognized the value of this tool and as a part of her overall business plan, is reaping the rewards!  

 

Second: "I run a business, I don't have time to blog!" 

My TWINs: A&B 

You have no idea how often I've heard this statement. I feel your pain. I really do. I, too, am a business owner. I'm also a wife, mom to 4-year-old twins (those cuties in the picture), a daughter, friend, student, etc., & having enough time to juggle it all seems to elude me most of the time, too.

But here's the deal, friends: if you aren't going to put the time and effort into marketing your business the right way, you might as well not do it at all. That might sound harsh but it's true. It's not enough to simply have a presence on social media anymore - you're wasting your time if that's all that you are willing to put into it. And we're all about working smarter, not harder, right?!

(Oh, and I to hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you're daydreaming of hiring yourself a social media manager, you might want to think again - I wrote about why that's not such a good idea HERE 

Lucky for you, I have some suggestions as to how you can make time to include blogging as part of your already-busy schedule: 

1. Decide on a manageable amount of blog posts per week - preferably 3-4, but if that isn't possible, at least 2 is fine. Just make sure that you consistently post every week. You need to provide your value on a regular basis and keep them coming back! 

2. Brainstorm valuable topics for your audience and your business endeavors - again, if you aren't sure what might be valuable, think of what you would ask yourself if you hired you...what things would you want to know and how can you be a helpful resource for them. Try and find ways to take it up a notch and provide actual resources they can use (a list of vendors, templates, etc.). Check out my own example below:

(Click HERE to access a FREE Weekly Blog Planner - you'll need your password to access the Garden so, if you haven't already, sign up for SGM's Newsletter to get your password!) 

3. Schedule blocks of time for writing every week - as a writer, take it from me, once you find your groove and start laying out a killer draft, you don't want to have to stop 45 times...this fractures your creative flow and could lead to incomplete ideas. So, take an hour (or two, if you can spare it) out of your day, a few days a week, and turn off that phone and email so you can focus on knocking out your chock-full-of-value-and-awesome-resources blog posts! Your business will ultimately thank you. 

4. A great resource for blog organization is Trello - you can use this as you progress through each phase of a blog post, keeping you on track and publishing regularly. If you want more details related to how I do this, let me know in the comments below and I will dedicate a post to it ;)  

Basically, not having the time is not a very good excuse. Ultimately, it comes down to what you're willing to make time for. And for those of you that are cringing at the thought of a blog, read on...

 

Third: Podcasts, Blab, Periscope, Twitter - oh my! 

Ok. So, some of you would rather set fire to your own business than have to maintain a blog, right? I've got you, friend - there are other options that exist! In terms of building an audience and establishing "all the feels" I was talking about up there, you're going to need to incorporate one of the following on a consistent basis: a podcast, Blab, Periscope or Twitter.

*Keep in mind that any of these can be in add-ons or "in addition to" your blog but since they are being presented as an option for those that detest blogging, I am discussing them as stand-alone options (in place of a blog). 

If you asked me which ones were my favorites or which I would suggest investing the most time in, I would tell you that all of them are valuable, in their own way, and it depends on your audience. But in terms of meeting the key criteria for building a core group of loyal followers, I would pick Blab (Blab.im) as my top choice. Here's why: 

BLAB 

Blab has the most options. It allows you to schedule an upcoming session & this is important for planning purposes (topics) and for promotion prior to the session (you can share the link on other social media sites). People that are interested in it and want to be reminded, can simply subscribe to it. The platform was designed so you can be seen AND heard (basically, your people will get to fall in love with your contagious wit, while also swooning over that dimple in your cheek - remember: all the feelings).

But why is Blab the best? Because you can feature others, whether influencers in your industry or followers from your social media, this platform lets you set up interviews, Q&A's or even a spontaneous discussion about a hot topic. Up to four people can be live at once (with you as the moderator) and there is the added bonus of a chat feature - those that are in the session, but not live, can share their thoughts or even talk to each other. 

blab: Note the tags that blab schedulers add to their sessions so people can search by topic and the subscribe button that makes it easy for those interested to receive a reminder and join in when you go live! 

 

Other notable features: Blab is not private so even if someone stumbles upon your session and wants to join (but didn't subscribe), can! And EVERYONE is urged to tweet that they are taking part in your Blab - this gets the attention of others who might want to jump in the conversation. 

Cons: Blab is still very new and widely misunderstood, so, the majority of peeps currently present on this platform are in the social media marketing or coaching industries. You will have to keep this in mind when urging your audience to sign up and join you on this platform - make it worth their while and explain what you would like for them to do so they are more confident in navigating this new medium. 

PODCAST / TWITTER 

My second favorite platform for consistent presence and rich content is...a tie between a podcast and a Twitter chat! Initially, the podcast was my favorite, since this platform allows for your audience to hear your voice (making it easier to connect with you since they can hear inflections in your voice). The problem with a podcast is that this method doesn't let your audience engage with you (or anyone else that might be listening), while participating. It does let you schedule and promote ahead of time, provide great content on a regular basis, and to add some sugar or spice with featured guests or interviews. 

Twitter screenshot: weekly twitter chat (#ellechat) hosted by lauren hooker with elle & company

Twitter, on the other hand, does not let your audience see or hear you (only read your tweets) but this method allows for a back-and-forth exchange between you and the participants in the chat and they can connect with each other as well - win-win! You can schedule a chat ahead of time, promote across channels, host the chat with a unifying hashtag and drive the conversation with topic-related tweets; using visuals to make the posts noticeable and appealing. See the example screenshot of a Twitter post, announcing an upcoming Twitter chat, by Lauren Hooker with Elle & Company.  (*Please see update below)

Here is the breakdown of how Lauren is dominating this method of engagement with her followers - she hosts a weekly Twitter chat with her audience using the unifying hashtag: #ellechat. As you can see from the screenshot, she announces the topic and details of her upcoming chat using a large graphic with easy-to-read and aesthetically-pleasing colors and fonts (she uses the same type of brand-specific graphics during her chat, as she guides the discussion about the topic); which is not only informative and pretty but also increases the likelihood that people will share the tweet.

She has taken the usual set-up of a chat (with one host and participants) a step further and creatively invited a special guest to join them - this increases interest, builds excitement and even multiplies the potential audience of participants since Jamie's followers will most certainly be made aware of the #ellechat as well (did you catch that one?). Finally, Lauren deserves props for giving us the option to "grab our spot" using the link she has provided: easy-peasy! 

Just FYI: Lauren's chats have become wildly popular (hence the reason she is my example to follow) but it is worth noting she became known for her blog first. The chats serve as a more direct communication method with her audience and also as another way to present or discuss valuable info. 

(UPDATE: When this post was originally written, I was under the impression that Lauren was still hosting weekly Twitter chats. I found out after publishing that she has, in fact, switched to a weekly live webinar, instead. The screenshot featured in this post was used in promoting her webinar for that week. The success of her Twitter chats are what led to her upgrade & her audience has followed and are loving the new format!

So, now you see my dilemma in rating the podcast and the Twitter chat - hence the tie! You would have to decide which one is most enjoyable for you to utilize and which one serves the most needs for your specific audience. 

PERISCOPE

Now...you might be surprised to learn that Pericope, a live-streaming app that lets your people see and hear you (it wins lots of brownie points for that one capability), would be last on my list of favorites. Can you guess? The very premise with which it was created, led to it's lowest ranking: spontaneous live-streaming. 

Not that you couldn't try and schedule a Periscope session (if you knew, for example, that you would be at the Super Bowl & let your peeps know in advance) but it wasn't designed for this & in case you've already forgotten, we must respect the medium! In staying true to the platform's personality, you would want to present your valuable information in a fun and spontaneous way. This very trait limits your potential audience to only those that are available when you jump on. 

So, if you really love the idea of Periscope and know your audience would flip for it, too; use it in addition to something else. For example: podcast + Pericope OR Twitter chat + Periscope...see what I'm saying? 

conclusion

There it is. Cue the choir of angels...

Are you feeling enlightened? Does knowing the role of social media in marketing your business help you to identify and narrow your professional goals? 

If you are still uncertain or have questions, post them in the comments below - I always welcome constructive feedback or intelligent conversations about the topic at hand. Even better? Let me know if you decide to incorporate one of these suggested content sources! I would love to hear about your experiences!