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).
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:
- Will you promote any brand that contacts you or do you prefer to only promote those you have used and are familiar with?
- Are you prepared to write a negative review if you are not satisfied with the product?
- What type of promotional introduction would your audience respond to the best - a more natural approach or a more direct one?
- Will you admit openly that you are a paid affiliate?
- 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:
- Advertising space on your site and/or blog (header, sidebar, etc.)
- 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.
- Social media: posts, giveaways, contests, brand ambassadors, etc.
- 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)!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!