The Inside Scoop on Influencer Gifting (Stop wasting time + Product)

This article is part of the Influencer Marketing Series, written and sponsored by Shopping Links, an online marketplace designed to make it easier for Bloggers and Brands to connect and collaborate. For $100 off your first collaboration, use code PROFF100.

Influencer gifting can be one of the most effective ways to gain exposure for a client, particularly when they need to make an immediate impact — but as many publicists have experienced, it’s not always easy. Researching bloggers can take hours, and often your top choices don’t respond right away. You can go back-and-forth a dozen times just to finalize delivery details, and follow up for weeks after to ensure the post is published. By the time you share the results with your client, your agency’s margin has often vanished. 

Thankfully, as the influencer market has evolved, so have tools for publicists that have made engaging influencers and tracking their results much easier. With a little strategy and the help of the right resources, you can see all the benefits of product seeding without wasting inventory or your staff’s time. Here are five tips to get the maximum return from your next campaign: 

1. Stop researching influencers one by one

Finding influencers who align closely with your client’s target audience rightfully feels like time well-spent. After all, choosing the right medium to share your brand’s message is exactly what good publicists do. But when you need to engage several influencers in a short amount of time, hours spent poring through blogs and Instagram accounts can quickly add up.

This is where technology can help. Influencer platforms give you access to a network of influencers, so you can either sort through bloggers based on keywords, or post a collaboration message and engage qualified bloggers who express interest. Options range from technology-only platforms that use software to build their databases (if you see platforms boasting hundreds of thousands of influencers, they were likely built this way), to more service-oriented platforms with networks built through relationships. At Shopping Links, for example, we have just over 14,000 fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencers that have each been reviewed by a member of our team.

The best platform for you will depend on your existing relationships, your target audience, and your client’s KPIs. A tech-focused platform works well if your client’s goal is general awareness across multiple demographics, or if you already have strong influencer relationships and just need a tool to help execute the campaign. Relationship-focused platforms work better when your client wants to reach a specific demographic, and you need a resource to help you find the right influencers. Relationship-focused platforms also typically offer more detailed targeting options than their tech counterparts. For example, we encourage bloggers to connect their Google Analytics to their Shopping Links profile so brands and agencies can get a sense of each blogger’s audience demographics. One of our favorite industry resources, Influencer Marketing Hub, has a great list of platforms to suit different types of campaigns. No matter which one (or few) you choose, taking advantage of these publicist-friendly tools will free up your team’s time while increasing your quality of influencer partnerships.

2. Set your minimum threshold at 10k followers

 “Micro-influencers” have been heralded extensively over the last year as the key to stronger engagement, and while this is certainly true when comparing engagement percentages of smaller influencers to Chiara-level stars, your clients also want to see reach, not just a higher percentage of likes and comments. To see the greatest return across all KPIs, we recommend setting a threshold of 10k Instagram followers, with a “sweet spot” between 10k and 100k. Here’s why:

A minimum of 10k followers allows you to take advantage of the swipe-up functionality on Instagram Stories, which we have found to be particularly effective for brands seeking an immediate impact, such as traffic and sales for a specific product. A threshold of 10k followers also increases the likelihood that a blogger has established a professional process for working with brands. Emerging bloggers may be more receptive to gifting, but they also require more management. Targeting the 10k-100k follower level, which many marketers have indeed defined as “micro-influencers,” gives you an engaged audience at the highest possible reach for bloggers still likely to selectively accept gift-only collaborations.

3. Figure out each blogger’s strength, and your own leverage

When you run a gifting collaboration without payment, you often have limited negotiating power, particularly when you target leading influencers. Bloggers with 10k followers may accept gifts more readily, while those with 100k aren’t likely to accept gifted only opportunities very often. (When they do, it’s generally because they love your client’s product, which is great — but they’re not likely to accommodate specific channels, placement or timing.) Understanding each blogger’s strengths can help you get the most out of each collaboration and the bargaining power you do have. If a blogger has strong website traffic and a high domain authority, for example, it would be best for you to request a blog mention. If they’ve developed a strong Pinterest following, you can request that they add a pin.

A minimum of 10k followers allows you to take advantage of the swipe-up functionality on Instagram Stories, which we have found to be particularly effective for brands seeking an immediate impact, such as traffic and sales for a specific product.

You can also leverage non-exclusivity to gain exposure across more channels. A blogger may not be willing to create a new blog or Instagram post featuring your brand alone, but they may be very willing to include your client as part of a multi-brand post around a specific topic, like the holidays. This can work to your client’s favor as each featured brand shares the content across their own channels, introducing the brand to new, relevant audiences.    

4. Make gifting part of your contract

One of the biggest bottlenecks to gifting actually starts with your client contract. Negotiating the number of pieces and types of product you can send influencers can take more time than you expect. When you need to make an immediate impact or secure a placement quickly, having an allotment of approved, ready-to-gift product can mean the difference between landing some great exposure and losing an opportunity. Incorporating an inventory of product to gift as part of your contract with the client saves you the headache of those last-minute approvals.

5. Experiment with different audiences

One final, overlooked benefit of product seeding is the opportunity to experiment with different demographics and take some risks without the expense that comes with a paid collaboration. Within each gifting campaign, work with your client to select one or two new demographics or geographic markets to test. Be sure to diligently track the results of your test bloggers against influencers within your standard markets to understand where your biggest opportunities lie. The value of knowing your best-performing demographics is one reason we track campaign results by individual influencer, which allows brands to compare the reach, engagement and affiliate revenues of every blogger they engage. Although many agencies successfully track campaign results internally, this is another area where we recommend finding a good tool or platform.

Incorporating an inventory of product to gift as part of your contract with the client saves you the headache of those last-minute approvals.

The time to manually update results week by week, even if done by an intern, can take away from other important tasks, while leaving you open to human error. We track campaign results over three months to account for the natural time it can take between seeing a post and a consumer engaging or purchasing; we recommend making this your benchmark for any tracking service you choose.

Whether your client is launching a new product or looking to boost seasonal sales, product seeding can be a highly effective way to land exposure with an impact. By approaching each campaign strategically and leveraging tools and platforms to help you identify influencers and track your results, you can avoid avoid the time of unnecessary account management and the expense of wasted product, while helping your clients achieve their campaign goals in a way that clearly demonstrates your agency’s value.

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Kim Westwood

Kim Westwood

Kim Westwood is the Founder and Managing Director of Shopping Links, a global influencer and content marketplace for Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle brands. Having managed 850+ collaborations since launching in 2014, Shopping Links actively works with Fortune 500 retailers and brands such as MARKS & SPENCER, Macy's and Folli Follie, with a focus on aligning brands with influencers who share their target audience. Through a personally vetted network of 14,000+ influencers from 117 countries, Kim and her team have worked with 450 bloggers for a single brand. Shopping Links won the Business Services category at the 2016 Governor of Victoria Export Award and has been named to Anthill Magazine's SMART100 Index of most innovative Australian companies.