You might be wondering about working with brands and how to attract them so that brands want to work with you. We cover what sponsored posts are and how to do well with a sponsored opportunity when it comes your way. We also touch on what should be going on with your blog to attract brands to you.
What does it mean to work with brands?
Sponsored content can come in many forms, but is essentially you getting paid (in product or money) to create content or share content for a brand or business. As a food blogger, this is typically related to specific foods, ingredients, kitchen gadgets, or services.
How do you get sponsored work?
Brands may contact you directly (woo hoo!), you can pitch them by letting them know you’d like to work with them, and how, or you might join influencer networks like Linqia, Clever Girls, or SoFab. Networks are a middleman between you and the brand and they help find the right bloggers and influencers for campaigns.
What are you actually doing when you work with a brand?
Make sure that you’re clear on what you’re signing on for: Blog post? Social media shares? A video? Creating a recipe? Be clear on what the brand is asking for, as well as what you’re willing to do. Make sure all details are settled ahead of time and with a contract. Be aware of the payment details (in product and/or money) and timeline of payment, specifics about what you can or can’t say about the product, and make sure you (and the brand) are prepared to follow FTC guidelines like making the links in your blog post no-follow.
How to rock your work with brands
The posts that you do when working with a brand may be similar in some ways to the content you’re already producing. However, with sponsored content, you want to consider what else you might do before, during, and after the post runs- we share ideas for all of the phases of a campaign including going above and beyond what you’ve agreed to.
Be attractive to the brands
If you want brands to want to work with you, your site needs to be ready. Make sure you have a clean theme (we’ve got you covered on that if your theme needs help), have great photos, and make it easy for a brand to find you with a contact form or better yet, make your email easy to find. And, remember that you want to have engaging followers- don’t grow your following just to have big numbers. If those people don’t care what you’re doing, the brands won’t care about those thousands of followers.
Working with brands is a great experience for bloggers and with these tips you’ll be prepared to work with brands or improve your work with them.
Linqia- an influencer network that’s pay per click
Clever- another influencer network
Social Fabric (SoFab)- a third influencer network to check out
How to figure out your fees for sponsored posts
FTC Guidelines- make sure you follow these!!
Check out our themes that will help your blog be appealing to brands
Transcription of This Episode
Welcome to Feast Food Blog Talk, where we share how to take your food blogging to the next level and inspire you to do more with your blog and business.
On today’s episode, we are talking all about working with brands as a food blogger. What does that even mean? How do you find these coveted sponsored posts? What it is that you’re actually doing when someone wants to pay you? And then how you can make sure to knock it out of the park. What are you going to do before, during, and after a sponsored post so that a brand really wants to work with you, not just once, but again and again ideally? And we also talk about what it means to have a website that brands are going to find attractive so that they want to work with you in the first place.
Alright, the time has come. You are ready to do sponsored posts on your blog. Or maybe you’re already doing sponsored posts, but you want to know how to make them better. So one side of this is having a blog that’s attractive to the people who are going to hire you to do sponsored content. But the other side is actually knowing how to do sponsored content well. Before we get into actually working with brands, if you’re new to this, you might be thinking, “What does that even mean? What are you talking about when you say doing work with brands?”
So that could be sponsored content. That’s typically when a brand is paying you, we’ll talk about pay in a little bit, but they’re paying you to promote their company or a certain product through content on your blog or your social channels. This could be a video that you produce. This could be a blog that you write that features that brand or that product. That’s sponsored content.
Then there’s ads that you might do. You might already have ads on your site. These might be through a network or Google AdSense and just random ads come up that the person who’s on your blog will hopefully like. But you could work with a brand to have ads specifically for them, for a product or a service, or the items that they sell. And then there’s also amplifying their content. So maybe on your social channels, you are promoting a blog that someone else wrote or you are sharing about their newest campaign for healthy eating, whatever it is.
That’s typically what you’re doing when you are working with brands. Now, why would you want to do that? Probably first and foremost, for revenue, right? To make money, because you’re probably not just blogging for fun. But you might actually want to make some money. Working with brands and doing sponsored content is a great way to build your revenue streams. If you have a really strong, engaged following on your blog and your social channels, you can oftentimes get brands to pay you a considerable amount of money.
Sponsored content can also allow you to grow your blog and your following. If you do a great job working with a brand, they may amplify your content. They may take what you created and post it to their social channels. They may say, “Hey, look at what so and so is doing on the blog with this really great recipe”. So they can help to expose you and your content to other people. That doesn’t always happen, but that definitely can. If you have been blogging for a little while, taking your blog to the next level through sponsored content, is a great way to go.
You might be thinking how. How do I do that? I have this blog, how do I get people to pay me. There are times where brands will contact you directly. They may be doing a search, they have people on their team or a network, which we’ll talk about. A PR rep might contact you directly. Sometimes those can turn into really great relationships, but they might also just be sending information out to all food bloggers, not really knowing if you’re a good fit. They may want to just send you product and you’re not really okay with that. But there are times where you get emails. And that’s really exciting, especially if you haven’t been doing this very long.
You can also pitch brands and companies directly. That means you are reaching out to them and you’re saying, “Hey, I really love what you do at your company. This new product that you have would be really great for my readers and I want to share it with them in this sort of way.” So you’re not just saying you want to work together, you’re actually reaching out, explaining how this would be a mutually beneficial relationship and sharing some ideas of what you have in mind.
And then there are also what we call influencer networks. These are networks that you can join that they then become the middleman between you and the brands. If brand x is looking for 25 bloggers and influencers to help them spread the message of their new product, this really super healthy butter product that’s better than all other butters, and they’re looking for influencers to help promote this. So if you are a non-dairy blog, you’re probably not going to get picked for that, right. But through these influencer networks, their team is taking what the brand is looking for and they are looking at their network of bloggers and influencers to see who would be a good fit. That can be a really good way to go, because you as a blogger can join a lot of different networks. And there are a ton of them.
Linqia is one that a lot of people work with. They work on a model that not everyone loves, because it’s pay per click. So you actually need people to click your link to be able to get paid. Sometimes that’s great. It’s a good way to get sponsored work, especially in the beginning. They have a lot of food campaigns I’ve seen. But what’s a little bit more typical, is if you’re working with an influencer network like CleverGirls or SoFab, that they are going to offer you payment for a blog post or a video or a blog and social promotion. They’re actually paying you for that content. Whereas a network like Linqia, they pay you but only if you get clicks on their links once you’ve created the content. So it’s not a bad model, it’s just a different model.
That’s typically how you’re going to get work, sponsored content. Through a brand contacting you, through pitching directly, or through an influencer network. You might be thinking, “This sounds great. I want to get paid to create content.” But you really need to know what is it that you are doing so you’re getting paid. Keep in mind, payment could be in product. Not all bloggers will be okay with this. You actually do have to claim this on your taxes, just so you know. But you might be getting paid in a product or in money. Sometimes it’s gift cards. And you just need to know what you’re comfortable with. And so you’re going to be paid in some way, shape, or form, to highlight a product or a brand or a service, right.
You could be creating, like we said, a blog post. You could be creating content for them on their blog or their social channels. You might be simply writing a post around a product, like this really great new coffee maker. Or you might be expected to create a recipe with this brand new butter. You might be doing more specific seasonal content or around a certain time of year, like a back to school sort of story that highlights their brand in a certain way.
When you’re creating content, whether it’s a blog, it’s a social post, it’s an Instagram story, it’s a video. You really want to think about telling a story that incorporates your product, because it’s not just look at this awesome product and hope people buy or get interested, you’re being hired as an influencer for something more than that. So you’re not just showing, you really are telling and explaining and describing. That’s really the big picture of what you’re doing.
When a brand is starting a conversation with you or you’re starting a conversation with a brand, you just really need to be clear on what it is that you’re doing. Is it a blog post? Is it a social post? Is it both? Are you expected to do video content? And if you’re already doing videos, you know how much work that is, right. And if you’re not doing video, it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time for those to look really really good. So you want to make sure that what the brand is asking you for, you can deliver. You want to make sure that your skills line up with their skills or what they’re looking for in your skills. And you want to make sure that their brand and their product is in line with who you are and what you do. Because you want to stay true to you and your brand. It’s very exciting when someone wants to pay you money or even product in exchange for work, but that doesn’t mean you just say yes. So really think about what it is that they are asking you to do.
You could be doing recipes. You might be highlighting kitchen gadgets. Really think outside of the box of what you can do, especially if you’re going to be pitching brands. We’re not going to cover what to charge today, but you do want to be aware of how much your time is worth and we have a blog that talks about how to price your sponsored content, so you can check that link down below. As we’ve already said, when you’re working with a brand and you are having these conversations about, “Yes, I want this great product and I’ll do it for x amount of money”. You really need to make sure you’re clear on the details of the agreement. What is it that you’re doing and what is it that you’re not doing? Does your payment include you doing social shares?
Now listen, you should be gracious and if you’re writing a blog post, you should always promote it, right. You don’t just write a post and it lives on your site and you don’t do anything. You should share it. But the company may be paying you for specific social shares on certain channels. They may expect you to boost a post. And you always need to be following FTC guidelines. We’ll talk about that in just a minute, but you need to make sure that you’re sharing these appropriately.
But when you are firming up your agreement with these brands, you need to be aware. Can you promote competitors, before and after? Or can you not? How many photos are expected of you? Are they going to use your content in their marketing? Now you might get really excited and think, “That’s really cool”, but are they going to link back to you? Are they giving you credit for the photos that you’ve created? So these are the things that you want to be discussing. And some of this might be in their standard agreement, but sometimes brands aren’t very formal in how they do things or PR people might not always expect you to ask these questions. You really should. The brand might really want you to turn off ads if you already have ads on your site. If they’re not asking about that, you might want to be aware so that you don’t get an email afterwards that says, “Hey, love your post, but turn your ads off please”.
One point to be aware of, is that when you are paid in any way, shape, or form, again product or money. In the post itself, your links need to be nofollow links. If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you’ve probably gotten emails from people that say, “We want to give you sponsored content and all we want is one do follow link”. If someone is asking for a dofollow link, they know that they shouldn’t be asking for a do follow link. It should be no follow. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, it’s basically when you have a link in your blog Google notices it, the search engines notice. And what they’re trying to avoid is that companies that have money can simply just pay to put their links all over. Let’s go back to this really awesome butter.
If do follow links were allowed, this butter company has tons of money and they could just pay everybody to put their butter link in ads. Now all of a sudden, Google thinks this butter is super awesome because it has links everywhere. So if a company is paying in any way, it needs to be a nofollow link. This is a setting you can usually just sort of set up in your platform. But you need to make sure it’s a no follow link. You can add coding for it, as well. But it’s basically telling Google, “Hey, this is a link, but I’ve been compensated in some way, so don’t … you’re not penalizing me because I have it here, but you’re also not giving extra juice to this company because I have it here”. Just be aware if someone is asking for a do follow link, they have more information than you think they do.
As you’re finishing up all of these details of what it is that you’re doing, make sure that you really are clear on the payment. Payment details and timeline. I’ve heard so many bloggers say things like, “I finished this post and it’s been up for 30 days, why haven’t I had payment?” Well, because your contract says 90 days or something. So you really want to know when you’re getting paid for your work. Is it up front? Is it after? And what are you actually getting paid for it?
Now, I want to pause for a moment and say that some bloggers will say you should never do a sponsored post for free or basically just for product. But here’s the thing, if you’re brand new to doing sponsored posts, it might be a really good option to simply do a post in exchange for a product. Now I’m not saying you should do this really great post for one stick of butter, because it’s probably not worth your time. But if you’re working with a grocery store and they’re willing to give you $150 in gift cards, to spend on the products that you would use for this recipe, which is something that you would probably cook at home anyway, and you’ll have left over to do your grocery shopping, that’s a pretty good exchange for you.
Just be aware that it’s not always as simple as don’t work for free. What they’re giving you may be worth it. If there was a really big kitchen gadget that you’ve been wanting and eyeing that you don’t want to spend several hundred dollars for, but a company will give to you, that might be worth it for you, so it’s totally okay. When you’re working with brands, keep in mind as you are doing all your posting and social shares, as we said, don’t break FTC guidelines. We’ll link to those in the bottom, but you really need to be aware.
Many brands will help you be compliant, but some don’t. So you need to do that. That’s your responsibility. Even though you’re working with a brand, that’s on you to follow those guidelines. And when you are creating your posts and doing your social shares, simply be honest with the information and true to you and your brand. That’s what it is that you’re doing. But there are some things that you can ultimately do leading up to a sponsored post, during the creation, and then after that can help you really do well with sponsored content and hopefully have brands wanting to work with you again or show to other potential brands that you are a good partner to work with.
The caveat to this is … I’m going to talk about leading up to a sponsored post, but if there are very specific guidelines that you are not to share any information before a post goes live, you obviously need to follow that. But this advice that’s coming up next can help you develop a good relationship with the brand that you’re working with. So leading up to a post, it can be a good idea to show off the product, on your social feeds, even if this isn’t required. For example, if you just went to the store to pick up ingredients for your recipe that’s going to be on your blog in the next couple weeks, snap some photos, do a story about how “I just went to this market and got these ingredients. Can’t wait to show you what’s coming up on the blog. Stay tuned.” So you’re staring to build brand recognition and some interest in what it is that you’re doing.
Even if this is not required, it’s good to go above and beyond. But again, make sure there’s no issues with those posts, like some top secret ingredient or something that doesn’t launch until x date and your sponsored content is an important part of that launch. Think about, as you are leading up to this sponsored post, taking photos of the item in use. Sure you can set it up and show it as it comes home from the store. But take photos of you using it and make sure that you show the branding of the product. When you are sharing these on social leading up to, if there’s a hashtag that you’re meant to use, tag the brand, make sure you’re using hashtag ad, so that people know that this is an ad. But ahead of time, you can build up the awareness that something is coming and give people more of an opportunity to see you working with this brand and this product. And brands will love that.
During. While you’re creating your blog content, this is typically the same process as you would do when you’re creating your normal content for your blog, right. You’re creating your recipe or whatever it is that you would do for some sort of story, but you want to make sure that your client’s ingredient or product is photographing well. Photos are hugely important. Always on your blog, but especially if you’re working with a brand, you want to make sure that they’re represented well.
You can look at other sponsored posts for how bloggers do additional photos related to a particular item. Because maybe when you typically do a recipe post, you snap a quick photo of everything that you use, but you’re not necessarily showing the packaging or you’re not highlighting one product in a certain way. Take some time to look at what other bloggers have done specific to that brand or just sponsored posts in general, to see how they’re highlighting that product well without going overboard and being obnoxious about it.
While you’re creating your blog content, you definitely want to make sure that you’re aware of the guidelines that you need to be following so that you get all of the photos that you’re expected, so that you’re writing the content in a way that the brand is expecting. You especially want to be aware of what you can and can’t say regarding ingredients or health claims. Typically with food, whether it’s organic, non-GMO, there’s very specific wording that the client expects you to adhere to.
Now, if this is a blog, you can obviously easily edit that out, but if it’s a video, you really need to make sure that the information you’re putting out there is correct, because it’s going to be harder to edit that afterwards. And related to that, if your client needs to review your information ahead of time, your blog, your video, your social copy, make sure you get it in on time. And if they want changes, try not to be frustrated about it, because sometimes you did everything they asked, but their requirements changed.
So, before, during, now after. You’ve created your sponsored content, you’re feeling really great about it, it’s up on the blog, you’re sharing on social. One good rule of thumb is to, I wouldn’t say under promise, but definitely over deliver. Now you can’t guarantee that people are going to purchase, right. Wouldn’t that be nice. You’re helping to create brand awareness. People might buy, people might not. They might not click your link, but they see it in the store and they buy it. So you can’t guarantee clicks or purchases, but you can show that you love this brand, you love this product, you can help bring more awareness to it, you can do more social posts that you agreed on. You can do a story, even if you did a story even if you didn’t say that you would. But definitely, promote what it is that you’re doing.
One more thing when your done with your campaign, you’re done with your sponsored post, or your social shares. If you get great responses from your followers, whether that’s comments on your blog, your social post, or a lot of shares, share that with the brand or the rep that you’ve been working with. This helps to show that you are not only following up, but that your followers love what the brand is or the product. And that can be really great to explicitly say and let them know, “Hey, I’d love to work with you again in the future”, of course it’s to mean that’s true.
Just a few more final thoughts about working with brands. Like we said, it’s okay to work for free or for product and it’s definitely okay to get paid, whatever works best for you. And, in the beginning, it might be good to get some experience and get some free food or free product or whatever it may be. As exciting as it is to get paid for content and for your work, make sure that you’re balancing your sponsored content with non-sponsored. The brands will look for this. They don’t want to see that you’re simply only doing paid content. But your followers will probably not only want to see paid content. It’s okay that you’re getting paid to develop and share content, but that shouldn’t be all that you do.
We said this already, but don’t work with brands just because they want to work with you. Really make sure it’s in line with your brand and even your aesthetic. If the brand typically does dark, moody photos and you’re bright and cheery, you may not be a good fit for them and that’s okay. You will improve at doing sponsored content over time and as your skill level increases, your following increases, your engagement grows. You can increase your rates. And again, take a look at that blog post to help you figure out what you should be charging.
So that’s about how you’re going to work with the brand, but you also need to make sure that you are attractive to brands to work with. A lot of that is going to start with your web design. You want to have a blog that looks good. It’s clean, it’s not cluttered, it’s easy to navigate. Feast Design Code is great for this, so if you don’t have a template that you’re in love with or you’re just getting started, check out our themes, because that’s a great way to show brands, “Look, I take this seriously, I am a business and I am going to show you off in a really great way”.
You also want to make sure that, as a whole, your site is easy to navigate and get around, because the brands are going to check you out. And if they can’t quite find things on your site, they’re going to feel like the person on your blog won’t have a good user experience, so they might not want to work with you. They also need to be able to contact you, so make sure you make it easy for them to figure out where you are. How should they contact you? Is there a form on your site? Do you have your email. Make it easy for people to figure out how to contact with you if they want to work with you.
You also want to make sure you’re adhering to FTC guidelines. So if you have other sponsored posts on your site, that you are noting, this is sponsored by so and so, all opinions are my own. so make sure you are following the guidelines and that you have disclosure statements on your site, things like that. And then really think about having engagement on your social channels. You may have tens of thousands of followers on any certain platform, but that doesn’t matter if they’re not engaged. So don’t build up followings, just to build up a following. You want to build up a following of engaged and loyal people who really are interested in what you share. That’s what a brand is ultimately going to be attracted to.
So there’s lots of different ways to show yourself off, to show off your blog, and help you eventually work with brands. And if you’re not doing it now, you’ve got some ideas for how to become more attractive to the brands you work with and be more prepared for what it is that you’re going to do when a brand decides to hire you.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of our podcast. We hope that you have learned something about working with brands, whether that’s how to make your site more enticing for brands to work with. Maybe you’ve learned about how to knock it out of the park with your sponsored content and go above and beyond what people are asking. Or maybe you’re just going to be a little more savvy next time when you’re in that negotiation and conversation phase, so that you get a really good understanding of what you’re doing with that particular brand. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, so that you can get all sorts of tips and ideas to help make your food blog even better.