How to Approach a Business as a Social Media Influencer
Guest article by Gareth Sutcliffe, Creative Director & Co-Founder, BlueSocial (part of Harrix Group)
In recent weeks, there’s been a fair bit of light shone of the practices of Social Media influencers and bloggers.
There was the story of the Irish blogger who admitted to fixing a brand partnership competition so that her family and friends won the prizes (read here). Perhaps more famously, and certainly more controversially, there was the case of English vlogger Elle Darby and the White Moose Café and its affiliated operation, The Charleville Lodge Hotel, in Dublin, Ireland.
I’m going to focus on the latter.
So I’ll set the scene –
- Fashion and beauty vlogger Elle Darby apparently sends an e-mail request for a “collaboration” to the White Moose Café/Charleville Lodge Hotel.
- She suggests that she would like a complimentary stay at the hotel in return for Instagram and Snapchat updates as well as it being featured in her vlog.
- The owner of the café and hotel is apparently very annoyed with her approach and publishes the e-mail to his Social Media channels, partially hiding Elle’s details.
- Subsequently, the e-mail goes viral.
- Elle then creates a vlog saying how she was “shamed” by the owners post and feels embarrassed that the Hotel has seemingly (and in her opinion unfairly) made her business approach public in order to vilify her.
- There is then more subsequent back and forth between both camps. Supporters of both parties attack the other party online.
Over the following week, the story goes viral across major media sites. An online war breaks out between the blogging community and the wider general public on whether Elle was out of order in making her approach or whether the White Moose Café blew everything up out of proportion.
In all fairness, both camps came out of the affair with positives and negatives. Both gained some massive brand exposure; but both sides also received a fair amount of negative feedback as well.
While there wasn’t really any need for the café and hotel owner to publish the e-mail (which he turned into a huge brand exposure exercise for his operations), I believe that Elle’s approach wasn’t thorough enough for a business proposition.
So below I have outlined, as a Social Media agency owner, how Elle’s approach could have resulted in a more fruitful relationship with the hotel and what I believe is the best way to approach a business for a collaboration if you’re a Social Media influencer…
Don’t label yourself as a social media influencer
I believe that the title “influencer” is something that is earned, not one you pick for yourself. Elle, I’d drop this straight away from your initial pitch.
I think this is the first and biggest stumbling block that Elle encountered, especially as the owner of the hotel is a vlogger as well. In fact, he is something of a celebrity in Dublin for his controversial comments – including demanding that someone who said she was a coeliac produce a note from her doctor confirming it. A little bit of research would have revealed this.
Followers and subscribers mean nothing without relevancy
Having a big following is obviously extremely important for an influencer – the more people that follow you, the more people will see your content, right? But numbers are nothing without relevancy to the business you’re pitching to.
The major mistake Elle made in the approach here is that she didn’t provide any analysis of her followers. Where are they based geographically? What’s the gender split? What’s the age breakdowns? What are the interests of her followers? What’s the demographic breakdown of the people that engage with her?
She should have told the business, using this data, how she could affect their sales by working with them with her relevant following. If your following isn’t relevant, then there’s no need to ask them for a collaboration!
I’d also do some research into the business being approached and show that I’d done that research in my pitch. What sort of demographic of people stay there? What’s the price range of the stays there? You need to establish that your following is relevant to the business you’re pitching to.
Social media has SO much data. If you’re going to approach a business for a collaboration, provide real information on your subscribers and followers and tell the business how they’re relevant to their customer base. Sell your subscribers with relevant data, not just with numbers! It’s easy to amass followers – but it’s harder to build relevancy.
How will you affect sales?
Elle in her e-mail states that the goal of the collaboration is “to bring traffic to your hotel and recommend others to book”. This seems fairly innocuous: but the question here is HOW will you bring traffic?
She fails to provide any hard information on how she’s going to bring traffic to the website. Where’s the sales funnel? What’s the customer journey from content to the website? How will sales and conversions be tracked? What’s the ideas for the vlogs? What’s the theme? Where’s the plan for what sort of Snaps and Stories she’s planning to do?
I fully appreciate that vlogging is, by its nature, off the cuff and ‘real’. But you have to demonstrate to any potential business partner how you work and what sort of content you’re going to produce. The business has to understand how you’re going to represent its brand in advance. Simply saying “bring traffic” isn’t really enough – especially when you’re asking for £100s of free product in return.
Always have a plan in advance!
Don’t EVER ask for anything for free in advance
As you can see from the reaction from the White Moose Café’s owner, what prompted his posting of Elle’s e-mail was the request for a “free stay” in return for her services that unfortunately hadn’t been detailed out thoroughly enough in the initial approach.
People work very hard to run and keep their businesses afloat, let alone make a tidy profit; to ask straight of the bat for a free stay over what is probably an extremely busy time of year them is, in my opinion, very rude.
If you’re going to feature a business, I’d advise that you always buy or order the product first. Make an effort to show you really love the business and what they do first then approach them afterwards. The business will then dictate how best to approach this. Maybe in Elle’s case, after showing the booking and providing all the relevant data, the business may have offered her a free night or two or perhaps complementary room upgrade or dinner vouchers.
By going in and asking for something for free straight away, you’re bargaining from zero with no room to manoeuvre. Show the business your intent by buying first, then tell them about who you are and see what you can work out after that. Setting out a lofty demand from the start will more than likely end in a ‘no’.
Not backing up your previous work with evidence
As with any business relationship, your work with other people is extremely important. As businesses grows, you will win more work based on your previous clients. But again, you have to back this success with data.
In the e-mail, Elle says “Last year I worked with Universal Orlando in Florida and it’s been amazing from them”. OK, it’s great that you’ve worked with this brand – but where’s the data to prove it’s “been amazing for them”?
Did you set up a discount code for your followers? Did Universal Orlando set up Analytics to track the website traffic that was generated from your videos and content? Was any conversion tracking set up? Did you provide a report to show the conversations that were generated from your content about them?
You should also provide at least a report stating the successes you’ve had with other collaborations to really show that you have “influence” in the sector you’re approaching.
- Don’t give yourself the title “influencer” – earn it first!
- Show the business your subscribers and followers are relevant
- Show a clear path to how you’re going to get sales for the business
- Never EVER ask for something for free straight away – buy first, approach second.
- Show your results from previous campaigns with DATA!
“Brand Awareness” simply isn’t good enough in this day and age of rich data on social. Business owners want to know exactly how you’re going to affect sales and how you’ve done this previously.
As a vlogger or influencer, you are essentially your own agency. Be as thorough as possible in your initial approach and really sell you and your subscribers to the business and show real value in working with you.