the blogger’s guide to becoming an influencer + pitching brands

ya’ll.  I am so excited to share today’s post with you!  I have been working with Krista of Social Graces Media for over a year now after getting connected through a brand she represented and she has been nothing but a God send to me as I wade through this adventure of blogging I’ve found myself on the last several years.  I have been blogging for a long time and when I started I never once thought to myself where the future of this blog would go, what partnerships would flourish, the shape this space would take and what message I would send.  when big opportunities followed by even bigger opportunities started to present itself, I was so thankful for Krista’s guidance through all this- because honestly, I was totally lost the first time someone asked for my media kit.. or requested the number of unique visitors to my site, and who the heck is the FTC
I have been begging her to put all this knowledge down onto paper and finally she’s done it! 
As a blogger, you probably started writing because you wanted to share something with the world. Whether you’ve been doing it for years or you are just getting started, the possibility of getting PAID to share things you love with your audience is no doubt an alluring prospect. So, how does one go about doing just that? That’s a great question, of course, but one that needs explanation since there are several aspects involved. 

Let’s look at it this way: as a blogger with all the right stuff (no worries, I’ll explain what all the “right stuff” is in just a sec), you are known as an “influencer” – the popular kid everybody wants to hang out with. Brands really, really, really want to work with influencers on social media (a.k.a. the playground) because no one trusts them (the brands) so everyone simply ignores them
You, on the other hand, have already devoted the work and time to building a rapport with your audience, they trust you and will easily purchase things that you suggest because they believe you when you tell them it’s something they should have. 
*Image via Pinterest
Cue the NKOTB – “Oh, oh, oh, oh oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh oh…the right stuff!” 
(This will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the day – you’re welcome).  
But just what is the “right stuff”, anyway? Let me break it down for you:
There is a myth that you have to have an audience the size of a small country to have influence but this just isn’t true. It might make you look cool to have all those followers but if none of those people interact and engage with you, they are not the right audience. In other words, they hold no value. 
The value is not in the number of followers that you have but in the percentage of followers that interact, engage, return to your blog and are genuinely interested in you and what you have to say – these people are most likely to buy, based off of your suggestions. 
This kind of love doesn’t happen overnight, folks. It takes consistent blogging about topics that are important to your people and relationship-building through social media. And you can’t just assume you have the right stuff, you have to prove it. That proof comes from analytics! So, if you haven’t already, link your site/blog to an analytics tool (hint: Google Analytics does a fabulous job…and it’s free). 
All of the data is important (to someone, somewhere, I just know it!) but for brands, the following ingredients are key to their secret sauce:
Page Views – how many people have viewed your blog over the last 30 days?
Demographics – who is your primary audience – gender & age? 
*Unique Visitors – how many new people have viewed your blog over the last 30 days? 
Bringing people back to your blog, time and time again, is most definitely something to celebrate. But…brands want to know that you’re not only good enough to bring peeps back but that you’re also attracting a decent percentage of new visitors on a regular basis, too. 
Social Drivers – which media is most responsible for driving traffic to your blog & how many followers do you have on each?
NOTE: All of this information (plus a few other key ingredients) should be packaged in a professionally branded media kit that is regularly updated so you can easily shoot it over to those that are interested in working with you. No worries if you don’t already have one, Social Graces Media can design one for you (and if you’re wondering whether or not I’m any good at it, I designed Amber’s…so, there’s that). → MEDIA KIT 
Ok, so, once you’ve armed yourself with the right audience, your analytics and your shiny new media kit, you might think it’s time to approach “Brand Central”, right!? Wrong…
First, you have to determine “who” you want to approach? Scratch that. 
The real question to ask yourself is not who you want to partner with, but who you should partner with? 
In other words, if you don’t take the time to consider whether or not a product or service is right for your brand and audience, and you start pushing every product under the sun (think: Kim Kardashian – girl doesn’t turn down an opportunity to make a buck), the fiercely-loyal followers you’ve come to know and love will run for the hills. Now that you’ve earned their trust, it’s best to pick and choose products or services that you would truly use and that would best serve your audience. Remember, they trust you – don’t let them down…or this will be you: 
*Image via Google (E News)
Not a good look. 
So, do your homework and figure out who you want to collaborate with – whether it be another blogger, a social celebrity/brand ambassador, a small business or a larger brand; you will need to narrow down the possibilities so you have a clear vision of who you will (and will not) work with. 
The second assignment in your homework, is to determine your value
Say what? 
What I’m saying is, I have a formula that will help you calculate what you should charge brands who want to work with you – you can read all about it HERE. This will prove helpful so you don’t undervalue or overvalue yourself…you know, rookie mistakes (wink, wink). I got you!  
Now…this one is something TOO MANY bloggers & brands aren’t even aware of, or even if they are aware of it, they aren’t familiar with it. You don’t want to be one of them. You want to be one of us – the ones that are in-the-know about the FTC guidelines
*Image via Google: Brook’s Beat (Mean Girls)

Basically, to summarize, it states that if you should advertise or promote a product or service, you have to disclose that information to your followers in a clear and prominent way. This ARTICLE explains the guidelines further and even though the author is a bit blunt (to say the least), she preaches the truth – Amen! 
But just to reiterate my point, here is an example from PB+J Babes (Amber Massey’s blog):
Exhibit A

*Image via PB+J Babes (Blogspot)
Did you happen to notice her “fine print” – yeah, it isn’t so fine, is it? The section header is in a different color and all caps so that YOU will notice it and read it – which is exactly what the FTC requires of her. Let this be a good example to follow. And this doesn’t just apply to your blog, but to your social posts as well! Believe it or not, there is yet another set of rules you should be aware of, too: each social medium has their own guidelines pertaining to influencer marketing
This girl is crazy if she thinks I’m about to look up all these rules! 
Yep. I am. Why? Because you’ve put A LOT of hard work into building the perfect audience for your brand & I don’t want to see you get removed or banned from social media because you aren’t following their rules! Each medium is passionate about their space, just as you are about yours, and they will not hesitate to remove you if they think you are spamming their people. 
*The same link above, that directs you to a blog post on determining your value, also goes into more detail about this topic as well – click to read more. 
(are you tiring of my metaphorical magnificence yet?)
Here you are, having checked off all the boxes on the “right stuff” list. You are officially “influential” and you can now go forth with a pep-in-your-step, knowing you offer significant value to brands who want to reach your audience. Congrats, friend! You have most certainly worked hard to get here and now you get to put your sassy pants on! 
Who better to convey sass, than Miranda Lambert, herself! 
Image via Google (Lyrics: Little Red Wagon), Graphic: Social Graces Media 
If, at this point, you haven’t already started receiving requests to collaborate, you may need to let those you are interested in working with, know you exist. Now, I’m not saying you should just start throwin’ your media kit to whoever. What I am trying to convey to you, is that pitching yourself to brands or brand ambassadors is like navigating a preschool playground…you have a crowded space, with lots of players and it’s time to learn the rules of the game. 
When considering the best place to find and approach a brand, there is only one playground to meet on: social media. You are the popular kid (influencer) so you get the upper hand in choosing who you play with. Once you’ve determined why certain players would be a good fit for your brand and audience, it’s up to you to recruit them – there are a few ways to do this: 
This may go without saying but…blog about them! Use your best superpower to write about them (a product or service) and why you love them. Make sure and share it across mediums and TAG them (or use their handle) so they are made aware of your post – especially if your audience eats it up & they earn an additional profit because of your suggestion.  
Find out which social medium that brand is most active on and interact regularly. Use their custom hashtags to highlight yourself participating in their social efforts, like and comment on their posts and start a conversation about them with your followers (make sure and tag them to make them aware), etc. The point is to build a relationship so they become familiar with you. 
Take the traditional route and research the brand & their staff, determining who the best contact person is and reaching out. Send them a short-but-sweet email, attach your media kit and make sure to tell them why the two of you are a match made in marketing-heaven. Be sincere about it and show them you’ve done your homework! 
Brand Ambassadors & Small Businesses: All of the suggestions above apply to these groups as well. The point is to connect and help them see the value in what you have to offer. And just FYI: in my experience, brand ambassadors are much less likely to agree to work with you if you haven’t already taken the time to build a relationship with them.
Even though you probably get the point, I have included this very recent ARTICLE, by The Southern Coterie, that provides insights and tips from two top editors on the best ways to pitch and what to avoid – it’s definitely worth the read! 
Just some words of wisdom.. Throughout it all, though, remember this: you started your blog for a reason. Don’t forget what that reason is. Be true to you, stand your ground and always provide more value than you promise…word-of-mouth is powerful and you want the players on your playground to whisper all good things. 
To ensure a positive experience for everyone involved: Make sure you have a contract to protect you, your brand and your audience; always track the outcome of your campaign so you can provide results/benefits of your efforts; and if you are going to align yourself with another brand of any kind, make sure that you adhere to online social graces – refrain from vulgarity, engaging in highly controversial topics, posting inappropriate images, etc. 
Finally…you’ve got this. Anytime you start doubting yourself, just jam out to Miranda’s Little Red Wagon and you’ll be good-to-go! 
“…you can’t step to this backyard swagger!” 
Krista Cassidy is the founder of Social Graces Media, a boutique firm in Charlotte, N.C. that specializes in social media, digital marketing and branding. She empowers creatives & entrepreneurs with the knowledge, tools & resources in growing their businesses using contemporary marketing & advertising methods (including the importance of online social graces). When she isn’t consulting, blogging, making e-courses or planning workshops, the few hours left in her day are filled with the love & laughter of twin 5-year-olds. And a little sleep. Maybe. If she’s lucky. 

August 23, 2016

  1. Such a great guest post, Amber! Thank you!!

  2. Thank you for this! ☺️

  3. This is great! So much helpful information – thank you for sharing!! 🙂

  4. Veronica M. says:

    So much important Info!! This post is awesome Amber.

  5. Veronica M. says:

    Great info Amber!!!

  6. Danielle B. says:

    Amber, I love your blog SO much! I'm not a blogger myself (maybe, just maybe, but it's so intimidating! Not certain I'm that interesting. Lol) Anyhow, there are very few bloggers who I truly enjoy reading about, and I adore you and your sweet family. I totally copy your style for my little girl. And I trust any brand or product you recommend! I may or may not have bought a pair of BLANKNYC jeans and Living proof dry shampoo last week! Ha!

  7. Dakota says:

    Hey Amber! I just had a quick question about this post. I'm a new blogger myself and quite honestly most of the time I have no idea what I am doing lol I was shocked when a brand reached out to me to write a post for them and still just as shocked the second time it happened. My question is, did you have someone design your blog layout for you? And if so would you mind recommending someone to me? I want my blog to look as profession as possible and I love the style of yours! Thanks mama!

  8. amber says:

    Hi Dakota-
    I've worked with Aubrey Kinch for the last four years and she's done an amazing job on my blog design and always quick to make any updates or adjustments as I need them!

    She will have you fill out a survey of super detailed information that will help her get a vision for your style and also request your favorite blog designs, so be thinking of that, too! Hope that's helpful! Good luck!

  9. i LOVED this pos!! thank you so much for it. as a newbie blogger, it is so great to hear from others who are seasoned in what they are doing and what has worked <3