3 major mistakes brands make when working with influencers & bloggers

Influencer Marketing mistakes - How to work with bloggers

Did you know that 71% of consumers are more likely to buy when referred from a blog or social media? Are you aware that 86% of women refer to social media before buying something? [sources here & here] Do you know that influencer marketing content delivers a return that is 11X better than traditional forms of digital marketing?

Influencer marketing is at an all-time high. But you already know this. That’s why you are interested in using bloggers & influencers to promote your brand or product. Whether you’ve been doing it for a while now, or are just getting started exploring the blogger landscape, here’s our top mistakes to avoid in your influencer marketing campaign.


So you found a blogger on instagram you’d love to work with to promote your product. You love her aesthetic, and see that she has 5,340 followers. Great!

Next step is to reach out with “Hi, I’m _____ from ____ company, and I would love to collaborate with you. I would love to send you a sample of my _____ product in exchange for a review or sponsored post on instagram! Let me know if you’re interested. Thanks!”Right?

No, no, no. There are at least 26 other things you need first before you throw a collaboration offer out there. First of all, you have no real idea of the influence or reach this blogger has. Just because she has 5K+ followers doesn’t mean that is how many people your promoted post will reach. Here’s at least a few other things you need to know first (but oh, are there so many more).

  • What does her website look like? Is it professional? Does it make sense as a place to promote your brand?
  • What other brands has she worked with in the past? What’s her niche? If she is primarily a beauty and fashion blogger, it doesn’t make sense to reach out to her about promoting your energy bar product.
  • Is Instagram even her best social media network? Maybe she’s primarily a YouTuber, or does better promoting on facebook.
  • What does her engagement look like? Does she have 5K+ followers, but only receives an average of 38 likes per post? (This is ok for brands, but not good for a blogger) How many comments does she get on average?
  • Have you reviewed her feed content besides just how pretty her photos are? Are there any clear brand image conflicts that don’t make sense for your brand? For example, your company is very outwardly vegan, but her feed has a lot of posts promoting real fur vests, custom leather boots, etc.

Still interested in working with her? Reach out and ask her for a press kit. This will tell you about her blog & social stats, demographics of her followers, and the types of collaborations she accepts, the compensation requirements, etc. If there is anything you want to know that is not included in her press kit (such as a list of brands she has worked with in the past) then ask her for it!

Don’t feel bad about asking a ton of questions before settling on a collaboration structure. That’s exactly her job. Bloggers should be able to provide you with information about what exactly her influence entails and what it can do for your brand.


“Exposure” is not a goal. “Generate additional exposure for my strongest and most used social media channel by increasing followers 15% in two months” is.

There are three main reasons for working with bloggers / influencers. Your goal(s) should very clearly fit within one of these categories.

1. Brand Exposure

You want to work with an influencer because you need to get the word out about your business and get your brand in front of more people. Exposing your brand to more people means they become familiar with your product or service. This sets the stage for a future purchase. Maybe you want to see exponential growth in followers on your best social media account, maybe you want to strengthen your engagement on a social platform you have that’s really weak, maybe you need to drive mad traffic to your website.

2. Direct Sales

You want to work with an influencer because you want to generate more sales of your product and service. The purpose of this influencer marketing campaign is that the blogger promote your product to his/her audience, and the audience makes a purchase. This one is straightforward. At the end of the day, who cares about how many people know about your brand if you can’t make sales and make money to keep the doors open?

3. Future Collaborations

You want to work with an influencer because you want to test the waters and pave the way for a solid, long-term working relationship. It might be that you prefer to work with a few select influencers consistently (hint: best idea) vs. working with a lot of bloggers once, and you need a campaign that’s not based on numbers or statistics, but explores how you work together, the quality of the blogger’s work, how it fits in with your brand, etc. If you are just starting out, maybe aren’t selling anything yet, or are still developing your brand image, these types of test campaigns are also a good way to start networking and researching bloggers.

Tips For Setting Your Goals:

 If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, you know that your goals should also be SMART (Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time-bound.) The best way to set clearly-defined goals is to rank the above three categories in order of importance and then set a SMART goal within each category. Maybe you want to achieve exposure AND direct sales from the Influencer campaign…but which one is more important and what specifically do you want to see happen within each category?
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While some bloggers are willing to review products in exchange for a sample, or promote “gifted” products that brands send them, it’s also not the best way to go not only for them, but also for your brand.

Why it’s not good for bloggers:

First, professional influencers don’t usually work for free, and these are the people you want promoting your brand because they are just that: professionals. Bloggers make it look seamless and easy to post that perfectly styled flatlay on instagram at a seemingly random time and rack up hundreds of likes. What you don’t see is the hours of behind-the-scenes work to make it look seamless, which include but aren’t limited to:

  • Learning and mastering relevant social media platform(s) / marketing strategies / content creation
  • Building a loyal following over hours of writing / editing / sharing / emailing / chatting
  • Intentionally designing and planning out content months ahead of time to achieve that specific aesthetic you were drawn to in the first place
  • Staging product in correct light, appropriate backdrop, and carefully designed flatlay
  • Taking multiple photos to get just the right one (or paying to hire a photographer to take them)
  • Editing & cropping said photos
  • Crafting the perfect caption & hashtags to maximize engagement
  • Posting at the perfect time to optimize reach / influence / interaction
  • Following up with followers and responding to comments / questions about the product

Not to mention, bloggers legally have to pay taxes on every gifted product they are given, whether they love it or not. So after looking at all the work they put in and then having to pay to promote your brand on top of that, you can see that this is now kind of a big thing to ask for bloggers to do all that for your brand while only receiving a free shirt or bottle of perfume in return. Free things don’t pay bills (or taxes). The exception is for non-profit organizations or products that the blogger has a personal interest in and really wants (maybe they love your clutch, maybe they are all about promoting local businesses), those are things are a fair trade between product and promotion.

So, if you’re now thinking, “I’m willing to take any exposure I can get. Why should I really care if it’s not in the influencer’s best interest if she / he has agreed to it?” Here’s why:

Why it’s not good for your brand:

The bottom line is while some bloggers are happy to promote your brand, the bloggers you want to entrust with this are bloggers that know their worth and charge for their services. Just like traditional advertising, you get what you pay for and the quality of work and deliverables for your brand will be much higher if the influencer you’re working with is receiving compensation.Your brand is your brand, don’t let the job of marketing and promoting it fall into just any hands.

Do not be drawn to bloggers that don’t blink twice when you ask if they accept gifted products in exchange for reviews / promotions. This is your first indicator that they do not know what they are doing, at least not as much as those who charge for the same service do. Unless they are just starting out and clearly working hard to grow their audience, they should at the very least fire back with a counter-offer.

Here’s the difference between bloggers that are always willing to work for free things and influencers who know their worth and ask for compensation:

“Bloggers have a platform and use it. Influencers have a platform, use it, and people act because of it.”
– Erica Ligenza, Blogger at Coming Up Roses
“But, I’m a really small brand without a marketing budget. Is it ok to start out offering free products to influencers, then run paid campaigns later? Short answer: No.
Trust me, I’ve been here. When I first started out as an entrepreneur, this was my plan for my online boutique. At that time for me, even offering a free tshirt to a blogger seemed like a stretch, and I felt like I was being a “good guy” by offering them something for free….oh, how I knew nothing.
Why is this product-for-now, start-paying-later plan not a good idea? Reputation and Scalability. There are a lot of bloggers out there that will not even respond to offers for gifted product from new brands because it’s insulting to all their hard work…But what’s more? Bloggers talk, a lot. And if you’re over there throwing out offers for a product that no one’s really heard of and offering no compensation in return for promoting it, there is a super fat chance word gets around and starts to damage relationships with bloggers that could really help you promote your brand all before they even start. If you want to build long term relationships with the bloggers you use to promote your products (hint: you really, really do), then starting off on the right foot by offering reasonable compensation is your best plan. Not only does this build a good working relationship, it means that as that blogger grows and continues to promote your product / service, you grow with them.
So, for all you entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses looking to scale. I’ve got a couple pieces of advice for you.
#1. Have a budget – A marketing budget is a must! How can you expect to grow your business if you aren’t investing any money into reaching customers or clients? Maybe your office is your kitchen table and your broke? Thats fine! Then your marketing budget can be $25-50 a year. But the point is, that you have to have one.You are a business, and you want to grow and be successful. In order to do that you have to be willing to literally bet on yourself and spend a little money promoting your brand and product. Be invested in your success! P.S. If you are looking for people to love your products without getting paid, let us introduce you…say hello to your customers 🙂
#2 An alternative option: Offer commission based compensation – In the blogging world, it’s called an Affiliate Program. This is a good option because it means you don’t have to pay for an influencer campaign upfront, only when you have cash from making a sale. It also is a great way to test the waters with some bloggers to see what kind of results they are capable of before you launch a fixed rate campaign with them. They get paid based on the success of their campaign, i.e. per sale they generate for you.
Note: Not all bloggers are willing to do this, but some might be willing to accept a reduced compensation rate + affiliate program situation.

3 things to never say to bloggers in a pitch:

  • “I would love if you would review / promote my product on your blog and social accounts! I don’t have a budget” – Oh,  no…no. The thing is you DO have a budget….remember how we just made one above 🙂 If you aren’t willing to spend it on this campaign then step back and ask yourself if the Influencer is worth it. If not, don’t pursue a campaign and if so, ask a different way.
  • “Write a review for our ____ and we will feature you on our social media account(s)!” – This is like trying to sell the tires on your car to an actual tire store. They’ve already got it. The influencer is the one with the influence here, not you. The service they offer is promoting your business, not working for free so that you will promote them. Again, “free” promotion doesnt pay the taxes, or the bills.
  • “Hello! I would love to advertise on your site and I can pay $___ for _____.” You wouldn’t march into Louis Vuitton like, “Hello! I would love to buy this purse and I can pay $____” This is exactly the same thing except different. They set the prices for their services not you, and probably do not care about what you “can” pay (except in #3 below)

3 Ways to ask instead:

  • “Do you accept gifted products in exchange for reviews?” – If you are a non-profit organization or know that the influencer is already on board with your brand, its ok to ask this. Do not just ask this to any and every blogger put of the blue just to see. You should have a good reason why you think they’ll say yes.
  • “Would you be willing to accept a gifted product + appropriate grossed up tax compensation?” – For some bloggers, the only drawback is the tax issue. These bloggers are more than happy to accept a gifted product + funds that are sufficiently grossed up to cover taxes. (The blogger must pay tax on any $ amount you give them, so you’ll have to “gross-up” this cash payment to also cover those taxes). You should definitely do this if your product is a high dollar value and would require a substantial tax payment on their part.
  • “I’m a new / small business working with a very low budget, can you customize one of your existing collaboration packages to fit my needs?” – Yes, yes yes! This request is the best way to ask, and it’s music to a bloggers ears! They are used to working with all kinds of budgets, and most influencers are very sweet and accommodating. Instead of bouncing around, lowballing, and trying to pay the least amount possible, just let them know that you have a low budget upfront and ask if they are willing to accommodate.

P.S. If you’re a blogger or influencer, you can request an invite to join our influencer community HERE.

What are your best Influencer Marketing tips? Leave a comment below or let us know at hello@rootsbeforereach.com

Later, The Roots Team


3 major mistakes brands make when working with influencers & bloggers - ROOTS Marketing Boutique 3 major mistakes brands make when working with influencers & bloggers - ROOTS Marketing Boutique

Author: rootsbeforereach

We specialize in helping entrepreneurs & business owners grow their fashion, lifestyle & beauty brands.
We help you build a marketing strategy from the ground up to authentically connect with your customers. No matter what stage your business is in, we can help you initiate, maintain, or increase growth.

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