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Are you a microinfluencer looking to make money through brand collaborations? Have you been told that if you have less than 10,000 followers, you can’t ask for compensation? Are you currently only accepting products for post and are looking to start monetizing the work you put into creating content? Well, then this post is for you! I was recently inspired by a series of conversations I’ve had with some fellow bloggers and decided to share my thoughts on the topic of microinfluencers and compensation.  This post is a bit lengthy so feel free to grab a snack and get cozy. Ready?! Let’s go!

#ad, #spon, #sponsored, #sp, #partner….you’ve seen all these hashtags–but what does it really all mean?  When I first started blogging, the alluring world of brand collaborations on Instagram and the blogosphere intrigued me. Free products? Sign me up!

There is no shortage of bloggers posing with the latest hair gummy bears, fit tea, or  watch, and it’s hard to scroll down a feed these days and not see at least one post with the ubiquitous hashtag….sponsored. At the beginning of my blogging journey, it seemed like that was the goal.  Build my following so that I, too, can join the fascinating world of #sponsorships and #ads galore.

But my journey to now just over 3,000 followers (which is not a large number in the grand scheme of Instagram) has taught me a lot about this Instagram marketing industry and has made me stand even firmer in my belief that whether you have 1,000 followers or 100,000–you should know your worth and absolutely feel empowered to ask for compensation when working with a brand.

Before getting into the heart of this blog post, I want to clarify a couple of terms.

  • A microinfluencer is defined as a brand advocate with followers in the range of 1,000-10,000.  Followings are smaller but engagement is generally much higher than large accounts and the community may be more niche.
  • Influencers are required to include #sponsored or #ad in a post or story in order to disclose to readers that there is a “material connection” to the business.
  • #sponsored and #ad should be included in your post if you whether were gifted a product or paid to endorse a brand or product. 
  • If you want to read more about FTC guidelines, this article does an awesome job of clearing up misconceptions.

Why You Should Ask For Compensation As a Microinfluencer

Though I’ve only been blogging for a year, I have had my fair share of e-mails from companies reaching out to work with them.  Most of my e-mails ask me to collaborate via “product for post” which means that I would promote a brand’s product through my instagram via posts and stories in exchange for that said product. I’ve turned down many offers and here’s why:

Did you know that there are over 1 billion monthly users on Instagram now?  According to this article, people spend on average of 53 minutes on Instagram, which is comparable to the amount of time people spend on Facebook. That means if you are a user of both Facebook and Instagram, you could be spending upwards of 2 hours on both of these apps (and if you have an iPhone, the new “screen time” tracking app can let you know how much time you’re actually spending on your phone). So what does this mean for brands and companies who have designated marketing budgets?

It means that they know the power of marketing lies in influencer marketing and in particular, microinfluencer marketing.  There is data to show that microinfluencers are more effective in generating conversations around products and, in turn, converting followers into consumers.  This is due to smaller accounts having more engaged audiences and having a more direct relationship with those that follow them. There’s a reason why you’re seeing more accounts in the range of 1,000-10,000 followers promoting brands and products.  Companies are smart–they know who to target and do this under the guise of paying you through products and potentially posting your photo on their feed with larger follower counts than you so that you can be exposed to more people. Microinfluencers are low cost brand advocates and generally have a higher media value for brands.  Take a look at my comparison to a mega account, Kim K.

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Although my follower account is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller, my media value is higher because my engagement rate is higher.  This means I’m generating more direct conversations with my followers,  which is money for potential brands.

So what’s the problem, you ask? The problem is that we are selling ourselves short and doing work for FREE. Content creation is not as easy as snapping a photo and calling it a day.  When I’m creating content it involves my time (which is MONEY!), resources, and creative expertise–and for THAT, we deserve to be compensated. What people don’t see is the behind the scenes work it takes to create content for a brand.  This might mean hiring a photographer, buying props for a flatlay or for your photo, buying clothes or accessories, paying for parking, spending time dreaming up the vision, etc.  Point blank: creating content is a skill, takes work, and is worthy of being compensated for.

The reason why I feel so strongly about microinfluencers advocating for compensation when communicating with brands is because these companies have money to spend on marketing. They do.  Yet they prey on smaller influencers and get away with spending next to nothing on marketing by “gifting” influencers products.  And when we accept these collaborations, we continue to perpetuate the cycle–enabling brands to get away with not paying YOU to create marketing material for THEM. 

For example, I recently had a conversation with a blogger who had around 10,000 followers.  She told me she had an upcoming brand collab and I asked her if she was being paid. She told me no, but they were giving her free products so that she could post on Instagram.  I stopped dead in my tracks and told her that she absolutely needed to be charging. Why? Because 1) 10,000 followers is a significant amount and you absolutely deserve to charge. and 2) When you accept product for post, you essentially screw everyone under your follower count and send the message to these brands that it’s okay to continue doing products for post.  If I, someone who is at 3,0000 followers, ask for compensation, they will of course say no because they got someone with 10,0000 followers to do it for free.  It perpetuates the cycle that I fundamentally disagree with and devalues the industry we’re working hard for.

Lastly, I’m an advocate for asking for compensation because quite frankly, the instagram influencer community is largely made up of women. Just like in the work setting, statistically, women are far less likely to ask for compensation as an influencer.  We’re only hurting women when we don’t advocate for ourselves and we must do better in encouraging our fellow blogger babes to step up and ask for what they deserve!

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My Experience with Working with Brands

I’m selective with whom I work with so you won’t see my feed inundated with #sponsored posts and that’s because I want to work with brands that truly align to my mission of empowering women to #lookgood and #feelgood and are brands that I would genuinely support in real life. This isn’t always the case for every blogger, but just my personal philosophy. And also, I don’t receive that many opportunities (maybe 3-4 e-mails a week), so don’t get it twisted. LOL.

Have I been paid by a brand to promote their products? Yes! How did I score this brand collaboration?  This company reached out to me about working with them and this is how it played out:

Email #1 from Brand A:

Hi Alyssa!

We absolutely love your feed and think you’d be an amazing fit to represent our products. We are a company that specializes in ____________ and think you’d be the perfect person to wear our product.  Are you interested in working with us?

Best,

Brand A

My response to Email #1

Hi there!

Thanks so much for reaching out. I’m interested in hearing more about your ideas for this collaboration. What type of content are you looking for me to create?

Best,

Alyssa

Email #2 from Brand A:

Hi Alyssa!

We are looking to have 1 blog post, 5-7 images to use for our website and social media platforms, and one instagram post. How does that sound?

Best,

Brand A

My response to E-mail #2:

Hi!

Thanks so much for sharing the details. I am interested; are you compensating for this collaboration?

Best,

Alyssa

Email #3 from Brand A:

Hi Alyssa,

Yes, we are able to offer $200. How does that sound?

Best,

Brand A

I ultimately accepted because the compensation was appropriate given the amount of work and quite honestly, it was more money that I anticipated! At the time of this collaboration, I was at around 1,1000 followers.  This just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how many followers you have.  If a brand wants to work with you, it’s because they know your value, see the work you produce, and want you to be an advocate for them. If I hadn’t asked for compensation, I’m positive they wouldn’t have offered and just provided me the product for me.  But in this case, asking for compensation opened a door that wasn’t necessarily opened before and showed me that it is possible for microinfluencers to be paid. It never hurts to at least ask and then make a decision.

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Now I do want to add that I don’t always turn down free products.  What I do is walk through the cost/benefit analysis and decide whether what they’re asking me to produce is worthy of asking for compensation.  Some times, brands will just offer to send me things without being specific on posting. I accept these because honestly, who doesn’t want free things?! I have also accepted products from brands that I genuinely love and am passionate about, even if they ask me to take a photo and tag them in it.  For example, recently a clothing brand sent me some clothes.  They just asked me to tag them in any photos on IG. I accepted this because 1) I already shop their clothes and probably would have bought the outfits on my own if they weren’t gifted. 2) I would have already taken a photo and posted it on my own. There’s a difference between that and asking creators to make specific content for THEIR brand. I’ll explain:

Recently a lip balm company reached out to me to do a collaboration.  They asked me to create one photo per month for 6 months and post about the lip balm using guidelines in a PDF they created.  When I asked about compensation, they said they couldn’t provide any but were offering all of their lip balms for free.  This is a clear example of using microinfluencers to create content and generate buzz around their product for FREE. This was an example that bothered me and an example where I said “no thank you.” Anything beyond posting one photo with their product is grounds for charging and that’s just my personal feelings about this.  Other people may disagree and if you do–I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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5 tips for when you are collaborating with a brand as a microinfluencer:

1. Assess the collaboration and what the brand is asking you to produce. If the brand is vague about what they want you to do and doesn’t specify what they want from you, but rather just asks if they can send you products, I feel that is fair to accept as is.  But if they’re asking for more than just one photo or a series of content, be prepared to ask for compensation.

2. Determine your rates beforehand so that it’s easy to determine what you should be charging.  My friend Emma from Emma’s Edition wrote an AMAZING article on this–give it a read for a more information on how to price your content. According to this awesome tool from the Instagram Marketing Hub, my rate for an IG post should be anywhere from $34.20-$57.

3.  When e-mailing with companies, you don’t need to come out the gate with your rates. Probe them and ask them first what they’re looking to get out of the partnership. What type of content would you like me to create? How many posts are you looking to have? Do you want a blog post and an instagram feature? When do you want this done? Once you get a better sense of the scope of the collaboration, include your rates for what they’re asking you to produce and put it back on them: “How does that sound?”

4. Don’t be apologetic about asking for compensation. If they can’t offer you anything other than the products, it is entirely okay for you to walk away. And that I’ve done! (especially when the work they’re asking me to do is beyond one photo!)

5. Start having conversations with your fellow blogger babes in the same niche and follower range as you.  Chances are if YOU are being reached out to, they are too! The more we band together and have these transparent conversations around compensation, the better it will serve US.  Remember, companies have money to spend on marketing and it’s only fair that you are getting compensated for the work that you produce. YOU are WORTHY of being PAID!

I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic and if you have any other tips to share with bloggers! I wanted to start this conversation here because the more women I meet, the more apparent it is that we are doing a disservice to ourselves when we only accept products for post! Instagram marketing and the use of microinfluencers is not going anywhere–this is the future for businesses and knowing that, we hold the power to shape it and demand the compensation we deserve. Ladies, let’s get in FORMATION!

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