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Sponsored Posts for Bloggers 101
Some of the questions I get the most have to do with sponsored posts. As much as I would like to respond to each of those questions individually, I decided it would be most time effective and, hopefully, helpful, if I wrote a post about everything you wanted to know about sponsored posts!
I’ve been involved with writing sponsored posts since very early on in my blogging career. I felt like it was a good way to make money, get involved with brands I love, and find ideas for new content. Sponsored posts aren’t for everyone, but for our blog, they’ve worked well. I work hard to ensure our sponsored content is written as organically as possible, and I have become rather picky about what content we put on our blog. I believe in being transparent and honest with my readers, and that means only promoting products, companies, and services I believe in! I also love that sponsored posts will often help me come up with new ideas for posts.
With that said, here is a compilation of common questions I get regarding sponsored posts. Please let me know if I missed anything!
How do you get sponsored posts?
There are many ways to find companies that want you to write about them. The two most common ways are through sponsored post networks and working directly with a company.
Sponsored post companies work as the middle man between bloggers and large companies. You can read all about my favorite sponsored post companies in this post. Many of the opportunities they offer would be unattainable to many bloggers. This is a great place to start, because you can apply for different opps (or they will reach out to you when they have something that fits). You don’t have to worry about finding PR contacts, knowing how much to charge, how to pitch, etc. The rates they offer vary – companies like Social Fabric pay everyone in a certain campaign the same amount. However, with TapInfluence, IZEA, and Mom it Forward, you are paid depending on your influence and reach. I much prefer this, because it means as my blog grows, I can still work with these companies but be paid fairly.
Sponsored post companies do take a cut of the pay, and you never really know how much that is. I’ve seen different sponsored post companies work with the same large companies, yet one sponsored post company would offer a sum of money that was significantly higher than the other – which makes me feel a little uneasy. However, I’m sure there are a lot of factors that play into this!
Reaching out to companies can be intimidating, but it can be very satisfying. I think that this is the best way to work with the companies you want to most. Not everyone company will respond, but when they do, it’s a good feeling!
Have companies reach out to you – Obviously, you can’t control if a company reaches out to you. However, you should make it as easy as possible for them to do so! Make sure you have your contact information easy to find on your website. Some companies will request a media kit, so consider creating one of those.
In my opinion, working directly with a company is far more lucrative and satisfying in the end. The longer I blog, the more I realize how much more I enjoy working directly with companies. For one thing, their budgets tend to be a little bit larger. With sponsored post companies, the budget is spread out among quite a few different bloggers, and the company also takes a cut. When you work directly with a company, I find there is more room for negotiation – not just monetarily, but regarding the theme of the post, the types of social shares they want, etc.
Why am I not getting sponsored posts?
There are a lot of reasons for this. If you are working with a sponsored post company that sends out offers – as opposed to you, such as IZEA or TapInfluence – it might be because you haven’t filled out your profile well. I’ve found that if a company asks for you to fill out a profile for your site, the more complete it is, the better.
Sometimes there are just so many bloggers working with these companies; you might get overlooked, especially if you are just starting. The number one thing I would do is reach out to them, let them know you are interested in sponsored content and ask them what you could do to improve your chances. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve always been successful.
- Your site has too many ads on it (or they might be too distracting)
- Your pictures aren’t high enough quality
- Your writing isn’t engaging enough
- Sponsored content you have done in the past hasn’t done well
When can you start doing sponsored posts? Am I too small?
Many people wonder if they have a large enough blog for sponsored posts – when can you start doing posts?
The answer is this – it just depends. I know, not the best answer. But it does. There are so many factors that go into sponsored posts and who get picked. While numbers do matter, I think you are never really too small to start working with companies. There are tons of smaller companies out there that are more than willing to work with bloggers. Don’t be afraid to start reaching out as soon as you feel like you have a decent amount of content on your blog, and that you have a following.
I often tell people this – a blog that only has 10,000 monthly page views but they have tons of loyal followers is much better than a blog with a million page views, but no one trusts what they are saying. You just need to be able to sell yourself and show that you do have influence, even if you aren’t large!
Some companies (particularly the sponsored post companies) have a minimum threshold you must reach before they accept you into their network. This varies widely depending on the company, though I find that it’s typically around 20,000. Companies like Influence Central and Weave Media accept smaller blogs, as does IZEA. So be sure to look into those!
What to be wary of?
Almost as soon as I started blogging, I started getting emails from random companies asking me for my sponsored post rates or to put links on my site for them, as well as for random product reviews. I was so thrilled that people were even noticing my blog! However, I quickly realized that most of these companies weren’t working with. I probably get several of these a day still but resist the urge to work with them when you start getting them! Many companies that will reach out to you will be legitimate…but many won’t be. Here are a few things that I would look for in sketchy emails:
- Using very vague terms – most of these emails are form emails, and they will just change the name of who they are emailing to. I don’t like when it sounds like they haven’t even looked at my site.
- They are looking for you to place links in certain posts and on certain pages. If you get inquiries like this, be sure to ask if they are looking for dofollow or nofollow. If they say dofollow, run away. This will only hurt your site (and their site) in the long run.
- The offer has nothing to do with your site
- At the end of it, after their signature, it says, “Don’t pitch me bro!” This is just a form email they send to everyone.
- The product is dumb and worth nothing. I get tons of people asking me to review a $10 product for free. I’m not against doing posts in exchange for product, but it has to be of value to my readers and me!
Sponsored Blog Post Rate: How Much to Charge?
The million dollar question! There are many formulas out there, but I have yet to find one that works well for everyone. There are SO many factors that play into this. For instance, in a Facebook group I am in, someone mentioned the other day that they had a client with around 10,000 visitors, but they get paid $2000 for recipe sponsored posts. Now, I don’t even get paid that much for a sponsored post (but it makes me question if my rates are too low!)
In general, I’ve heard people often state that for every 100,000 page views you have, you should charge $100. I think that this is a good starting point, but most bloggers I know charge more than that. I think a lot of it should depend on what the brand is expecting from you – maybe you have 30,000 Instagram followers, but your page views are lower. If you offer to promote it on Instagram, you’d be offering more value to it! So, I say start with the $100/100,000 page views mark, and go up from there. Maybe add $25 for every 1000 followers you have on a certain network.
This doesn’t mean that if you only get 10,000 page views you shouldn’t charge anything. In fact, I think most bloggers will tell you they wish that they had started charging for posts earlier. I’d say at a minimum, $50 is usually a good place to start. My first sponsored post was when I had 3,000 monthly page views, and I charge $75.
Keep this in mind as well – if it’s a well-known, reputable company that’s rather large…they have more money. So don’t be afraid to pitch a higher amount if they ask you how much you charge. Someone gave me this advice once:
If you don’t feel a little bit sick when you tell them the amount you charge, you aren’t charging enough.
I have followed this advice, and it’s been very successful for me. There’s been times where a brand has been a little too eager to accept the amount I offered, and I was kicking myself for not saying a higher price. I think it’s better to start high, rather than low – because, really, they may come back with a lower offer that is still acceptable…but I’ve never had a company come back and say, “Oh, you only charge $xx amount? How about $100 more?”
Negotiating Pay – can you and should you?
Sometimes when I have a company reach out to me, they will offer me a certain amount of money. Occasionally I will just accept it right off the bat, but usually, unless they state up front that it’s a set amount (such as with Social Fabric), I will always ask this question:
Is there any additional compensation available for this campaign?
Sometimes they will say no, and depending on the initial amount, I will decide whether or not I will accept it. But about 50% of the time, the company will come back and let me know that there is additional budget that they can offer me. It truly doesn’t hurt to ask!
How do you get on a brand’s radar?
- Twitter: Twitter is not one of my favorite social networks, but I have found it’s an awesome way to connect with brands. One thing I did awhile back was create a private list on Twitter with all my favorite brands, so I could easily see all of their social interaction on Twitter and retweet or respond to their tweets. I’ve gotten some companies to reach out to me after doing this, so it’s worth a shot!
- Use products or services from companies you work with in organic posts and tag the company when you share the post on social networks.
- Follow them on all their social networks and interact with them!
Should you accept product for pay?
As with most things I’ve addressed in this post…it depends. If someone asks me to review a product that is only worth $10 – I say no thank you. For me to accept product instead of pay, it either has to be worth a similar value to what I charge a sponsored post for, or it has to be something I wanted to buy anyways.
Some people refused to work for product, and that’s okay. But if you want to work for product only…don’t feel bad about it! Everyone has different goals and ambitions, and if you want to work for product, more power to you!
How much sponsored content should you write?
So, how often should you do a sponsored post? This is where a lot of debate comes in. Some people say you should have less than 25% of your content be sponsored, others say once a month, and other bloggers are very successful with the majority of their content being sponsored. When it comes down to it, this is what I think – do what works best with your audience and don’t care what others think. I do try to have a few “organic” posts in between sponsored content, but there have been times where some different opportunities have popped up that had to be posted one right after another. Guess what? My traffic wasn’t affected at all and no one cared (at least no one told me they cared – and I didn’t lose followers!) If you are just writing really ad-like posts, then yes, you will probably lose followers.
However, if you do your best to make sure your sponsored posts are as high quality as your organic posts, I don’t see a problem. Some of my most successful posts of all time have been sponsored. Just make sure you are authentic and don’t promote something you don’t believe in. That’s when you’ll start losing fans. People can see through a phony post.
With that said, there are some companies that won’t work with you if you have a high ratio of sponsored posts. This is their decision, and it’s usually because they want their posts to stand out more. I do think it’s important to create content that’s not sponsored, but I also believe that it’s important to be compensated for your work…and sponsored posts are a great way to do that!
How to find media contacts
When you want to work with a specific company, you may wonder how to even get in touch with them. Here are four ways that I’ve successfully found the PR reps for companies:
- Press releases – just Google “company name press releases” and if they’ve had any, there should be a media contact on there.
- Linkedin – I think more Bloggers should tap into the power of LinkedIn. It’s really a gold mine for networking and even promotion. Most people that are working the PR for a company have a LinkedIn profile.
- Social networks – I’ve connected with the media contact for a company many times by reaching out via Facebook message or direct message on Twitter. Lots of companies are very active on social networks, so this can be a great place to start!
- Website – While not every website lists their PR contact, I’ve found that majority do. I usually look for an email that has a name attached to it – rather than just “media @ company . com”, but I have had success with a few of those blanket email addresses as well.
I’m not very well-versed in contracts and what they should all entail, but in my experience, they are very important. When you work with a sponsored post company, you will likely have to agree to their Terms and Conditions before they officially let you know and sign a contract. While it might be tempting to just skim over the contract, make sure you know what you are getting into. It’s important to note what types of rights to your content and photos they claim, how long sponsored content must stay up, if you can work with other companies, etc.
When you work with companies directly, there aren’t always contracts exchanged, but there should be. One time, having a contract really saved me. After a draft of my post had been approved and posted, the company came back and told me they decided to take another direction, and that they wanted me to change my entire post. Well, the contract explicitly spelled out what I was supposed to write about, and I had fulfilled that, so I politely declined the changes (because it truly would have been easier to just take the post down.) They were fine with it, and I felt like having that contract to back up what we originally had talked about helped me a lot. Contracts can ensure a company doesn’t take advantage of you and that all your rights are covered.
If you have questions about contracts, I would recommend talking with a lawyer. I know many bloggers have had a mock contract written up by a lawyer to be used when working directly with companies, and if you do a lot of this, I think it’s a smart idea.
Awhile back, the FTC came out with requirements on how you to disclose to your readers if you’ve been compensated for promotion or if you’ll be paid for the person reading your post/clicking on a link. They released a guidebook called .COM disclosures that I recommend everyone read!
There’s always a lot of debate on the “proper” way to disclose, but it comes down to this – transparency. Your readers need to know if you’ve been paid to promote something – whether it’s on your blog or on social media. On social networks, it’s as simple as putting a hash tag like this – #ad. On your blog, it just has to be clear, visible, and not hidden in anyway. So, if you put it in the footer of your site that you may have affiliate links on your site…that’s not going to cut it.
Basically, when in doubt, disclose. Most companies will have specific requirements based on what they’ve discussed with their lawyers, so if you aren’t sure how a company wants you to disclose, just ask. If they tell you not to disclose…run away!
What do companies look for?
There are a bunch of different things that companies look for, and it will vary depending on the company. Here are the main qualities I’ve seen and been told companies look for:
- Influence: Like it or not, companies are interested in your numbers – page views, social following, etc. As I’ve already mentioned, if you don’t have a ton of visitors, you can still be successful with sponsored posts – it might just take a little more convincing of the company of the influence you have.
- Engaged audience: Some companies will look at how many comments, likes, etc. you have on social posts and even on regular posts. I recommend working to gain the trust of your readers and interacting with them. If someone leaves a comment – respond! Chances are if you don’t ever respond, those readers will stop leaving them (or even stop reading your blog altogether.)
- Quality posts: While some companies unfortunately just want the bloggers they work with to regurgitate pre-written messages, in my experience, most of them understand the importance of creating organic sponsored content. Instead of being a big ad for the company, it’s good to try and make the content honest and similar to other posts you write. I’ve found that people are far more likely to click on links na
How do you build an engaged readership?
I’ve mentioned several times that it’s important to companies that they work with bloggers who have an engaged audience. So, how do you get that?
It’s something that doesn’t happen over night, and it’s not something you can buy. I’d say the key to this is being genuine, and trying to connect with your audience. Rather than just posting a link to an article on a Facebook page, add your own commentary and ask questions. Respond to comments on blog posts and posts on social networks. It’s so important to let your readers know that you care they are reading your posts!
It’s good to gain the trust of your audience as well. You want them to be able to trust things you endorse, and that you have their best interest at heart. This means not just posting about any random product sent to you!
Overall, if you want your audience to engage with your content, you need to engage with them! While you don’t have to reveal all the fine details of your life, invite them into it a little bit.
What are the makings of a great sponsored post?
So what makes a good sponsored post? This will depend on who you are talking to. There are companies that simple just want you to post something that they created that is a big ad for them. Personally? I don’t think that’s a very good sponsored post.
To me, a good sponsored post is written exactly like a good organicly written post – it just has a little bit of information about a product or service. I personally don’t take sponsored posts that I couldn’t easily write a post about if I wasn’t being paid. I want people to read my sponsored content in the same way that they read any other post on my blog – I want it to be natural, provide needed information, and not be a big sales pitch.
It obviously should be proofread, and you should avoid mentioning competitors to the product. You may want to talk with the company you are working with about whether or not you can have ads on the post page or affiliate links. Some companies don’t care, while others are rather nitpicky.
Always proofread your posts and make sure you aren’t making any unverifiable claims on behalf of the company. Some companies will ask for a draft of a post just to make sure you aren’t saying anything that could put them at risk legally!
It’s important to be on time with your sponsored posts. Life happens – trust me, I know! I’ve had to ask for an extension a time or two, and typically, if you are up front and notify the company of extenuating circumstances up front, they will be willing to work with you.
It’s also important to have both your expectations and the companies up front. I’ve been in some awkward situations where I wasn’t given much information on what a post needed, and int he end, the company was disappointed because it didn’t turn out how they wanted. If you are unsure – always ask!
Campaign Wrap Up?
Some companies require that you report all the links, pageviews, social shares, etc. on a sponsored post. If this is required, it should be outlined ahead of time. I’ve had companies come back months after something was posted asking for social share stats, and honestly, I find that frustrating if they didn’t tell you up front this is data that you should keep track of. If you find this happening a lot, you could create a spreadsheet where you write all of your sponsored posts titles, and about a month or so after it posts, you can collect the data yourself.
What if the post did poorly?
Not every post does well – sponsored or not. If a post doesn’t do as well as you expected, and you promoted it as much as you could…then honestly, don’t worry. Some companies may be frustrated by this, and that is understandable, but if you did your best, you can’t beat yourself about it. Sometimes a post just doesn’t do well. If a company questions it’s performance, you can always explain the promotion that you did. However, this isn’t necessary if they don’t ask about it.
Now if you just wrote a post and didn’t promote it at all, this is a different story. You should always do your best to share your post and drive readership to it. You can’t control if people click on a post (especially because social networks can be so finnicky when it comes to showing posts to everyone who follows you), but you can promote it!