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Rules for Influencers: How to Transform Yourself into a Badass Influencer Brands Want to Work With – Featuring Reelio

How the influencer, that's just starting out, can separate themselves from the pack.

image from Puck'n Khaos

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You’re at job where the pay is low. 
Your boss is barely tolerable.
And every 15 minutes you’re looking at the clock, cursing it for not going faster. 

When you finally do get off and go home, you start scrolling through your Instagram and YouTube feed. 

Then on this day, you snap.

And you JUST. CAN’T. TAKE IT. ANYMORE.

She’s filming in Bali. 
He’s going to award shows and movie premieres.
Is he at a club with Drake?!

And how much are they making?! 
Just from posting on YouTube and Instagram?!

Well, I can do that too!
I’m just as talented as any of these chumps!

That’s it! I’m doing it!

So you hit up Google and YouTube and study up on how to become an influencer, how to work with brands and get a brand deal, AND THEN…self doubt and defeat start to settle in. 

You have A LOT of questions and everyone’s giving you vague information.

Build an audience.
Okay. How exactly do you do that?

Do collaborations.
Um…How do I approach these people?

Get brand deals.
Wait…How much do I charge?
How do I even find the emails to these companies?!

I’m going to break down that last question with the help of Paul Traficanti of the Influencer Agency, Reelio

Paul’s worked for the agency for over 3 years, working as an account manager, aka liaison, between influencers and brands. 

And now he works in the marketing department of Reelio, internally. 

Ready to learn how to approach a brand, and present yourself as the standout choice for a collaboration, in a crowded market?

Then let’s get down to business.

How many social media platforms should you be on, in the beginning? 

YouTube. 
Facebook. 
Instagram. 
Snapchat. 
Pinterest. 
Tumblr. 
Musical.ly.
Twitter.
Your Blog.

And you have to create different types of content for each one?!
It’s overwhelming to keep up with TWO of these platforms on a daily basis.

And heaven forbid if one of them disappears and you have to start ALL OVER AGAIN.

Paul’s a fan of self awareness and a person knowing their limits.

Here’s Paul: 

[How many platforms should you be on?] It depends. Try every social media platform that’s relevant to you. [Then decide on which platforms] you can create unique and relevant content on, regularly. Regardless of what platform you’re on, you need to create content and learn the algorithm of that platform to go into trending, build your followers, etc. It could be 2 or 5 starting out. It’s up to you. If you want to do YouTube videos, that’s fine. [But realize that]
these videos need to be optimized. [Meaning] at least 8 minutes long, minimum. Creating [YouTube videos] takes time, but for certain verticals, it makes a lot of sense. 3-4 is a great sweet spot if you can get there. And as long as you’re making unique and interesting content on each one, that’s a good number.

What are some of the best practices, of an influencer, that leave a positive & lasting impression with the brand?

Here’s Paul:

A huge part of being an influencer from a sponsorship, collaboration, or brand deal perspective – is being a professional. Meaning being a really good communicator. As in OVER COMMUNICATING. 

As an example, let’s say that you’re a makeup blogger. 

You were planning on filming a makeup tutorial that day with a new product, but when you’re coming from the store, you get into a car accident.

A good, half of your day is now gone.

You’re dealing with the police.
Tow trucks.
The auto repair shop.
Your insurance company.
And more. 

Okay. 

It’s guaranteed that you’re going to be late in getting this video to this brand. 

In situations like this, what’s the protocol in dealing with the brand?

Here’s Paul:

Have the presence of mind to shoot an email or text to whoever you’re working with on the brand side. It goes a LONG WAY. Why? Because brands have a person who’s managing the influencer campaign (i.e., a project manager) and THEY have a boss to report to. As long as they can manage their boss, and their boss is happy, they’re fine. Remember – you’re dealing with a long line of communication even though you’re dealing with one person. 

What’s the time frame I should say a project will be done with each client?

As a makeup influencer, you think it’s going to take 2-3 hours – TOPS! – to create the look, take pictures, edit the video, and then go on with your day.

So you tell them they’ll have it in 24 hrs. 

7 HOURS LATER…

You realize you’ve made a terrible…TERRIBLE…mistake. 

You’re tired. 
This video editing is taking forever. 

What have I done?

You get it to them on-time, but you’re sleep deprived and frazzled afterwards.

You hear the lesson loud and clear. 

Know how long it takes for you to accomplish a task. Enter into the calculation, even, other scenarios that could derail you from getting the work done on time.

Here’s Ryan:

Create time in your schedule for error. When you’re telling a brand you’re going to have a timeline, give yourself EXTRA time. If you say you’ll have it on Saturday, then on Thursday, make sure it’s done. On Friday, you can review it or send it to them early. [It’s okay to buy] yourself a little extra time. You’re a regular person, with a regular life, and things come up. 

As a bonus to the client, send them messages on how the project is coming along. 

While working with a body painter on a tequila promotion, she was sending video shorts and texts to the project manager and founder of the company, every time she reached a milestone in getting the project to completion. 

At first it seemed like overkill.
But when you think about it, it’s quite smart & thoughtful.

Here’s Paul:

Think about it from [the brands] point of view for a second. [They’re] giving this person money to put something on their channel, and if it’s Snapchat there’s no review process. They’re just going to post this video or picture with [the brand’s] product and they have no way of reviewing it. It’s scary for [the brand]. So over communicating is KEY and a great practice if your’e working with brands. 

When it comes to Snapchat and influencers posting on that platform, would it be possible to create a mock video and send that to the company to review it before it goes live?

As a practice on my end, I like to get the other person’s opinion on a project before it goes live so they can either say –  “this is great! let’s go with it” OR “can you change this?”

Many artists don’t want that input and don’t want to give up that creative control. 

Exclusively on Snapchat, what’s the professional protocol?

Here’s Paul:

If you’re concerned about legal ramifications from a post or a client being unhappy because they were misrepresented, Snapchat isn’t for [the client]. As it’s own platform, Snapchat is all about that off-the-cuff language. [You as the professional], should have them define: Where they want you to be, if there’s something they want you to show, and have them tell you if there’s something you want them to say – which should be kept to 1 sentence. Snapchat is perfect for events. They can have you go to the event [with the instructions of] “bring it to life”. If that’s the case, make sure they tell you – (3) places you should go at the event, (2) things they want you to say, and maybe, (1) link they’d like you to share. [Overall], keep it pretty simple. 

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen an influencer make?

Most likely every year, you’re going to see some kind of “influencer scandal” where they’ve lost followers, brands are pulling out of deals with them, and it’s the devastation of their social media empire playing out in real time. 

Here’s Paul:

There are some funny [mistakes an influencer can make] like, mispronouncing a brand’s name in a sponsored video. Other common mistakes are, not communicating enough, or not managing your time well – as I mentioned above. [But then] there are those not-so-funny mistakes where an influencer will post an insensitive, or off-color video, OUTSIDE of the brand deal and onto their personal page. Remember, whatever you’re publishing – whether it’s for a brand deal or your own personal page, it can come back to hurt you if it’s inappropriate. Be confident in what you’re putting out there at all times, because people will pick it apart, including brands. 

There is a marketing and business man named Gary Vaynerchuk who is extraordinarily popular in the entrepreneurship and marketing world. 

He states, quite often, that in everything he does, in everything he posts, and he says – he’s thinking about his legacy. 

“Doing the right thing is always the right thing”. 
“Legacy is greater than currency”. 

And he’s right. 

As you’re out there in the world, and before you hit “publish” on a tweet or a video, think about your legacy. Even ask yourself this question, “What do I want to be known for”? Then put out content that solidifies that narrative. 

If you’re approaching a brand for a brand deal, what makes them say, “Hell yeah! We wanna work with you!” outside of your numbers?

If you look at the makeup and beauty industry, it’s saturated. 
Where now even tweens are becoming professional makeup artists now. 

How in the Morphe Cosmetics do you stand out from the masses?

Here’s Paul: 

Here’s where your personality comes into play. Having your content be brand friendly, is important. There are gaming, sports, etc – type of verticals where you can get away with swearing or having a thumbnail that’s inappropriate, but brands will make their decision off of your WHOLE channel. Everything could be fine on your channel, but that ONE INAPPROPRIATE THUMBNAIL, could derail a deal. Think about how you present yourself, and then [exude that] to the types of brands you want to attract. What else impacts a brand’s decision? – Does your audience line up with theirs? Are [you] creative with their product? Will it feel, right? Fill the brand in on why you think your audience will like their product, and why you’re going to do something special with their product that their audience will love. And that’s how you stand out from your competition.

Another pro-tip: Write case studies

Write case studies from past gigs or brand deals showcasing:

  • Your CTR (or click through rate)
  • How many likes and the engagement you received
  • And comparing the KPIs you received from the client vs. what you ACTUALLY pulled in

Ask the client for those numbers, if they say you did a great job, because you want to quantify your success as much as possible. 

To get those numbers, here’s Paul:

Just ask. You can say [something to the likes of], “Hey! You told me the brand deal went well. Would you be willing to share some of the numbers with me and how it performed? And if you’d be okay with it, I’d like to write something about this [successful] experience on my website or put it on my portfolio”. Most of being an influencer and working with brands is marketing yourself. As an example, if I was tasked with getting 100 downloads of an app, but I actually got 150 – [you can briefly lay out the strategy] on how [you] did it. 

And it’s completely up to you on how deep or how broad you explain your strategy in the case study. 

Let’s say, a brand is trying to decide between you and another influencer to work with. 

Your competition has their social following to showcase. 
11K followers on Instagram, 5K followers on YouTube, etc.

You have the same numbers AND you’ve written up a case study, about a similar successful campaign with another company, where you crushed your KPIs (key performance indicators) and helped increase their sales.

Who seems more like a valuable top performer to you?

Here’s Paul:

Once you get talent agents or manager, they’re [creating those case studies] for you. That’s why it’s important to [properly] market yourself. Look at what people are and are NOT doing to get more brand deals. Influencer marketing is a person-to-person business. It’s perfectly aligned with relationships and general business practices. 

Pro-Tip: If you have less than 1K followers, or you’re just starting out, and you just want experience working with brands – work for 1-2 for free where, in exchange, you get their product for free. 

AND THEN, and this important, write a case study to show that you CRUSHED your KPIs and other goals with this brand.

This way you’ll have 1-2 pieces of verified content to show to the next brand, who’ll then compensate you accordingly. 

You’ll also learn how to build up that professional rapport with brands.

You’ll: 

  • See what they like
  • What they don’t like
  • And what puts them over the moon, so they’ll want you to work with you again.

Does an influencer need to register as an LLC?

Someone gave me some great advice, years ago, that I still try to uphold. 

Get your first customer, then figure everything out later. 

Here’s Paul: 

For microinfluencers, not many do a LLC.
If anything, they do a freelance – W-9 for taxes. When you go into the LLC world, that’s when you’re getting into hiring people. OR if [you] start branching out and selling clothes, a makeup line, or some other kind of product – [that’s when it would be smart to have one in place]. Though if you’re doing brand deals for a sponsored channel, and you’re JUST starting out, many companies will pay you through PayPal, believe it or not. It can be a mixture between PayPal, Stripe, or a direct deposit to someone’s bank account – but PayPal seems to be the easiest. 


What questions should an influencer ask before working with a brand?

I know some influencers, and contract freelancers, who will ask a company the LTV (or Lifetime Value) of a customer. 

Knowing this information can change the whole dynamic of the pricing structure of the campaign. 

But this is for the ADVANCED player. 

For the newbie, here’s Paul:

Some of the questions you should ask are: What are the 3-4 most important things you want me to share with my audience? What are the talking points I need to cover. What are your goals and what are you hoping to get out of working with me? If a brand can communicate their KPIs and goals with you upfront, that will be the determinant on whether a campaign is successful or not. And [remember], you can tailor [your skills] around their goals. If they’re looking for downloads, then you know it’s important to remind your audience to “click on the link to upload the app”. Or maybe they’re looking for positive sentiment and traffic. Then you can tailor your posts to do that. [Above all else] you’ll learn what works with your audience and what’s effective, as you do it more. Also, ask a brand, “what should I NOT say”? If they want you to talk about the Android phone, they probably don’t want you to bring up the iPhone or have it in a photo or video.  

What’s the best method for an influencer to price themselves?
How would you suggest someone price themselves that has 1K, 3K, 5K followers?

The king cobra question that everyone, especially in the beginning, struggles with. 

Whenever you start doing any type of freelancing, this is what trips EVERYONE up and stresses them out.

“How much do I charge”?

So let’s jump into it. 

Here’s Paul: 

It’s still a little bit of a Wild West. First, [the pricing] is going to be different from platform to platform. You’re not going to price yourself the same as you would on Instagram as you would on YouTube or Facebook. A view on YouTube is not equal to a view on Facebook. A comment on Instagram is not the same as a comment on Facebook. The value of each one is different which is why it’s difficult for people to come up with a regulated pricing structure. The first thing you’re doing when you’re figuring out your price is figuring out the price for a specific social media platform you’re on. Treat each differently and BUNDLE YOUR PRICES TOGETHER. If you’re going to do multiple posts on various platforms. Add those 3 different costs together and send it to the brand like that. 

To find your baseline prices use, Social Blue Book to give you a GREAT idea of what you can start to charge with your current audience size, on the platforms that you have.  

But it’s just a baseline reference. 
You can always charge more as you see fit. 

And on that note, consider this. 

Here’s Paul: 

Start with this question for yourself: How much will this cost me to do? Is it only (1) hour of my time and I just need my cell to take a picture, or will it take me a day because I have to go here, and [travel] to Michael’s Arts & Crafts, and do a bunch of stuff to make it happen. This way, you’ll have a baseline cost of what you’re doing [monetarily and time wise]. Then, consider what kind of engagement can you expect to get? On YouTube a lot of people price it at a cost per view basis. They charge a flat fee which is based on anticipated or a projected amount of views. And based on that recommendation, work to create a price range that’s fair. YouTube falls between the range of $.05-$.15 cents per view. Though that price range can vary on the industry you’re in and the degree of difficulty of the content and creativity. The more creative you are, the more expensive you are. The more the brand is looking for you to do, the more you charge. [So] when you’re working solo with a brand, [especially in the beginning] it’s important to keep it simple.  

And how do you know when to increase your prices?

The quick answer to this, is gradually. 

Here’s Paul:

When you’re starting out and you get approached by 10 brands, start at your base price [whether that’s from Social Blue Book or one you’ve created]. If they accept it, go higher next time by $50-$100. Figure out that ball park number based on your audience size, and how much creative control you have so you can figure out where that sweet spot is. Though know that, that range will vary because the cost of creating content for gaming is a LOT LESS than creating content in the beauty industry. Certain verticals are just more expensive. Though if you have friends [that are] influencers, ask them. Ask them what they do in these situations. 

What should your main priority be when starting, flat out?

Here’s Paul:

Focus on continuing to build your audience.
Don’t let sponsorships get in the way. The blanket statement is to continue to grow your audience because you’re doing something good and there’s room to grow. If you start saturating your page with sponsorships, people are going to leave. Why? Because they’ll think you’re ONLY trying to sell them. Keep expanding on the content you create that brought people to your page in the first place. Engage with your audience – do a give away, make sure you reply to all the comments, and more. 

Now you might be thinking…“Okay, build my audience and they will come”?

Sure.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Here’s Paul: 

YOU can reach out to brands by shooting them an email, [or messaging them in their DMs]. Don’t ask for compensation, though. See if they’ll just send you the product. Then get comfortable with the content creation process. Sometimes it’s not as easy as it seems to generally incorporate your product in what you do, and NOT have your audience be frustrated with, “you’re selling me”. There’s a way of doing it and you have to find your own voice [and style] of [accomplishing it]. As your audience starts to grow you can start getting compensated – and brands will reach out to you [instead of vice versa]. [But for now], test products. No one is going to pay you enough that it’s going to change your lifestyle anyway so you might as well figure it [all out] through this testing period, figuring it out the right way. 

Is it bad form to work with a brand’s competitors?

Let’s say you’re a coffee fanatic. 

You love different roasts. 
You brag about your filters that’s supposed to have this effect on the coffee. 
You have a coffee bean for EVERY occasion. 

You talk about it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in your Instagram stories. 

And now you’re inspired (after reading this post) to reach out to some coffee brands to do a collaboration. 

Is it okay to reach out to Bulletproof Coffee and then another indie coffee maker?

Here’s Paul: 

If a brand doesn’t want you to work with their competitors, they should be compensating you [accordingly, and presenting you] with a non-compete. [Though] that’s done with bigger brands. So for example, Ford may not want you to work with Mercedes – [thus, they need to] compensate you. Because if Mercedes comes at you in 6 months, and they want to pay you more, then you should be compensated fairly for saying “no” to that deal. So it exists on some level. But influencers have worked with competitors and 12 months past, then it’s fine. It’ll depend on the brand. They have varying degrees on strictness. But again, that’s with the bigger brands. As a micro influencers, that’s not something someone should have at the forefront of their mind. You have an opportunity in front of you, focus on that. 

Does an influencer need to have a contract in place in case the brand doesn’t provide one?  What are the main components they need to have in the contract?

In many cases the brand or influencer agent, like Reelio, will provide you with a contract.

That’ll happen in every scenario.

If you’re getting compensated for what you’re doing, you should absolutely have a contract.

A few thing to have in the contract:

  • Required talking points and directives I have to do

  • Any additional requirements like sharing a link or using a branded hashtag, so the deliverables

  • Agreed upon timeline and schedule of the content

  • Any specifications of reviewing that content (e.g., does the brand need to review the photo before it goes live?)

  • Payment details – how much it’s going to be, when it’s due by, how it’ll be paid, etc.

Should an influencer have a website or blog?

Many influencers will say, “Go to my Instagram, that’s my portfolio”.

Though one must remember a very important fact. 

If Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook disappeared one day – all your followers disappear as well. 

And there’d be nothing you could do about it. 

You don’t own the company or that service. 

If you have that domain space, and email list – no one can take away from you.
That’s yours and yours alone. 

Here’s Paul’s thoughts on it: 

[Having a website] helps. It goes back to the first questions of “how many social media platforms should I be on”?  If you can commit to doing it right, and [if you can] be consistent with it, across all platforms – it’s [all] time consuming. [And remember] bloggers are influencers too. If you can figure out how to blog your content, it’s great for SEO. It’s great for building your brand. [And] if you’re thinking about building your brand long term, and you start selling apparel, jewelry, or makeup – it’s nice to have the website already so you can build on that. For brands – some people have a page on their website called ‘sponsorships’, and that page gives examples of sponsors they have or have had in the past. It looks professional and good. So [having a website] can certainly help. 

Parting words of wisdom from Paul & Gigi:

Learn the algorithms and build your audience. If you see someone with 3M followers, it can be because they’ve learned the algorithm on that platform – and they’re great at creating content around it. It’s a bit of art & science. There’s a bit of the creative component and then there’s the algorithm and knowing what works best. And collaborate with other influencers to build up your audience. Create audience synergy between the audiences. 

Here’s a pro tip for everyone here. 

The way that I figure out the “rhythm” of Instagram is to use the tool Iconosquare

By using Iconosquare, I’m able to find: 

  • the best days and times to post
  • which posts get the most engagement
  • which hashtags are pulling in the traffic

And, I also use it to schedule Instagram posts. 

There’s no “push notifications” necessary.
You “set it and forget it”, like any other scheduling tool. 

Outside of that, sometimes all you have to do is spend time on the platform and just watch what people are doing. 

After that, you’ll have a better idea as to what seems to be working well vs. what does okay.

For example, it’s been statistically proven that video does better than a standard image. 

You see an influencer that used to only post pictures, NOW create 60 sec videos along with their pics. 

So, in your mind, you should be thinking, “I guess I need to create videos because they get picked up more by feature accounts, they’re more likely to be on the Discover Page, and they get more engagement. And I gotta admit, they’re more helpful than just the pic”. 

Here’s Paul: 

[If you see that] this 30 second video just got 75 comments – holy smokes! That’s telling Instagram something good. [So consider] doing another video. Make sure to Google and research ways to grow your channel. [And if you do decide to take YouTube seriously] your videos should be between 8-15 minutes long. If it’s not that length then there’s a good change that it won’t make it into the trending page, which is what you’re looking for. [It works just] like SEO for Google. Get those [best] practices in. 

Want the email template to reach out to companies for brand deals?
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Original interview published on www.pucknkhaos.com

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