Because I work in advertising, I’ve been familiar with influencer marketing and brand partnerships for quite some time. And if you follow any bloggers or celebrities on social media, you too are probably familiar with it, as you’ve likely seen hashtags like #ad or #sponsoredpost pop up in your newsfeed. Influencer marketing has been around for decades, but as we know, has grown exponentially in the last few years with the rise of Instagram.
I wanted to write about this topic because it seems so common nowadays and because it’s now a part of my life with Lipstick & Ink. Over the last few months, I’ve done a few partnerships with brands and I also have some more coming up this month. Knowing that, I thought now was an opportune time to provide an inside look into how these partnerships work and why I’m taking part in them.
So, let’s start from the beginning. I didn’t realize just how much brands were utilizing bloggers to promote their products until I created Lipstick & Ink’s social channels. At the time, I was intrigued by the possibility of brand partnerships, but brushed it to the side for the time being. Securing partnerships wasn’t a goal of mine, especially because I thought I needed a much bigger following before brands began approaching me. I also wasn’t starting a blog to make money. I was doing it because of my love of writing and helping/motivating others. My main goal was to launch my blog and get my message out to like-minded women.
Surprisingly, two months after I launched Lipstick & Ink, I was approached by Smile Brilliant to help promote their teeth whitening product. I was shocked because I was so new and had minimal Instagram followers at the time. I had not expected to be approached by a brand so soon. But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel honored that Smile Brilliant had found me and saw something in Lipstick & Ink to reach out to me.
It was then that I realized I needed to have a go-forward strategy when it came to brands and partnerships. I wanted to make sure I was staying true and authentic to who I was and what I wanted my brand to be. Because of that, I made it a point to ask myself three important questions when it came to advertising a brand:
- Does this fit the Lipstick & Ink brand?
- Can I try this product first before agreeing to promote it?
- Do I actually like this company and product to share and promote it to my readers?
I asked myself these questions before responding back to Smile Brilliant. The partnership fit well with my brand because I focus on wellness and taking care of yourself to feel your best. Plus, I had been looking for an effective but safe teeth whitening at-home treatment, so it felt like perfect timing. I replied back and made sure that I had the option to either promote their product if I liked it or provide feedback in the event I didn’t like it. Based on this post, you can see that the partnership went well and I genuinely loved the convenience and effectiveness of Smile Brilliant’s teeth whitening kit.
After that, I was approached by a few other brands, many of which did not align with my brand or my mission. I respectfully turned a lot down. My disclaimer with brands became that I need to try their product and genuinely like it to promote it. Otherwise, I won’t and will instead provide feedback on how their product or service can be improved. If the brand isn’t cool with that, I’ll pass them up. Being genuine and authentic is so important to me and I never will promote a brand or product that I don’t like or am not satisfied with.
You’re probably wondering now if I get paid for these kind of partnerships. Because I’m working with smaller brands, they sometimes don’t have the budget to pay me. I sometimes take on unpaid partnerships because I genuinely want to work with the brand and because I love their products or services. Sometimes, I am paid for the work that I’m doing. Please know that all brand partnerships I take part in are ones that have gone through the vetting process of my three critical questions. You can read more about this in my disclosure policy.
I think it has to be said that I wouldn’t be putting in the work that I do to advertise a brand or product if I didn’t like it. If you’re not a blogger or don’t really have any insight into the work that bloggers do, let me fill you in. With any brand partnership, part of the partnership agreement is that I have to create content around the offering. It can vary by brand, but it usually includes a blog post, a social post, or an Instagram story. When you’re consuming and scrolling through your feed, you don’t really think of all the work it takes to put something like that together. But let me tell you, it takes a lot of time.
Let’s take a blog post and single Instagram post, for example. I first have to concept how the brand and product is going to fit into a blog post. I also have to envision the photos that will be taken. I write the blog post, which can take anywhere from 1-2 hours because I put a lot of thought into my posts. I then have to take the pictures for the blog post and the Instagram post, which can take up to an hour. I then have to edit the pictures to fit my blog’s and Instagram’s aesthetic, which always take me way too long because I’m still learning and not as proficient in the photography arena. From there, I have to set up the blog post in WordPress and make sure my photos are optimized so they don’t slow down my site. I then have to handle all of the SEO and make sure everything is tagged correctly. Lastly, I plan out my social content – what picture I’ll use on Instagram and what my caption is going to be (which I always put a little too much time and effort into). I’d say from start to finish, this whole process can take me up to eight hours. With every piece of content I put out onto the internet, I’m ensuring that it’s fulfilling a purpose. Needless to say, I would not be doing all of this work for a product I didn’t believe in.
So why am I doing partnerships? Well, I love being able to discover and try new products that maybe I didn’t know about previously. I love being able to work with brands that maybe are just getting started like I am. I love sharing products I’m genuinely passionate about that have brought enjoyment to my life or helped solve a problem I had. And at the end of the day, I want people like you to try the product or service for yourself to see just how great it actually is.
Because of doing partnerships, I’ve met and worked with some incredible people. I’ve also gained more confidence in what I’m doing. I wrote about it earlier, but it’s a great feeling when a brand reaches out because they love your content and what you’re putting out into the world. The power of the pitch became real to me and I’ve realized that I do have something to offer brands regardless of my following or how long I’ve been blogging. It’s given me the courage the last few months to reach out to brands myself with ideas of how they can partner with Lipstick & Ink, whether it’s with my blog or my events. There’s a lot of rejection, of course. You can’t win them all!
But, there’s also been a lot of good things that have come out of me reaching out myself to brands. I was able to secure sponsorships for my first official event, Making Your Mark, that was hosted back in August. One of my upcoming partnerships next month is one I where I reached out myself with an idea because I was obsessed with their products and I saw synergy in their brand and in mine.
Anyways, I hope this helps explain some of what you’ve maybe seen on the blog or on Instagram specifically. I’m in no means trying to be salesly and sell you something just because. That is not who I am. I sincerely just want to share all the good things that I’m trying so you can too if you want. And if you don’t, that’s totally cool!
Do you have any questions on partnerships that I maybe didn’t cover or answer? Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at email@example.com.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.