Maker business tips: How to work with Influencers

Influencer wearing Magical sweater by Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

Find out how you can get your crafts to reach a bigger audience with Influencer marketing…

Getting your product into the hands of an influencer can be just the boost your brand needs. With a dedicated following who hang off their every post, having someone who shares your aesthetic can get your makes seen by a new audience of potential customers.

If you’re unsure of how to take the first steps in Influencer marketing, we’ve rounded up three experts who have been there, done it and got the posts to prove it.

Enamel pin queen Liz Harry of Liz Harry Design and Cat Food Cakes owner Cat Owen have both boosted their followings and increased sales by getting both micro influencers and big time bloggers to share their love for their products. Meanwhile Instagram expert, Me & Orla’s Sara Tasker works as both an Influencer and a mentor for growing your social media. Here they explain the marketing basics you need before you begin….

Cat Owen of Cat Food Cakes. Picture Credit: Instagram @morganemilyjane

Cat Owen of Cat Food Cakes. Picture Credit: Instagram @morganemilyjane

How do you decide which influencers will work well for your brand?

Cat: My branding is colourful and fun, with lots of pinks and pastels, so I look for influencers who fully embrace that aesthetic and share cute photos that would seamlessly fit on my feed. It’s important that they are consistent, that they share photos regularly on their grid and post lots of stories. I always spend a few days watching their stories to make sure they are professional and work with similar brands.

Sara: Don’t be led by the numbers – it’s far more important that you choose someone who’ll genuinely love your product and whose audience will want to hear about your work. A small but relevant following is always better than a large, irrelevant one – especially for small businesses.

Pin by Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

Pin by Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

… And how do you find them?

Sara: Be prepared to spend a little time on this. Start by typing in the keywords for your industry and look for hashtags or posts that resonate with you. When you find an account that seems like a good fit, spend some time delving into their post history. Have they featured brand products before? (This should always be appropriately disclosed if they received the product as a gift, or were paid to post about it). How many likes and comments do they usually get? Do they seem legit, with a genuinely engaged audience?

Cat: If you’re short on time, or not so clued up on Instagram, consider spending a small budget with an agency who will source and contact influencers on your behalf. This is totally worth it if you’ve got a product or service that appeals to a broad audience.

Liz: Facebook groups specific to what you do are great because they are ready tailored audiences. For example, there are pages for people who collect acrylic laser cut jewellery or buyers of pastel-hued clothes. Reaching out for suggestions within these groups will get lots of good recommendations.

Sara Tasker of Me & Orla. Picture Credit: Instagram @me_and_orla

Sara of Me & Orla only works with brands who share the same aesthetic as her. Picture Credit: Instagram @me_and_orla

Should you aim big or start small?

Cat: I’m personally all for feeling the fear when starting a new project – go big or go home! It was terrifying the first time I sent a gift to an influencer with more than 50 thousand followers – but the pay off was totally worth the nerves. At the same time, I sent a gift to a much smaller influencer and she was more professional with the content I received in return. Both ways have their benefits.

Sara: The larger the following, the more likely you are to have to pay for a feature. That’s not always a bad thing – rates can be very reasonable, and paying should guarantee you a great post. Smaller, so called ‘micro influencers’ with followings below 10k, are more likely to agree to post in exchange for a free product. But be aware, this is still a legal exchange of services and the influencer has a responsibly to declare it and pay tax on the value of whatever you send.

Influencer Dodo Potato with Cat Food Cakes. Picture Credit: Instagram @catfoodcakes

Influencer Dodo Potato with Cat Food Cakes. Picture Credit: Instagram @catfoodcakes

What is the bet way to approach influencers you would like to work with?

Sara: I recommend finding their email address and reaching out personally. Use their name and let them know why you think your product is a good fit for them and their audience. Be clear about your hopes and expectations, but be willing to be flexible. They know their audience best and will have insight and ideas about how best to promote your work. If you don’t hear back, a brief follow up email a week or so later is a great idea too. It can be frustrating when you’ve put work into sourcing a creator to work with and they decline or don’t respond, but trust that if they feel it isn’t right, it wasn’t going to be the right opportunity for you anyway.

Cat: Spend some time getting to know them first by following their feeds, liking and commenting on their posts. I find this makes it more comfortable when “sliding into their DM’s”. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to DM an influencer you’d like to work with if you’re sending a gift with the intention of having a few Instagram stories to share. If you’re looking for something more professional, for example a grid post, blog post, or even inviting them to your workspace etc. you should definitely arrange everything officially by e-mail.

Liz Harry of Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

Liz Harry of Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

What are the biggest mistakes you can make when approaching an influencer?

Liz: It’s a good idea to manage your own expectations with any gifting you may do. Most of the items that I send influencers usually cost up to £30, so I don’t press for commitment. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take. If it’s a more expensive item be sure to be transparent about your expectations upfront before sending.

Cat: Expecting influencers to share content based on your personal timescales without arranging this beforehand isn’t advisable. They might have prior arrangements with other brands. You’ve got to remember that being an influencer is essentially running a business, and they could have other priorities at the time you would like to work with them.

Sara: It sounds simple, but do your research first. I still get emails every day that call me by my daughter’s name, or offer me opportunities at sporting events when I openly talk about having a disability. Any lack of insight like this let’s me know that they’re only interested in my numbers, and gets an instant refusal. Also, be realistic and appreciative of the time and work required on the influencers part. It can look effortless, but there’s actually a lot of work in styling, photography, copywriting, audience management and promotion going on behind the scenes.

Cake by Cat Food Cakes. Picture Credit: Instagram @catfoodcakes

Cake made for the pop star Billie Elish by Cat Food Cakes. Picture Credit: Instagram @catfoodcakes

How should you work out what you should offer for coverage?

Liz: What you’re hoping to achieve with your product? Are you wanting a shot of someone wearing your item – or if its decor items will they have to dress a room to show it off? Will that influencer have to arrange a photoshoot? Or is it simply a shout out in Stories? If so these may potentially need to be billed by the influencer – or an equivalent amount agreed to be gifted with goods – and this is all without considering their follower numbers, so its all negotiable with lots of moving parts.

Sara: Be led by your budget and be open and honest with your creator. If you can’t afford to pay right now, tell them so. Offer goods or services in exchange to the equivalent value. There’s a rough guide of £100 per 10,000 followers on Instagram, so a grid post with an influencer with 30,000 followers might cost you £300. It’s a very loose benchmark though, and will be determined more by engagement rate (likes and comments) than follower count alone.

Pin by Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

Pin by Liz Harry Design. Picture credit: Instagram @lizharrydesign

… And what you would get in return?

Cat: If you are not paying for the influencer’s time, it’s best not to expect anything in return, if you do get a post it’s a bonus! If it’s paid work, then clearly state everything you are expecting beforehand to avoid any confusion/disappointment on both sides. The more specific you are the more you should expect to pay. It’s not unheard of for brands to request pre-approval of all posts (including stories), so do consider this if you are investing a lot of your resources with an influencer to ensure you are getting as much value as possible.

Sara: Start from what would be most useful to you – people tend to think of grid posts on Instagram, but would a series of Stories better showcase your practical product, with a swipe up link to shop? Does the user have a blog, Twitter or Pinterest where they might also share the posts they create? Be clear about your hopes and expectations up front, and don’t get too carried away. A reasonable request is more likely to be accepted. Keep in mind the monetary value of what you’re asking for and make sure it’s a fair exchange for both sides.

Sara Tasker of Me & Orla. Picture Credit: Instagram @me_and_orla

Sara Tasker of Me & Orla. Picture Credit: Instagram @me_and_orla

Sara’s top five tips for working with influencers?

  1. If possible, get an explicit agreement about what and when they will post. There’s always a percentage of people who will take your product and never post it. This happens for all sorts of reasons and generally isn’t malicious, but have guidelines in place to prevent it.
  2. Be personal. Everyone likes hearing they’re appreciated and you’re much more likely to get a yes when you explain specifically why you think you can work well together.
  3. Do due diligence. Check the user’s Twitter, blog and past Instagram posts out and make sure everything adds up to a cohesive big picture. Influencer work is big business right now, and you want to be sure you’re investing in someone who can truly deliver. Follower counts can be faked.
  4. Be open to suggestions. Let the influencer choose which products will work best with their audience, or what style of post. They’re experts in what they do, and have build their business on understanding their audience. Trust in their creativity and insight.
  5. Measure results. Don’t just look for immediate direct sales, but study the more nuanced things. Is traffic to your website up as a result? Have you had more views or post saves on Instagram? Ask your influencer for the stats on their post that only they can see, including clickthrough and saves. All of this is evidence of interest – remember, people generally don’t buy right away when they see or hear of a new product. Influencer promotion is an important first step in your marketing pathway. But it’s up to you to be ready to meet your customers and guide them along the rest of that route.

For more information on Sara Tasker, visit meandorla.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. For more on Cat Food Cakes, visit catfoodcakes.com or follow her on Instagram. And for more about Liz Harry, visit lizharry.etsy.com or follow her on Instagram.

For more tips and tricks, check out our business tips section or subscribe to Mollie Makes to get all the latest news, inspo and projects in the designer-maker community.