Why All Influencers Should Accept Gift-Only Collaborations
Subscribe to our industry newsletter for the latest influencer marketing trends, collaboration ideas, and up-and-coming bloggers.
As a business-minded fashion blogger, reaching a point where you can skip gift-only collaborations in favor of paid opportunities can feel like a rite of passage. The transition from gifts to payment often mirrors the elevation of your blog from passion project to thriving business, and when you’re looking to collaborations for income, it can feel like a step backward to post for gifts only.
But savvy bloggers know that gifts can be an important part of growing your business, which is why even top influencers still seek out gift-only collaborations. Gifting collabs allow you to try new products and provide fresh insights to your readers, while also keeping you top-of-mind among a greater variety of brands. Brands may also decide to license your content in the future for payment. Here are four more reasons leading influencers accept gift-only collaborations and why these opportunities are worth a second look:
Gifting can lead to long-term collaborations
Emerging brands aren’t the only ones posting gift-only collaborations. Large brands often use gifting as a way to introduce their products to multiple bloggers, allowing them to see which influencers will have the most traction with their audience. Consider gifting a first-round interview, which brands use to determine who they want to engage further. By skipping these collaboration opportunities, you’re taking yourself out of the running before you have a chance to make an impression on brands looking to form long-term influencer relationships.
We recently spoke to Jasmin Howell of Friend in Fashion (@friendinfashion), who affirmed the value of long-term relationships to producing high-quality content for brands.
“Longer relationships [mean I] can make more meaningful creative,” Jasmin said. “With the longer based collabs you have the ability to be a lot more creative. One month you can see what worked well, next month you can build on this and make it even better. That’s why I like the ongoing dialogue.”
By keeping an open mind, you’re more likely to find the brands who value your audience and aesthetic, leading to the kind of collaborations that allow you to create more impactful content.
Sharing new products makes you more valuable to your followers
Gifting collaborations allow you to try new brands and products, which allow you to create fresh, helpful content for your readers. These products may just become your new favorites -- or they might remind you why you love your current brand. Either way, experiencing new products gives you insight into why you use the products you use. Remember, your followers are looking to you for advice, ideas and inspiration. The more products you try, the more informative your content will be, and the more reasons your followers have to share it.
“I think it’s important to realize that the audience is not just a number but that they are actual people,” offered Paola Alberdi of Blank Itinerary (@blankitinerary), a blogger who knows a thing or two about building a community. Her Instagram account has more than 733k highly engaged followers and continues to grow. Her advice? “Focus more and engaging with [followers] and creating a strong, loyal community. That will be more valuable in the long run!”
Part of creating that community is sharing new ideas and experiences. Collaborating with brands to test new products can help you keep your content fresh and audience engaged.
Gift-only collabs give you a low-stakes way to get to know a brand
Working with brands can be like dating. Before you jump into a long-term collaboration, gifting can give you and a brand a chance to see if you’re a good fit. Do you see eye-to-eye with the marketing team? Are the brand’s content expectations reasonable for the given time frame? Does their aesthetic align with your own? These are questions best answered when the stakes are low. Gifting-only opportunities allow you to test the waters without the pressure that can sometimes accompany paid collaborations. These collaborations are also often far more streamlined, which allow you to test lots of different brands to find the best longer-term opportunities.
We have simplified our gift-only, or Product Seeding, collaborations on Shopping Links to make the posting process more predictable. When you sign up for a gift-only collaboration, you always know what’s involved: one Instagram post tagging the brand’s handle and hashtag, along with Shopping Links, within 30 days of receiving a gift. That’s it! The idea behind this system is to allow you to accept more collaborations, get to know more brands, and try new products without the back-and-forth that can accompany a paid collaboration.
Gifting collaborations build your portfolio
One final benefit of gifting collaborations is the opportunity to build your portfolio of professional brand content. Having lots of recent examples in a variety of categories can help you secure better paid collaborations in the future, and accepting gives can help you build that variety. Applying for these collaborations also keeps you visible among brands who actively work with influencers. The more they see you, the more likely they are to think of you in the future.
“It’s good to be top of mind,” says Jasmin. “I think it’s good to be proactive and it shows you’re invested in your brand and business.”
Gift-only collaborations also give you an opportunity to create content that you can then license for payment in the future. Remember, your reach is only one aspect of the value you create for a brand. Your imagery itself also has value. A brand might start with a gifting collaboration, but later decide to buy the licensing rights to utilise your content in an internal marketing campaign.
The bottom line is that savvy bloggers recognise the value of a gift-only collaboration doesn’t stop with the product. From the chance to form new brand relationships to the opportunity to create more valuable, sharable content for followers, gift-only collaborations benefit all bloggers -- even those at the top.