From today, Black Friday is a scant 43 days away and Cyber Monday is just a bit further at 46 days. It’s definitely time for bloggers and influencers to brush that summertime sand off and take a look at the upcoming couple of months.
We know, you’re not ready to think about winter, but now there’s a distinct chill in the air, school is completely back in swing, and time’s a ticking, so let’s jump right in.
1.) Look Backwards
This may sound counter-intuitive, after all we like to set goals and make plans for the future, right? But hindsight is always 20/20. Take a hard look back at what worked for you last year, and what really didn’t. Make a list of successes for yourself. What tools worked best for you? What brands converted best with your audience? What great partnership really performed for you? You’ll want to make sure you include these again for this Q4.
The best part of this exercise in looking at last year though, is determining what didn’t work. We all try things that fall flat or fail outright and taking a good look in the rearview is a great way to figure out what to focus on this year. Maybe a particular vertical didn’t convert for your audience or perhaps as an influencer, you focused on one social media platform, but a different one works better for your visitors.
Also, be sure to consider yourself in this examination of the past because we all completely over-plan and over-commit our schedules. Now, this isn’t a time to be critical of yourself. It’s perfectly stellar that you spent more time with family during the holidays than you anticipated last year. But now you know that you really might not have as much time as you thought to focus on your business during November and December, so moving that pre-planning schedule up a bit frees you to enjoy that family time or pop out for a movie without any of the guilt.
2.) Look Forward (Happy New Year!)
Typically, everyone sets new goals when that magical clock resets. New year, new you! By setting your goals now instead of waiting until January however, you’re months ahead of your competition AND what you focus on the next six weeks will be setting yourself up for success for the end of 2018 AND the start of next year. Maybe last year you had two solid partnerships and grew your business by 10%. This year, why not try to double it? Or if you’re just getting started with a new site, aim to increase your earnings by a reasonable percentage. If you made $1000 last month with your new site, what would it take for it to start earning you an extra $100 a month? An extra $100 a week?
Setting realistic goals is always the way to go, but have a few stretch goals in your pocket because success is never out of style.
3.) Clean up that Media Kit
There’s a thousand ways to put together a media kit, so I’m not going to go into that right now, however if you’re going to solicit a brand (yes!) or a brand requests a kit (even better!) you need to be fast and it’s got to be right. Sadly, I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times that brands have looked at a sub-standard media kit and immediately put good blogs and influencers straight into the no pile because their numbers are woefully out of date. Tell your current story, honestly and truthfully. If a kit states that a blog has “nearly a million followers on Instagram!” but in reality, the number is in the 850K range, a brand won’t trust you. Additionally, there are tools that make it very simple to determine fake and purchased followers. It’s tempting, we know, but just don’t do it.
Keep your media kit short, sweet, and to the point. Sending a media kit that is more than a page or two is death. Consider this like a first date. Choose that first outfit carefully, but you don’t need to show your ENTIRE closet at once. Put your best foot forward, explain to a brand who you are, who your audience is, and why you would be a great fit for a collaboration. Also, minimize the marketing fluff…you’re likely sending this to a marketing team, and we’ve written that stuff ourselves and see right through it.
Now this may seem very Marketing 101, but check that the social media links you list in your media kit are correct and working. If a brand struggles to find your audience online because you have a typo or because you changed your handle in a rebrand, they likely won’t consider pursuing a collaboration.
If you’re starting from scratch or need a new template fast, I highly recommend taking a look at Canva. They have hundreds of customizable templates just for media kits alone.
4.) Reach Out to New Contacts
Shameless Plug: Check out the Lab6 Media Clients!
It’s always great for a brand to reach out to you, but don’t be afraid to reach out yourself. This time of year is incredibly busy for everyone and waiting to be found is not going to work in your favor. Take a few minutes to find the right person to approach and then drop them a note. Be clear and intentional about your request. For example, if you’re already an active affiliate and making sales, then requesting products for review or an increased commission is completely acceptable. If your site is new and you haven’t joined the program yet, then your request is more than likely going to be declined immediately. If you have specific thoughts about content or a promotion with a brand, then make sure you detail your plan. It’s much easier to approve a product request for a detailed content and promotional plan than a general request for “review for possible inclusion”.
Feel free to include your media kit, however I highly encourage you to include it not as an attachment, but as a link via Google Drive or Dropbox. This time of year especially, a lot of companies buckle down their servers and emails with attachments might never make it to your intended recipient.
Also, don’t give in to the temptation to email every contact name you find for a company. If you’ve emailed PR, the marketing team, the affiliate manager, and reached out on social media, then it really muddies the water as to who should really respond to your inquiry.
5.) Refresh Old Partnerships
Let’s say you had a truly excellent partnership with a brand last year. You included their products in your holiday gift guides, promoted them via your social channels, and wrote some fantastic posts that garnered a lot of traffic and commission for you and sales for the brand. You want to do it again this year, but you figure that since it’s in the bag (you did great, they know you, and obviously a repeat performance would be welcome) that you’ll focus on new relationships first and then hit them up.
Remember that budgets are often solidified far in advance. There is nothing worse as a brand or manager getting an amazing request from a partner only to have to say “I’m so sorry, but we’ve already determined our budget for placements through the end of the year”. It really sucks.
Drop a friendly note with a reminder to your past partners with a summary of what you did the previous year (include your posts!) and your performance wins. Let them know you’re interested in expanding the relationship and what you’d like to do in the upcoming months. Be specific as to what you want, too. If you’re an influencer looking to collaborate, detail your pricing and exactly what you need. No one really has time for nebulous negotiations.
If you’ve already waited too long and a brand turns down your paid placement, then ask if there is anything they can do for you on the performance side. Affiliate managers often can be a great ally in these situations as any increased payments are based on your performance which makes it a far more palatable placement for the C-suite.
6.) Review Your Personal and Editorial Calendar
Everyone sets up their editorial calendar a bit differently, but set aside a little time to go over what’s working for you and what might need refining. Don’t forget that in addition to the content you plan to create, you also have a life. As the calendar creeps ever towards the holidays, time gets tighter and tighter. Depending on your other commitments, you may find that the content creation schedule you used successfully all summer just isn’t working out and you absolutely don’t want to drop the ball on a sponsorship with a brand.
That’s ok! Give yourself permission to change things up. You may find that you are much more productive at a different time of day, a different location (face it, the coffee shop patio you enjoyed this summer is too cold and inside is just bustling with distractions in the colder months), or even just via a different method. The key here is not to stick rigidly to a format that’s stressful or ineffective, but to plan ahead so you can have all your content ready to go so you can truly enjoy the holidays yourself.
7.) Review Your Site
I cannot stress this enough. Review your site. Review your site. Review your site.
- Check your site from multiple browsers, from mobile, and from other operating systems.
- Search your site for broken links.
- Make certain your social media links are current and are not pointed to your host or theme designer.
- Ensure that you have your analytics installed and tracking properly. We recommend Google Analytics.
- Test any contact forms or emails you have on your site.
- Review the top 10 posts that generate the most traffic for you and make sure they are monetized and updated.
- Also, figure out your top 10 posts that generate the most REVENUE for you and make sure your links are correct and reach out to the brands involved to refresh your relationship.
Influencers, even if you focus most of your time and effort on social media, you should also have a working, up to date website.
8.) Make a Reference Guide
It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. You’re finishing the preparations for your own holiday feast when suddenly you see on social media that a brand you work with is doing something spectacular and you’re just finding out about it now. At this zero hour, who has time to figure out what network they’re on, find the right affiliate link, make a post, and make sure the turkey is basted?
This is where your reference guide comes in handy. Make a spreadsheet of all your merchant partners, the networks they are on and your base affiliate link for the merchant. If you keep it on Google Docs, then it’s always only a few clicks away, even if you’re stuck at a family function or gathering out of town.
9.) Get on Board with FTC Requirements
While we’re not lawyers, we know regulations and legalese aren’t always the most fun thing to discuss. Affiliates and influencers, if you receive any sort of compensation, (including but not limited to payments, commissions, and products) you must follow the requirements put forward in the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Endorsement Guides and Regulations.
If you are an affiliate, blogger, partner, influencer, ambassador, brand, or website owner, you absolutely need to be familiar with and follow these guidelines.
10.) Prepare Your Post-Mortem
Only you can decide what success is for you. Maybe it’s growing your site by a certain amount, or your follower count. Perhaps it’s increasing the number of brands you’re working with or expanding your opportunities. It could be just as simple as getting your site off the ground and making sure it’s paying for your hosting.
Whatever your overall goal is, take a few minutes to pull your comparison numbers now. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a complex document and it could just be as simple as jotting down your current traffic levels and follower counts, however the task is infinitely simpler to do right now than to track everything down after the fact.
I also recommend keeping a running document where you can jot down quick notes daily about what you finished that day and anything that went spectacularly right and anything that really didn’t work out. Once the hustle and bustle has died down and you have a moment or two to reflect on Q4 2018 in January, you won’t remember the day to day details easily, but this sort of short form work diary can be very handy in planning your Q4 2019.
11.) Bonus! Review and Update Your Accounts
Especially in light of all the security breaches in recent news, consider updating your social media passwords and setting up two factor authentication when it’s offered.
For any affiliate network or influencer network you currently work with, check your settings for the following:
- Correct payment information
- Correct physical address
- Correct website and any secondary sites you have listed
- Working email address (Did you know that in some networks you can have more than one email listed?)
It may seem like a lot, but by taking a little time now to prepare, you will save yourself a lot of time and effort over the coming months.
If you need a hand, you can always reach out to the Lab6 team for assistance!
Photos by Estée Janssens and Hal Gatewood on Unsplash