Why the YouTubeIsOverParty is Nonsense

YouTubeIsOverParty

YouTubeIsOverParty is trending on Twitter, it’s on Facebook and it’s all over Reddit. If you spend any time looking at the hashtag and the commentary, you’re going to see that something major happened. YouTube is OVER! Well, at least that’s what you might walk away feeling if you trust the mob. Now, in all honesty, I don’t know ALL the details because this is something that just started happening in the last 24 hours. So I’ll do my best to break it down and offer a little context.

As we all know, YouTube allows all creators the opportunity to post and host videos they create on their website. As an added bonus, YouTube gives you the ability to run ads alongside that content and get a cut of the revenue. On a grand scale, it works out to about $3 per 1000 views. That money comes from the advertisers who pay to place their brands alongside or in front of your content. It’s a business move for the brands who want to advertise, and a nice perk for creators. Over the last number of years, that has resulted in thousands of people creating new careers in video creation – YouTubers. Ad money has made it possible for people to make it a full time thing.

What did YouTube Change?

Yesterday, YouTube started un-monetizing videos that they deem ‘unfriendly to advertisers’. As a business, YouTube has likely been under pressure from their advertisers to not put their ads up against say… racists (see Evalion) or sexists (see Sam Pepper), or videos put up by ISIS. Obviously. “Hey guys, today we’re going to chop off an infidel’s head, but first a word from our sponsors at Razor Blade Co!” As a blogger, I have known full well that advertisers NEVER want their ads alongside anything that’s outside of vanilla. I’m really surprised it took this long for YouTube to make this change.

According to YouTube, this is what constitutes unfriendly content to advertisers. Honestly, it’s a standard content guidelines for ad money.

#YouTubeIsOverParty

Why YouTubeIsOverParty is Nonsense

YouTube is changing a lot lately. They are having issues with harassment, scaling, copyright and much more. They are changing because the world is evolving, and what YouTube was in 2010 is not what YouTube wants to be in 2020. Hell, YouTube doesn’t even make money yet! A billion people visit the site and they can’t even break even! Some of the changes have been fantastic, for example H3H3 noted that a copyright claim against their video was believed to be Fair Use by YouTube, or the change to how monetization works when being copyright claimed. Great moves, proud of you.  If you don’t fit within the guidelines as posted above, there’s a chance your video will not appeal to what advertisers want and thus – no monetization.

 YouTubeIsOverParty

But Zach, if I create videos where I say ‘fuck’ a lot while playing Minecraft, and they won’t run ads beside my content – they are censoring me and stopping me from making these videos!

No, they aren’t. You can absolutely still create all the fucking Minecraft videos you want. You can even say shit, or ass, or the dreaded c-word. Hell, use racial epithets, talk about murder and treat women like objects with your pick up techniques if you want.  That’s all going to be just fine to upload to YouTube – but, don’t expect to be paid for it because advertisers (the people with money) don’t like it. It’s not censorship, it’s business. < THAT’S IMPORTANT!

Zach, how can I keep putting out this content if YouTube advertisers aren’t paying me? This is my career! YOUTUBEISOVERPARTY!

That was a mistake on your part. You should never rely on a third party service to make or break your career. I’ve been an entrepreneur throughout my life, and a freelancer, and I’ve worked regular day jobs. The ONE MAJOR TAKEAWAY I HAVE IS: Never rely on tomorrow being the same as today. One day you have the job, the next you don’t. One day, you get a nice chunk of cash, and the next an unexpected bill comes in. Always remember that tomorrow is not today.

So then, what can I do? I’m only good at creating videos. 

You can start immediately thinking like a business owner – in fact, you ARE a business owner, and your main product is YOU and your VIDEOS. Assuming you have an audience, that means you have potential to sell them on something that you do. Perhaps it’s a matter of setting up a Patreon and hoping your biggest super fans will support you. Maybe there is a government grant willing to give you money to create more content. Maybe you can sell T-shirts, or hats. And while traditional advertisers might not want to advertise alongside your content, there are non-traditional ones who will: ie. Draft Kings, or Me Undies, or Dollar Shave Club who are totally cool with edgy content. Start selling your OWN ads and cut out YouTube!

Look to Howard Stern re: YOUTUBEISOVERPARTY

YOUTUBEISOVERPARTY

Howard Stern made a career on being controversial. Whether it was giving women orgasms, or convincing a handicap guy he was on the moon, or talking about sex, drugs and bodily functions, he was always controversial. NO ADVERTISERS WANTED TO PUT ADS ALONGSIDE HIS SHOW. Until he had an audience, then his internal team was able to sell ads to alcohol companies and dating sites. He built a bigger business around himself with MULTIPLE income sources including a best-selling book, an award nominated movie, a TV channel and now his own radio station on Sirius XM that pays him hundreds of millions (because his fans pay each month – Patreon?). The point being, once he learned that he wasn’t going to make money from Pepsi, Duracell etc, he BUILT A BUSINESS around his product – himself and his radio show.

Sound familiar? You and your videos. Adsense is EASY because you click a button and boom – a very tiny bit of cash. While building a business is work, the monetary payoffs can be huge – much larger than even the best months of Adsense. Is YouTube over for the controversial creators?

Nope, not at all. It just means it’s time to build a business around your content!

ALSO: WATCH THIS VIDEO BY H3H3!

Influencer Marketing Laws Around the World

Influencer Marketing Laws

In 2014, an Oreo campaign that hired UK YouTubers to engage in ‘lick races’, had all the videos taken down after an advertising watchdog found a lack of disclosure. The UK has very strict influencer marketing laws, which require disclosure within the video and not just in the description of the video. That same kind of enforcement is coming to the US this year – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced they will start strictly enforcing the rules they implemented years ago (to date, enforcement has been lax). Transparency and disclosure is absolutely crucial if you want to maintain your audiences’ trust, but not only that, it’s part of the law in the US. You can hide a brand deal by not disclosing it, but it will only hurt you in the long run.

I was curious about the kind of laws that exist around the world, so I set out to research them. This blog post does NOT constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is solely designed to give you an idea of the kind of laws that exist (or do not) around the world. I have always preached that strong, open and direct disclosure is the best policy for both yourself (legally) and your relationship with your audience.

United States

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined clear influencer marketing rules several years ago. Content creators must disclose on each platform the content is shared (example: a blog must include disclosure, but a tweet sharing that blog must as well.) #ad is sufficient for Twitter as long as used before a link. While disclosure at the bottom of a post is okay, if it’s not clear and conspicuous, it may not be sufficient (small fonts/hidden under comments etc).  The FTC has announced that Enforcement is about to become very strict.

Canada

Canadian Influencers

Canada is behind in updating the laws to include influencer marketing, but there are some existing laws that do apply. Canada’s Marketing Code of Ethics requires disclosure of the connection between a marketer and someone endorsing their product. The Canadian Competition Bureau requires that you disclose if you have been paid or given something free to promote a product. Also, there is a law requiring that you have used the product and can be considered an expert in it before you can publicly promote it (Astroturfing). There has been little done to enforce this though.

United Kingdom

The UK has clear requirements set for content creators.  If any content is paid for (either with cash, or product) you must disclose that fact. They issued a direct letter to all content creators as a warning. The laws are covered in two pieces including one related to unfair trading and another about advertising practice codes. They also have additional rules for video creators. Enforcement is increasing in 2016 and beyond.

Australia

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is a federal body that protects consumers. In their Competition and Consumer Act 2010, it says disclosure is necessary if it would be deceptive or misleading not to. As it stands now, the interpretation of that is somewhat open – and as such, disclosure is a good idea but it’s not strict (at the moment). Several court cases involving paid influencer will better define those rules soon.

China

Earlier this year, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) updated their laws as they related to online advertising. One of the specific requirements was that paid ads must be clearly marked. They also added that any ‘celebrity or endorser’ can be held liable if they endorse a product with false advertising.

Spain

Influencer Marketing Laws

Spain has pretty clear laws surrounding influencer marketing. It must be made clear to the reader/viewer that there is a relationship with the brand. That does not mean that every image/second needs to be tagged as such though. The rules become especially strict if an influencer’s main audience is under 18. The document is as one of the best when it comes to setting clear expectations for influencers.

Thailand

There are currently no laws that relate to disclosure and influencer marketing. Also, in researching this I learned that there will never be laws surrounding it for one reason: “ทำอะไรตามใจ คือไทยแท้.”

European Union

Some member states of the European Union have some kind of law related to endorsements. However, there has yet to be an overall guide. The European Union is working a new set of laws and guidelines that will directly effect influencer marketing. You can see some of the plans here as they relate to misleading ads.

South Africa

Influencer Marketing Laws

The laws that exist can be interpreted to apply to influencers, but that is unlikely. As such, there are currently no requirements for disclosure.

India

There are no rules that are directly mention online influencers, but they are working on them. One law that may apply is on ‘celebrity endorsement’, which could hold the endorser liable for damages or even jail time if they endorse a product that does not deliver – false advertising.

Singapore

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), just released a new set of guidelines as it relates to influencer marketing. The new rules go into effect in Singapore on September 29th and are pretty detailed. First, you need to disclose if there has been any kind of compensation as soon as possible into a piece of content. Accepted disclosure includes the use of #adv, #sponsored or #endorsed. Secondly, they make it against the rules to inflate engagement by paid likes/followers/comments. There are additional articles that include fake reviews, negative campaigns and more. Check out the full list of rules here.

How to do Brand Partnerships

How to do Brand Partnerships

The allure of doing brand partnerships becomes ever-present as you grow as a content creator. After having spent years building something, there will come a day where brands want to work with you. It’s actually a very important step in a creators digital lives because it’s a stepping stone from hobby to career. Working with brands is a great way to grow as a creator. It is also beneficial to your audience if you’ve done it correctly. Done incorrectly though and you risk undoing the thing that has taken years to build – trust with your audience.

There are a lot of positive things that can come from doing brand deals. Some of these things include:

  • They can often pay, which enables you to spend more time creating content/pay your bills.
  • They can offer product, which can enable you to create better content or exclusive content.
  • They can provide experiences, that can be interesting content (and memories for life.)
  • They can give you something to giveaway to your audience.

That said, your partners need to meet certain requirements. It ties back into the trust you’ve spent building with your audience. If they think you’re just taking any product that comes your way and promoting it… you’re going to be tuned out. To give you a general idea on how brand partnerships should go, I want to walk you through the steps. When any brand comes to me to talk about partnership opportunities, the end question I have to ask myself is ‘Does this create value?’. It seems an easy question, but it’s actually quite complex.

The Necessities of Successful Brand Partnerships

Brand Love

Love the Brand

The first thing you need when it comes to a brand partnership is an affinity for the brand itself. I’ve seen so many creators take on partnerships with brands they’ve publicly bashed and it makes me embarrassed for them. Whenever I’ve worked with a brand, it’s because I absolutely love the product that I’ve agreed to use/share/represent. Many years ago MiO came out, and I fell in love with it immediately – the lemonade one especially. When they came to me with a partnership opportunity, it was a no-brainer, I had been publicly sharing my love for it for weeks so it was a natural fit. Your brand partners should excite you and be the kind of thing you share without being paid/rewarded. If you wouldn’t spend your own money on it, don’t partner with it.

Alignment

As previously mentioned, it’s important for your values to align well with your brand partnerships. In my case, it’s important to deliver quality content that doesn’t betray your trust in me. Any brand that I work with needs to respect and understand that at the end of the day the audience matters most. Secondly, alignment is also about what the brand stands for. A year ago, a brand wanted to hire me to go to restaurants, eat/drink for free, and periodically use one of their vape sticks in the restos. There was no nicotine in it, and was simply heated and flavoured vegetable oil. Ultimately, it wasn’t a good alignment because I felt it was too similar looking to cigarettes. While it wouldn’t have the same effects of those cancer sticks, it emulated it – and I didn’t want to be part of that. Pick brand deals that align with your life and your beliefs.

Create Value

Delivering Value

This is where a lot of brand partnerships come to an end because of the negotiations. Delivering value is one of the hardest things to come to terms because everyone wants to get the most from it. The brand obviously wants value from the partnership – they want mentions, views and hopefully sales. The more coverage you provide, the more opportunity they have to get that value. Personally, a brand deal needs to have value for you too. Will the deal help you to create content, help you advance as a creator, help pay your bills or give you a great memory/experience? Balancing the value between the brand and yourself is hard enough – but here’s where it gets harder…

You as a creator also NEED to consider the value you will deliver to your audience. This is something too many creators forget and it’s why you see so much crappy content about picnics and booze – they don’t consider the end reader (are there even any?) Think about it deeply… will this brand deal provide value to someone reading? If you were a reader, would this help improve your life? I read so much content and immediately know if they care at all about the audience or not – the sad trend is they don’t. Not in Toronto anyway. If you’re not creating the same value for your reader that you are for the brand or for yourself, you are doing your audience a disservice and they are not going to want to read your future content. Deliver value to ALL parties.

Execution

The last thing that’s up for discussion when I do brand deals is the execution – I want to know the messaging they want me to share, and I want them to know that my words HAVE to remain my own. It can be a weird line to walk, but in order to maintain your trust with the audience, you DO need to be fair and balanced. This is especially true with reviews where you’re sharing your experience – if there’s a flaw, you need to let your audience know. If someone reading buys a product on your suggestion, and it turns out not to work as you said… gone is your integrity.

When doing brand partnerships, understand that you should be saying no to potential offers a lot more than you say yes. You should always think about your audience and the trust they have in you. Lastly, you should consider how your potential brand partnerships are moving the needle. Brand partnerships aren’t done at a whim, they require time, effort and proper consideration to execute correctly – so treat them with that in mind.

Confessions of a Social Media Exec on Influencer Marketing: ‘I Should Be Fired, Because I Don’t Know How to do my Job’

Confessions of a social media exec on influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is an industry that’s continuing to heat up and grow as more brands realize the value of people with audiences. It should come as no surprise really – marketers need to go where their customers are, and when it comes to content creators, there are influencers for every single category. If you’re a tech brand, you’re going to want to work with tech influencers. If you’re a clothing company, you’re going to want to work with fashion influencers. X brand should work with X influencer. The next logical question is ‘What defines an influencer?’ The simple answer is: Someone with an audience who trust their opinion.

Today, there has been a post that keeps popping up in my feed called “Confessions of a social media exec on influencer marketing: ‘We threw too much money at them’“, a post from a supposed social media executive who should probably be fired from their job because, quite frankly, they don’t know what they are doing. Ultimately, this post was just a hack job on influencers as a whole without qualifying much. That’s perhaps my biggest issue with the post – you can’t simply lump all influencers into a single category and say ‘Those influencers over there are terrible’, that’s rather damning evidence that you should be fired. I could go through it piece by piece dissecting everything wrong with what’s being said there, but this post would end up being thousands of words long, instead I’ll try to keep this short, punchy and to the point.

Confessions of a social media exec

“There is a decrease in quality of work and too many influencers.”

100% agree in the decrease in quality of work by brands and agencies – but that’s fueled by the desire for numbers, views, followers, likes, shares and keeping those numbers high. As for too many influencers, it’s a stupid person who doesn’t like options. In fact, more influencers = more competition = price wars.

“They no longer value their art.”

Truly, go eff yourself. Clearly it is you who doesn’t value their art.

“I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, “Nothing.””

I guarantee this never happened. Partially because you called them ‘young social media people’ and partly because of the grouping of everyone saying ‘nothing’. Do you really expect me to believe that when asked what people were good at EVERYONE said nothing? Sir/madam, I believe you’re projecting.

“We have no idea what to pay them.”

Bingo, the truth comes out – it’s not that you have no idea what to pay them, it’s that you have no idea what you are doing. Step aside ‘social media exec’, this job isn’t for you.

“Social team is a bunch of millennials, so we’ll often find someone we like and we’ll throw it into a database with keywords.”

What even is this as a sentence? What executive who deals with social media influencers talks like this? The gentle jab at millennials is also quite indicative of this persons overall sentiment towards young people, social media and influencers.

“Some send us decks or presentations that are pretty but not tailored to the brand. They’re all nuts. “I want to take a car and pick it up in London and drive it around Europe, so give me $100,000,” they say. Nope, let’s totally never do it that ever. These people don’t understand budgets.”

Does THIS exec even work in marketing? Do he/she know about how budgets work? There’s so many plausible scenarios where this could generate a huge amount of views/exposure and ROI for such a (relatively) small cost to a car maker. If you’re just talking to a random person with 1K followers or something, that’s different but the generalization in this is just ridiculous. I hate this exec.

“We used to pay $800 for 30 or 40 edited images back in 2014. So add the cost of the product, and it would be like $2,500 to shoot and have content for a few weeks. Now, if you work with some big YouTube guys, the Casey Neistats, those types of people charge $300,000 to $500,000, and brands don’t actually own the rights to it.”

The unfair slight against Casey Neistat aside, it’s clear this person is now talking about Instagram based influencers. And it’s also evident they do not understand influencer marketing at all – part of the appeal of working with influencers is that it DOESN’T live as your content, you’ve hired someone who has their own style, audience and relationship with their followers to share your message. They know their audience far better than you do, and it’s important they figure out the proper way to integrate your sponsored content in a way that doesn’t disrespect their audience. Influencers have a very thin tightrope to walk where they want to make money, but they also don’t want to lose their audience. Fans are fickle, if it feels like an ad, they won’t watch.

“Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit.”

This is the first smart thing you’ve said in this entire article, but you should direct it at the brands themselves who spend hundreds of thousands to build followings on social networks with a bunch of fickle fans that only clicked ‘follow’ to enter a contest. Once brands stop focusing on the vanity metrics, they won’t tap agencies to keep putting out shitty content 100 times a day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and instead focus on creating value for their audience. They’ll find perfect influencers to work with, and they will pay them well. They’ll get rid of shitty social media execs like you, and put in people who actually give a damn about delivering results by vetting, valuing, researching and understanding influencers and their audience. Until then, we’ll all have to deal with your garbage I suppose.

As a sidebar to this whole thing – 90% of TV commercials I see are terrible. 90% of print ads I see are awful. 99% of radio ads are just brutal. Influencer marketing isn’t perfect, but nothing ever is. The key isn’t to wholly dismiss the idea of working with influencers and instead spending time to figure out the right people to work with. There’s been great influencers campaigns that have delivered amazing results for clients, and there has been lots of very poor influencer campaigns.

How do you find the right people? That’s YOUR job. That’s why you are being paid. Now get off my lawn.

What PR People Think of Influencers

PR People Think About Influencers

What do PR people think of influencers? Last month, I surveyed PR people from across the country to get an idea of what they thought of influencers, how they could improve and roughly how much they figured they were paying for sponsored campaigns. Today, I’m excited to share the initial results of that survey! For influencers, bloggers, Instagramers and YouTubers there is a significant amount of insight that you can extract from the findings that will help you to be a better influencers, get more sponsored campaigns and work more effectively with PR people.

This is PART ONE of the results – more insight and information will come at a later date. (Oh, and if you want to be the first to know, I sent this information to my influencer list earlier today! You can join the list here.)

PR Demand vs Currently Working With

Demand for Influencers
Click for Larger Image

When asked about what kind of influencers PR companies work with and who they are looking to work with in the future, the answers offer some pretty clear indicators that lifestyle, mom, food, fashion, and beauty influencers are over-saturated, while the demand for other niches, particular male oriented genres are on the rise.

What Makes a Desirable Influencer

Influencer DNA
Click for Larger Image

PR people helped to create the perfect influencer by offering up insight into what they are looking for in an influencer. While having an existing relationship with a PR person doesn’t hurt, it is no indicator that they’ll work with you again – ultimately, it comes down to finding the right fit for the client and the campaign. If you’re the perfect fit, it’s fairly clear that they will pay you more – so don’t feel compelled to drop your rates if you believe you are that perfect influencer!

What Do Influencer Campaigns Pay

Blogger Instagramer Sponsored Rates

If you’ve ever wondered what PR people were paying for sponsored content, below you will find the distribution of what they paid on average over the last year for influencer campaigns. Perhaps you’ve been charging too little, or maybe you’re in an upper group – in either case, this should give you an idea on how to better price yourself when it comes to sponsored campaigns.

Twitter YouTube Sponsored Rates

What PR People Think Influencers Can Improve On

When asked what PR people wished influencers were better at they provided the following insight:

  • ROI – Increasingly, clients are demanding analytics from sponsored campaigns, and influencers who aren’t willing to share theirs are getting removed from influencer lists.
  • Communication is Key – PR would appreciate more communication from their influencers. Simple things like how it’s going, when you anticipate posting, sharing any feedback etc.
  • Stop the Copy/Paste – They hate the trend of paid influencers regurgitating press releases and pitch documents. They want you to create the content in your own style without the crutch of their press releases (besides a key message).
  • Collaborate with the PR Person – Much like how they want the copy/paste to stop, they are willing to help you avoid creating content that looks like an ad. They will work with you to help create something perfect for your audience.
  • Relationship Building – Not every campaign comes with a budget, however they understand that you want to pay your bills. Many brands are unsure about the value of influencer, so they need to see the hints of results before opening the war chest.
  • Timely Posting/Responses – Posting in a timelier fashion would be appreciated and helps to sell you again to a client or other clients. Also, responding to emails within 24-hours should be a priority.
  • Make it Easy For them to Contact You – Prominently displaying your email is important to getting sponsored campaigns. Contact forms on websites are clunky, and more often than not they don’t work properly.

*This survey was conducting during the month of March and had nearly 200 PR respondents.*

Some of the image files were sourced from Freepik.com

Five Tips to Creating Sponsored Content

Create Sponsored Content

I recently wrote a post on what to charge for sponsored content. The post clearly resonated as there was a lot of feedback sent my way via Twitter and Facebook. As a result, I wanted to follow up on that post with an important add on – what NOT to do with Sponsored Content. There are so many people who are creating sponsored content that is not only ineffective at delivering results for the brand, but are generally just not interesting for the reader, and damaging to the creator themselves. I know these things because I’ve made all of these mistakes before – but rather than having to learn the hard way, I’ll pass on my insight so you can avoid it ahead of time!

Avoid this Mistakes When Creating Sponsored Content

1. Never hide the fact that sponsored content IS sponsored content. While disclosure was a bit of a question in the early days of influencer marketing, in 2016 there is no excuse for not disclosing when content has been financially supported. In fact, failing to disclose is illegal in the UK and US, and will likely be required by law in Canada very soon. Beyond the legal aspects of disclosure, failing to be open with your audience is a recipe for disaster. The people reading are there because (presumably) they like your content and while they may not necessarily enjoy content that’s been financially tinted, they will appreciate and respect you for being forward about it.

2. Never charge less than what you think you are worth. Too many creators undervalue their content and it not only devalues yourself, but it sets a precedent that can be difficult to escape. Yes, you can slowly increase your rate, but if you set it too low initially, it can take a very long time to get to a better number. You are far better off declining lowball offers and holding out for the money you believe you are worth. Granted, that sentiment is contingent on your price being reasonably set, as holding out for an absurd amount of money is unlikely to happen. So, with that said, once you have your price in mind do not stray far from it (unless your platform grows or declines, in which case adjust accordingly).

Money
Image credit to Colleen Kong-Savage.

3. Creating sponsored content that doesn’t fit naturally within your existing content is a fools errand. This is the one that most content creators struggle with. The number of crowbar fits I’ve seen in recent months is truly disappointing. “Here is a story about my life that I think you will find interesting. The funny part about this story is how this sponsoring brand has nothing to do with this, but I’ve found a loose connection between the two.” Doing these kind of sponsored pieces (and I’m no saint, I’ve done them) doesn’t benefit you in the long run. Your audience will be annoyed, and brands will read your lazy content and not want to work with you again.

4. Don’t become a hub of sponsored content. When it rains it pours, and as you start creating sponsored content, other brands are going to want a piece of the action. The natural tendency is to pad your pockets with all that cash and keep the train rolling, but what it does is kills your audience and your creativity. When you do things ‘just for the money’, your content suffers immensely. Instead of creating content out of passion, (the reason you have gotten to where you are), doing it for money results in poorly written and bland content. Your audience will notice and they will leave. Engagement drops off, interest dies and eventually the brands will catch on and leave you high and dry. Sponsored content can/should be part of the mix, but it can’t be the reason you exist.

Low Content

5. Lastly, don’t cut corners when creating sponsored content. Too many creators spend less time on their sponsored content than they do on their regular stuff – and it shows. I’d argue that you should spend TWICE as much time to develop and create the best possible sponsored content you possibly can. The simple fact it’s paid for means that it already has a strike against it from the reader, so make it truly great and kill that sentiment with quality.

Now, empowered with some tips on what NOT to do with sponsored content, you’ll be better prepared to create a long and fruitful career of sponsored content that fits in (or is better than) your usual content. There is literally no excuse for a lot of the cheaty/lazy content that currently gets created right now, so don’t be one of those people. Instead, go out there and create sponsored content that amazes your readers and brings in new ones!

Also: Link what you feel is your BEST sponsored content you’ve created below! It would be good to see quality content from a bunch of different creators!

What to Charge for Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content

There will come a time in every content creators digital lives where a brand wants you to create a piece of sponsored content. You’ve spent months, or even years building and nurturing an audience so now you have an opportunity to make a little bit of cash from your passion – it’s a great feeling! That said, it can also come with some confusion and worry on what to charge for that sponsored content. Do you charge hourly on what you’re worth? Or is it a flat rate? Is it too much or too little? How do you get paid? When do you get paid? What are the expectations? The questions can be overwhelming. Hopefully, this post will help you calm your fears and give you some insight into how I have priced myself in the past, and how you can figure out what to charge for sponsored content. Just keep in mind that this is only about the money, and I’ll have to write a follow up post that answers all those other questions!

What To Charge for Sponsored Content

Alright, so a brand or PR person has come to you asking for a rate on what you charge for a sponsored post. (Keep in mind in writing this that I’m primarily a blogger, but you can apply some of this knowledge to yourself if you’re a YouTuber or Instagramer). Perhaps you haven’t done sponsored content before, or you haven’t done it in a while and you’re not exactly sure what your market value is. It’s also important to remember that this isn’t charity – they aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they want results that they hope you can deliver, so there’s a balancing act between getting paid and offering value. To get a very basic starting point, you can check out Social Blue Book, which acts like a pricing tool for YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Most people find that the rates there are on the low side, so I’d use it as an absolute lowest point (for most).

Sponsored Content

Now unfortunately, there is no clear cut equation that you can plug in your stats/name/engagement numbers and it delivers you a perfect answer. Does your mobile friendly site matter? What about past content ? How about how nice you are? These are all things that probably do have some impact on what you can charge but are nearly impossible to set a value to. The best I can offer is an example of what I base my own sponsored rates on. It comes down to eight categories that include time, traffic, niche, engagement, social, my position, quality and the brand. Let me explain each one…

  • Time – When it comes to content creation, on average it takes me 6 hours to create a great post, images, social sharing etc. What hourly rate do I feel I am worth? That’s an important starting point for me, and can sometimes change depending on how good of a run I’m on.
  • Traffic – Traffic fluctuates all the time. What has the last three months looked like? How many readers will read the post? Obviously I’m going to charge more for more reader.
  • Niche – Lifestyle, beauty and fashion creators are a dime a dozen, so they don’t get much of a boost. But a very specific niche demands higher rates due to supply and demand.
  • Engagement – How engaged is the audience? Do they comment/share? This used to be a very important metric, then it died out as numbers became the more important thing (and thus people buying followers), but is seeing a revival in importance. If you can’t show engagement, you may not be able to charge as much.
  • Social – What kind of impressions will I get via my other social profiles? It’s a vanity metric, but it’s important and there’s little differentiation between real and fake.
  • Position – What’s my position in the social media scene? In Toronto’s social media scene, I’m fairly well known as cocky/silly as that sounds and as such, I do charge a premium.
  • Quality – How great will the content I create be? Or, how poor will it be? If I think I can create something that will deliver results years into the future (I write something evergreen and useful), then I will definitely charge more than I would for a short term post that only has relevance for weeks.
  • Brand – What brand is wanting to sponsor me? For a big multi-national, I will always charge them more and offer discounted rates for a small business or a non-profit.

Sponsored Content

So all these things considered, how do you set your sponsored content rate? This is the rough math that I use to determine my own rate. It is in NO WAY a perfect solution, you may find a million flaws in it, and it may not work for you – the key is to find your own equation that you feel is reasonable.

My time is worth $50/hour x 6 hours = $300
Add to it based on my traffic numbers at $10/1000 = $400
Lifestyle is not a specific niche, so no bonus = $400
Engagement levels are good, but could be better, so a 10% bonus = $440
Social numbers (in this case Twitter) at $3/1000 = $464
Position bonus that I set at ~$100 = $564
Quality, if I can make it evergreen +$100, if not, $0 = $664
Brand, major brands (x 1.1), non-profits (/1.3), small business (/1.5)
So in this case the rough estimate would be ~$700 for big brands. ~$500 for non-profits. ~$450 for small business.

Again, find the math that works for you, perhaps you value your traffic numbers higher or your time worth less. Maybe your following is small, but you feel they are more engaged. Hopefully, with this you can get a starting point on what to charge for sponsored content. I would LOVE to hear from you guys, particularly those who’ve done sponsored content before – how do go about determining what you charge for sponsored content? Is it a math equation, has it been a guess, do you just ask friends what they charge and base it on that? The more insight into this, the better it will help others!

Disturbing Trend: Trading Control for Cash

Trading Control Mouse Trap

There is a scary trend that is making it’s way into the lives of influencers – trading control for cash. There are a lot of things you can do to make money when it comes to content creation, whether that’s blogging or Instagram or YouTube, but the one thing you should never do is trade your independence as a creator for that money. Not only is it damaging to your brand and the years of work you spent on building your audience, but it’s damaging to your character in a way that you are unlikely to recover from – your viewers/readers will notice. Not only that, but it can come back to haunt you.

I’ve been talking to a lot of YouTubers over the last year about the business of video creation, making money, and their major fears. YouTube is a great proving ground because success is seen immediate, engagement is high, and view counts are public. Almost universally, the conversation is the same – Adsense money isn’t reliable, so the best way to make a living is through brand deals and the biggest fear is turning off their audience. The problem with those deals, is even the best fitted branded content still generate a kind of ‘ugh’ sentiment from the audience. As such, it’s so crucial that they control the content to minimize that risk.

The Value of Influencers

The blogging world is different – it’s a lot more competitive, there are a lot more creators and the barrier to entry is very low. As such, trying to make a living through a blog is a much more difficult proposition, even if you have a large audience. This plays well to brands who, in recent years, have seen the value of paying influencers. In 2015, a survey conducted said that every $1 spent on influencers delivers $6.85 in earned media value. That in mind, there are a lot of options for brands to work with and influencers are starting to see the negative effects of that.

Trading Control (and Worse) for Cash

Over the last year, I’ve been witnessing a disturbing trend where marketing companies have been setting up new arms of their business that cater directly to influencers. These businesses come with names derived from community and tribes, talk of empowering you as a creator, with major brands and the promise of cash, CASH CAAA$$$$$HHHHHH!!! Once intrigued, you sign up and they ask you to fill out a contract to get access… this is where the danger starts. We’ve been trained to just accept terms of service, and assume this is the same deal – until you actually read them. In one particularly lengthy 5000 word contract, the following contract stipulations were mentioned:

  • You lose control of your content now, perpetually and retroactively – they can require you delete or edit anything you’ve ever posted about their clients.
  • You can’t exit the contract, ever. Only they can end the contract.
  • You’re held to the laws of Florida, a notoriously terrible court. (The company isn’t even based there but know they get the benefit of picking it.) Yes, as a Canadian doing business with Canadian companies exclusively in Canada, you’d still be held to US law.
  • They have final say on the content you post – including the ability to change entire wording.

Influencers Business

As creators, you need to start thinking of yourselves as businesses, and not as individuals making a few bucks on the side for your hobby. Contracts are a very serious thing, and you should never be signing anything without first reading it thoroughly. You should probably hire a lawyer. Treating contracts flippantly is a recipe for disaster – imagine 10 years down the road and you have a negative experience you write about, if it’s one of their current clients, they could have you (legally) remove it… or worse, sue you (and due to your contract, you’ll probably lose.) Can you afford to sign a blanket contract today that will stay with you for the rest of your life?

The allure of money is a definite incentive to signing up for these services, but the reality is they come with some real dangers that may not immediately be felt. As creators, always put your content first and when a brand deal is proposed, make sure that the agreement is fair. If a contract has you trading control of the content, that is a warning sign that you should address immediately. No one is going to know your audience better than yourself, why do they think cash should change that?

PS. If you’re a creator, please take a second to fill out this survey.

Blog Lesson: Brand Loyalty, Starbucks

As we edge closer to spring and eventually summer, I find myself slowly warming up to the social media community again. After burning out on it from my year long project, I started the year off just wanting to be a hermit – and thankfully, due the horrific weather we’ve been having, that has been quite doable! Encouraged even. In the same vein, I’ve been taking on so much writing for other websites and for clients that my own key bashing here has been greatly decreased. But as mentioned 86 words ago, I think my hibernation is coming to an end! In fact, I’ve even got a few posts in the works that are sure to ruffle some feathers – why not start today!

Dear New Bloggers (cause the old ones won’t listen to my words of wisdom),

Welcome to the world of blogging. If you’re from Toronto, you’ve successfully picked the best and worst place to blog. Chances are if you’ve been around for less than a year, you’ve already been caught up in some kind of weird blogger drama with someone else and you now consider them your nemesis. Good for you, that’s a crucial step to success because without competition you’re never going to be better than you are. However, don’t make the mistake of confusing competition with being able to do it alone. It’s a mistake I’ve made in the past and it will hinder your growth. But, then I remembered why it happened – too many egos. Unnecessary and unfounded egos get in the way of getting things done. Today’s new blogger has a built in ego that is miles above whatever egos I ran into a few years ago. Here’s something to consider… 99% of you bloggers are not nor will you ever be anyone – shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhocking.

Anyone1

But enough of the snark, let me give you some advice on being a better blogger. Blogging starts off being something personal. It’s a good way to share your thoughts with the world, whether they are reading or not. It’s a wonderful way to document your life and have something to look back on. But what too many bloggers fall into is the ‘brand trap’. Now, working with brands is a great way to add some spice to your own life, get some exciting content and some good memories. It’s also a good way to get swag, gifts and other perks. The problem comes when you’re not willing to have some brand standards on who you want to work with. You see, many people come to read your blog because they like the way you write, the like the stuff you say and they may even trust your opinion. This relationship with your reader is something you should NEVER betray, lest you decide to hang up the blogger gloves.

Last year, I worked with a lot of brands on my year long project. It was necessary to survive – and it was only accepted by the audience that read because they knew the name of the game. But here on ZachBussey.com, I work with a very strict set of brands. For example Starbucks Canada, who have been great partners with me for years now. It’s a relationship that people know I have with them – I love their coffee and the brand, and as such we have a working relationship. In fact, I was at a private coffee tasting yesterday morning where I had the opportunity to sample different blends – much like a wine tasting. The event was a way to bring me (and @BrockMcLaughlin, @StephanieFusco and @JayneSmiles) into the fold on the coffee tastings they are hosting Today, Tomorrow and Friday at their locations nationwide! More details on that below, plus a little giveaway. The point I’m trying to make is that people know my relationship with the brand. The blogger trap occurs when you as a blogger are willing to work with any and every brand who is willing to send you anything.

NobodyTrustsYou
(Real example. Different phones. Three weeks, promoting 3 different phone companies. Yuck.)

What too many bloggers do is work with Brand 1 and then they’ll work with competing brands 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. To date, most PR people and brands don’t much care how disloyal you are, they just want the numbers. But that will change (there’s already software to determine how ‘loyal’ a blogger/social media user is to a brand, and it’s starting to find it’s way into the hands of PR people), and when it does, those opportunities will go away because your reputation will be zilch. At the same time, whenever you start working with a different brand – your readers will start to talk. Words like ‘sell out’ start to pop up. Your opinion loses value because you can’t be trusted to provide on honest one. And let’s not even talk about making money to write your opinion – just go read @CPantazis‘ blog post called ‘So, You Think You Should Make Money Blogging‘. So my advice to you is to find and create long term brand partnerships for your blog – you’ll still be a ‘sell out’, but one that doesn’t compromise your integrity as everyone knows your long term partnership.

That, or just keep doing what you’re doing because at the end of the day, I don’t read your boring, formulaic, self absorbed jargon. Your cut and paste blog style adds little value to my life and the lives of others, and I know you’re just doing this for the stuff while it lasts. But, if you have any desire or care at all about your image, maybe you’ll take a little bit of my advice.

Starbucks-Gift-Bag

Now onto the greatness that is Starbucks, because Coffee is for Closers!

As mentioned above, Starbucks is hosting coffee tastings (free coffee and you don’t even need to blog about it!) Each of the tastings will be from 2-3PM at participating company owned stores in the country, and each day is a different blend.

  • Today, (March 27th) True North, aka the Blonde Roast will be available in stores to taste.
  • Tomorrow, (March 28th) Pike Place, their medium roast which is probably the most commonly consumed Starbucks blend.
  • Friday, (March 29th) Tribute Blend, the seasonal dark roast which was supposed to just be a one time thing, ended up being so widely loved that they brought it back permanently will be available.

As a bonus, I’ve got a little gift bag to giveaway! The bag is worth about $75, and contains one 1lb bags of True North, Pike Place and Tribute Blend PLUS a $25 gift card to Starbucks!

Starbucks-Coffee-Gift-Bag

How do you win? Well, because I’m done with the terribly boring and spammy ‘tweet this to win’ nonsense, instead… contribute to the discussion. Talk about anything below, tweet me something, comment on something posted on Facebook. It need not be specific to Starbucks, just something useful! Social media has largely lost a lot of the social! I’ll loosely keep track of messages, conversation threads or anything else that added value to my day over the next 36 hours and then draw someone at random who’ll win!  Not too shabby!

Dating for Dinners, and Toronto’s Social Dynamics

Erin Wotherspoon is her name, and she’s dating her way through Toronto’s finest restaurants. She’s also documenting each of her dates in a series of snarky blog posts aimed at the objects who are paying. (Yes, that’s right. The objectification of men = their wallets.) She’s set up profiles on many well known dating websites, and based on her blog – accepts any offer that includes a great meal. She’s allegedly 24, but I’ve also seen articles say she’s 23, and one that said 22. She’s a self described “bleach blonde, about 5’6, slim build” and has “a pretty face with an extensive urban spoon wishlist,”.

I’ve long known that Toronto is a different place than anywhere else in Canada. It’s far more cutthroat. It’s a lot more vicious. It’s a lot less community and lot more self made. It has less friends and more frenemies. Now try to date in a city that has this kind of mentality and you’re in for a world of hurt – I know, I’ve been doing it for years and had my share of dating nightmares. So when I read this story, my immediate reaction was one of disinterest and acceptance – I’ve dated this girl already, I’ve been on a bunch of first dates with her and the end result was always the same. I grab the bill, not to impress her, but because I asked her out and I picked the place. Am I just a chivalrous guy? Not really, the truth is if she made an issue about the place I was taking her and wanted to go somewhere else – I’d insist she pay. (I could explain my rational in detail – but I won’t in this post.)

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Reddit learned about the girl recently and she’s received a fair amount of media attention, naturally, she also received backlash. The comments have been a mix of You Go Girl and Burn The Witch, from “Love this! Guys deserve it,” to “I hope she ends up on a date with Jeffrey Dahmer.” Of course, those are the extreme – but it seems this is a story that only inspires extreme opinions. You’re either vehemently in support or against – which is more a testament to what we’ve degenerated into as a society. See: Government Shutdown. But it has certainly left people debating the ethics of her actions.

My thought on it are pretty straightforward. I generally think that two consenting adults should be allowed to do what they want to do. If a man goes into the date hoping to get into Erin’s pants, that’s his prerogative. Erin is going into the date hoping to get a free meal, that’s her prerogative. If a guy and Erin are on a date, and they decide to continue it to a point where both get what they wanted out of it – perfect and if not, that’s fine too. So, while I see nothing ethically wrong with Erin’s choice – what I do question is the lying. Erin has admitted to pretending to be what she’s not and that’s the ethical problem here. I’d also argue she would get just as many dates if she was honest about her intent, mostly because men love the chase. So Erin, if you are reading this – just say that in your dating profiles “I’m looking to casually date, mostly for the dinners.” Then, no one is being lead on and a month/year/decade down the road you won’t have any feelings of remorse.

With that said, I think the most disappointing thing about this story is that it solidifies a belief I’ve had for a long time – spawned by Erin but confirmed through the endless divisive comments on each of the media articles. Men continue to accept (and often encourage) the second class behaviour of pretty women. I don’t get it. I’ve been on dates very attractive women who thought they could treat me badly because they are used to guys just accepting it, and I walked out on the date explaining that she wouldn’t accept that from me, so I wouldn’t accept it from her. We’re adults, I expect us to act it. And if we’re being honest… I don’t think Erin is as attractive as she thinks she is.

DatingDinners

Sidenote: When did dating become such a ‘winner’ based task? Woman gets free dinner, she wins. Man gets sex, he wins. How sad. How very sad and depressing. Again, maybe it’s the social dynamics that exist in Toronto and elsewhere people aren’t so militant in their dating habits… but in Toronto it’s evident that this is the way of things based on all the comments I’ve been reading.

Overall, there’s certainly reason to be angry at this and there’s certainly reasons to be in support of this. Ethically there’s nothing wrong with the act itself. Two consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want to do. The problem lies in Erin’s lying (and wearing sweatpants to a date – that’s not even 2nd class.. it’s classless. CORRECTION: She’s not the one in the sweatpants.) and men’s continued stupidity overall. We really are, by and large, pretty dumb as men. We see attractive features and we just accept whatever happens next. Yuck.