One of the most common questions we get asked here at FBC is "why didn't I get picked for the last campaign?". In fact, we get asked that all the time.
Despite the fact that we have said time and time again that traffic is not the deciding factor in how brands make their decisions, we know nobody believes us! (If you don't believe us, check out what PR professional Heather Travis has to say on small blog numbers!).
So before we get into the the reasons you're not getting chosen for brand campaigns, let's talk about traffic and social reach.
Traffic and Social Reach Matter - But Not as Much As You Think
Yes, your traffic matters. So does your social reach. Think of yourself as a newspaper or magazine. Your readership and social reach are like your circulation numbers. When companies look at where to spend their advertising dollars of course they're going to look at your numbers. That's part of making a smart business decision - they want their message to get in front of eyeballs.
But just like magazines - sometimes it makes sense to advertise in a smaller circulation magazine that's niche. Let's say you make handmade dog toys. You could choose to advertise in a large circulation lifestyle magazine, where maybe 30-50% of the readers have a dog. But if you advertise in a magazine specifically for dog lovers (but that has a much smaller circulation), you know that probably very close to 100% of the readers have a dog, or are considering getting one.
That smaller magazine may be the better investment for your marketing dollars! In the first publication you'll get a lot of eyes on your product but how many of them are potential buyers? In the second, you'll get fewer eyes but almost all of them are potential customers! The same holds true for blogs. A small niche blog can be just as valuable (sometimes more so) than a general blog with a larger audience. Something to think about!
So yes, your reach is an important piece of the puzzle - it's just not the only piece. Virtually every campaign we've worked on has had bloggers with less than 5K page views chosen to take part - because they are the right fit for the brand.
Blaming your traffic numbers is an excuse that just doesn't cut it.
Let's have some real talk here.
When you apply for a brand campaign with FBC you are competing, on average, with 70 or 80 other people for 10 to 20 spots. The vast majority of people who apply are in the same traffic bracket - we know because we see the stats before they're sent to the brand or PR agency. The people with the monster stats, rarely apply. They don't need to - they're commanding dollars that are much higher than most of our public member opportunities provide. (When they do apply it's because they see the opportunity as having more value than just the dollar value.) So you're rarely competing with them.
When everyone applying for the same 10 spots has very similar traffic numbers, brands have to look at everything else - and they do.
So here they are - the top 5 reasons bloggers don't get chosen for brand campaigns (and you may not like the answers)
1. Your Photography Just Isn't Good Enough
Hands down, the number one reason we hear from brands is "the content's good but the photography just isn't great compared to these other blogger.s" If you want brand opportunities and you're not getting them, take a good hard look at your images. Are they well lit? Are they blurry? Are they styled well? Are they orange? Are they too small?
When a brand is paying for advertising, they want their product shown in the absolute best possible light and food is a visual medium. If you don't have good photography, you're not going to get the job.
If you think this might apply to you, invest in your photography. Take a photography class, read photography resources and learn about post-processing. You don't need the most expensive camera or lenses. You just need to know how to light, style, focus and post-process properly.
2. You've Worked With the Brand's Competitor Recently
If you've worked with a brand's direct competitor in the last 3 months, 6 months, year (it depends on the brand) you're almost always struck off the list. When brands have to cut 60 people from the list, they go for the most obvious issues.
Sometimes, identifying a competitor isn't as easy as it seems. Think about a grocery store and how it's laid out. Odds are good that if you worked with a product that shares shelf space very closely with another product, they're competitors.
3. Agricultural and Commodity Groups Represent ALL their Farmers
Agricultural groups and marketing boards usually represent and promote all the farmers of their product regardless of whether they're organic or conventional growers. They are not in a position to promote one type of farming over another. So if you are a blogger who heavily promotes organic ingredients you may not be the right fit. You may be better off looking to work with brands that specifically identify with organic farming.
4. Your On-Line Behaviour
How do you behave on social media? Brands tend to err on the cautious side of things. Now this doesn't apply to all brands but this is where it's important to understand a brand's positioning in the marketplace before you apply for an opportunity. If the brand is conservative or family-oriented, they're going to think twice about working with somebody who's dropping f-bombs on their blog or social feeds. On the flip side, a brand that has an edgy, indie vibe might think that same person is perfect for their campaign!
Have you ever called out a brand on your blog or on social media? How did you handle it? Were you aggressive, passive aggressive, rude or antagonistic? Other brands and agencies see that and you can easily find yourself on a "no go" list. Remember, when you're a blogger, you are your brand. How you behave on-line directly impacts your career. Nobody wants to work with a loose cannon or somebody who's unprofessional.
5. Your Ad Placements
The practice of placing ads in the body of your blog post (as opposed to the sidebar, header or footer) is becoming increasingly common. But, be careful with the placement and quantity - especially the quantity.
Not only do ads affect your reader's experience, they can also deter a brand from working with you. In recent months, we've had several potential campaign participants be passed over due to the number of ads within their post bodies. While brands are concerned that a competitor's ad may appear in their sponsored post, most know that they can request the ads be turned off for their particular post. Instead, they're more concerned about the overall reader experience when there is an ad after every second paragraph and they don't want their brand or product associated with a poor overall experience.
We know that for many of you, ad income is a big part of your blog's revenue model so we don't want to tell you to stop running those particular ads (and to be clear, this is not about ads you run in your sidebars, header or footer - those are fine. This is specifically about ads that appear within the body of your post). Instead, try to find a balance between the number of ads you run inside your actual post content and the user's experience.
So, to summarize here are the top 5 reasons you're losing out on blogger campaigns, that have nothing to do with your blog's traffic:
- Poor photography
- Working with a brand's competitor within a recent time frame
- Not understanding a brand or organization's overall purpose and messaging
- Your on-line persona may not be a good fit for the brand
- Your ad placements may be perceived as providing a poor reader experience
Melissa Hartfiel is a co-founder of FBC and is the site’s Managing Editor. She’s a graphic designer who writes, doodles, photographs and eats chocolate and drinks tea. She blogs about food, photography and creativity at her own blog, Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn.