Welcome to Week 2 on my series of resources for bloggers. Every week we will discuss a resource to get freebies, collect PR samples to review, networking with other bloggers, connecting with brands, and even earning a bit of cash on the side from sites that I know from personal experience are not scams. I will never recommend a site, app, or resource that I have not personally used and trust.
If you missed it, check out Week 1: Crowdtap
Even if you already know about BrandBacker, or you aren’t interested, you might enjoy a read through this, or at least Ctrl+F your way to “Blogger Reality Check” because I’m a little fed up with three major mistakes bloggers make when it comes to reviews – you should be too!
Week 2: BrandBacker
100% free to sign up.
TO MY KNOWLEDGE, BrandBacker is currently available in most countries. I could not find a specific listing of availability, if you have updated info on this please let me know and I will update this.
BrandBacker is a resource I have used for several months, and I wanted to include it for the following reasons:
- You can form relationships with brands, without spamming them.
- Many companies approve both smaller and larger bloggers/vloggers.
- There are a variety of product types available to apply for.
- This is one of the first resources I discovered: because of fellow bloggers.
- I was approved for 3 campaigns within 6 months of starting my blog.
What You Need:
- An email account to sign up.
- A blog or YouTube channel.
- a Facebook PAGE
This Resource Involves:
- Setting up your profile, and keeping your stats up to date.
- Checking the website at least once per week, and applying for campaigns.
- Being declined… a lot, or ignored, and not getting discouraged.
- Submitting posts for approval BEFORE publishing them.
- Including a piece of code that allows BrandBacker to track it’s statistics.
What It Offers:
- Connections to brands.
- PR samples when approved for a campaign.
- Payment for reviews and videos. (based on your requested amount, if approved)
- **Potential to earn money if you refer brands.
**I will not be touching more on earning money from brand referrals, as this is an opportunity I have not utilized or tried to utilize. If you refer a brand and they start a campaign, you can earn $50 per brand. That’s what I know.**
Why Is This Available?
Bloggers and Vloggers can make a product and brand SKYROCKET. Think of all the brands you know about because of someone on social media. Jeffree Star? ColourPop? I know there’s more for me. Whether it’s an established brand or an indie brand, it can majorly benefit companies to get these into the hands of the community it relates to and get real reviews. Don’t you feel safer purchasing something with a few decent or critical reviews, than a brand new product that might suck?
How To Get Approved For BrandBacker Campaigns:
Setting Up Your Profile:
“Apply” to sign up: Include your name, email, channel, and city/state/country. You may need to wait to hear back from them for “approval”
Fill in the title of your channel, and a short bio about yourself that brands will read to help them decide if you’re the right person for their needs.
Select the categories you write/talk about. The options are Women’s Fashion, Health & Fitness, Kids & Parenting, Men’s Fashion, Music & Film, Crafts & DIY, Beauty, Food, Travel.
Add a photo! BrandBacker gives you a helpful hint in the sidebar that profile photos give you a 50% higher chance of being selected by a brand. (Personally I think this is because they realize if you go in depth in your profile, you will also go in depth with your review)
Add tags of the topics you normally post about. For instance, mine include things like Skincare, Makeup, Beauty, and Subscription Box.
Include the 3 top countries your followers are from. (you can find this in your stats on most blogging platforms) and the languages you post in.
Include your blog or YouTube channel (both, if you have them!) as well as your Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
NOTE: One thing that really bothers me about BrandBacker is your stats for these are not always up to date. It says I have about 1/4th the Pinterest followers I do, and is missing over 40 people on Instagram. It also doesn’t include my blog followers AT ALL in my number. I actually contacted them about this today and will update this and potentially post a follow up if it’s solved.
You will need to confirm your blog by adding one of the BrandBacker badges available to your homepage (sidebar or footer, basically). You can confirm the other channels by following BrandBacker on each of them.
Include your demographics, from age to ethnicity to marital status. This helps them match you to campaigns whether they are going very targeted, or trying to hit different demographics across the market.
Set your compensation settings, while you can adjust what you’re requesting on a per campaign basis, if you include your defaults of what you want to be paid or what you’re looking for, it can help brands search for you if they need extra people (and can help YOU not scramble to remember what you normally ask for!)
You can include monetary amounts for doing a Blog Post, YouTube Video, Facebook Post, SnapChat Story, Instagram Post, Twitter Post, Pinterest Post, and Vine Post, all separately priced. You can also choose your Payout Method of PayPal, Mailed Check, or Western Union, and this is the page that you’ll add your mailing address for when you are approved for campaigns that involve samples (or if they mail you a check).
NOTE: I have not applied for paid posts, because personally this isn’t something I’m a large enough commodity to feel the need to do, and I feel that my reviews are more unbiased and natural when it’s something I am given with the opportunity to give a real review, rather than having money tempt me into making the brand feel good.
Applying For A Campaign:
Check the site often. They seem to pop up semi randomly/regularly, and there might be 6 open at once, or just one! But if there is one open that you think is something worth while, you have about a week to apply.
This is where you’ll find everything you can apply for: the Opportunities page. Visit it often by going to the top bar.
You can see here that there is only one open opportunity that I have not applied for (and won’t be applying for, this is a YouTube opportunity, it says so at the end of a very long title).
You can see that I applied for the Probiotics campaign and that my app is neither accepted nor declined. (though honestly, half the time this means they just don’t bother going through and saying no)
And you can see that my Mineral Wet and Dry Powder Foundation application was declined. (which again honestly… probably wouldn’t have been light enough for me, so no big deal)
But that’s what I mean when I say expect rejection. Tons of people apply, and they might decline because they don’t like your stats, or they might think you won’t like the product or that it won’t work for you, OR… they might already have enough people. I have a lot sitting at App Under Review that I can pretty much tell you they’ll never touch again. God knows why. Maybe they expect someone to drop out and want back-ups?
But you WILL get approved for some campaigns. Valentia is a brand that definitely goes for even new bloggers. I’ve seen their products being sent out to girls with literally under 30 followers on their blog (I don’t know their social media stats, but I know at least 2 of those bloggers did NOT use social media for their blogging). They launch and relaunch things on their site regularly, and I’ve received both products I’ve applied for of theirs, even at the very start of my time on BrandBacker. You can see my review for Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum (which I ran out of and really, REALLY miss), and the Valentia Skin Detoxifying Clay Mask.
Campaigns will list their requirements/preferred specs in the sidelines, and will list all of the information about the company and the product in the body of their campaign page. Read through everything. They also list everything they offer.
DO NOT just apply for everything because it’s free or may get you money. We’ll talk about ethics later this week, but apply to things that you genuinely believe in or think would be something that would benefit you and your readers/followers. You won’t get penalized for this on the site, but astute followers can tell if you just get everything you can get free, or if you believe in what you review. (or at least wanted to believe in it)
How BrandBacker Applications Work:
When you go to apply, a pop up will appear that will give you opportunities to tell the company anything you think they should know to help them decide if you’re the right fit. This is your pitch to the brand. A mini job interview. Convince them. Some brands might not read it, but it might make or break whether you get the campaign. This pop up will also give you the opportunity to clarify what you’re requesting. These are usually free sample, and sometimes also paid post, I always set mine to Yes samples and No paid post.
Seriously. Proofread your pitch. If you sound immature and incapable here, why would they want you to represent their brand?
NOTE: Most of the time, there’s an error on the preview page where one edge of the “pitch” you gave are cut off, this is just in that view. The brand should really get the whole thing!
If anyone is interested in tips on how to pitch to a brand, let me know. This was a large part of my studies in college, and I’ve been on both ends of it, pitching and reviewing pitches.
Once you’ve applied, you’ll be able to look at the Campaign Progress tab, and you will have the opportunity to leave the campaign. This is also where you’ll later see what links you need to include, update your submission due date, etc.
What To Do When You’re Approved:
After you’ve gotten whatever materials you need, check them in on the site, this will give you a submission deadline of 7 days out from the date you checked it in, but you can change this date. You actually need it in BEFORE this date, so if you chose August 30th, you’d need to submit by August 29th to them. I’ve moved a review out 3 weeks before, it doesn’t even need to be approved.
Take photos in their best condition possible (aka, before you’ve used them) as well as after. There will someday be a case where the product looks like crap after you’ve used it, or it’s a foil packet and now it’s ripped open and sticky. You’ll thank me later for those first pics.
You legally cannot use product images unless the brand tells you that you can. And it’s just good practice to take your own photos.
BLOGGER REALITY CHECK #1:
Really, REALLY BIG reality check from a photographer: no, it’s actually not a better photo if you lay a random product in the grass. It’s not artistic, it’s not better, it’s just overdone. You can do it, but I want to tear my hair out when I see comments on how amazing an out of focus laid in a bush or on the grass product shot is when it’s something that has nothing to do with nature. You are creative enough to be a blogger -you are creative enough to not rely on this. I have faith in you. Don’t prove me wrong.
Test the product, obviously. And more than once, unless it’s somehow a one time use thing, which they’ve never given me a sample that small. Test it as many times as you need, to KNOW how you feel. To know whether you can rest your name and your blogs reputation on. Do YOU still take someone seriously when you KNOW they didn’t test it thoroughly and still rave about how wonderful it is? No? Me either.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of reviews that go up 2 days after the code to claim something on Amazon was sent out. So they’ve MAYBE had it a day, if they got 1 day shipping.
Mini Blogger Reality Check: Guess what? Every other blogger that got that product could call you out for lying and forever brand you as unreliable. The brands know too.
WRITING THE REVIEW:
Now it’s time to write, or record. I’m a blogger, so I’m going to give you the next piece of information from the writing perspective, but it 1000% applies to Vloggers too.
Go back to the assignment and check both tabs and make sure you include any links they ask for, and meet any other requirements.
(if you want to skip a rant, skip to Disclaimer Required, if you want something that will actually make your blog stand out, from someone that studied Advertising and Marketing, read on)
BLOGGER REALITY CHECK #2:
This isn’t BrandBacker specific. But this is the biggest piece of advice I can give you. Stand out. DON’T just write a review. Write a tutorial. Write a “10 facts about” list. Include your review in a piece of something useful. Show what it really did for you. SOMETHING ACTUALLY USEFUL TO SOMEONE.
Two types of people are going to come across review posts: People that have never heard of the product but have heard of you, and people that are searching for answers of if it works for x issue of theirs.
Do you think your subscribers read every “REVIEW:” you post? Chances are they don’t, unless they literally idolize you, or they’re related to you. So give them a reason to care.
In the title, include what it does. “The New Vegan Serum for Beautiful Skin” was way more helpful to my readers than “REVIEW: Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum” I could have also named it “The Vegan Serum That Cleared Up My Acne In 2 weeks”
I can find a review, on their site. I can find their facts, on their site. If I came looking for information about whether the product was good, and came across your blog? You did literally nothing to impact my purchase.
I will now remember your blog with the fact that it wasted my time, and will not be likely to click on future reviews from you.
When these campaigns are launched, I scroll through and see dozens, if not hundreds, of reviews titled all the same thing, and you know the majority of the people liking or commenting? Just the other people that got to review the product too. If you don’t make yourself unique, if you don’t have something special to offer, WHY is someone going to interact with it? I’ve seen amazing bloggers fall back on things with the dreaded basic “REVIEW: ____________” or worse, “BRANDBACKER REVIEW: _______” format. Stawwwwpppppp.
Ideally, your paid reviews or PR sample reviews should be no different than your other reviews, except for a disclaimer. Your content should flow and look like it all belongs to you. No cop out reviews/titles, anywhere.
Pleeeease give yourself, and the companies, more respect than being one of a thousand generic “this is this, I got it from this, it claims this, you can get it here” outlines.
HOW TO WRITE A DISCLAIMER & YOUR LEGAL OBLIGATION:
Include your disclaimer IN YOUR REVIEW. Your disclaimer page does ZIP NADA NOTHING for you legally if you do not disclose clearly and in a place that people can see it. Your best bet is at the start of a post, as well as preferably near any links you give, ESPECIALLY if you receive anything for affiliation or referral, and include it at the end of the post too, just to make sure!
The most generic way to word this is “I received this product at a discount in exchange for my honest review” but you can make it your style and say it more like “I got the opportunity to try this product at a discount and share my experience with you guys!” Be very obvious you got it discounted, and that your review is not affected by it. (other than, you know, it existing in the first place)
You are not obligated to state how much the discount was, and actually, many companies prefer that you don’t, since that could give future customers a feeling of “well they got this for x price so I should too”.
So you wrote your review? Now what? DON’T POST IT.
BLOGGER REALITY CHECK #3:
PROOFREAD FOR F**KS SAKE. If your grammar sucks, ask someone else to proofread it. And ALWAYS walk away from your computer and come back LATER or even another day to read it, or you won’t notice the typos. It’s even better if you print it off or at least put it in “Preview” mode, so it’s different than when you were looking at it while typing it.
Your reputation and if you’re taken seriously depends on how you present yourself. If someone has a bunch of typos and it looks like you don’t care, I stop reading. You might have an amazing magical tip to make me live forever and I won’t get there, or will get there and not believe you, because you didn’t believe in yourself and your words enough to proofread.
STILL DON’T POST YET.
SUBMITTING YOUR REVIEW TO BRANDBACKER:
You need to submit your review on BrandBacker for approval. Typically this takes less than 24 hours, but it depends on the brand. They’ll read through (they don’t seem to call people out on typos, ugh) to make sure you included a disclaimer and that you met any requirements they asked for, and then they’ll message you the code that you need to include in the HTML portion of your review.
If you submit before you add this HTML, your stats will be inaccurate, and you will show as getting fewer views and being genuinely less useful to them.
ADDING THE BRANDBACKER TRACKING CODE:
Go into HTML view, paste it at the bottom of your post. It shouldn’t show up when you go back to the Visual or Preview mode, and if it does, it’s probably not working right.
NOW YOU CAN POST! YAY!
And share, and review it on their site and on Amazon or anywhere else that they asked.
This is what the Campaign Progress page looks like for a campaign you are all done with. Triple check to make sure if they asked you to review it elsewhere, or include other social media shares, that you have met it. Most brands will remind you through a mass message, but show that you’re on top of your game and don’t need a babysitter.
Summary: What I’ve Gotten:
It’s not about the retail value, but I know at least some of you are curious, so I’ll list it out here.
I have received the Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum (retail $35.00),
Hask Kalahari Melon Oil Hair Care System (retail $17.96),
and Valentia Skin Detoxifying Clay Mask (retail $25.00).
BrandBacker definitely is something that benefits you to have your social following, and the better numbers are very likely to help you get more or more sought out campaigns, but it’s not the only thing that they go off of, so I highly recommend this as something that you should sign up for and check regularly. It doesn’t hurt you to apply for campaigns. Companies aren’t going to see campaigns you got declined for, just what you’ve done.
What do you think about BrandBacker? Have you tried it? Will you be signing up?
*I receive NO compensation, sponsorship, or benefit from BrandBacker for linking this service*