Are you interested in becoming a BBQ Brand Ambassador? Think its easy? Here are all the details that people won’t tell you about being an influencer.
Why be an Influencer?
Jill has a product. Jack has an audience. Jill wants customers. Jack wants to make money. What if Jill sent Jack some product, and Jack told his followers all about it? Is this a fair deal? Is it legal? Can Jack’s following justify Jill’s expense? Is Jill’s product worth Jack’s time?
Money for nothing! You hear about it. Online influencer success stories show up in business news all the time. Most of us know this is rare, but what about earning a little side money? Can you make money by simply doing something you love? Could you be a BBQ Brand Ambassador?
Be a BBQ Influencer?
Take barbecue, for instance. There is a loyal, almost fanatical group out there who fire up smokers every chance they get. These people collect barbecue rubs and sauces, trade tips and tricks, and gather at competitions and festivals to talk about all things smoking. And some of them have online followings in the hundreds of thousands.
Backyard cooks who post pictures of their smoked meats are fertile ground for marketers looking to get exposure for their products. The same applies to makeup tutorials, baking videos, and home cleaning content. Throw in a bottle of barbecue rub behind that brisket, talk it up, and you are an influencer.
The term ‘influencer’ has taken a negative turn recently, partly because of scams run by unscrupulous companies. And you have probably heard stories of influencers charged with FTC violations for failing to disclose their affiliation with the brand. This can lead to massive fines and legal troubles.
Rule One: There are laws governing the paid promotion of products. You MUST obey these even if you only have a few hundred Instagram followers. You need to know all the rules and regulations. Do not depend on the brand to tell you what to do. Ignorance of the law is not a defense.
‘Brand ambassador’ has become more popular as brands have moved away from the word influencer. However, ‘brand ambassador’ has been used since the 1950s. The important thing to know is that these terms don’t have legal definitions, though they do have implications. Influencers tend to be freelancers, while brand ambassadors work more directly with the brand. This may or may not mean employment.
The misuse of these terms is a problem. Brands will reach out to people with an online following and make deals that are often not fair. I believe that the biggest problem is that brands will promise exposure for marketing. You buy the product. Post pictures of that product. Tell everyone about how much you love it. And maybe, you will get featured by that brand on their social media accounts. You get to be on the team, Team BBQ Product. You pay the bills, promote the product, and get a gold star.
Rule Two: If you intend to make money in online brand marketing (i.e., Instagram influencer), get paid! A social feed filled with free promotions tells marketers that you are not serious.
So, what terms should we be using? I think that there is still space for the term influencer. But to fit this together with Brand Ambassador, Brand Consultant, and Sponsor, I called my friend Doug Scheiding. If you spend time on the barbecue side of Instagram, you know him as the pitmaster for Rogue Cookers. Want to see this kind of marketing in action? Follow Rogue Cookers on Instagram.
Doug is a Brand Consultant for Traeger Grills and Head Country Rubs and Sauces. He is also a Brand Ambassador for E3 Meats. Additionally, he works with other brands in various roles. When it comes to the influencer market in barbecue, Doug is the expert. You can regularly hear him on the BBQ Central Show and the BBQ & Baseball Podcast.
Doug breaks down this type of marketing into four categories.
Influencer: While there are influencer networks and people employed by brands or ad agencies called influencers, this is typically a self-description. An influencer typically works post by post or with small sets of posts or campaigns. Influencers may promote multiple brands over time, switching as deals are made. Influencer contracts will define the time and type of content to be posted and generally have a start and end date.
Brand Ambassador: A brand ambassador typically means a longer-term deal defined by a contract. The ambassador signs with a brand and supplies deliverables (i.e., social posts and blog articles) regularly. Brands will work with the ambassador for cross-promotion. It is normal to see a landing page for the ambassador on the brand’s website. Ambassadors may also work at trade shows or corporate promotional gatherings. Brand ambassadors may have open-ended contracts with no set time frame.
Sponsorships: For those actively engaged in doing something, like a barbecue competitor, sponsorships can offset expenses. Being sponsored by a meat brand that provides free or discounted briskets is a great way to reduce your costs. All you need to do is disclose the relationship. And probably hang a sign at the competition. Typically, a sponsorship includes branded social media posting as part of the deal.
Consultant: Or, more accurately, brand consultant is the top-level influencer deal. A consultant, while a 1099 contract worker, is much more like an employee. Consultants don’t have access to a brand’s or company’s inner workings, but they do sit in on some of the decision-making. A consultant will provide a wide range of content. Consultant positions involve sensitive information and should include a nondisclosure agreement.
Rule Three: Discuss your role with the brand. Regardless of the term you or the brand choose to use, what is expected in this relationship needs to be clearly defined and written. A handshake deal puts you at risk.
How to Become an Influencer/Brand Ambassador
It Isn’t About the Numbers
Okay. It is, but not as much as most people think. Having 10,000 Instagram followers is great. But what is more important is how much engagement you have on your posts and who those followers are. Similar rules apply to websites, YouTube, and other social platforms. Measuring engagement is easy. Analytics takes care of that. Some brands and most influencer agencies will want access to your analytics.
Gauging the quality of your followers is not as easy. Brands look for consistency, topic, and narrative in your account.
What Brands Look for
Consistency: Do you post regularly? I don’t mean all the time. I mean regular posts at regular times. Posting eight times every other Saturday is not as valuable as posting every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 5 pm.
Topic: Does your feed stick to a topic? Posting about your fishing trip, your cookout, and your kid’s play is what you see on someone’s personal account. The account you use as an influencer should be professional and reflect your brand.
Rule Four: The account, page, or website you want to monetize is a professional platform. It is not about your personal life. Yes, make it human and approachable, but avoid politics, religion, your family, or the ins and outs of daily life. If you are a barbecue influencer, it needs to be about barbecue and topics that tie directly into that.
Narrative: Marketers want to align a brand’s story with your story. Our postings need to express something about you that is unique. What about you makes your story different than everything else you see online. Can you mix something into the story that adds value? But remember, this story might go on for years, and rebranding isn’t always successful. You can start your story as a beginner’s journey, but after a few years, no one will believe that narrative.
How Much Can You Make as an Influencer?
No two sources are going to give you the same number. Let’s assume that you are not a celebrity. Comedian Kevin Hart can turn 150 million followers into $250k per post. If you are on this level, you are not reading this article. Top food influencers charge between $5k and $10k per post, but competition is high.
While large campaigns seem like they would pay the most, local or niche campaigns can offer better rewards. Of course, you have to be in that place or in the niche to qualify. But as an example, I pulled this pay information from an influencer marketing agency:
- Compensation for influencers with 1,000- 4,999 followers on Instagram: $600
- Compensation for influencers with 5,000- 30,000 followers on Instagram: $900
As you can see, even with a small following, this campaign pays well. It requires four postings over one month.
Hey! Who doesn’t love free stuff? I’ve certainly received my share over the years. Companies, big and small, want to share their products with people who can help them get the word out. If you want to be taken seriously as a brand influencer, taking in free products you have never tried is risky. What if you hate it? Do you say a kind word just to be kind? Does this kill your credibility? (YES, IT DOES) Or do you say nothing and anger a small start-up or established business?
As you start your journey to being influential, work with products you know and love. Share that information. Demonstrate that you can be professional, enthusiastic, and, most importantly, trustworthy. If you get an opportunity to work with a brand, be selective. You don’t have to be a snob because snobs are bad. But be comfortable with your choices. You don’t want to apologize to your followers because you promoted a poor-quality product for a quick paycheck.
Rule Five: Your brand is valuable. If your goal is to make this into a profession, then you need to not only promote your brand but also must protect it. Working with products you wouldn’t buy or recommend to a friend will not get you very far. You invest in your brand for the long term.
Rule Six: The relationship between the influencer and the brand is a two-way street. As you promote the brand, they should be promoting you. It is in their best interest to get as many eyes on your content as possible. It’s why they are paying you. They should share and promote your posts. If they don’t, they are probably not experienced in this form of marketing, and you shouldn’t make a long-term investment in them.
Brand marketing is about exposing people to the brand and showing them why they should engage with it. Yes, it is about selling stuff. Sales are the end goal but presenting a positive image to potential customers is the method. As a brand influencer, your ‘customers’ are the consumers of your media. Still, the goal is to get on the radar of the brands that will monetize your audience.
By building your brand, you may be able to move from influencer to brand ambassador to brand consultant. How long this process takes is not easy to predict. It can rely on luck, but hard work, consistency, and dedication will take you a long way. But remember that you are competing with thousands of others, all trying to cash in on their audience.
If you have a good narrative, plenty of knowledge, and an approach that resonates with users and brands, then you have a chance to earn a living.
I will tell you this, many of the brand ambassadors you see online are not making a living wage from their efforts. Many of them have day jobs. Keep your expectations within reach.
The Key to Success as a Brand Influencer
Rule Seven: The worst business advice in the world is, ‘fake it ’til you make it.” This is the strategy of scammers and con artists. Long before you learn what you need to know, you will be exposed for being a fraud. Yes, you will learn as you go. Probably more than you thought you could, but you need to know enough to be taken seriously before starting.
- Know your topic!
- Be Honest!
- Develop a unique story
- Take excellent pictures
- Engage with your community in a positive and supportive way
- Demonstrate your ability to promote products with items you use and believe in
- When working with brands, make sure you understand everything they expect of you
- Don’t take the quick and easy work
- Build up as you go, learn from your mistakes, and move forward
How to Build your Following to Become a BBQ Brand Ambassador
There are thousands of people out there trying to sell you the quick trick to success. There isn’t one. Some people get lucky. Sure. It happens. You can’t bet on luck, however. Vegas is filled with these people, and guess what? The house always wins eventually. Being an influencer, ambassador, or whatever you want to call is a job. It takes hard work and time. Count on that. If you get lucky, great. Good for you.
Building a following is all about you. Tell a good story, take good pictures, and engage with people. It will build. Probably not as fast as you would like, but it is a highly competitive space. Trust that most people will eventually give up. If you are persistent, you should be able to pick up some side money along the way. If it becomes a full-time profession, be thankful, but don’t rest.