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In this 2-part series on KOL Seeding, Krishnan Iyer, co-founder at BeTagged gives us the low down on this seeding, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and how it is being used by brands to quickly scale up their online presence in a quick and cost-effective manner.
Seeding or product gifting, in very simple terms, is the process of sending free products to KOLs.
Technically, there is no obligation on behalf of the KOL to take any action in return for the products received. There is no written contract, there are no terms and conditions of usage, there are no commercial transactions, per se. However, many KOLs that we have worked with say they feel a “moral” obligation to reciprocate in some way – which is usually by way of content created by the KOL featuring the product, and posted on their social media handles along with product or brand mentions.
Why do brands do KOL seeding?
Authentic brand-creator content comes to life when the creator genuinely likes a brand or product and uses it, irrespective of the commercial arrangement.
They are human too, like you and me, and have clear preferences on brands and products they consume as part of their everyday life.
When this happens, brands are able to scale their reach and engagement among their target audiences through these KOLs.
Who will it work for? And how?
Now, brands that already have a strong foothold in the market will naturally be at an advantage. They can easily reach out to KOLs and even regular users who are organically tagging the brand and send them free products to gain higher traction.
However, if a brand is relatively new, it might have to work harder. This is where the value and volume aspect comes in. For smaller brands or brands that are relatively unknown, it is advisable to first identify micro and nano KOLs who are already posting content about the category, ensure they are not posting content about competitor brands and then approach them for a commercial arrangement.
We strongly recommend brands to be upfront about their expectations. Clearly outline what you want in return from the KOL, in exchange for products. And make it a respectable deal. Do not expect a KOL, no matter how small, to make a free post in exchange for a tube of sunscreen. It reflects the value you place on your own brand.
Advantages of KOL Seeding
Find creators who truly love your brand. Followers can quickly tell the difference when a KOL promotes a brand that they do not really believe in. This is a process of hit and trial. A brand has to send out products to 100 creators before they can find 50 creators who will truly identify with your brand and product. Consider this your marketing expense.
The time you need to spend developing a one-on-one relationship with each influencer is reduced significantly with this process.
Build strong relationships with KOLs at scale. Who does not like receiving a gift? But do it smartly. When sending out free products to a KOL, do not just talk about what you expect in return. Start with some genuine appreciation for the KOLs content and efforts in building their social media assets. This will let the KOL know that you have taken time to review a long list of handpicks for your product gifting campaign. The chances of this turning into a long-term relationship are higher.
Pitfalls of KOL Seeding
There is no guarantee of content. Let us be clear about this. Even if a brand clearly states their expectation in exchange for free products, the KOL is at 'No Obligation' to post content for the brand.
Even if there is content, there is no guarantee it will be good. Some KOLs might post some content since they feel morally obligated, but if their heart is really not into it, that will show up on their content. They may club your product along with other products thereby reducing your brand visibility. Worse yet, if the content is really poor, it might backfire badly on the brand.
KOL seeding is sometimes viewed as an unethical practice. Larger KOLs talk about how these “no-strings-attached” deals may not be as innocent as they seem. They say, marketers are using the psychological principle of reciprocity to their advantage.
Which types of KOLs respond best to product gifting?
As a rule, KOLs with smaller follower counts tend to respond well. Micro / Nano KOLs are looking for ways and means to get a foothold in the intensely competitive Influencer Marketing industry and such kinds of deals will give them a better opportunity to get noticed and subsequently help them land commercial arrangements that pay them in cash.
Creators with over 100,000 followers tend to be very busy and are unlikely to consider anything that doesn’t offer payment. However, it never hurts to try and reach out to a creator if you’re really interested in working with them and want them to try your products. The worst they can say is “no.” Do not be stuck in your approach. Explore a hybrid arrangement with them.
KOL seeding strategies for brands
While KOL seeding is an efficient and cost-effective way to reach out to influencers and build your brand, it needs to be done right. In our next article in this 2-part series we will explore some tried and tested strategies for your brand to leverage the power of KOL Seeding.
This week’s Influencer Marketing Short is written by Krishnan Iyer, Co-Founder at BeTagged