For the maker trolling mommy hashtags at 11pm at night, only to discover a new possible brand rep account that truly inspires.
For the maker who starts reaching out to IG influencers and get’s her first yes!
For the maker who realizes that a product share on an account with 14K+ followers really only leads to a few extra followers for her brand.
For the maker who sent a ton of product to someone, and in exchange got one blurry photo, and not even a mention of her brand.
For the maker who is truly in awe of the friendships she’s forged in this (not so) new and strange land of Social Media marketing
For these makers and more, I share my experience with you…
I launched Chocolate Milke seven months ago. I came from a long career as a Designer and Design Director at major corporations such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Foxhead, Inc, and Skechers USA. I could create color and mood boards, plan product releases, run teams toward common goals…but I had no freaking clue about how to break through into the IG world with this new little product that was so close to my heart.
This idea of “Brand Rep” x “Small Shop” collaboration world was completely foreign and uncharted territory for me. I studied up, took free e-courses, and began realizing what worked. I started emailing IG influencers (and was in awe when majors like This.Little.Wandering and EverWillaLove got back to me - with my little 100 followers – and said yes!)
I struggled, agonized even, over doing a “Brand Rep Search” in order to get more attention. The whole idea behind Chocolate Milke is to empower little girls and get them outside. The idea of asking moms to post pictures of their daughters and have me pick who was “in” and who was “out” felt counter-intuitive and intrinsically wrong, somehow.
When I saw Kayla’s post on pitfalls of being a brand-rep, it struck a cord with me and I felt compelled to reach out to her. I was excited when she asked if I would post about the Small Shop’s side of these collaborations.
Here are some of my take-aways…
What these reps really do for us:
In the corporate marketing world, the photos provided by a good brand rep (who gets styling, lighting and filtering pictures) would cost thousands. That doesn’t include the marketing budget that we save with multiple reps sharing our product. For a small shop like me, paying for posts right now is simply not an option. That doesn’t diminish the fact that I recognize what these reps provide for me.
In exchange for their work, I am helping my brand reps to build their “portfolio” with my product. I share their posts (always giving them credit) and offer discount codes for just their followers, which adds value to their page. The ones that are professional and a pleasure to work with, always get first selection of my new products. There is a mutual trust and even real friendships I’ve forged through these collaborations.
It’s still a business:
E-commerce and small shops are truly the way of the future. Brick and mortar businesses are dying. Let’s face it, the mass produced, inexpensive and generic products we’ve been trained to buy in bulk do not have the same value, or personalized feeling that a small shop provides.
What struck me about Kayla’s post (and what I hadn’t considered in depth) is that these agreements between shops and reps are a fairly new industry, which leaves the participants open to being taken advantage of. There aren’t typically legally binding contracts between participants, so each needs to take the other at their word.
At the end of the day, we small shop owners are still running a business. We need to be professional and ethical about how we use the photos provided by our reps (photos of children, as Kayla reminds us.) I use rep photos for social media only. I do not use rep photos for emails, website or additional marketing materials without express permission from the photographer.
On the flip side, I’ve felt taken advantage of. I’ve had to learn the hard way that not all reps are equal. There are a few people I shared product with early on, and in exchange got only one photo where (although tagging us) did nothing to call out our product. When asking for additional images, I never heard back. My favorite reps (and no surprise, the ones who have the biggest followings) have not only posted our product multiple times with clear shouts outs to us, but also sent me additional photos to use. They are true partners and collaborators, not just mamas looking for some free leggings.
No Mean Girls:
Ladies, Devil Wear’s Prada is a real thing in these big-box fashion companies…I’ve lived it. I hated it. We can (and should) do better. Most of us started our businesses in order to be our best selves. I love the idea that there is room for everyone at the top and we are a community of “women helping women” to succeed. Let’s honor this idea in our collaborations. Communicate clearly our expectations in exchange for product. And be considerate in how we treat these mamas who provide such valuable content for us. My whole reason for starting Chocolate Milke was to model a better life for my daughter. We are role models to these little people we’re raising. Let’s truly embody being our best selves.