The most authentic brand-creator partnerships happen when the creator truly loves the products they’re promoting. After all, their genuine excitement leads to engaging content that spurs action.
Brands with a significant online presence can reach out to fans and creators who are already organically posting about them and tagging them in their content. But if your brand is relatively new, you may not be able to find existing fans this way.
Influencer seeding, or sending free products to influencers, is a great way to build brand awareness with creators and see if your products are something they truly love.
But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of strategy and execution, let’s take a deeper look at what influencer seeding really is.
Influencer seeding is the process of sending free products to influencers. However, different marketers have different definitions. Some say influencer seeding does not require action on the part of the influencer—the creator can post if they like, but it is not necessary. Other marketers view influencer seeding as the exchange of free products for posts or other actions on behalf of the influencer.
At GRIN, we see influencer seeding as the former—a no-strings-attached gift from a brand to a creator.
Beginning a potential partnership with free items is a great way to start on the right foot, as it can build goodwill. And for such a strong relationship builder, it doesn’t take much time.
Is influencer seeding and influencer gifting the same thing?
Yes, influencer seeding and influencer gifting are just two different terms for the same practice.
Why should brands consider influencer seeding?
Influencer seeding is a great method of reaching out to micro influencers. If you’re planning to scale up quickly, this method can help you easily reach multiple new creators.
The time you need to spend developing a one-on-one relationship with each influencer is reduced significantly with this process. Even the cost of establishing these connections is minimized.
Pros of influencer seeding
Influencer seeding allows you to find creators who really love your brand.
When a creator doesn’t actually use or like the product they’re promoting, viewers can tell the endorsement is inauthentic. And inauthenticity means brand death. By sending creators your products for free, they can try them out and determine if they’re right for them. If they really enjoy them, you can move forward with a mutually beneficial partnership.
Influencer seeding is a great way to build strong relationships at scale.
Everyone loves receiving gifts, and creators will often be flattered if a brand likes their content so much that it would be willing to send free products with no expectations. These arrangements can often supercharge your relationship-building efforts because your brand is showing creators you’re already all in.
Cons of influencer seeding
There is no guarantee of content.
Unlike content arrangements in which creators receive free products in exchange for posts, influencer seeding doesn’t guarantee any kind of promotion on social media or a blog. While some creators may post something as a result of really liking your product, this is the exception, not the rule. You’ll need to go into these arrangements with the expectation that you won’t see a direct ROI from the product and shipping costs.
Some people view influencer seeding as unethical.
Some larger creators have begun talking about how these no-strings-attached deals may not be as innocent as they seem. They call upon the psychological principle of reciprocity to explain that businesses are aware that even when they say there are no obligations to post, many creators will feel the need to post in order to “pay back” the brand for its generosity. Essentially, they’re accusing them of using psychology to manipulate their way to free content.
On the other hand, many creators don’t feel this way and are happy to receive free items from brands to try.
In an episode of the GRIN Gets Real podcast, Julie Gordon shares her experience with influencer seeding and how she sees other creators react:
“Well, if the ask is, ‘We’re going to send this to you. We think it fits who you are and your brand. Just let us know what you think. There’s no obligation to post or to do anything.’ I love that. I actually do that frequently. And I’ve had a lot of fun doing that … You send me that and say, ‘And we want two Instagram posts, a reel, 10 stories, and a blog post.’ I’ll respond with ‘Thank you, but no,’ or ‘Here’s my budget.’
-Julie Gordon, Chief Inspiration Officer, Inspiring Kitchen
So I think people do things very differently, though. I will tell you, there are a lot of creators who won’t do that, and I admire these people and don’t find fault with their choices because it’s a business, and you choose what you want to do. But there are some of these significantly bigger names in the food industry, like the bloggers and so on, that even if you sent it for free, they wouldn’t touch it because it’s still time-consuming. It still takes time away from, you know, if I have to make a dish.” — Julie Gordon, Chief Inspiration Officer at Inspiring Kitchen
Which types of creators respond best to influencer seeding efforts?
In general, creators with smaller followings, like nano (1,000-10,000 followers) and micro influencers (10,000-100,000 followers), tend to respond best to influencer seeding propositions. Creators with over 100,000 followers tend to be very busy and often don’t have time 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.”
An influencer seeding strategy that brands can use
While influencer seeding is a quick process for reaching out to influencers, it can still take some time to plan. You need to find the right influencers for your brand before you can start influencer seeding.
1. Identify the right creators to partner with.
You can just pick a massive list of creators to send products to, but this is hardly effective. Even though this is just gifting and not a paid partnership, you do want to ensure that the people you’re connecting with could potentially be good partners in the future if they like your products.
That means you should evaluate their audience demographics, metrics, and more to ensure that they have an authentic connection with members of your brand’s target audience. Also, take a look at their content. Does it match your brand’s aesthetic? Do they have similar values as your brand? These are all essential questions to ask before reaching out.
2. Reach out and gauge their interest.
Now that you know who you want to reach out to, it’s time to craft the perfect message. Keep your initial outreach short and sweet—we’re all busy and don’t have time to read a 10-paragraph email or DM.
Personalize the message with their name and something you love about their content, then take some time to introduce yourself and your brand. Don’t be afraid to share why you think they would make an ideal partner for your business!
Finally, take some time to explain that you’d like to send a gift, no posting required. Share that you want to be sure they’d be a brand fan before considering a partnership. With the promise of a brand deal on the line, they may be more willing to give you a chance. And don’t forget to add a clear CTA. Usually, something like, “Send us a quick message if you’re interested,” should suffice.
If they have an email listed in their bio, use that. If not, a direct message on their main social media platform is your next best bet.
And if they don’t respond immediately, that’s ok! Sometimes emails and DMs just get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Send a follow-up after a few days, but don’t send more than two additional emails. If they haven’t responded by the third message, they’re probably not interested.
3. Personalize the experience.
Go above and beyond to make your creators feel valued, even if they aren’t official brand partners yet. Consider adding a special note into the package with their gifts and thank them for trying out your product(s). Don’t forget to send a follow-up email or message about a week after they receive the product to see how they like it so far.
4. Track the results.
Even though you stated that posting wasn’t necessary, creators may do so anyway if they really like your product, think their audience could benefit from it, are interested in partnering with you and want to showcase what they can do, or a combination of any of the three.
Since you didn’t provide a hashtag to the creators, keep an eye on their social accounts and regularly check your mentions. If you do see a creator posting about your product, be sure to go in and interact with their content, too.
Then, be sure to measure how their content performs. You can do this manually with a spreadsheet or through a creator management platform or social listening tool.
If they haven’t posted but express interest in a partnership, that’s great too! Once you negotiate expectations for both parties, you can track the ensuing content in the same way.
5. Repurpose the content.
Repurposing influencer-generated content is a great way to save on production costs and showcase true brand love across your entire marketing program. However, you must have content usage rights before doing so.
Be sure to negotiate with your creators, and go in knowing that many will ask for compensation. After all, they spent time developing a piece of content you hadn’t asked for.
How marketers can streamline their influencer seeding efforts
If you’re sending products to dozens of influencers at once, this process can begin to take up a decent amount of time. As you scale your efforts (and your influencer marketing program), consider using a creator management platform.
GRIN, the leading Creator Management platform, integrates with various ecommerce solutions (Shopify, Shopify+, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Salesforce Cloud, Magento) to help you streamline this process. You can sync your product catalog with GRIN, send creators their own Live URLs where they can pick the products they want to try and input their information, and push the orders through your ecommerce solution to your fulfillment team, taking the stress off of your plate.
Key takeaway: Influencer seeding is an efficient way to build relationships with creators.
If you have a relatively new brand or even just a new influencer marketing program, influencer seeding can be a great way to get started. Be thoughtful and strategic in your approach, and you’ll soon have a team of loyal creators who are authentic brands fans.
Updated: January 2023
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