Influencer seeding is one of the best strategies to help you build authenticity and trust. But that boost of brand awareness — and sharp increase in sales — is often short-lived. The problem with influencer gifting programs is the requirement. I give you my product and you give me a post for x amount of impressions.
Sure, this kind of exchange is tangible and gives you clear markers on what results to expect. But what if I told you that there’s another way to generate hundreds of influencer posts for free AND help you build a credible affiliate program?
It begins with product seeding. An approach that focuses on building relationships on giving, not asking. Read on to learn about how we approach product seeding at Kynship and the steps you can take to put the same strategy into action for your brand.
What Is Influencer Seeding?
Influencer seeding (also referred to as product seeding) is when brands send free products to influencers with no strings attached (i.e. no expectations on a post in return). The term ‘seeding’ describes a long-term mindset where the goal is the relationship and everything else is a bonus.
Product seeding benefits can be immediate: word of mouth awareness, product feedback, and a collection of IGC content to be used at your disposal. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the long-term benefits effective product seeding can lead to.
Product seeding is the foundational piece that leads to credible affiliate programs (paying influencers a commission of sales), finding great content creators, and locking down the flag bearers who will represent your brand long-term.
Here is what a successful product seeding strategy looks like:
- You have new influencers you’re sending product out to
- You have consistent organic conversations and posting going on
- You’re repurposing influencer generated content (IGC) into your paid media mix
- You have 2-3 faces of your brand that are on yearly contracts
Again, this is long-term. Even if you have all the budgets to do this now, it doesn’t mean you should. There’s a process of getting there and relationships take time to build.
But it’s worth it.
Maybe now you're wondering: "Isn't product seeding just simply gifting free product?"
Influencer Seeding vs. Influencer Gifting: Key Differences
Gifting programs lure brands in with the tangible benefits of guaranteed posts and impressions.
Don’t get me wrong — there can be a lot of potential upside to this arrangement, especially if you score yourself some great IGC.
But that’s where the upside ends …
Since the whole deal is based on this transactional arrangement, the influencer forgets about your brand the second they post and move onto the next business opportunity. Product seeding is a more sustainable approach.
The difference? Influencer gifting is a one-time, transactional experience. Influencer seeding is a long-term, relationship building exercise. Just like any smart investment decision, you’re banking on the compounding return.
Think of influencer seeding like you’re planting a seed that you hope will eventually grow into a strong, healthy plant. You can probably guess the analogy here ...
Seed = free product gifted to the influencer
Plant = a long-term relationship with the influencer
You’re building a long-tail effect of the network of social media influencers actually using your product. Over time, you’ll have a solid base of people to kickstart your affiliate marketing program and because you were so focused on building the relationship from the get-go, this will help with influencer negotiations too.
Moral of the story: There are no shortcuts. So how do you go about doing this the right way?
Step-by-Step: How To Get Started With Influencer Seeding
Let’s look at the steps you need to take and what can happen after seeding your product to 100 influencers. This is the exact process we use internally. We refer to it our 3-phase blueprint.
Step 1: Identify 500 Influencers & Seed Product
Every month, our team identifies and reaches out to 500 influencers for each of our brands.
Here’s what we expect to see for each brand:
- A minimum of 100 influencers (20%) opt-in to receive product
- A minimum of 30 influencers (30%) end up posting free of cost on average 2-3 assets each
So each brand now has 60-90 influencer posts at the cost of goods sold (COGS) of sending out 100 products.
A common question we get asked at this point: "If you're seeding product out with no agreement in place, how are you using their content as ads?"
We get content usage rights. We have written a whole guide explaining how you can get content rights (including DM templates).
Based on these numbers alone, you can understand why this is the most cost-effective mass organic distribution and content creation you’re ever going to get! The next step is making sure you squeeze the most value out of this IGC by setting up Dynamic Creative Testing (DCT) campaigns.
Step 2: Launch Dynamic Creative Testing (DCT) Campaigns For Every Piece of IGC
It's time to pull that creative lever. Through your product seeding efforts, you'll gain a bunch of unique influencer creative you can use in your paid media strategy.
You need to launch every single influencer asset created. That's right. We do not pick which ones we like better or think will perform the best. You need to let the social media algorithms decide for you. Why? Because the highest-performing asset is most likely not the one you'd expect ...
With every generated Influencer asset we're testing, the top performing creative will be allocated ALL of the budget due to our cost cap bid strategy set in place, protecting us against wasting any ad dollars.
Translation: The only way you'll miss on an opportunity is by not launching EVERY single influencer asset you have at your disposal!
But this is not where the value ends. These efforts lead to so much more: Affiliate programs.
Step 3: Begin Influencer Negotiations & Contractualize Your Top-performing Brand Ambassadors
Seeding lends itself incredibly well to being the easiest onboarding system in history for an affiliate marketing program.
It's as simple as this: For every influencer that ends up posting within your seeding program (free of cost), send them the message below immediately following their organic post:
Hey [influencer name],
We're so glad you loved the product we sent you, so much so you were willing to share this content with your audience.
We'd love to honor you for any and all future posts you decide to share by getting you compensated through our affiliate program!
If you decide to post about us again, we want to make sure you share in the profits that you're driving.
The influencer is already posting about your brand for free, so it's a no-brainer for them to onboard into your affiliate program.
Extra bonus: You look like a genuine partner that wants to honor them, something uncommon within this space, fostering an even greater relationship.
To recap this strategy ...
If you were to identify and reach out to 500 influencers within a seeding program, it would lead to a minimum of 30 influencers posting each month.
30 influencers x 12 months = a robust affiliate program including a minimum of 360 influencers by year's end
Realistically, not all 30 of these influencers will be top performers. But you might as well onboard ALL of them to your affiliate marketing program, otherwise you'd be leaving money on the table.
Then, you want to contractualize these top performers to become paid ambassadors, outside of your affiliate program. You’ll want them to provide ongoing services each month for your team including but not limited to ...
- Video content creation
- Organic posting
- Influencer whitelisting
Not only does seeding lend itself to a smooth transition here but also these top performing influencers have proven to be genuine product adopters that have posted and granted usage rights free of cost.
They will be much cheaper to contractualize in comparison to engaging in the pay for post model without seeding first. You will receive pricing that is half of the typical market rates.
Let’s switch from theory to an example where we used this exact same process of seeding products to influencers to scale Animal House Fitness’s marketing efforts.
Influencer Seeding Case Study: Scaling Animal House Fitness from $0 to $1m By Seeding Product to Influencers
First step? You guessed it, product seeding.
Before anything else, we got Animal House products into the hands of influencers. We seeded well over 100 influencers with products — no strings attached. We didn’t ask them for a post in exchange for product, it was all about building genuine relationships with them.
Products were the only investment. There was no other ad spend or marketing strategy expense of any kind. It was that simple.
Side note: To make a simple process even easier, we developed a Shopify app that streamlines getting the products to your influencers. Our all-in-one app seeds products to all of your influencers and treats them as a customer within your store and eliminates backend frustration. You can modify it directly in the app, and you can track and monitor it in real time. Check it out here.
Next we build up a library of free organic content with the help of an incredibly inexpensive and effective tool — MightyScout.
We use MightyScout to start collating the influencer content posted on all the social media platforms. MightyScout’s biggest value to our team is its ability to collect all the content that is being organically posted on behalf of the brand in real-time.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">6/ MightyScout’s biggest value add to our team is its ability to collect all the content that is being organically posted on behalf of the brand in real time.<br><br>**See video below of MightyScout** <a href="https://t.co/UKFRjGK9BX">pic.twitter.com/UKFRjGK9BX</a></p>— Taylor Lagace (@TaylorLagace) <a href="https://twitter.com/TaylorLagace/status/1356997973465391106?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 3, 2021</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
As seen in the video above, you’re able to download the content that’s posted on behalf of your brand directly from MightyScout’s platform.
Instead of making a massive upfront investment in a studio shoot or paying the right influencers in exchange for a shout out, product seeding helps generate a ton of influencer generated content, free of cost, from people who were authentic, product adopters.
Then, we redistributed this content using Animal House Fitness’ own paid media channels.
All of these free organic posts from influencers are great, but the main value of this content is our ability to redistribute it across Animal House Fitness’ own distribution channels — specifically Facebook and Instagram ads.
Our team launched 10-15 new, unique ads every week on behalf of Animal House Fitness that all came from content that was posted and collected in MightyScout. All this free content is a testament to the power of product seeding.
This isn’t just some run of the mill Influencer Generated Content that isn’t usable either.
As we all know, good creative is the number one key to success. So we seed products to the right influencers that create great video content. This makes sure we can easily transition the assets into top-performing Facebook and Instagram ads with high engagement rate.
When scaling and optimizing Facebook and Instagram ad performance, our team has never been in need of fresh content due to the strategy laid out above.
Here are some examples of social media posts, directly resulting from the product seeding we did for Animal House Fitness:
Over a four month period using this influencer seeding strategy, we generated over $1M in revenue off the back of influencer content that was posted organically and then repurposed as Facebook and Instagram ads. Animal House Fitness was named to Shopify’s fastest growing companies in 2020 and they launched in October, which would not have been possible without product seeding.
So there you have it ... the philosophy and method behind product seeding.
We hope by now you understand why product seeding is the foundation of every profitable influencer marketing program. It’s all about taking small steps in building a genuine relationship from the beginning, and remember the vital principle of product seeding: give without asking.