I’m writing this post on the flight from Dallas to New York, buzzing with inspiration and ideas after spending the past 3 days at #rStheCon, along with 200 of the world’s top influencers. For the bloggers reading this, there’s a 99% chance you already know all about rewardStyle, and you may be using their platform already, and interested to know how you can maximise your success through the platform.
If you’re not a blogger, then reading this post may simply provide you with an insight into one of the ways bloggers can earn an income – after all, affiliate links seems to be a hot topic at the moment!
What is RewardStyle?!
So, if you’re not familiar with it, RewardStyle is the first, and leading affiliate network platform for the world’s top influencers. It’s an invitation-only service, and bloggers can either apply, or be invited to join. Once accepted, bloggers can be rewarded for the content that they create, by earning a small commission from sales made through the links they share to products they’ve worn. Creating quality content whether that’s lookbook videos, fashion outfit blog posts, interior inspiration posts, or beauty reviews, is something that takes time, and money! So rewardStyle is a company that helps us bloggers to earn back a percentage of the sale. Of course, as the customer it makes absolutely no difference to you – you pay nothing more, but the blogger who inspired the sale is rewarded with a small percentage of the total sale.
You may have also spotted your favourite bloggers using LikeToKnow.It on their instagram posts. It’s an incredible service which, if you haven’t already, you NEED to sign up to! It makes instagram shoppable. So, you sign up ONCE to LikeToKnow.It, and then whenever you ‘like’ the photos that your favourite bloggers post on Instagram, you’ll receive an email with links to the products the are wearing in the shop.
Now, there’s also the LikeToKnow.It app – which makes shopping instagram images as well as images shared on Snapchat & Instagram stories even easier. Simply download the app and create an account, and then, whenever you see a blogger posting a LikeToKnow.It photo (which you can see from the use of the #liketkit hashtag and a little bit of coding such as http://liketk.it/2r7lB, or even the little LikeToKnow.It logo in the bottom right corner) just screenshot it, and the app will then open up, and show you direct links to shop the items within the picture. In the same way, these products are generated using rewardStyle links, so the blogger who inspired your purchase will receive a percentage commission on the sale.
Why is it such a big deal?!
Well, as I’m sure you know if you’re reading this post, influencer marketing has become incredibly important to retailers and brands over the past few years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, Market Analysts say that we are only at the very beginning of the era of the influencer. RewardStyle influencers are predicted and on track to generate over $1 billion worth of sales in 2017, that’s a figure that retailer’s can’t ignore! It’s no surprise that influencer marketing has become the preferred form of e-commerce and rewardStyle is leading the way.
To compare the growth of rewardStyle sales vs overall retail growth is another way of highlighting the power that influencers have over purchase decisions; in 2015-2016, there was a 2.9% increase in retail sales, where as there was a 50% increase in rewardStyle sales, showing that influencers using rewardStyle are outpacing retail growth by 1624%!! WOW.
I spoke about the power of Micro-Influencers back in November, and it remains one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever written. I championed smaller bloggers, those of us who may have smaller readership or follower numbers, but our audience is incredibly valuable because they truly trust our opinions, and are genuinely influenced by our recommendations. Companies like rewardStyle are brilliant at highlighting those of us who have real influence, because retailers can easily see how many sales we are generating. There’s nothing better than a brand reaching out to collaborate with you as a result of seeing hundreds of sales coming from the links you’ve generated.
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What happens at #rStheCon
The conference takes place in Dallas, Texas, and the platforms top influencers are invited to the 3 day event for a series of talks, presentations, workshops and meetings with top brands and retail experts. I vlogged the entire trip, so if you want a real glimpse of what the conference is like, you can watch it here. There are pool parties sponsored by brands, empowering and inspirational presentations from rewardStyle founders and retail specialists, as well as more intimate workshops that give in depth advice on topics such as how to market yourself as a blogger, how to maximise your conversion rates on LikeToKnow.It, SEO tips and more. There’s also an Install Room, where bloggers can ensure their blogs are up to date with the latest RewardStyle widgets to optimise sales, and there’s even a networking room where the brands set up booths and you can chat with the teams about ways of working together.
Oh, and did I mention the closing party?! Hopefully you’ll have watched it all unfold on my Instagram Stories, but to celebrate the launch of the LikeToKnow.It app, we all got dressed up in our finest and headed to the Wyly Theatre for an incredible ‘Progressive Party’ (where the location changes every hour!) – if you missed my stories, be sure to check out the vlog.
12 Key Takeaways from #rStheCon
Finally, the bit you came here for! Probably! What did I learn at the rewardStyle conference?! As much as I’d love to share every finite detail, it would take me hours and hours to write it all down, so here are 12 of the key takeaways that I learnt. If you want to know more about any of them specifically, either tweet me, or leave a question in the comments. If there’s enough interest I might do an entire chatty YouTube Q&A about it.
‘There’s been a 100% Increase in retailers investing in influencers over the past year’
1, Don’t Neglect your Blog. This was the first and probably most important tip. The main reason is because your blog is the one thing you truly own. Instagram is on the way down due to the platform hugely limiting the number of people who actually see our posts, and at the end of the day, we don’t own our instagrams, the do. Equally with YouTube – this worries me, but imagine if they changed it hugely or removed the ability for us bloggers to put affiliate links in the description boxes? Pinterest changed their rules and stopped allowing certain affiliate links last year, and one rewardStyle blogger’s income dropped by 95% as a result of this, as most of her income came from Pinterest. You own your blog. It’s your website for you to do with as you please. Look after it. The other reason which actually I think is equally is important, is that rewardStyle discovered that last year, 91% of brand collaborations required blog content. This means that if a brand wants to collaborate with you, there’s a very high chance that they will want content on your blog, as well as on your Instagram for example.
2, Authenticity is Key. If you’re in it for the long run (which you should be!) then it’s important to carefully consider every opportunity that comes your way, and ensure it fits in well with your personal brand. This sounds super obvious, and yet so many bloggers don’t do it. It is incredibly hard to turn down paid jobs, especially when you start out as a full time blogger – we all need to earn a living at the end of the day! – and if a brand is offering to pay you £150 just to put a breakfast bar in your instagram, then it seems like easy money. However, doing small jobs like this for a quick buck is actually damaging to your brand in the long run. Firstly; you loose the trust from your audience. People follow you because they trust your opinions. If you are promoting dodgy diet teas just to make a quick earning, your audience will see through this, and the trust they have for your recommendations is damaged. Brands dislike this kind of behaviour for the same reasons. Higher end brands in particular are so aware of their brand messaging that they only want to work with influencers who perfectly fit their brand; so by staying true to yourself and your own brand, it will make you seem far more appealing to brands looking to collaborate.
3,Invest in your Mobile Site. Last year, 60% of rewardStyle clicks came from mobile. That’s HUGE! Check that your blog is mobile optimised and shoppable. All rewardStyle widgets work perfectly on mobile sites, so ensure they’re correctly installed, and in an optimal location. Other mobile tips include getting rid of the ‘Hamburger Menu’ – you know, those three horizontal lines, and instead using words at the bottom of the mobile site. This will encourage a huge increase in users moving around your site.
4, Maximise your LikeToKnow.It by regularly educating your audience. Last year, LTK links generated over $150m of retail sales, so it’s worth it! Habits of the top LikeToKnow.It earners include using primarily accessible price points (£100 or less), posting 1-3 LTK enabled images a day, providing education in one in every 3 posts (education being; “Want to shop my Instagram images? Simply download the @LikeToKnow.It app, and then screenshot this image for direct, shoppable links!”), consistently using the LTK overlay, and having a dedicated LTK widget other blogs.
5, Create Content that Converts. Product detail shots convert particularly well, as do candid shots and ‘anonymous shots’. The latter is a shot that doesn’t include your face! This helps viewers imagine themselves in the outfit, leading to higher conversion. Of course, seasonally relevant shots work well too. While the fashion week shows may be months out of date (too early!) it’s important to publish your content when it’s relevant to the current season/weather etc.
6, Have a Product Tagging Strategy. People want to know the exact item in your photo, so spend some time and find the exact one. Of course, it’s nice to also link to up to 4 similar items too, especially those that are more affordable. You should also link to all, or as many items within the imagery as possible. People want to know what nail polish you’re wearing, where that candle in the background is from, even what’s on your lips.
7, Video Converts! 64% of users are more likely to make a purchase online after watching a video.Whether it’s YouTube videos such as hauls or lookbooks, or sharing moving photos or videos on your instagram and blogs, people love to see products moving – and it leads to higher conversion. Try sharing video clips of your outfit on your blog posts, or even just a boomerang of your flowy skirt on instagram. After all, a video of that beautiful flowing material shows so much more than you simply telling your audience that it’s a beautiful flowy skirt!
8, Quality counts. Of course, this is also an obvious one, but the quality of your image is incredibly important for conversion. Ensure images are high resolution and not overly edited for maximum conversion. Product detail shots should be crisp and clear, while photos where you and your outfit is small, but the background is spectacular and also relevant to your outfit are also great for conversions. During this workshop there was a debate about using professional vs iPhone photos on your instagram (the argument being that iPhone photos are more relatable so potentially followers are more likely to imagine themselves being able to look that way) but to be honest the jury is still out on this one; I personally find both types convert equally well. Let me know your opinions and experiences in the comments!
9, Travel = Engagement. Many of you will already have recognised that your snaps in far flung destinations are receiving higher engagement than your home posts. Whether it’s somewhere tropical or a city break, travelling is one of the best ways to engage with readers. It’s interesting and everyone loves following your adventures! You don’t need to be booking first class tickets for a five star retreat to Bora Bora though, share your weekend trips and discover more places close to where you live too. Engage with your followers in other parts of the country/world to build your following. Be sure to tag yourself in at your location and use local hashtags too.
10, Be a story-teller. Storytelling is great for engagements, and brands know this too. Go beyond those product shots and share your lifestyle. Integration is key – if you’re collaborating with Nike for example, why not share a local city guide, featuring outfit shots in various locations? Your posts are more interesting and authentic, leading to higher conversion!
11, Be a Brand Ambassador. The great thing about rewardStyle is that that brands are able to choose their collaborations based on sales data. Brands need to justify their investments when they work with an influencer, so if they can see that you’re already wearing/using and more importantly, selling their products, it’s a good sign that you’re the type of influencer they should collaborate with. This means collaborations through rewardStyle are more authentic too; but you can be tactical here too – if you want to work with River Island for example, you should already be wearing their garments in your posts. This makes a future #ad post look more organic to your readers (in fact, they’ll probably be so pleased for you to see that you’re able to work with a brand that you already wear and love) and also helps the brand justify their marketing spend as you’ll be creating sales before, during, and after the campaign.
12, The Rules of Engagement. You know this already; but engagement breeds engagement. It’s so important to reply as soon as possible to instagram comments, questions, or compliments – as well as just pressing the heart button! Equally engage with other Instagrammers, leave comments on other bloggers posts, leave a thumbs up and comment on the videos of your favourite YouTubers, etc etc. If you want to know more about this and how it helps with your own engagement and traffic, check out this post.
Also, ask your readers for their help, advice and opinions. Find out what they like most about your content so you can do more of it. Do they want to see anything new from you? Don’t just guess, ask!
I hope you found this useful! There were so many other snippets and takeaways from the event that I’d love to share with you, so please ask away in the comments section if you want to know more! Equally as I said, I may do a YouTube Q&A, so let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in (perhaps in it I can give visual examples of what to do, what not to do etc) and ask any questions you’d like me to cover in it!