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Your ultimate guide to running effective influencer gifting campaigns

Joe Anderson
Founder at MightyScout
March 31, 2024

Could an influencer gifting strategy work for you? Sending product gifts to influencers is a proven strategy for driving business results. It can drive awareness of your brand or a new product, be a source of user-generated content, and sometimes even drive sales. All for the cost of product, packaging, and shipping.

Learn if your brand is a good fit for influencer gifting, how to select the right influencers for a product gifting strategy, and how to send gifts to influencers. Finally, discover the little known tool that tracks content for product gifting campaigns automatically.

What is influencer gifting?

Influencer gifting is the process of sending free products to a group of influencers with the goal that the influencer will enjoy the product and share it with their audience.

This strategy costs less than a paid influencer promotion because that’s all it is—a gift of your product to each influencer with no other compensation. Because this is a gift, the influencers are not obligated to promote your product. They get your product gift for free and can decide what to do with it.

Keep in mind it’s important to choose high-quality products for the influencers to enjoy. You want to make a good impression. This isn’t the time to unload the unpopular flavor that’s been sitting in the warehouse. Personalize your mailing and make it easy for influencers to want to share your product with their audience.

This strategy works a little something like this:

  • You select a group of influencers.
  • You gather their mailing information and send out a product gift to each one.
  • You can include a little personalized note with each gift to share why you thought they’d enjoy it and explain more about the product/your company.
  • You keep your fingers crossed that the influencer enjoys it enough to mention it on social media.

The strategy is effective for the right products. And we’ll discuss the industry’s best practices to help you earn those valuable mentions. The more mentions you get, the higher your ROI.

Look at it like this. You pay only for the product, packaging, and shipping. Then you might get some fully free promotion from an influencer, perhaps in the form of an unboxing haul or a quick mention in an Instagram Story.

Win-win, right?

Is your product a good fit for influencer gifting?

Before we dive into the how-to's, let’s make sure your product has the right characteristics for successful product gifting.

Low cost of goods sold (COGS). To get a positive return on your investment, this strategy requires a low COGS. Your COGS of your product gift is like your entry fee into the influencer’s world. Sending a diamond ring in exchange for a chance at a free post will likely not have positive ROI. However, if you send a gift with a retail value of $75, that really costs you $30, that may have a positive ROI. Factor that into your ROI assumptions and calculate what retail value you can afford to send and what results you must get to achieve positive ROI.

Lightweight product. There’s a reason why the industries that use product gifting the most are beauty and personal care, consumer packaged goods, and gaming. These tend to be lighter weight products – and that helps keep your costs down. This doesn’t mean a heavier product cannot be successfully gifted. For example, adult beverage brands are very popular gifts to receive among influencers. If you have a heavier product, get creative. Consider sending one bottle or six-pack along with lightweight swag.

High quality product. Influencers will not recommend your product if they don’t enjoy it. They have worked hard to earn the trust of their audience. They’re not going to share news about a mediocre product and risk losing that trust.

Interesting product. Some products just aren’t interesting enough for social media. Is your product one that influencers will want to talk about? A generic toilet seat? Probably won’t cut it. The influencer needs to be able to tell a story about how this product fits into their life.

Valuable trade. A $2 plastic soap holder will not excite an influencer enough to put forth creative effort. Plus, how will you make the value worth their while? Will you send 50 of them?

Benefits of influencer gifting?

Why should you consider gifting as a part of your influencer marketing plan? Here are a few key benefits that influencer gifting can provide your business:

  • Earn low-cost promotion: Influencer gifting can get promotion for your business from smaller influencers for the cost of just the product and the product shipping.
  • Produce User-Generated Content (UGC): Collect the promotional posts or videos the influencers make about your product to use as UGC on your own profiles.
  • Reach new audiences: Find new and aligned audiences through each influencer you partner with. A recommendation from a trusted source is powerful.
  • Increase awareness and sales potential: The more promotion your product gets, the more people are becoming aware of your brand and will potentially make a purchase.
  • Build brand-influencer relationships: Even though gifting can seem transactional in terms of providing posting suggestions, some brands are able to start partnerships through gifting.

The state of influencer gifting in 2024

As with other marketing strategies, the state of influencer gifting changes from year to year. So what does influencer gifting look like in 2024? Are brands still taking advantage of this type of campaign?

According to Traackr’s Influencer Gifting report, this strategy isn’t going away. Instead, posts mentioning “gifted” are up 87% year-over-year on TikTok.

In addition, CreatorIQ’s 2024 Influencer Marketing Trends report showed that 66% of marketers invest in influencer gifting, making it the second-most common influencer marketing activity.

In addition, marketers are dedicating sizable budgets towards this tactic, with 28% spending $10k-50k on influencer gifting and another 25% spending $50k-200k. 38% of brands are sending an average of 100 packages to influencers per year.

92% of marketers agree that gifting products has increased their brand awareness and 76% say it has led to sales. Many brands will include discount codes that influencers can share alongside the product to improve the likelihood that a viewer will make a purchase.

61% of marketers say that less than half of the influencers they gifted will actually post the product on social media—but 65% of marketers will still send gifts to those influencers again.

To combat this, influencer Naomi Hearts recommends that brands really pay attention to the influencers they’re gifting, only sending hyper-relevant products out as gifts. Hearts says, “If I like the product, I’ll be more likely to post about it and my audience will be able to feel my excitement.”

So, the takeaways for 2024? - Influencer gifting is still a highly-used and successful strategy. - The more relevant your product is to the influencer, the more likely they are to share it.

How to run an effective influencer gifting campaign

Ready to run your own influencer gifting campaign? Let’s go through each step you’ll need to take across four main phases.

Phase 1: Preparation

The first phase in your new influencer gifting campaign is the prep work. Finding your audience, setting goals, and creating a budget. Let’s walk through each of those tasks in more detail.

Identify target audience. Who is your brand’s target audience? Knowing who you plan to target on social media is critical to finding the right influencers. Remember to select influencers who reach your target audience.

Set goals, KPIs, and other clear objectives. What are you hoping to achieve through your influencer gifting campaign? While not all influencers will actually share your product, you should still set goals. And we’ll also talk more in the coming sections about how you can structure your offer in a way that increases the chances of promotion.

But for now, put together some goals and objectives—and the KPIs that you’ll track—that you have for the campaign.

Common goals for influencer gifting campaigns include:

  • Building brand awareness

  • Engaging with your target audience

  • Building new product awareness

  • Collecting user-generated content (UGC)

  • Increasing your social media followers

  • Sales

You can measure these goals through KPIs like online mentions of your brand, number of creative assets with rights, increased sales, increased website traffic, or an influx of new followers.

Set a budget. The last step of the preparation phase is to set a budget. While this strategy is certainly more cost-effective than a traditional influencer marketing campaign, you still need to decide how many influencers are needed to help you reach your goal. Alternatively, your budget will determine the maximum number of products you can afford to send out.

Here’s what to include in your influencer gifting budget: - Total cost of product gifts - Shipping - Packaging - Influencer marketing software

Decide what your brand can spend and what you need to spend. You may want to start small for your first campaign just to see what your results look like, get learnings on a smaller scale, and make sure this strategy is worth it. You will also get learnings from the first campaign that will help you be more efficient in the next one.

Phase 2: Outreach

Next, you’ll move onto phase two which is all about finding and reaching out to the best influencers for your campaign.

Segment your audience and influencers. You’ve already created buyer personas to represent the different segments of your audience and the products they’d be most interested in buying. Now, match those segments up to different segments of influencers you’re interested in working with.

There may be many influencer niches to choose from that can reach different segments of your audience. For example, if you have a skincare brand, you could target influencers in a variety of niches: beauty, lifestyle, moms, health and wellness, etc. One of these niches may perform significantly better than the others. Will you take an educated guess? Or will you select influencers from each niche and test them.

Choose the right influencers. Time to select the influencers for your campaign! You should have groups of influencers segmented out based on our last step. Now, you need to do a deeper dive into their content, audience, and engagement levels to decide which ones to work with.

Take a look at details like:

  • How much engagement their content receives

  • If their engagement leans more positive than negative

  • If they’re responsive to follower comments

  • If they tend to post gifted products

  • What their gifted product posts look like

  • How aligned their audience is with your target audience

  • How aligned their messaging is with your messaging

Then compile your list of influencers so that you can begin reaching out to each one.

Leverage technology. Influencer marketing software tools can help with all of the above. You don’t have to use a tool for product gifting if you’re first starting out with a few influencers, but you will need the help of automation as you start to work with more influencers.

Tools exist to help with all parts of the influencer marketing process from discovering and vetting influencers, to communicating with them and shipping products. Tools can help after the launch too. A content tracking tool like MightyScout will be your best friend, capturing all the valuable influencer posts and stories so you don’t have to check influencer posts every 24 hours for the next month.

Find your ideal Instagram Influencers - image

Utilize outreach best practices. Finally, time to start reaching out to your list of potential influencer partners. make sure you’re following best practices to increase the chances that the influencers you want to work with get back to you.

Some of these best practices include:

  • Be open and transparent: Influencers are constantly inundated with emails and offers. You need to make yours stand out by immediately proving you’re trustworthy and reaching out with a legitimate offer.

  • Email from a real person’s account: Don’t use a generic contact email. Choose someone on your marketing team to be the point of contact. Use their real name and information so the influencer can easily look them up and verify their details.

  • Talk the influencer up: Tell the person why you reached out to them specifically. Let them know what you love about their account and their content. Make them excited to work with you.

  • Ask if they accept product gifts: Make sure the influencer actually accepts gifts from brands before you put any further time and effort into the campaign.

  • Let the influencer know you don’t expect anything: When you’re only doing a gifting campaign, you can’t expect a post from every influencer.

- Introduce them to your brand: Explain your product, why you think it’d be a great fit for the influencer, and why you think your brand would be a great fit for them and their audience.

  • End with some kind of call-to-action: In this type of campaign outreach, you’re likely asking if the influencer is interested in receiving a gift, and if so, what their PO box or mailing address is so you can send it out to them. But make it clear how they can move forward with your brand.

Phase 3: Collaboration

Phase three is all about collaborating properly with the influencers who opt in to receive your product gift.

Offer collaboration ideas that match the influencer’s style and personality. Make the influencer’s job as easy as possible—especially if you’re offering no additional compensation—by providing ideas in case they want to share your product with their audience.

Once you’ve gotten approval from the influencer to send the product, put together a packet with content ideas, messaging starters, and more that are catered to each influencer’s style. Make sure you let the influencer know that you’re being helpful in case they do decide to post.

You want to give the influencer as much creative freedom as possible, while providing some guidance to improve the chance that the influencer will promote your product.

Ensure legal compliance. Even gifted products need to have a proper disclaimer, according to the Federal Trade Commission Thanking the brand for the gift prominently in the caption is enough for a static post. But the influencer can also include a verbal disclaimer within a video that the product was sent to them as a gift. Check the latest guidelines from the FTC for influencers.

Include legal compliance guidelines within your email correspondence so the influencer knows the proper protocol should they decide to mention your product on social media.

Make your product packaging exciting and personalized. One way to get your influencer partners excited about your product is to jazz it up with fun product packaging. Include some additional gifts and extras alongside your product to really make the influencer feel special and excited to share your product.

Take a look at this #gifted box that a publishing company sent to book influencer @emilybookedup. The main component is the new book, but the publishing company also sent some additional swag, like a sweatshirt, makeup bag, and beauty items.

Example Image of an Exciting and Personalized Product packaging

Take some notes from this. Think about what will make the box fun to open. Packaging components like confetti, stickers, and colorful tissue paper may be a fun element. However, if your brand stands for eco-friendliness, sustainability, or environmental friendliness – or if your influencers do – then extra packaging and paper aren’t the way to go. You’ll have to get a little more clever.

Add a personalized note to the influencer that makes them feel good and makes them even more likely to want to share such a fun package with their audience. And peep the proper legal disclosures on the story, clearly sharing that it was a gift! 10/10 all around.

Ship your products. Now it’s time to ship out your products to each influencer. Make sure to get tracking numbers for each package as well. Not only does this allow influencers to keep track of when the package will arrive, it ensures your team can send a timely follow up to ask if they received it.

Use a trusted shipping service and don’t skimp on costs—you don’t want packages to get damaged. And if they do, be sure to promptly re-send a new package to the influencer.

Consider using a tool like MightyScout to help your team keep track of all the gifts you’ve sent out to your influencer partners.

Ship, gift, and track products in minutes - image

Phase 4: Launch

Finally, we’re into the last phase. In any campaign, we’d typically call this final phase the “launch” phase, though there’s no guaranteed content launch with an influencer gifting campaign. But “launch” still sounds better than the “waiting with bated breath” phase.

Keep an eye on influencer feeds. Start by monitoring influencer feeds or using a social listening tool to keep your ears on the ground in case any influencers decide to post. You can also ask them to message you if they decide to post, but again, you don’t want to put too much on the influencer when you’re providing no additional compensation.

So the first step in this phase is to wait, watch, and listen.

Immediately follow up with the influencer after the content goes live. Once you’ve seen a post or two go live, immediately follow up with the influencer to thank them. Let them know how much you appreciate that they shared your product and that you hope they love it. Tell them how much you loved their content.

And of course, engage with and re-share the post on your own social media feeds to further its reach. This can also help the influencer reach a wider audience, which they’ll also appreciate.

Monitor, measure, and report on performance. Monitor the performance of each post mentioning your product. How many likes, comments, and shares it got. Look through the comments to see if anyone mentioned your brand or asked questions. Feel free to pop in to respond to any questions yourself.

Measure KPIs based on your initial goals. But also pay attention to how many influencers shared your product out of the total number you sent products to. This can help you pinpoint just how successful your campaign was.

Incentivize or reward the influencer if the campaign went well. If an influencer’s post did particularly well, incentivize or reward them as a way of saying thank you. Consider sending a follow up product as a thank you, or add them to your list of influencers you want to partner with for your next full campaign.

Get started with your next influencer gifting campaign

Putting together a successful influencer gifting campaign involves much more than grabbing a list of addresses and sending out plain packages. Instead, you need to personalize your correspondence, get influencers excited about what you have to offer, and humanize the entire conversation.

Learn more about how MightyScout can help you keep your influencer gifting campaign organized through each phase of the campaign. From prep to outreach to the collab to launch, MightyScout has tools that can make the entire process easier.