406: Monetization Strategies in the Influencer Industry with Brittany Hennessy

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A blue image of a woman on her phone with the title of Brittany Hennessy's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Monetization Strategies in the Influencer Industry."

This episode is sponsored by Clariti.

Welcome to episode 406 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Brittany Hennessy from Carbon August about influencer marketing.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Casey Rooney. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Monetization Strategies in the Influencer Industry

Do you consider yourself to be an influencer? As a food creator, whether or not you have a large social media following, you are definitely influencing your audience. And today’s guest is the expert when it comes to all things influencer.

In this episode, Bjork is chatting with Brittany Hennessy, an author and pioneer in the influencer industry. They discuss her career path, experiences working at a media company, and why creators are more important than ever in the marketing space.

It’s a thought-provoking episode that will help you think more critically about your strengths as a content creator, and how to build a stronger, more profitable business.

A photograph of a laptop and papers on a desk with a quote from Brittany Hennessy's episode on The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, "If you want to make money, you should definitely know what effect your content is having on a brand's bottom line."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • More about Brittany’s career path and how she got started in the influencer industry.
  • What it’s like to work at a media company like Hearst.
  • Why creators are more important than ever in the marketing space.
  • Whether you’re an endorser, entertainer, or educator as a creator, and what the metrics for success look like for each.
  • Her advice for when you should build vs. monetize.
  • Why she thinks that social media followers and email subscribers are the most important relationships to build.
  • Why you should ask yourself “Is this good for my brand, is this good for my business, and/or does this make me happy?” when making decisions regarding what you share.
  • How to approach affiliate marketing on a food blog.
  • When and why you should consider working with an agency.
  • More about Brittany’s book (Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media).


About This Week’s Sponsor

We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!

With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.

Sign up for Clariti today to receive:

  • Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
  • 50% off your first month
  • Optimization ideas for your site content
  • An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
  • And more!

You can learn more and sign up here.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com. And I’m going to give you a really specific example of how you can use Clariti if you sign up today. And that is poster page specific tracking of changes that you’re making. And you can use the notes area within Clariti to make a note anytime that you make a change. An example of when you’d want to do this, let’s say that you’re switching over some of your YouTube videos to be Adrive or Mediavine video players. You want to make sure that you’re tracking to see when you look back three months later, the change or the impact that that had. And personally, what we’ve noticed as we’ve worked on content is you forget if you don’t have a system, if you’re not making a note of that somewhere, you’ll forget. And so within Clariti, there’s the ability to leave a note anytime that you’re making a change or improvement on a piece of content to allow you to go back and see how that change impacted things.

There’s lots of other ways that you can use Clariti, but I thought it’d be helpful just to give a really specific example. If you want to see what those other ways are, you can go to clariti.com/food to get 50% off your first month. Again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food to get 50% off of your first month. You can start taking notes on the changes you’re making and explore all the other features. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey there, you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and we’re really excited to bring you today’s new podcast episode. Bjork is chatting with Brittany Hennessy, an author and pioneer in the influencer industry. In this episode, they discuss her career path, her experiences working at a media company and why creators are more important than ever in the marketing space. One of my favorite parts of the episode is when Brittany talks about the three different types of influencers, endorsers, entertainers, and educators. And what the different metrics for success look like for each of those. It’s a really thought-provoking episode that will help you think more critically about your strengths as a content creator, and also how to build a stronger and more profitable business. We really hope you enjoy this episode, and if you do, please leave a rating or review. It helps us out a lot. So without further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Brittany, welcome to the podcast.

Brittany Hennessy: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here

Bjork Ostrom: So obviously this is the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We talk a lot about things in the food space, but usually what happens is we talk to experts who are experts on a broad topic, as is the case with you all things influencer. But before we hit record, you said food publishers, food creators are actually some of your most favorite creators to work with. Why is that? We’re going to butter up the audience before we start talking.

Brittany Hennessy: Well, aside from the fact that I love to eat, I think it’s because they have the most integrity. When you look at fashion, when you look at beauty, travel, lifestyle, everyone can kind of fake it. You can’t fake food. It either looks good or it doesn’t. It either tastes good or it doesn’t. And because of that, and because so much of your audience’s trust comes from being able to replicate a recipe at home or just trust that you know what you’re doing, food creators have to have more integrity. I mean, that’s just so cool, especially in this space where there’s a lot of disingenuous activity. It’s nice to have people who stand by their creation and won’t change a single ingredient because it might change.

Bjork Ostrom: To the outcome. Just yesterday I was talking to Lindsay and our friend had this book launch. We went to the book launch. As we’re leaving, somebody stood up quick. It was this guy and he’s like, ¨Are you Pinch of Yum?¨ If it ever happens, which doesn’t happen a lot. People always say, ¨Are you Pinch of Yum?¨ Not, ¨Are you Lindsay?¨ Or they’ll say, Pinch of Yum’s husband for me, “Are you pinch of Yum’s husband?”

But they stopped and he said, “Oh, my wife follows along with you and she actually worked at the same elementary school that Lindsay used to work at.” So there’s this really fun connection. And so we had this long conversation. We left. In that conversation they said, “Oh, we had just made.” And they named this recipe, and it was a recipe that had just come out. And Lindsay was processing through the fact that she, it was 10 o’clock, we were winding down. The girls had settled, and it’s usually that sacred half hour to 45 minutes of time where it’s just, you get to do whatever you want. And she’s like, “I really feel like I need to test these recipes one more time, this recipe specifically one more time.” It was this chicken meatball recipe. And what happened in that short story, and this ties back to what you said is these people said, “Oh my gosh, we made this. It was really good.”

And Lindsay said, “In that moment, at 10 o’clock, I was wondering if I was losing my mind because I’m testing this recipe one more time to make sure that it’s okay because you know and everybody listening to this knows people are going to make those recipes.” And if they aren’t good, people have bought ingredients, they’ve taken time. They’re giving to their family, they’re kind of putting themselves on the line a lot. So I can see what you’re saying. You can’t really fake it if you’re actually coming up and developing your own recipes and putting those out into the world. And then the last thing that this made me think of that, I’ll have to put this link in the show notes. There’s this YouTube video I watched and Lindsay walked into the room, same thing after the girls were down and you finally have that pocket of time.

And she’s like, “What are you smiling about?” And it was this group that did, they went to Paris Fashion Week, and they dressed up this, they said it was like a grandpa. I don’t know if it was his grandpa or just an older gentleman with really cheap stuff from, like a floaty, and he put a floaty on and it was like a dog toy and they put it on. But then he ended up on trending…

Brittany Hennessy: Street style blogs.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Exactly. And it’s just different industries, and I think I have a lot of respect for people who understand fashion, but it’s not the kind of thing where you could just throw something together and people would maybe be intrigued with it. You actually have to know what you’re doing. So yes, appreciate that. And I’m sure people listening appreciate that as well. Speaking of knowing what you’re doing, you really know what you’re doing when it comes to influencers, creators, creating things online as a business, and that comes from a lot of experience that you have in it. So can you share a little bit about your story, Brittany, and how you got into this world and you’ve had a lot of reps in this industry and would be interested to hear where those come from.

Brittany Hennessy: Sure. So I was a blogger a very long time ago in 2007, which the further on I get in my career, the longer my beginning was away from time, which was very strange. But I was a blogger. I had a nightlife and events blog, and I was blogging for myself. We weren’t making any money then, blogging for myself just because I majored in journalism in college, ended up at a job that required absolutely no writing as most journalist majors do. And I was just trying to keep my skills fresh. And I had gone to a fashion week party. I got what people, I guess apparently ended up being a scoop of some cocktail and I posted it. And the next day I went into my blog and it was down. And I was like, “Why is my site down?” And then I was getting all these texts of, “Your blog is on the front page of GrubStreet.”

And I was like, I’m sorry, what? I had no idea other people even read my blog other than my friends and my mom. So to realize that not only was somebody reading it, but I had gone viral. It was very interesting. So I blogged a little bit. I was working on that. And then the industry started to change. So journalism, I wanted to be a print journalist. That was not going to happen. And so I worked on that. But then I started to get into social media and because I was a blogger, I got to go on a nice brand trip to Germany and hang out with Rihanna. And that’s when I said, “Wait a minute. I’ve got to change my career trajectory because if this is what’s on the digital side, this is what I want to do.” So I worked for a number of companies just doing freelancing, helping people get their social media together.

And then I had my big influencer break. I went to Horizon Media and there I worked with Travel Channel, Food Network, and then all sorts of CPGs. So lots of food companies, lots of fast food chains, and really got to start working with influencers. And this was now probably 2015, 2014, we still weren’t really paying people. People were blogging, people were just happy to get free product or happy to be associated with their favorite brand. And I was doing everything from explaining to a brand what a blogger was, because a bunch of them had no idea. All the way to figuring out if we did spend money, did this work? And so I love that but I really loved working with creators the most. And somewhere in that stint of having a blog to being an influencer marketing, I also worked at a talent agency. I also went to law school, so I did a bunch of random things and ended up here.

And so I said, “I really want to focus on talent.” And then I went to Hearst where I got to work on Seventeen, Cosmo, Harper’s Bizarre, lots of fashion, but also Delish, which was very fun. And really started to realize that creators were not making money, or if they were making money, they could be making much more, but they had no idea what happened on the brand side. And so that’s what prompted me to write my book, Influencer Building Your Personal Brand in The Age of Social Media, which I wasn’t really sure anything I was saying was new. I was like, this seems very basic. And my friends were like, “You don’t understand.” People have no idea that this is what happens on the brand side. They don’t know how they get picked. They don’t know how to price their offerings, they don’t know how to run through a campaign.

They don’t know how to prove that they were the right person to hire. And so really writing the book as a, “Here are all the things I know, and once you read this book, hopefully you’ll know them too.” And so I think that was really helpful for a lot of people.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of the things that we hear a lot from people whenever we interview a brand and we say, “Can you tell us about what things look like on your side?” Because it’s kind of like we’re mailing in these DMs, these messages, we’re taking brands. But what does it actually look like on the other side? And I think that would be a great place to dig in a little bit. Before we do, can you talk about Hearst a little bit. And what does that look like, not even on the influencer side behind the scenes. But when you work for this parent company, how much are you assigned to a specific campaign, with a specific blog or are you checking in? What does that look like when it’s a, I don’t know, conglomerate? Is that what it’s called? Feels like-

Brittany Hennessy: I think, yeah. So when you work at a brand, it’s very different. So I’ve had the luxury, I guess. I worked at an agency, so Horizon was an agency with Food Network, Hearst was a media company with Delish. And now I work at Collective Voice, which is formerly ShopStyle Collective, which is all affiliate, but also does all sorts of food retailers. So when you work at a company that large, you are a very small piece of a huge pie, which I think… Influencers feel that because to be quite honest, in a lot of these places, I was not the most important person in the room ever. And so for me, I might have $20,000 to pay one or a few creators, and that’s all I’m focused on. And the person sitting next to me is like, “This is a $5 million ad buy.”

I don’t care about your $10,000. And so I think that’s the part I think creators miss a lot is for them, this is their entire world. But lots of times in a marketing plan you are a very, very, very small piece of an overall plan that includes PR and events. And in the instance of food retail space, people pay to be on a shelf higher than their competitor and all of these things. So I think a lot has changed in that time. Creators are much more important than they used to be, but I think that’s also because the tech has evolved so we can see the impact people have and that is very cool to have creators come into this space where they’re not a nice to have anymore, they’re a must have. And that’s really refreshing.

Bjork Ostrom: Why did that change happen? What was it that resulted in influencers, creators being must have for brands and media companies?

Brittany Hennessy: I think when we started, I would say probably in 2017, 18, we started to get all of these tech platforms getting into the influencer space because people realize there is a lot of money here and now it’s something like $20 billion or some crazy number. So when tech got into the space, we were able to start closing the gap between creators creating some content and what actually happened that the retailer should care about. So if you are creating the 10 best summer salads, or a great example is the crock pot which blew up or the air fryer which blew up. People are buying air fryers because there are recipes that they see that require an air fryer. And for the longest time it would just be, “Oh yeah, I’m going to buy this thing.” Brands had no idea why you were buying something. They didn’t know who told you they were buying. They’re thinking, “Oh, it’s like a digital ad or a television commercial.” And then when we started getting tech that could monitor online chatter, we could start to look at YouTube comments.

We had Instagram and we could see what people were saying in stories. Then affiliate came on the scene and we could track the clicks. Then we could see, “Oh, this creator sold 50 air fryers, hold on. We need to bring them into the fold.” And so I think that data helps people, helps creators become more important. So the saddest part is when people don’t want to lean into the data. When creators are very much about the art and only about the art, and they’re like, “I just make my food. I don’t look at the numbers, I don’t look at the clicks.” And it’s great if you don’t want to make any money. But if you want to make money, you should definitely know what effect your content is having on a brand’s bottom line because many influencers, they have ton of product. They’re changing the margins for a brand. And if you are one of those people, then that’s something you should really step into because that’s how you make a career of something like this.

Bjork Ostrom: And the easiest way to do that, to tell that story to a brand or an agency that you’re working with is through data. Like, “Here’s the information, here’s the number of people who saw it.” Even soft and hard data. Soft data being like, “Hey, there was these 10 comments from people saying they’re excited to go out and buy these specific noodles. And also here’s how many people saw that content.” I think of my friend Bruno, who has a company called InfluenceKit, that’s all about what they are is as influencers, how do we create the best story around data that we can present to a brand? And they roll all of that information up into really nice reports and pass that along. So I’m curious to hear, you’ve seen both sides of it, you know what it’s like behind the scenes.

You also know what it’s like when you’re a creator. You’ve kind of experimented in that world and had experiences in that world. Or somebody who is saying, “I want to start out, I want to…” Or is in the middle of it, “I want to do this.” What does that look like to move forward in a way where you’re setting yourself up for the best chance of not only getting noticed, but getting picked by brands and agencies to work with them?

Brittany Hennessy: So I think, I always say there are three paths when you decide you want to become a creator or you’ve decided to get serious. You are an endorser. So that’s someone who is constantly saying, “This is the best air fryer. These are the best aprons. This is the best knife set. You’ve got to look at all these different almond milks, this is the best almond milk.” So you are putting your expertise behind a recommendation. Then you have your entertainers who are there to literally entertain you. That is the path where those people want a Food Network shift. They want to be on TV, they want a travel network show, whatever it is. So they’re here to have you get excited and support them, become a household name. Then you have people who are educators and you have a lot of that in this food space.

People who are talking about if you’re a whole 30 or gluten-free or you have certain allergies. So they are really intellect, the textbook, here’s the system to get this done. So lots of it is figuring out which one of those you want to do because they all have very different metrics to define success. So if you’re someone who endorses product, you make money usually off of commissions, having data of people saying, “I bought this pitching brands.” And so you’re looking at those impressions, you’re looking at link clicks, you’re looking at all of that. That’s very different than an entertainer who needs to know how many views they got and how much press can they get? Because that’s what a television show wants to know. It’s like, do people know who you are? If we give you a show, is anyone going to watch? So it’s not so much about can they sell product.

It’s do they make people laugh? Can they keep an audience engaged? Which is very different than being an educator because those are the people who tend to have courses and templates and memberships and all of those things because you are buying into their school system. So those are very different types of revenue. It’s audience revenue, brand revenue, and then client revenue. And so you have to figure that out first because if you don’t, you end up doing a 33% of everything and then you’re burnt out. You haven’t made any progress, you don’t have any money at the end of the day and you’re kind of like, “Where am I?” So the first step is picking one of those three and then going all in that particular…

Bjork Ostrom: If somebody is trying to figure that out, do you know, how do people ask themselves the right questions to figure out who they are? Am I an entertainer? Am I an educator? Or is your experience usually that people will know? They’re just like, “I’m not an entertainer. That’s not what I do.”

Brittany Hennessy: I think people don’t know. People say lots of times, “Oh, I’m not such and such.” And it’s just because they’re afraid or they don’t have any experience. And people are like, they really don’t like failure. I mean, a great example of that is Adele, who’s one of the most famous singers in the world. She has stage fright. She hates being on stage. She’s Adele. But so just because you don’t feel like something is you, doesn’t mean it’s right. So I would say the best way to figure out what you are is to ask your friends, because we tend to deceive ourselves. We lie. Some people think they’re very good at things and they’re not good at them at all. Some people are actually great at something but won’t admit it. So I always say, ask your five closest friends. Your mom doesn’t count because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings.

But ask your five closest friends, if I’m thinking about this particular product like an air fryer, what would you expect me to do? Would you expect me to tell you all the different things? Some people know like, “Well, it’s this size and it’s got this wattage and you can make this and this.” Am I a person who tells you all the things? Am I going to give you a fantastic demo and be like, “Today, are you very Vanna White about it?” Or am I going to tell you about the health benefits of cooking your food through an air fryer? Those three questions, which do they think you are more likely to do, will pretty much tell you which path you’re on. And people are drawn to one of those types of things. The best creators can do all of them, but it’s usually not natural. And it usually takes a while of mastering one at a time and then saying, “Okay, I can do all three.” Which is how you make the most money.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah. Like you’re really good at entertaining. It almost seems like entertainment, if you can lead with that, that’s going to be one of the best things. It’s the thing that hooks people. You’re able to keep people, it’s attention economics, and the best way to keep somebody’s attention is if you’re entertaining. But to your point, if you can also educate people and sell product really well through endorsing, that’s kind of the sweet spot of all of those different things. So let’s use some examples of maybe well-known people in the influencer space, like Chip and Joanna Gaines. Would that be kind of classic case entertainers in your opinion?

Brittany Hennessy: Yes, because we know who they are, we love them, but plenty of the average person, can’t actually tell you what they do. They’re like, “Oh, they’re like the home people.” So it’s kind of like, but we know them. They have nice faces, they’re very smiley, but plenty of people don’t know what Magnolia is. They don’t know she has a target… They don’t necessarily know. And if I was trying to pick the best knife set, I don’t think they’re the people I’d ask. I don’t know if they’re the best. But I like them. People like them, they like the lifestyle. And so they’re very much celebrity influencers. They are definitely entertainers, and that piece helps them be more reliable in the endorsing and education space, but they’re not really endorsers and they’re not really educators. But we put it all nice in a package and it seems to work.

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. And I think of, it’s not really influencers necessarily, but Wirecutter as a great example of company or a brand within New York Times now, and I don’t go there to be entertained. I go there to see what’s the best electric snowblower. And I can think of different people that in my 15 years of being a true consumer, longer than that really. But there’s a period of time, and I don’t even remember the name of the site, but it was photography and he was like the go-to guy on photography lenses, camera bodies. It wasn’t entertaining. It was actually a really plain vanilla site, but it had really good information that was super in depth, and that’s what he was good at. And Chip and Joanna Gaines is an example of they’re really good at the entertainment piece.

Can you think of, well, let me know if this aligns, but I feel like… This is a musician, but I feel like it’s a musician who has done a really good job of entertaining, but then going into endorsing, and it’s Travis Scott. And I’ve just been so fascinated by his ability to leverage his name in different places. McDonald’s did those celebrity menu items, and his was the most popular. And then he was also featured as a character in one of those video games. Do you know anything about video games?

Brittany Hennessy: I know what you’re talking about. It’s that world and it has an influencer president. And I’m like, what’s that thing here?

Bjork Ostrom: And I would play it with my brother-in-law and he would just be so embarrassed to be in there with me. But that’s an example of somebody who’s, and maybe just celebrity in general now is kind of entertainer and endorser were those-

Brittany Hennessy: Yes, yes. But it has to be an endorsement that makes sense. Because a great example is Jennifer Lopez, love her, but a long time ago she was endorsing, I think, a gin. And we all know Jennifer Lopez doesn’t drink alcohol. So it’s kind of like, she told me to drink it. I might drink it because I love her, but you wouldn’t even drink it.

Bjork Ostrom: But you’re not the person who’s drinking this.

Brittany Hennessy: That’s why you’ve got to have that balance and people give them grief. But Kim Kardashian is a perfect example of someone, she’s a celebrity. She’s just a celebrity. She’s a famous person, but she made Skims. And when you think of who is an expert in shape wear, I’m pretty sure she can take the cake for totally reconfiguring your body with a piece of underwear. So that’s a good endorsement. It’s the self endorsement. She can endorse somebody else’s. But she was like, why would I do that? I can make my own and then make all the money. And then in terms of education, it’s like, well, and then she can show you how to pose once you’ve put all of this on. And so that’s a very natural way for a celebrity to see whether it’s a thing they’re known for or made fun of, whatever it is.

If you’re an entertainer, what is the thing that if someone were to do a caricature of you, what are the points they’d emphasize? Because those are probably the things you should endorse. Those are probably the things you can teach. It’s whatever is the outsized outcome of whatever your entertaining is, that’s a good model for you to follow.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. So let’s say people start to get this idea, “Hey, I’m going to get really good at being an entertainer, or I’m going to get really good at education.” And that’s going to be the point that I focus on. What does it look like to build versus monetize? And I think there’s all different thoughts on, well, you need to build for certain period of time before you can really start to think about actually creating an income from it. Do you have any advice for people in terms of when they should start to seriously look to reach out to a brand and connect with a company? What does that look like?

Brittany Hennessy: So I among the thought process that you should be monetizing immediately, immediately. This whole, “Oh, it’s three months, six months, a year.” Every time I meet creators who are like, “I’ve been a creator for a year and I haven’t made any money.” This blows my mind because there are so many ways to just get money right away. So when you’re thinking of building, you build either for right now or long term. Building for in between doesn’t make any sense. So right now is very much you want to have a TikTok, you want to have an Instagram, YouTube is kind of both, but social media is very much right now because it’s a quick hit. Maybe you’ll go viral, you’ll pick up a bunch of followers. Long term is building an email list. And I think people, everyone underestimates the email list. When anyone who makes money on the internet knows that majority of the money you make comes through email.

That’s just like for the most part how it works. Because when someone chooses to open your email, they have decided that they are going to spend time with you as opposed to social media, which is just an onslaught. I open up a social media platform, maybe I don’t want to see your face right now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t come down my feet. And so you’re kind of just being pushed on them as opposed to people choosing to spend time with you. And people who decide to subscribe to your newsletter, those are people who they want, not only when they open it do they want to spend time with you, but they’re asking to come along on your journey because whether or not they decide that they’re on a TikTok break or they’re not going to use Instagram anymore, people never give up their email.

And so I think those relationships are the best to build. And there’s a food influencer, the Striped Spatula, and she has a 52-week welcome sequence when you opt in. So she knows when to send you an email about Easter rack of lamb. She knows when to send you an email about this smoothie because you’re going to detox this week because of 4th of July. She knows you get all these emails and so she is constantly showing up in your inbox, which makes you think about her. Which is great because as long as you’re subscribed, if she sends an email, you will get it. Whereas on social media, you can spend a lot of time creating content and no one might see it, which is really disheartening actually. So then if you’re doing that, you can start monetizing right away. Because if you look at affiliate, which I think is a great low cost, low barrier to entry way to make money, if someone clicks on a link that you’ve given them and they make a purchase, you make money.

And so that person could be your friend who you told about the air fryer. “Hey, you were saying you need an air fryer, I did my research, this is the best one.” She buys it. You make money. That has nothing to do with social media, email, the algorithm. That’s a person in real life who makes a purchase. And I think that’s the part that gets lost when you see people who have 20 million followers. Every person is an influencer because we influence our friends and families to do things all the time. “Hey, I saw this movie, I’m watching this TV show, I’m listening to this podcast.” Which is why influencer being such a dirty word is weird because we tell people to do stuff all the time and then we kind of get offended when they don’t do it. “What do you mean you don’t like Succession? What’s wrong with you?”

That’s a thing. And so if you just took that same attitude but started recommending things in your niche, this particular salad dressing, this air fryer, these knives. People need to make purchases. And so you can start, your mom can shop your links and that can make you money. And so that’s a very good way to make $10, $50, a hundred dollars in two weeks, and now you are hooked. Then everything you can view through one of two lenses, well, three lenses. It’s like, is this good for my brand? Is this good for my business? Or does this make me happy? Because sometimes things are neither good for your brand or your business, but you want to make this flan and it’s ugly and you haven’t gotten it right, but you love it. It makes you happy, so you do it. But then other times it’s like, “Okay, this is good for branding because everyone’s making whatever the dishes, so I need to get out there.

I need to get caught up in the algorithm. I got to get on TikTok. I have to make this my spin on this thing.“ And other times it’s, ”I’m not a big fan of the air fryer, but people are buying them. So I’ll make a thick blog article about 10 air fryers you should buy because going to make money.” And so once you start making money, you can really make that jump of thinking about it as a business, which I think is the hardest leap to make. This is not a hobby, this is now something has to make business sense. And for people, that’s really where they get caught up because when something becomes work, it’s much less enjoyable than when it was just for fun.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. The long term, short term makes sense. And what I love about when you talked about getting hooked, I think that’s a really important piece where people are able to see that this is something that you can do. And it’s something I’ve never actually thought about. The best way to step into it probably isn’t to start a social media account and try to land a deal with a brand by reaching out and trying to sell somebody. And you maybe have 5,000 followers, which is really impressive. But for a brand who’s working with somebody who has 500,000 and you talk about the budget, they have $20 million and they’re looking to… And you come and you say, “Hey, $500 is what it’s going to cost to work together.” And it might be a lot of effort for not a lot of return, but to start to get a feel for what it’s like to earn money by producing content is a really powerful thing psychologically.

And so much of what this is our ability as people with the heart and the soul and the good days and bad days to show up consistently over a long period of time and say, what I’m doing is worth it. And what I loved is when you broke out those three little pieces, good for brand, good for business, or makes me happy. And figuring out how to balance those things. And that early traction can be both good for business, good for the brand, and it can make you happy as well. It can be that early indicator of what you’re doing is you’re getting some traction and if you can make a dollar, you can make $2. If you can make two, you can make four. And you can start to feel what that feels like. How do you do that on social media? What’s the best way to do affiliate marketing on social? Or are you thinking more about a website or a blog when you think of affiliate?

Brittany Hennessy: So I would say the best way to do it, if you’re starting and you don’t have a ton of followers, website is your friend. Because on social media, yes, now we have explorer and all of that and the algorithm just pushing random people into your feed on a regular basis. But when you think of who can find this. A blog or a YouTube, someone can find it just because they searched for it. And then the leap to make the conversion is shorter because they’re looking for exactly what you are offering. So if someone is, again, my favorite is the air fryer because I could not believe how the air fryer blew up the influencers face. I just was like this, everybody has one but me, I think so. When you look at that, if you are looking for the best air fryer, and then you could even… I always tell people, you should learn SEO, especially people in the food space because so much of what people are looking for is very specific to what’s happening in the recipe.

Is it grilled or is it in the air fryer? Is it gluten-free? People are searching for these things to get a very specific recipe. And so when you learn how to create content on a blog and on YouTube with an SEO focus in mind, you are making it so that anyone who types in these particular words will come across your content, which means they’re looking for the exact thing that you are selling and now you can make money. Whereas through social, that’s very much it. You’ve built a following that follows you for very specific reason. You post an affiliate link in stories. If they feel like buying, they’ll click it. Hopefully they check out. There’s a lot of wishing, hope and waiting and praying on social media. But with a blog and YouTube, it is just making sure if someone asks a question that you’ve written an answer to, your content surfaces. And then thinking of content more as the icing on a sales cake.

And so a good example of this is Casper. They sell mattresses of course, but they have an entire sleep blog and their sleep blog is amazing. They tell you how to power nap. They tell you how to nap like an astronaut. They give you how to nap for if you need to cram for an exam. They give you all of these tips on sleeping with the hope that at some point you’ll buy a mattress. But if you don’t, at least you’ve got some good content. And so that’s also the way food creators should think about it. From a business perspective is, “Ookay, I want to sell this particular item.” So that’s knives, that’s almond milk, that’s again, the air fryer, whatever it is, and now builds content where that is the way by which you can achieve this recipe. So you need this particular sauce.

If you want to make this item, you need this particular cookie cutout, whatever it is. If you want this end result, it’s because you have these other things. And now in order to copy you, I have to make that purchase. So now you’ve created something that again, makes you happy because you like creating recipes. It’s good for your brand because now they know that this is something you’ve created. It can be found on YouTube, on a blog, but it has a business aspect because you have put things in it that people can purchase. It’s making content really shoppable. And then that’s the easiest way to do it. You could put it on Pinterest, your pin could go viral, and you didn’t even realize. It could go viral tomorrow, six months from now, and all of a sudden you are selling air fryers like hotcakes, and you’re like, “What happened?”

Because only one person of influence better than you needs to re-pin something. And it sets off a domino effect where if you have set yourself up correctly, you can reap the benefits of going viral when it inevitably happens, everybody goes viral at some point. The worst case is when you go viral and you were not ready. So you don’t pick up any followers, you haven’t made any money. You, just for a minute, were on the for you page. And that’s the most tragic story that I see. I’m like, “This person’s not even selling anything.” It’s painful.

Bjork Ostrom: I like this phrase, who not how many. And the idea being, it’s important to think about that every person that comes to your blog or your social accounts, whatever it is, is a person. And that person might be of influence themselves. And we’ve seen this, especially in the early stages of Pinch of Yum. The first big break for Pinch of Yum, it was the founder of Pinterest’s mom, and she started following Pinch of Yum. And she had a huge following because I think she was a recommended follow on Pinterest because her son started it.

And then so she pinned these things and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, where did all this traffic come from?” But the idea of who not how many allows you as a creator to release the burden of needing to get a bunch of followers or a bunch of page views and reshift the focus to how do you create something that’s really awesome? What does really good content look like? Because eventually, like you said, that will get discovered and shared if it is really good. And what I love that you said in addition to that is make sure then that you have the mechanisms to capture the value that is happening when somebody’s coming and looking at your site, email, sign up, affiliate, if that’s what it is, a way for people to follow you in other places. To have those things in place because otherwise people will just come and leave and you’ll never see them again.

Brittany Hennessy: And I love, like you said, that the who is huge because even for me with my blog, one person from New York Magazine happened to be reading it out of the eight people who read it that week. One was a very important person. And so even when I would cast for influencers, I’m looking for the best. I don’t care how many followers you have, and I think food creators are also in, they’re in this bubble where that’s really should be exploit it is that not everyone can make food. So especially from scratch, from your brain. I can put anybody in a dress, I can put makeup on any person, bright lighting, bright stylist, and post editing, everybody looks like a supermodel. Super easy. But in terms of someone being able to say, “Ooh, I’m interested, I want to make… With tomato season, I want to make something. Okay, let me make this, let me put this together.”

This is a skill most people do not have. And so you already have a leg up because you can do something. If you are doing it to the point where it’s like science, and so I can go home and recreate it and get the same effect. That’s also narrowing the playing field. So at the end of the day, just being someone in the food space, you’re already more valuable than in these other spaces where anybody can do it. And when you look at all of these websites and brands, everybody needs content. And so it doesn’t even have to be about, “Oh, I told my X number of followers to make this purchase.” Sometimes it just is, “That’s a really good picture using our product, can we buy it from you?” And that’s it. So I know plenty of food creators, they just create their food photographers, they make things and then they sell the images and then people just buy it because they like how those pancakes look, they like how the product looks. And so that’s an avenue.

You can sell product, you can use your platform for brand awareness. There are just so many different ways, and I think some of them are very specific to food. And so it’s really figuring out which of those ways do you like doing the most and what has the lowest barrier of entry. Because if you hate selling, it’s probably better for you to start in a different space. Just so like you said, you can get that pop of success because that was very addicting. You’re like, this is nice. Spend a little bit of money.

And then when looking at brands too, a brand’s purpose when hiring an influencer is to get as much as they can for as little as they can. And so you are coming into any brand partnership at an unfair disadvantage because they want you to do it for free and they want you to say thank you, and you have a business to run, so you can’t do that. So when you have all of these other ways to make money, the brand partnership becomes the icing on the cake. A brand can write you, you can look at it and go, “That’s a nice deal and thank you for thinking of me, but I can make six times if I just wrote a blog post and put an affiliate link for your product, so why would I do this?” And so when you have options, you can walk away. And I think the best creators and not the creators who say yes to everything, it’s the creators who say no to most things because they’ve gotten to a position where they can.

And so the more you have going on, the more you come to a brand negotiation like, “Well what’s in it for me?” And it’s not a situation where you’re like, “Oh my God, I’m so honored.”

Bjork Ostrom: You need this.

Brittany Hennessy: It’s like they picked you because you’re very good at what you do, so you have to know what you’re bringing to the table, and you have to be confident in that. It’s just like dating. It’s just applying for a job. You can’t be starstruck when they write you because they will take advantage of you and then ask you to say thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: That last piece, ask you to say thank you. So great. So let’s say you are one of those people, you hate the idea of selling. You’re not somebody who loves the idea of going in and negotiating a contract. There are people who do that, agents or agencies. At what point does it make sense to look for an agent or an agency?

Brittany Hennessy: So usually it’s when it has become too much for you to manage. And most agents want you to be making $15,000 a month consecutively for three months because they get a percentage. So if you’re not making any money, they make zero. It’s like 10% of zero is zero. That doesn’t work for them. So that’s usually what they want. But because UGC is turning into such a huge medium.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you describe UGC?

Brittany Hennessy: UGC is user generated content. So that’s when you take a picture and then they want to buy it from you. There are all sorts of platforms coming out now where you can upload it and then they’ll sell it on your behalf like Getty. And then DVA, Digital Brand Architects, which is the creme la creme for influencer management. They launched an entire UGC department, and all you have to do is apply. And so if you’re a food blogger, that’s something I would encourage everyone to do is you give them your media kit, you send them samples of your work, and then they go out and try and sell on your behalf. And so they’re specifically looking for brands who are looking for your type of content. And then that’s when having a style becomes important. Your food style, does it have shadows?

Is it certain colors? Do you specialize in tomatoes? Whatever it is. But I would also advise people to do it yourself for long enough that you understand what it is your agent or manager does. Because people are very quick, lots of people have accidental success or unexpected success, and now they have a manager agent and they don’t know how deals work. They don’t know anything about usage, exclusivity. And they’re like, “Oh, my team manages that.” It almost feels like a badge of honor that you have a team and this is beneath you, but how do you know you have a good agent? How do you know your agent is negotiating the best deal if you don’t speak that language yourself? So I always tell people, even if you can get an agent, do it on your own for a year. So you really get a sense of what feels right when you negotiate, what usage do you want, what exclusivity do you want?

How do you want to be treated? What are the working conditions? Do you like working in a time crunch or would you like three weeks to be able to complete a recipe? Because then you can communicate that to an agent to find the best one that will match your style. And when your expectations aren’t being met, you’ll know that and you will walk away. Because as many people who sign up with agencies, leave agencies, they go to different agents, they go back to being self-managed, they bring it in-house, whatever it is. But if you don’t know what your agent does, it’s impossible for you to know if they’re doing a good job or not. And that’s another way creators get taken advantage of, which we don’t want to happen.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. That’s great. And important to keep in mind, there’s that percentage, that’s how they get paid. And that 15,000 mark is like, 10% of that 1500, that kind of being the main entry point for them to justify the amount of time and energy that they’re putting into it. Obviously there’s a lot that goes into this, building a following, getting traction, creating income from it, and you cover a lot of that in your book. What are some of the things that you also cover to give a little shout-out to your book? Just talk a little bit about the book, what you talk about in the book and where people can find it.

Brittany Hennessy: So I think for me, the book was always meant to be the business of influence. Plenty of people were like, “I thought you were going to tell me how to create content.” And I’m like, “I can’t teach you how to create content.”

Bjork Ostrom: And it changes in six months.

Brittany Hennessy: You got to know how to do that. And you have to know your style, what you enjoy doing. But the book does walk you through the journey of, you’ve decided to be a content creator, now what? So we do talk about the different types of content creators. The book talks a lot about how to set up your profile so that a brand can find you because brands use, like I said, there’s a lot of tech now where there’s SEO. So we can search who has recipe developer and in quotes, “Recipe developer who also lives in Texas and who has between this number and this number of followers. And in the last six months has mentioned barbecue sauce.” That could be a thing someone is looking for. And you want to make sure that everything you’re creating surfaces you when a brand is looking for you.

So we talk a lot about that. And then a lot of the book is really about pitching, negotiation, just setting yourself up for success because I think there’s lots of information on how to shoot photo, how to shoot food, how to create, but when it comes down to the actual nitty-gritty of the business part like, how to write an email so a brand opens it. Or like, they said this, what are you supposed to say? And how are you supposed to behave on set? That’s information that for the most part, even now, it’s under lock and key. People are gatekeeping that because they don’t want people to know. So I think for me, that was the most important part to share is these are the things no one’s going to tell you. And even if your friend who’s an influencer tells you they might be wrong because it’s just their experience.

And I think the unique part of this book was because of the number of publications, brands I’ve worked across, I’ve seen what works for men, what works for women, what works for super old people. Hers has got some super old people brands, which great, but also what works for 17 year olds, what works in food and fashion and flowers, YouTube, Instagram. When you look at all of the possibilities, here are the things that are always true. And I think most people don’t have that diverse background. They’re very much fashion person or beauty person or food person. And so you know what works in your industry, but that doesn’t mean you know what’s a universal truth. And so that’s what I really try to distill. No matter what I’m working on, this is always correct. And so people can build off of that because the books that I think almost five years old and it’s still relevant, which is that I was very pleased with.

I’m like, lots of these things still are true because it’s foundations of business. So you definitely can get it on Amazon, half the time it’s free on Amazon. They’ll be like, your books $2 this week and isn’t really-

Bjork Ostrom: Kindle version of the book.

Brittany Hennessy: What’s going on? There’s got paperback on Amazon. There’s Kindle on Amazon. I read the audiobook. So if that’s your thing, feel free to get that on Audible. There’s a hard cover which is floating around in airports, which has bonus chapters and fun things. But of course, if you have a local bookstore. Ask them to order it for you. Because they will, and those people are friends. Amazon doesn’t need your money, neither does Barnes and Noble.

Bjork Ostrom: We have a in the small town, Lindsay and I grew up in, this tiny little bookstore that’s just so awesome. So as much as possible, our family’s always trying to go close to that bookstore. And even just last week, there’s this five star review… There’s over a thousand five star reviews on it. This individual says, “I’m in the middle of reading this book, but copy after I listened to it on Audible. Double purchase.” I had to, Brittany, give step-by-step instructions on how to go on your influencer blogger journey templates for writing emails when you get reached out to about campaigns, helpful tips on your personal branding stories of real celebrity influencers who have done this and a whole lot more by this book. You’ll learn so much, which is a cool little testimonial from somebody. So we’ll link to that in the show notes. Brittany, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, really great to chat with you and appreciate you sharing all of your insights and expertise.

Brittany Hennessy: Yes, thanks for having me. I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned. And like I said, food bloggers are my favorite, so.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey there, Alexa here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and I wanted to just round out this episode with giving you a quick tip on one of the things that comes as soon as you become a Food Blogger Pro member. It’s just one of the nice perks that comes along with the membership. So it’s called our Deals and Discounts page, and it has a bunch of companies that we’ve partnered with to help offer our members exclusive discounts on their products or services. So we’re always adding new and exciting deals to the page. But as of right now, some of the deals include NerdPress, which is the company of our WordPress expert, Andrew. He helps people with tech headaches on the blog, core web vital optimizations, and more businesses and less legal for all of your legal needs, from our legal expert, Danielle.

Simple Pin Media for all of your Pinterest needs from Kate, she is our Pinterest expert. Erickson Surfaces for really beautiful photography backgrounds. Lincoln Profile, Process Street, InfluenceKit, and so many more. We have so many good ones here, including one that’s been really popular recently, which is Cooking with Keywords. We have a nice 10% discount for Food Blogger Pro members, so you get instant access to all of these deals and discounts the moment you sign up for a membership. So if you’re interested in learning more or signing up, go to foodbloggerpro.com/join and you can learn more and sign up right there. Once again, foodbloggerpro.com/join to get access to our deals and discounts page. All right, that does it for us this week. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time. But until then, make it a great week.

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