How NOT To Get Free Stuff As A Social Media Influencer

By Jamie McSloy / January 19, 2018
free stuff social media influencer featured image

Do You Want Free Stuff?

Today I was wasting time browsing the internet for opportunities, when I came across this gem of an uproar.

A girl, who is a social media influencer (or vlogger) asked a hotel for free accommodation in exchange for promoting said hotel on Instagram and YouTube.

Here’s what she wrote:


And here’s the reply from the hotel manager:

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After this reply, the social media girl was upset and posted to her YouTube about how damaging the above message was. You can view that below (although don’t waste all twenty minutes of your life – you’ll get the point quite quickly.)

Now, we’re not ones for internet drama here, but there are some good lessons here.

Let’s say you’re a young person trying to build an online business. You want to provide value to people and learn the ropes of marketing online and whatnot. Obviously reading my blog is the best step you can take.

But what if you want free stuff?

You should probably use what I’m constantly referring to on this site.

Sing it with me everyone.

Direct Marketing Principles

We’ll leave the above two people behind except as an illuminating example.

If you are a young person who wants free stuff to use your platform to market people in return for something they offer, then the first, most important and “YOU CAN’T FORGET THIS STEP” step you must take is this:

Forget Yourself. It’s All About Them

There are a lot of travel bloggers, “thought leaders” and social media influencers out there who seem to be under the impression that their opinion is valuable and that their marketing is a blessing upon companies.

They’re wrong.

If you send an email that says, “Hey. I’m Jimmy. I want you to give me some stuff and in exchange I’ll write a blog post about it,” then guess what someone is going to read.

They’re going to read, “Jimmy wants some free stuff.”

This is incredibly basic direct marketing stuff. It’s never about you and it’s always about them.

If you were to write an email to a hotel using your social media as leverage, then you’d write things like:

  • Do you want more customers? Because we sent 1,000 new customers to our last featured hotel
  • Do you spend money on advertising? Because we’re 90% more cost-effective than traditional advertising methods
  • We offer a photography/videography package that you can use on all of your marketing with no limitations forever
  • We’ll also expose your brand to 100,000 people across multiple platforms. If you want a sustained campaign over the course of an entire year… we can do that too
  • However, we’re only in your area for a limited time and we’ve already booked three out of four slots… so please let us know before X

Wrap that up with a “hope to hear from you soon,” and an, “I’ll let you know the details if you’re interested.”

Then wait.

The above bullets – despite straight from my brain and not remotely well thought of – follow a general direct marketing based approach that builds in value building, the offer, bonuses, a one-time offer and social proof which you could build out with actual stats.

Understand… Your Targets Are Bombarded

The above set of bullets, if you dressed the up and did some research and followed basic good manners, (i.e. don’t ask for free stuff, say please and thank you and BY GOD DO NOT SEND OUT A GENERIC CUT&PASTE “dear sir I hope this email finds you” template thing…) it would work.

It would also mark you as different from every other “blogger” who doesn’t know anything about how marketing works. (Ironic, seeing as they’re “marketers.”)

Here’s the thing: If you have even a small brand, people will hit you up for free stuff all the time. On the flip side, don’t get an inflated ego if people offer you free stuff. Even with tiny sites people will do that.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should work with you and you should get stuff for free.

Understand that even tiny sites and companies get these requests… like, my site is so tiny I can’t believe anyone finds it, and at practically every opportunity I shout, writers shouldn’t ever work for free and yet people still find me and ask me to work for free sometimes.

This is very irritating, and you shouldn’t do it.

Free is not good in business.

You’d be better off charging a hotel for your social media services.

Anyway, the point here is that everyone is trying to get free stuff and you have to look different. You do this by being a professional and writing a decent letter.

Also… Research.

Research Your Targets

This girl obviously sent out a generic email without doing any targeting of prospects.

How can I tell?

Aside from the vague template language in her email… the hotel in question is run by a guy who has gone viral multiple times for upsetting people and banning them from his store.

… he told vegans they were banned.

… then he told breastfeeding mothers they were banned.

… at one point I think he banned all Brazilians from his hotel.

Now, if you were cynical, you could almost give a thumbs-up to his marketing strategy.

The point I’ll make, as an adult totally not into drama, is that this is not a guy you want to email asking for free stuff.

This was never going to end well for our blogger girl and if she’d researched her targets carefully, then none of this would have happened.

Also, his response tells us another thing.

Social media influencers think that because they have huge followings, automatically this means they have influence. It doesn’t. This is because they don’t understand the fact that one audience isn’t another and targeting is real.

A lot of social media influencers say, “I have thousands of fans all around the world!”

If you’re growing a web-based business, this might be good. For brick and mortar, forget it.

If you have a YouTube following of 50,000 teenage girls from around the world, understand that to a brick and mortar store in Dublin that following is worth NOTHING.

The guy simply doesn’t care how many travel blogging kids he upsets, because he understands that they aren’t his market.

If you’re hot on your direct marketing, you’ll know that he is following one principle better than the girl is.

That principle is this: if they aren’t your target market, then they don’t exist to you.

The Wider Picture

Let’s finish this article up.

This could have all been avoided if the girl had realised that this guy was not a good prospect and she’d not sent the email she did. Hindsight is perfect though.

So moving forward, if you want to influence people on social media: Pick your target and act like a professional. This is fairly basic stuff.

But to move on to a wider point which I guess the girl was trying to address in her video, but failed.

The wider point is where the new tech generation fits in with old business.

New technology, like social media and blogging, videos and advertising are a new facet of marketing. They’re part of a wider shift in business that includes e-commerce, personalised advertising and all those other weird things that didn’t exist twenty years ago.

If you work in these fields it’s not your customer’s job to “believe and buy.”

If you want to convince some hotel owner that a blog from you is worth a £500 ad in a magazine, then that’s on you.

The lifestyle and business you want is not the responsibility of your client.

Nobody is going to pay you – be it with money or free stuff – so that you can live a better, happy life. Thinking this way is naïve and counterproductive to any business efforts you might have.

You must provide the value.

If you get people saying you’re not worth the money or that your business isn’t a business… then you need to do a better job of convincing them.

You do this with facts, figures and professionalism.

There are no shortcuts to that. Act like a professional and you’ll be treated like one.

Half-arse and rely on stuff like “exposure” and “cultivating a happy message to people” and you’re going to get push back from people who think you’re just another dreamer without a real job.