Updated as of 04/26/2014
I get asked all the time “How do you always get so much “free stuff”?”
I put the “free stuff” in quotes, because let’s face it, nothing is ever totally free, right? Even in the cases of me getting things sent to me in the mail to try, it isn’t or wasn’t totally free. I still have to put my time and energy into trying it, reviewing it on my blog, and sharing it via my Social Media Networks.
Not all of these companies require you have a blog, but the deeper you get into Word of Mouth Advertising and Sponsored Content, the more you will need, to be accepted. It’s always good to have some bit of Social Media backing behind you if you expect companies to “give” you things.
Below I’ve put into different categories each of the companies I have worked with in the past and also currently work with, a brief description of what it is and what is required, from least amount of work, to most. Some sign up links include my special referral signup code which gives me a commission so I can feed my family extra bacon on Sunday mornings (they really love bacon, guys). You aren’t required to sign up under me, but I would appreciate it.
Edited and Updated as of March 28th, 2014
Word of Mouth Advertising Programs (for anyone!, not just bloggers!)
Word of Mouth advertising is exactly what it sounds like. The companies below send you free product in exchange for your word of mouth advertising, ie; telling your friends, your mom, the guy behind you at the grocery store, and also online, reviewing the products either on their sites, or through your social media accounts. Having a blog is not required, though it does help you to get the word out more. Most of these companies want you to have at least a few social media accounts, namely Facebook and Twitter.
Swaggable is the easiest program to use. You sign up, click the samples you’d like to receive and get invites. Once you accept and invite, you get samples in the mail. You don’t have to have any sort of social media connected, just follow users, rate their reviews and create your own. The only thing is very very rarely will you receive a full sized product, it’s usually just deluxe foil packets.
Influenster is great for what it is. I actually started here. I saw someone on Instagram talking about a “free voxbox” she had received in the mail full of fun stuff, and I investigated. Influenster is a company that puts together campaigns with several brands and creates a “VoxBox”. It’s basically a box full of goodies, to try and share on your social media. You don’t need a blog to join, but the better your social media influence is, the better chance you have of getting something. Honestly, I feel as if it’s sort of hard these days to get campaigns from Influenster just because the program is so saturated with users. I’ve been with them over a year and have only done 3 campaigns with them. I’ve also done a few virtual campaigns and have received “prizes” for participating.
BzzAgent is by far my favorite WoM marketing company. I get the most campaigns with them, it’s easy to keep track of your “score” and see exactly what you need to do to get it higher. Every time you post about your campaign, you get an email response, letting you know how good of a review it was, and what to fix for next time if it wasn’t top notch. You don’t have to be a blogger, but they do offer extra campaigns for bloggers if you link your blog as well. Everything is full size and I’ve worked with big companies like Starbucks, Claritin, Dr. Scholl’s, Lysol and others. Social Media networks are a must.
Smiley 360 is still sort of new to me. I started using it about 2 months ago, but I’ve already received 2 campaigns. One for OxyClean and one for Natures Bounty Gummi Vitamins. It’s a little different to use, because they use a Facebook plugin app to record all campaign activity, and I’ve noticed sometimes I am not credited properly. But the products are nice, and full size, shipping is prompt and I don’t feel pressured when reviewing the products.
I love House Party! It’s such a fun and awesome concept! I am actually having my 2nd House Party today! A NERF Rebelle Training Day Party! It should be a blast! Basically, you sign up, apply for parties, tell them why you’d like to host and pitch them your ideas for the party. Throughout the application process they might ask you to post pictures or videos of why you think you’d be the best fit for the brand. Once you’re picked, you invite 10 friends to the party and they will send you a box FILLED with everything you will need to host the party and you get to keep it all (or give it away as party prizes). They’ve got all sorts of parties, from Book Clubs, to food tastings and game nights. It’s pretty rad. I can be difficult to be picked, but don’t get discouraged! It will happen!
Chatterbox is a sister program of House Party. It’s for those of you who may not want to host an entire party, and just try a product, or promote an event. It’s a similar concept to the programs above, where you get a product, and complete objectives to finish your campaign. It’s quite easy and I’ve gotten a few of them myself. You don’t need a ton of Social Media to use this, just Facebook and Twitter are fine.
Affiliate Marketing and Ad Revenue (for bloggers)
Affiliate marketing basically means, you team up with a company and promote their products, via links or placed ads and then you receive a commission based on your performance. Each company can have different requirements, commissions, payouts for leads, etc. If you share a lot of links on your page already, redirecting people to products you use and love, you might as well check if that company has an affiliate program and get paid for your efforts. Start by hosting and sharing companies you already know and love, it’s easier to promote a product if you use it. Below are a couple affiliate and ad programs I use. Next time you are on one of your favorite sites, scroll to the bottom and see if they have an affiliate program, I bet they do.
ShareASale is a very easy to use affiliate program. They offer a lot of companies and brands in a lot of different categories, so it’s easy to find ones that fit the niche and feel of your blog. A lot of the companies are well known and have great commission and lead rates. If you are active with promoting the brands you are an affiliate for, you can be very successful.
I use a lot of Amazon links to refer my readers to products needed in the tutorials and recipes I post. Whether it’s a special pan, or a brand of craft glue, I try to make it easier for my readers to find the stuff I use. I figured, since I’m already linking everyone over there, why not become an affiliate for Amazon and maybe make some cash on the side. (They even offer store credit as a form of payment! Score!)
AdSense is a great program if you can get approved. You host ads on your page through Google and get paid per views/clicks/impressions. It’s very easy to install and very easy to manage. It’s not a HUGE chunk of change, but it’s easy money, as all you have to do is pick your ad and place it. Everything else is done for you.
Rivit Media – Another great one I was just accepted into. Rivit Media is a Craft Blogger Niche, so if you’re a crafter, have a craft blog, or are great with your hands, this is the one to apply to. They host ads on your site for campaigns and the rates are really good!
Compensated Campaigns (for bloggers)
For those of you really serious about blogging and having a “for profit blog”, compensated posts are the way to go. They may not be a steady stream of income, like hosting an ad, or having someone buy space on your sidebars, but they pay and perks can be legit. Some of these compensated marketing companies pay strictly in free swag. Some allow you to pitch and bid on campaigns. Some tell you straight up what you’ll get, how much you’ll be paid, and what to expect. It’s good to be a member of several different companies because each offer very different options for you to monetize. Most of the bigger companies require you apply to become a member. That means you need to have some pretty decent numbers to be considered. Most of these require Google Analytics and various Social Media Accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram seem to be the major ones) Take a look at the ones I work with, and the ones I’m waiting to work with, and make your own decisions.
Tomoson – A really great website to connect with lots of different brands and products. You connect your blog, analytics, and social media accounts and apply for products you want to review. Some of their promotions are compensated with product, and some offer monetary compensation as well. I really like this company as it’s very easy to use, and I have connected with some really great brands through it.
Bloggers Required – I’ve done a couple campaigns with them. It’s mostly UK branded stuff, but every now and then you can find some really great promotions in your area. It’s a good resource to create brand relations.
Brand Backer – This is a marketing company for Beauty and Fashion bloggers. I’ve done a few campaigns with them, they don’t have a lot of campaigns, but they are decent ones. Mostly you are compensated in product, but some may compensate with cash as well.
Style Coalition – I am a member, but I have yet had the time to set up my profile and start working with brands yet.
Crave Bloggers – This is a very new blogger company and they are seeking bloggers! It’s for beauty and style bloggers, so if you are one or know someone who is, let them know! They will be launching some new products soon and need bloggers ASAP!
Mom’s Meet – I am both a Mom’s Meet Blogger and a Mom Ambassador for the company as well. As a blogger I get to try out products and write about them, and as an Ambassador I get to try out products with my group of mom’s and hand out awesome samples for the company. Compensation is brand recognition and gratuitous (meaning lots and lots) products.
Mom Central – Mom Central is a great one! They have some really awesome campaigns, and you are usually paid in the forms of gift cards (think Amazon, Kohl’s and Target) and are given great full size products and sometimes additional promotional gifts. I got some awesome spoons from Anthropologie as a gift!
Mom It Forward – This is a good program to join. Lots of opportunities for fun events, and even guest posting on their blog.
Mom Select – I have yet to do much with Mom Select, but like the one above, it has a lot of fun events to join, and opps for reviews.
Niche Parent – I just joined, so not much info yet.
Martha’s Circle – A group of bloggers who are hand picked by Martha Stewart’s Editorial Team. I applied, and am waiting to hear back. It takes awhile, but I am persistent.
Blueprint Social – I just did a job for Blueprint Social. It was very simple and straight forward. They have some really great campaigns, so definitely check it out!
Linqia – This a great brand to work with on campaigns. It’s both paid and compensated with product. Linqia allows you to dictate how much you can make in current and future campaigns with click through ads. The more clicks you get, the more you make. Each campaign is capped with a certain amount of clicks. When you go over your clicks for your current campaign, you will receive more clicks on your next… and so on and so forth. I wasn’t sure if I’d fill my click assignment, but my campaign managers are awesome and help at every turn, and I’ve totally exceeded and beyond! It really is an awesome company. Highly recommended!
Social Spark – I am a member of Social Spark and have applied for a few campaigns, but haven’t been accepted to any yet. I will say that it is a pretty easy page to navigate and I get quite a few leads, but not all I apply for.
Massive Sway – This is a collaborative effort of SITS Girls and Sway Group. It’s great program to be in. I have yet to be accepted into any of the campaigns yet, but they have some great ones! The pay is also really great. It’s good to join and just apply for anything that interests you, you may be what they are looking for!
Clever Girls Collective – I love working with CGC! I applied a few months ago and my numbers were just too low. They are pretty strict on who they accept, so make sure your numbers are high! Page views and unique views are important here. The pay is fantastic, the girls are amazing and creative and it’s really just a wonderful place to be. If you meet their requirements, please apply! It’s a great one.
Collectively – This company has really awesome campaigns. I mean, like really awesome. It’s very easy to join and they are always looking to add great collaborators!
Pollinate Media – I just got my first campaign with Pollinate Media and I am really excited! Each week, emails are sent out and you can apply for jobs within them. You get to pitch your ideas and be creative with your marketing. The gals over a PMedia are funny and awesome, and it’s a great company to get in with.
Social Fabric – I LOVE working with Social Fabric! If you have the numbers apply! They have tons of paid jobs or “shoppertunities” daily, and I’ve already been picked for 2 decently good paying ones. The brands are well known, the jobs are fun and creative and you get to pitch your ideas, so it’s not so much about numbers once you’ve been approved, it’s more about how creative and interesting you can be!
I hope this list can get you started on your journey to getting some good stuff and monetizing your blog. If you have any great companies to add, please let me know in the comments and if I think they are a good fit, I will add them to the list! If you have any questions as to what certain companies are looking for, my personal experiences with the brands themselves, or any other questions you’d like me to answer, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org