Crochet designer and content creator, Toni Lipsey, says she is very protective of her audience and never wants them to be surprised by a partnership that she takes on.
Photo courtesy of Toni Lipsey.
There’s no denying that we’re in the age of the influencer. Content creation is nothing new in the craft industry — starting in the early aughts, brands could get featured on popular craft blogs and reach tens of thousands of readers and potential customers. In recent years, this has shifted to working with designers and makers who have grown followings on YouTube and, of course, social media apps like Instagram and TikTok.
But how do these relationships come about? What steps can craft companies take to work with content creators who are the best fit for their brand and make sure that collaborations and campaigns resonate with the maker’s followers?
Most content creators will say that the best collaborations come about when they already use and enjoy working with a company’s products.
Quilter and author Carolina Moore collaborates with Art Gallery Fabrics and AccuQuilt by designing quilt patterns with their fabrics and cross-promoting their kits and has a general contract with the sewing machine manufacturer Baby Lock. She also is an affiliate for AccuQuilt.
“These are all brands that I would use and talk about regardless of compensation,” Moore says. “I like the company, its product, and the people. These are established brands I’ve known for years. I started my relationship with Art Gallery over 11 years ago when both of us were much smaller than we are now.”
Earlier in her career, when she was more of a lifestyle blogger, Moore worked with agencies that would act as a bridge between her and major brands, such as Home Depot, e.l.f. Cosmetics and Starbucks. The agencies would ship her products, or have Moore shop at a specific retail outlet, and then Moore would follow guidelines for creating a post, and receiving an agreed-upon payment.
“As I moved away from being a ‘lifestyle’ blogger and focused on crafts … I applied for fewer of these campaigns because they were not as good a fit for my site and because they had hard deadlines and my life needed things a bit more flexible,” Moore says. “Now (I) don’t work on campaigns at all, and just work with a few very specific brands I absolutely love.”
The best advertisement for a product is genuine enthusiasm.
“I am very passionate about the brands I represent,” Moore says. “It is important for me that my readers and followers know that my love for these companies is genuine, and not simply bought-and-paid-for. I think that comes across in my posts and is appreciated by my readers.”
Toni Lipsey of TL Yarn Crafts never promotes a company that she wouldn’t associate with outside of her work.
Similarly, crochet designer Toni Lipsey of TL Yarn Crafts never promotes a company that she wouldn’t associate with outside of her work and makes sure that their values don’t conflict with her own.
“I’ve worked with countless yarn companies, but also wine suppliers, book subscriptions, and learning platforms, all of which align with my values and offer products that I would use even without a collaboration partnership,” Lipsey says.
“I also look at other influencers they’ve worked with to gain some insight on how I play into the larger marketing scheme. I’m very protective of my audience, and I never want them to be surprised by a partnership that I take on.”
Lipsey says her collaborations with Lion Brand Yarns on her annual Crochet Academy experience, a three-week learning program crochet-along, have been successful because they allow her a lot of freedom, they’re accommodating to life changes and they’re generous with their compensation.
“They are a large company and I am a one-person design business, but they treat me like a valued partner, ensuring that I’m fully compensated for the ongoing promotion and reach that TLYC has,” Lipsey says.
Provide products, but temper expectations
Companies can send free products to designers and content creators. While there’s no guarantee the products will be featured, it can be helpful to get products into the hands of makers and collect feedback.
Luci Ayyat of Ballyhoo Creations, who designs dolls and cloth characters for sewing or embroidery machines, does product reviews on her YouTube channel. Typically, companies will contact her first and ask if she’d like to try their product, but there’s no expectation that a review is guaranteed.
“I don’t want to be a brand ambassador for anybody, because part of what my YouTube channel is about is people buying embroidery machines,” Ayyat says. “So if I’m linked up with a brand, that takes away my level playing field, and then people won’t trust me, and so I try to stay away from that.”
When Ayyat does a product review, she’ll point out the good and bad aspects. When that kind of objectivity is established, a crafter is more likely to make a purchase because they have a clear picture of how a tool will work for them.
Designer and content creator Luci Ayaat collaborated on a campaign with ViviLux after meeting them at the h+h americs trade show.
Photo courtesy of Luci Ayaat
Affiliate programs can be an easy way for brands to share promotions and links widely and also an easy way for content creators to spread the word. Moore often takes advantage of affiliate links and makes sure to share particularly good deals with her newsletter subscribers.
“Because I often have so many things going on, I love affiliate relationships,” Moore says. “For the companies I’m an affiliate with, I get their promotions calendar ahead of time. Adding this information to my regular emails consistently gives me several hundred dollars of affiliate revenue each month.”
Tips for content creators
If you’re looking to earn money through content creation and work as an influencer, it’s important to ensure you have a genuine fit with potential brands. “I’m a quilter, (so) it makes sense for me to talk about quilting products,” Moore says. “It might make sense for me to talk about snacks (since) I love snacks in my sewing room. But it probably wouldn’t make sense for me to talk about men’s tube socks, since it isn’t a product I use or buy.” Similarly, Ayyat had reviewed a sewing bag that was being sold on an Amazon shop. A few months later, the brand contacted her to ask about reviewing a piece of luggage, which she declined.
It’s important to provide metrics for your reach, so request links that can be tracked as well as coupon codes that don’t have an expiration date.
“Any content creator should definitely have a way to track what’s working and what’s not working,” Ayyat says.
When possible, it’s a good idea to have more than one contact at a brand you enjoy working with. “I had a great relationship with my contact at one company several years ago,” Moore says. “I had her cell number. We were Facebook friends. Then, suddenly, she left the company. I was never able to get re-established with them. It all worked out the way it was supposed to, but I went from doing a lot of work with them to just a few campaigns, to zero in the course of about 18 months.”