Product Seeding in KOL Marketing: 8 Step Complete Guide

December 5, 2022

For any Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) brand, successful product seeding is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to start or scale a KOL influencer marketing program that will boost your brand awareness and drive sales. Successful product seeding turns KOL influencers into your brand’s advocates and lets them learn about your brand, try your product, create content, and in turn gets their followers to see your product or service.

What is product seeding (KOL influencer gifting)?

Product seeding allows brands to send free products to a curated list of KOL influencers that match the brand’s value and image. In return for receiving the product, KOL influencers creates content and posts about the item. KOL influencers share photos and/or videos that introduces your product with their opinions with their followers.

Product seeding examples from ecommerce brands 

Today’s top brands use product seeding to grow their influencer programs. After identifying personalities that align with their core values, brands can send products in exchange for high-quality content and nurture relationships with their favorite creators, which often leads to long-term partnerships. 

1. Glossier

New York based Glossier is now one of the top skincare brands in the U.S. Founded in 2014, Glossier does not send out products to traditional KOLs but rather look for “ambassadors” who are highly engaged with their brand online or are their top customers. These ambassadors help spread the word about new product launches and become KOLs since they are the first to receive new products that cannot even be purchased yet. Emily Weiss, founder of Glossier talks about using a Key Opinion Customer strategy and frequently reposts customer photos as user generated content (UGC). Currently, Glossier has more than 2.5 million followers on Instagram.

2. MVMT Watches

MVMT had a mission to disrupt the watch industry by delivering stylish watches at a better price point. The company used a 2-step approach 1) Pay popular lifestyle KOL and 2) Share UGC with the hashtag #jointhemvmt which has been used more than 200,000 times. The company has since expanded to offer other products aside from watches and has over 1 million followers on Instagram.


A Chinese fast fashion company that has certainly taken the world by storm. SHEIN began as a drop shipping business. The company leverages their ambassadors KOL to post using their social media accounts: focused content including photos, product reviews and event reels.

Coupled with paid media ads targeting a younger audience in the 18-24 demographic that engages the best, SHEIN also has designed their very own KOL program to attract content creators. At the time of this posting SHEIN has a whopping 26.7 million followers on Instagram.

Benefits of Product Seeding?

Is product seeding effective? The numbers speak for themselves and KOL marketing has definitely taken off in the past few years. In fact, some campaigns see a 5-6.5x return for every $1 invested in KOLs.

Product seeding is one of the quickest and easiest ways to creating an effective KOL influencer program and benefits DTC brands that are looking to build and quickly scale.

KOL Gifting Helps: 

  1. Guarantee alignment with KOL
    You want someone that already believes in your product and actually uses and enjoys the products you make. Don’t only focus on the number of followers. More often than not, a KOL with fewer follower counts will be more genuine with their reviews (and be more cost-effective too!) By allowing the KOL influencer to browse your catalogue and select a product they will use, KOLs are more likely to develop genuine brand affinity and pass this love on to their followers. 
  2. Partner with authentic influencers
    There are more than 37.8 million KOL creators on Instagram, Youtube and TikTok now. So how do you find the ones who can become authentic? The key is to look at the data and analyze each creator's profile. Looking at engagement rates and other statistics available will help you make the decision. KOLs who are only interested in making money and accumulating as many followers as possible are not your target. These individuals take on way too many sponsored posts and their profile looks like classified ads. 
  3. Cost Effectiveness
    For all brands, product seeding is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods. Unless the brand sells high-premium products, the exchange of product for UGC is the most inexpensive way to populate your social media with genuine content that eventually drive sales. Of course, every marketer is looking for premium content. Be sure to choose KOL creators who produce content you like that is aesthetically pleasing. You end up with content that can be reused in paid media, email marketing and so much more.
  4. Build brand love
    Build a real relationship with KOL and not a transactional one. You want to earn the genuine support of fans who believe in the KOL.
  5. Acquire future customers
    It might not be today or might not be tomorrow but product seeding is planting the fruit for the future. Sometimes it takes time for the sales to come in and this is always something you need to keep in mind. 
  6. Increase brand awareness
    Many social media users follow influencers based on aesthetics and notice when their favorite creator is wearing or using something they haven’t seen before. Whether through influencer content, shout-outs, or word of mouth, influencer gifting guarantees more people will become aware of your brand. 

How product seeding works

Though simple in theory, it’s essential to have a clear plan and processes in place to implement a successful product seeding campaign.  

Here are the steps you should take to get the most out of product seeding:

  1. Search for the right KOL
  2. Get to know the KOL selected
  3. Connect with them
  4. Send a gift
  5. Don’t hound them to give back right away
  6. Nurture the relationship
  7. Ask for content to be created
  8. Create a partnership that continues

Search for the right KOL

As mentioned before, brands need to approach the right influencers to partner with. Using platforms like Popared allows you to search for KOL that best represents your brand. The key is to find people who would organically use your company’s product without too much of a hard sell. Taking the time to search through and look for a great match for your brand goes a long way to successful product seeding.

Get to know the influencer

Spend some time looking at their content. See different posts and live streams they have done. Investigate. It also improves your chances of the KOL responding if you include personal details that only followers would now instead of having your message disappear in the sea of generic templates to the KOL who probably receive 10-20 of these collab requests daily. Mention something personal about their past content and why you think they would a great match for the product.

Don’t forget to watch out for red flags. Past posts that are too political, discriminatory, etc. could result in a PR disaster.

Connect authentically

Authentic KOLs don’t want to hear a sales pitch, and they definitely don’t want to read a template from someone that knows nothing about them. Trust me, they get enough of these requests in their DMs daily. Demonstrate you’ve done your homework and connect with KOL content.

Send a gift

Not everyone wants a free gift. At least let them know you will be sending something to them. Put some thought into what you are sending and whether the KOL is a match for you. Personalize the item as much as possible.

Don’t ask them to do something right away

Don’t be nagging them and chasing them about asking for something back. Let the relationship grow. Follow up and give the KOL time to use your product. This makes everything more authentic and organic.

Build the influencer relationship

Ask about how the product is working out and what can be improved. Develop a genuine positive exchange with the KOL. Keep the conversation going!

Ask for content

When you’ve built the relationship you can ask for content. Don’t be pushy about instructions like tagging or mentions. Invest the time to nurture the relationships. The KOL will be ready and wiling to give you their best reco, tag, and mentions.

Create a partnership

Further investigate what can be done. Is the KOL interested in working further? Affiliate links, swipe-ups, brand mentions or other products you have in catalogue? Let your ideas flow.

Conclusion: A strong product seeding strategy creates ambassadors for your brand. It scales your KOL program and increases brand awareness.

Product seeding gets your product in front of an audience ready for recommendations from their favorite KOL. Still not sure where to start? Reach out to our team business[@] for how your brand can start a product seeding program!

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