For most people, finding success as an Amazon creator and entrepreneur is never a silver-spoon experience. And even when you finally make it, things can still happen that threaten your months or years of hard work.
Imagine having your Amazon influencer account and storefront shut down…and having to start from scratch all over again. And as if that was not bad enough, not being able to benefit from the content you created so painstakingly despite it still being online.
In this issue of the Logie Creators’ Highlights, we talked to Karen LeBlanc, a professional TV show host and lifestyle journalist who also ventured into Livestream shopping. Karen shares her incredible experience along with important tips for fellow creators.
Tell us about working on national shopping channels
I’ve worked on-air as a guest shopping channel host for the past ten years at Home Shopping Network (HSN) doing live appearances to sell products in home décor, beauty, and fashion. I currently work as the guest host/brand ambassador for Born Shoes and BOC handbags. I regularly appear on HSN featuring the latest launches and talking about the features, benefits and fashion trends associated with the brands. I appear to live with an HSN host and together we do a “dance” where the host introduces me and talks about the colors and sizes available and the price points. I then romance the products helping the consumer connect with and envision owning the products. I speak for several minutes then toss it back to her to talk about price and pricing/financing options. There is a give and take that balances the hard sales ask and the aspirational conversations.
What motivated you to shift to online live shopping?
I work as a professional TV show host and lifestyle journalist so online live shopping is a natural fit for my skills and experience plus, I love shopping and reporting about the latest looks, trends, and products. My broadcast TV experience made this an easy transition. I also like the ability to work from home, connect with people, build community, and have control over my schedule.
What baby steps did you take to make this transition?
I signed up for an Amazon Associates account and began dabbling with affiliate links, inserting them into my blog posts. Then Wahool approached me and told me about the influencer program and helped me sign up and get started. Wahool gave me some basic training on how to do an Amazon live stream and I started doing live streams for Wahool on Amazon with the products they provided. I began receiving requests from Amazon vendors to include their products in my live streams and/or to create shoppable videos. I now spend most of my time as an influencer creating shoppable videos. Vendors pay me to create the shoppable videos and I earn commissions on products that sell through my shoppable videos creating a passive income stream.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Mastering the learning curve of Amazon’s live streaming interface and how to integrate OBS to enhance my live streams. Initially, I found the entire process very clunky and not very user-friendly. I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out all on my own with the help of YouTube videos. It was very time-consuming to set up a live stream and struggle with finding the time and justifying the time it took on the front end to prepare and create my live streams which is why I began focusing on creating shoppable videos.
You mentioned something about having your account shut down. What happened and how did that affect you?
I had to reapply as an Amazon Influencer under a new social media account and rebuild my entire storefront after Amazon shut down my influencer account and storefront. I lost more than 100 shoppable videos that were earning my commission as a result. Here is what happened. I receive a vague email from Amazon explaining that my Amazon associates ID/account was in violation of policy because some “unauthorized” website was referring traffic to my Amazon associates account. I could not figure out where or what this “unauthorized website” was, so I called Amazon and received zero help. I reached the influencer program division, and the Amazon employee told me she had no way of letting me know which “unauthorized website” was referring traffic creating the violation. She referred me to the FAQ page for Amazon Associates which was no help. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how, why, and where I was in violation. I got frustrated so I deleted my Amazon Associates ID that was reported in violation thinking it was an old one not attached to my influencer account or storefront.
When I deleted the Amazon associates ID, it took down my influencer account and storefront. I called Amazon and spoke with different employees a total of 9 times and each tine was told my account could not be restored and that I had to reapply to the program. I repeatedly tried to reapply as an influencer, but my existing social media account was still tied to the original influencer account even though Amazon disabled it and deleted it. I was stuck in limbo for weeks asking Amazon to disconnect my social media account to my now defunct Amazon influencer account so I could reapply. That never happened despite numerous emails and additional phone calls. So, I had to reapply using another social media account and rebuild from scratch. Meanwhile, all my shoppable videos continue to live on product pages and I don’t earn a cent of commissions. Amazon conveniently deleted my influencer account but kept my videos up and continues to use them without paying me a commission. I’m now in the rebuilding process of creating new shoppable videos and starting from zero to rebuild my commission earnings.
How did you recover from this (wait…don’t tell us you had to start from scratch)?
Yes! I had to reapply as an Amazon Influencer under another social media account and start over. My original social media account is still locked to my old influencer account despite repeated requests to unlink it.
What channels/platforms do you use across the board?
I use Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I’m just starting to learn about and create with TikTok.
Looking back now, what would you say have been your biggest strengths and skills in this journey?
Resilience and patience. At one point, I was so frustrated and discouraged that I considered quitting the Amazon influencer program; however, I do believe it can be a solid source of passive income if one puts in the time and effort.
What tips do you have for creators who are trying to find success?
Know your value. A lot of vendors approach me asking me to create shoppable videos in return for a free product. This is my business. I don’t work for free. My talent, skills, experience, and time are worth more than a free product, so I charge a fee for each shoppable video. There are many vendors who are willing to pay a very low fee of $10 etc., but I’m not interested in that either. Stick to your price. Know your value. If we accept work for free or let vendors lowball us, we do the entire program a disservice. We need to elevate the value and worth of what we do as influencers, live streamers, and content creators. We all benefit and rise together.
Also, if a vendor asks for a copy of your shoppable video, charge an additional usage fee. Many vendors will ask to use my shoppable videos for other purposes. I charge for that in addition to my original fee to create the video. If a vendor asks me to post the shoppable video to my other social media platforms, again I charge extra for that exposure and service.
One final tip, know your niche. I’m a lifestyle expert who knows home décor, fashion, and beauty. I don’t do a lot of tech products because that is not where I’ve built my expertise or credibility. Take on products that you can stand behind, and that are a good fit for your knowledge, talent, and skills.