Let’s be real. Good brand collabs are rare, but when you get them, they make all of our efforts as a content creator worthwhile.
No matter how many followers you have, collaborations are the primary way to make money on social media. Brand deals are the top source of income for 77% of today’s creators, eclipsing all other sources.
But what makes for a good sponsored content collaboration, and why are they so rare?
Any seasoned influencer will tell you that the best partnerships come down to four factors:
- The collaboration must be well-paid – they shouldn’t just pay you in product.
- It must be a good fit for you and match your own personal brand.
- The content you post should appeal to your existing audience, but it should have the potential to reach new audiences.
- And finally, it should be a brand you actually love.
Here’s a great example from Breanne Kincaid, a health, beauty and parenting influencer. This post achieved a high engagement score and plenty of positive comments, meaning her audience enjoyed it. Based on what we can see about Breanne’s own brand, this collaboration was a wonderful fit, given her emphasis on hair care and natural wellness. Clean Beauty Collective fits that niche to a T, since they’re also an ingredient-conscious, wellness-focused brand.
So what, then, does a bad collab look like?
A bad collaboration only pays you in free stuff. Maybe the brand is a little sketchy, not well-known or respected online. If you do choose to partner with them, your audience doesn’t respond well, because it’s not a great fit for their interests. And finally, if you don’t love the brand, then you’ll just force yourself to go through the motions, and your posts will come off as inauthentic, effectively diluting your followers’ trust in you.
A classic (now deleted) example is when Scott Disick posted a picture of himself posing with some BooTea Shake powder and just copy-pasted the message the brand had sent him. Clearly not something he was passionate about, and definitely a dodgy brand to support. You can see from the comments that his followers were not impressed.
You’ve seen the good. You’ve seen the bad. So how can you land a better collab project? These five tips will guide you in the right direction.
1. Focus on creating a portfolio / media kit
The first step is to create a solid media kit. This puts the power in your hands – you can reach out to brands you admire with some great material showcasing your best work. You can also quickly reply if they have inquiries.
If you have a website or link in bio tool, you can also post your media kit there. That way, when brands check your profile out, they’ll instantly see why you’re awesome and that you take yourself seriously enough to put a kit together.
Not sure where to start? No worries. Shane Barker, a digital marketing consultant and influencer himself, put together a strong guide that lists nine things to include in your media kit.
2. Join platforms where the brands are
Scared of reaching out to brands? It can be intimidating! And rejection is never fun. If you’re looking for a more streamlined process, why not join platforms where the brands are? This gives you a guaranteed selection of brands that are actively searching for their dream influencer, and our media kit will come in handy here, too.
There are dozens of platforms, and some are better than others. What you want is a platform that basically does the vetting for you, surfacing only genuine, well-paying brands who are keen to create a meaningful partnership. Look for platforms that show plenty of guidelines and allow micro-influencers aboard. You should also have the ability to look for paid opportunities, as opposed to just waiting for them to come to you.
A great example of this is Popular Pays. This platform requires brands to build a comprehensive brief that ensures you’re a good fit for them, and that they’re a good fit for you. For instance, the brand Kraft Heinz used Popular Pays to find qualified creators that were “skilled, passionate about [the] brand, and strategic in their content creation,” as Kraft Heinz My Food and Family’s Khari Shelton tells it.
Influencers like Melissa Johnson, a family recipe specialist from Sacramento, were able to get paid for creating content that fit their own brands and saw major follower engagement, yielding an 11-point brand awareness lift for My Food and Family.
The upshot? Look for platforms where the bar is high, where payment is expected, and where brands are legit. That ensures you find quality partnerships where you’re valued for your skills, your niche relevance and your ability to create content that resonates.
3. Don’t buy fake followers – they’ll kill your engagement rates
It can be tempting to use a shady service that adds thousands of accounts that don’t belong to real people as your followers, because you might think brand marketers will be impressed by the size of your community. But if you buy fake followers, your engagement rates plummet.
Today, brands do not care about the number of followers you have so much as how those followers engage with you. They know how easy and cheap it is to buy fake followers, so they look for other quality cues instead.
It’s simple for a brand to use a tool like Modash to check how many of a creator’s followers might be fake.
Why do brands care? Consider Breanne’s high engagement rate in the example above. Even though she only has about 10k followers as of publication, those followers are hyper-engaged with her content. That’s super valuable for brands, because this indicates Breanne’s followers care about her opinion and trust her. If she posts about a brand she loves, they’re more willing to give it a try.
4. DM the brands that advertise to you
Not getting leads? Not sure where to start? A great way to identify brands to target is by DMing the ones who target you with ads.
Not many people think about the ads they get served on Instagram. In fact, a lot of very sophisticated behind-the-scenes analysis happens before they decide whom to target. Brands look at your interests, location, gender, age, and more. Even fewer people know how you can reverse-engineer that analysis to find your ideal brand collab from brands you’d never even considered or known how to find.
If they’ve got the money to run targeted ads and you’re falling into the bracket of people they think might be interested, they could be a good brand for you to target for a collab.
5. Get inspired by other influencers
Last but not least, consider copying. No matter how narrow your niche is, there are probably others in it. If you’re having a hard time finding good-fit brands, just look for other creators in your niche, and see who they are partnering with.
What campaigns are well received by their audience? Can you do the same? Can you do something even better? You can use a tool like Sociality to scope out the competition.
You can take this strategy a step further if you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. If you see that a creator in your niche is partnering with one company, you can search for that company’s competitors and reach out to them instead.
You’ll still find a great brand to partner with, but without poaching directly from your peers.
A good brand partnership is hard to find
Good brand collabs are few and far between, but when you find one, it’s 100% worth the trouble. There are lots of bad partnerships which are harmful to your long-term growth. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive about finding the right brand for you. These five tips will help you land better brand collab projects and grow your social media presence while earning a living.