There has never been a better time to be an influencer, but you won’t be the only one wondering how to get brand deals and sponsored partnerships. Influencer marketing has become the biggest social media trend over the last few years, with the industry set to hit $13.8 billion this year, according to Digital Marketing Institute. So while there are a lot of opportunities to start a business as a social media influencer, it's also extremely competitive.
The upshot is that brands are constantly on the lookout for new accounts, talents and creators to work with, and influencer marketing budgets are expanding. If you have an engaged audience, built up a niche community on social media and produce consistently good content, then chances are that you can start working with brands.
If you’ve always wanted to know how to cultivate influencer and brand partnership deals, then these tips will give you an insight into scoring your next collaboration.
How to Cultivate Brand Partnerships as an Influencer
Having an Engaged Audience Is More Important Than Total Followers
Brands are always on the hunt for new influencers to work with to help endorse their products and services. According to Olivia Newport, an SEO/Digital PR Strategist at Portent, the first thing influencers need in order to get the attention of any brand is a “highly engaged, real audience.” Brands need to see that you “create content on a frequent basis that is consistent in quality and audience engagement,” Newport says.
Trends are always changing, but in general, brands, marketers and agencies tend to value influencers who have greater engagement over follower count. According to David Barker, CEO of StatSocial, marketers use tools just like Silhouette™ to gain audience insights for various influencers “to ensure they are collaborating with influencers that resonate most with their audience.”
Gone are the days when you needed hundreds of thousands of followers. In fact, smaller follower counts are generally more attractive to brands — if your audience is highly engaged and tuned into what you have to say. In fact, micro-influencers dominate sponsored collaborations, creating 91 percent of all sponsored posts in 2021, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.
Jessica Luna, a Marketing Analyst for Net Influencer, says, “The rise of micro-influencers (influencers with less than 10,000 followers) makes these sponsored content opportunities even more available."
Aim to Become a Trusted Source in a Specific Niche
One of the best ways to increase your engagement is to concentrate on a niche topic or interest. “It helps to create content about a specific niche that has a strong following and community,” Newport says. By becoming known for a particular topic or interest, you can more easily build a loyal following base and get the attention of brands.
“You have to stand out and be unique within your niche," explains lesha Vincent of LivingLesh. "By offering unique perspectives that bring in active engagement from a community, influencers are more likely to stand out among the rest to secure brand partnerships.” Nano influencers (influencers with fewer than 5,000 followers) actually tend to have a higher engagement rate.
This is because influencer marketing is all about having a loyal community that trusts what you say and the content that you produce. According to Shopify, the value of influencer marketing lies in the fact that 61 percent of consumers trust recommendations from influencers. If you can demonstrate to a brand that you have an engaged and dedicated following that finds value in your content, they’re more likely to want to work with you.
Pitch Directly to Brands with Unique Ideas
One of the most effective ways to gain a brand collaboration for influencer accounts is to reach out directly to the brand with an idea. This often works best for micro-influencers or those just starting out in the influencer space. It gives you a chance to outline a potential collaboration idea and showcases your potential.
According to Newport, brands welcome direct email pitches from potential creators. While many big-name influencers work with managers or agencies, it’s not always essential. There are a few benefits of pitching directly to brands, including:
Keeps the cost of the partnership between the influencer and the brand instead of giving a cut to an agency or third-party manager
An open and direct line of communication between creators and brands can produce more authentic, collaborative and relevant content
Brands like to work with influencers who genuinely use their product or service and are passionate about the brand
Allows the creator or influencer to put some of their own unique ideas in front of the brand to consider
Work with a Talent Agency or Manager If You Have a Large Account
The other common way to cultivate influencer and brand partnership deals is through a third-party manager or agency. “Just like a singer or an actor, an influencer has a manager who helps them get collaborations with brands, photo sessions and helps them manage their image,” explains Luna. This can take a lot of the hard work out of being an influencer and saves a lot of time and effort in communicating directly with brands.
Working with a PR agency or manager can also help you come across as being more professional. “Brands often take influencers a little more seriously when they see that influencers have a manager,” Vincent says. However, this is generally true for larger social media channels and well-established influencers who might need help managing their accounts. On the other hand, micro-influencers might only work with agencies if brands have hired them to assist with campaigns and/or collaborations.
Put Together a Portfolio of Work from Previous Collaborations
Just like when you’re going for a job interview, you should be prepared with past experiences and work samples when communicating with brands. Putting together a portfolio or media kit will elevate your status in front of a brand looking for influencers. While your social media feed provides a basis, it’s worth putting together a specific portfolio of your best work from previous collaborations.
“Put together a portfolio of the photos you used for the first brand collaboration, as well as a brief summary of likes, engagement or other stats you can offer. The trick is to leverage your first brand experience to get other brands to work with you,” Luna says. Even if you’ve never worked with a brand before, you can share your best images and social media statistics as an example of what you can offer. “Brands want to work with influencers who are very responsive, professional and who genuinely enjoy their products and services,” explains Newport.
Build Your Brand on Quality and the Deals Will Come
Social media influencers are widely considered the future of successful marketing strategies. But if you have a significantly engaged audience or community, you might wonder how to get brand deals. The two main ways for collaborations to come about are either direct pitches to brands or via a talent or PR agency. Either way, your follower count matters less than you think. It’s simply more important that you produce high-quality and appealing content and have a professional approach to putting together your ideas for brands.
While you're negotiating your new brand deals, Incfile has a Business Contract Library full of templates and legal documents to help you make sure you're legally covered.
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.