Td;Tr: The key is to work on preparing your account every day to get brand deals, and when you DO get the deal, perform successfully.
Ask SMI (social media influencers) what’s at the top of their “dream-list” and they will all answer same thing: how to become a paid influencer and land brand deals on Instagram (and other social media platforms) & sponsorship.
What are those paid brands deals anyhow? You may have seen them on Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, with the label “paid partnership” or “Sponsored” or “Ads.” These are one of the principle ways SMI can make money. Here are some examples:
We are talking about deals where the SMI mentions the brand in their social media content to try to help the brand sell online and – in return – is compensated, whether with cash (usually $300+ up to a $1M), products, vacations and glory. (And sometimes public smears — it’s popular to hate on influencers these days…).
The audience is there, and it helps with promotions, lead generation, and the user journey.Erik Riverra, Founder, Honest Paws.
Mr. Riverra speaks from experience: SMI already have a community’s (i.e. their followers’) trust, interest and – something very rare these days – attention. Asking the SMI to mention your brand is a good shortcut in your marketing to sales journey. All that is left is to find the best SMI.
INFLUENCER-BRAND DEAL FLOW (professional contract is here):
Side A is a brand with products/services+money+experiences
Side B is a proven SMI with a production capability, and sometimes audience and distributions too or otherwise a rare content creation capability.
Side A is hiring Side B
Side B agrees to be hired
Side B agrees to “get the word out” about the brand and/or create amazing IGC (influencer-generated content)
Side A pays Side B
How can SMI land such deals? As usual, I want to tell you the truth, reality (not fiction), as it is:
1. Bio Prep
The SMI’s Instagram/YT/TikTok/etc. bio should look a bit different from an “ordinary” bio. If you want to sell on Instagram or other social media platforms your bio should be outstanding and unique so it will help you climb to the top of the channel’s algorithm and gain your followers’ love.
1 customized name + 1 suitable photo + 1 unique hashtag + 1-2 general hashtags + 1 story (add 1 keyword there) … And update it all the time to keep it fresh!
Pro tip: Include contact info in the bio, so the brand will know how to get in touch with you!
2. Brand Related Hashtags and Content
Adding Hashtags (not only super-categories such as “#fitness and #fashion” but more “long-tail” such as #fitnesscoach, #onlinepersonaltrainer, #fashionphotos and “#stylehunter” as well as Geotags such as #chicagohairstylist (if want to be found locally) should be an important part of your strategy. They can boost your searchability. Good searchability can lead to growth in your follower count AND being found by brands. A good way is to look at which hashtags your dream brands are using). Make sure the hashtags you use are related to the brands you want to sign deals with before you pitch and land deals on Instagram and other platforms.
Brands will appreciate a deal with someone who brings good results. To be able to do that, hypertargeting via hashtags makes sense.
For better results, your strategy in your work with brands should be to make a deal or sign a contract only with a brand that is relevant to what you did or preached about in the past, something that is related to you and the community that you are building.
3. “10,000 Followers”
I know that I say again and again that SMI with a huge number of followers usually do NOT bring the same high performance scores as Micro-Influencers, but… the painful reality is – unfortunately for you, most brands still don’t know that. When we’re talking about paid brand deals, many brands will sign a serious deal only if you have many many thousands, if not millions of followers. FYI.
Pro tip: if you are a micro-influencer, and you KNOW that it will take you a long time to get those thousands of followers, perhaps you’ll think of a different way to make a living – even temporarily – such as social media management, photography, singing or editing services?
When you work with brands, not only do they want you to have tons of followers, but you are also required as an SMI to produce a “high engagement rate”:
Most brands are unclear what “engagement rates” are. When asked what engagement rate they are expecting, some answered “50-60% engagement rate.” (Source: https://www.dearmishudad.com/interviews-dog-brands-work-with-influencers/).
Luckily for you, most brands don’t know exactly what “high engagement” means. When asked, some echo the mistaken idea that “Likes” or follower quantity is as important as comments. They’re wrong — even ✌️🤷😉😋👆 emoji comments can show more engagement than likes!
5. LOVE is a Must
Influencers who do it because they love the product bring better results and are therefore a better choiceKenn Manzerolle, VP, Sales & Marketing, Treatworx Dog Treat Company. Source: https://www.dearmishudad.com/interviews-dog-brands-work-with-influencers/
I can’t repeat that often enough – do a deal only with brand you ❤️️. If you take paid brand deals for brands you don’t ❤️️, it will show, and you will lose respect from your followers. The results will also be disappointing as your heart won’t be into the content you post.
Now let’s combine some elements that are essential to land and pitch paid brand deals on Instagram (and other platforms): what if the SMI loves a brand, AND mentions that brand love often (via tagging and hashtaging usually)? This will get the brand’s attention, and maybe even get the ball rolling to make money! It’s a good method to get your future partners to get to know you.
Pro tip: Get the brand’s attention only when there is something to show them, such as … follower quantity and “engagement”
6. Proven Sales Record Can Help
Of course, brand executives prefer you move beyond just getting them attention on social media, and actually help them sell online through your social media account. If you do manage to bring purchase orders to even ONE brand, you are on a roll and you should not have issues pitching and landing paid deals. In fact, you may like hire an agent as one of your strategies to help you manage your work with brands, because before you know it brands will be waiting in line for you to sell for them.
Pro tips: Create a pitch kit, where you show your value, success cases, and contact information (omit the rates at this preliminary stage)
7. Give the Brand their Money’s Worth
A repeated complaint from brands is that once SMI are hired and do the campaign, they don’t t share feedback and that “all they wanted was more contracts, from all possible vendors.” i.e. greedy… And so – use it to your advantage – if you DO get paid brand deals, and your Instagram campaign post gets comments, do work hard, DO answer and engage on the comments area, during and after the time of the endorsement.
Pro tip: Do a great job in making people aware of the brand’s products, AND make the brand aware of your campaign activity in real-time
8. Good Service Record
Furthermore, during and after your brand deal, share what you see and hear with the brand, often. Over-deliver when you work with brands, at a minimum. Participate the brand partner – give the brand representative a call, get the brand involved with ongoing engagement and share results after the campaign. It’s fine to make them aware that you worked for them consistently in this campaign and are focused on helping them make money. Answer their calls and requests, in a satisfying way, even if you sometimes feel used. Most brands will appreciate someone that does give them good service and that will help you land more brand deals.
9. A Hack: “FYI DM-ing”
DM the lovable brand to “say hello” Don’t write spam, and don’t write in length. Instead, write something honest and to the point, something like: “I’m Esther (I’m an influencer), I want you to know that I’ve used your xyz product/concept/logo in the past x months and I plan to mention you [to my 80,000 followers] often. FYI.” i.e. just to say hello and share your plan to mention them to your [xyz quantity] followers. Later on, once they’ll reply, ask to speak with their influencer relations contact person, to create a more one-on-one relationship with the right person (not a hired Virtual Assistant).
A hack to find potential brands to work with: if you click on “follow” for a brand on Insta, Twitter etc, the software will show you all their competitors as “others similar accounts.” DM them…
10. “Thank You”
This is not a hack, and should come naturally in a genuine manner. Look at this example:
11. Match-up Marketplaces
Marketplaces (such as TRIBE and influencer.co) were built to connect SMI to brands and vice versa. Those can be especially useful at times to send a message to the brands, or to apply to one of their deals. Since that’s the main purpose of the system in the first place it will not be considered spam.
12. Offline Photo Moments
Meeting the brand team (or the exact person…) offline is often the best way to start a brand deal negotiation. What can be better than talking to your future brand representative at her presentation booth where they want nothing more than to get their message out (usually to very few guests) and here you are, representing your social media account (of related interest hopefully, so you’ll have fascinating topics of conversation), showing an interest in working with them?
Where about? Trade shows, conferences, coffee-shops, presentations, meetups, parties, parks, dog walks, etc. Go there, introduce yourself, make friends, explain you are representing a community of xyz, express your love for what they do, and – don’t forget – take a photo with them (and email it to them, so they can remember who you are)
13. Introduced to…
If going out there yourself didn’t work in securing a specific brand deal, a fantastic way to find a specific contact person is to be introduced to them by a common acquaintance. LinkedIn is often the most appropriate to start such introductions, and to start talking about business.
Many SMI admit that they are good at writing, photography, publishing, blogging and so much more. But not at marketing and sales. Getting represented by an agency or a manager might be a good solution for those, as well as those who want to go further into the celeb-brand world.
Pro tips: many agencies – just like model agencies – are awful, be careful, vet the agency that wants you
Although there is nothing wrong with getting paid for a living, it is recommended early in your journey not to ask for something that no one is interested in giving you anyway. Be flexible. The idea is to get your name in the door first, without losing what you believe in, and to impress with your performance so much that your services will go viral.
Good luck, heroes!
SMI* = Social Media Influencers