Most influencers want to collab with brands, but how do you know a good collab from a bad one? After years of working as a talent manager and working through quite a few amazing brand deals (plus some not so good ones), I decided to share some tips on how to spot the best brand collaborations and some examples of what makes for successful brand collaborations.
Some bad brand collaborations are easy to spot from a distance. The same is true of amazing brand collaborations. If you’ve had a great brand collaboration, some of these will probably be true of that collab. If you find a brand who treats you well, try to continue working with them.
There tends to be a lot of focus on getting brand collaborations and what to watch out for, so let’s flip that on its head and dive into the things that make a brand collaboration amazing (don’t miss the last two!).
If you can’t create with freedom, it won’t appear authentic. We’ve talked before about the importance of brand fit and being authentic, so it plays in here as well. You don’t want the ad to stand out as an ad on your feed. You want it to fit seamlessly into your feed.
Some brands want to direct and control every aspect of what you do as a creator. When you find a brand that trusts you and gives you freedom to create in your own style, that is the sign of a good brand collaboration. Yes, they may require hashtags or certain things to maintain their brand image related to things like nudity, alcohol, drugs, other brands, etc., but they’ve hired you because they love your content and want you to create something amazing.
When a brand gives you too many specific instructions for exactly what content to create, it sometimes stands out from your usual posts and may not get your usual engagement. Your followers follow you for a reason. They are less likely to engage with something completely different from your normal content and style, basically something that is “off brand”.
When a brand has the attitude of loving your content and trusting you to create amazing content for them, the brand collaboration tends to go much smoother. This way allows you to create something that brings value to the brand and to your audience and uses your content to speak to your audience in a way that makes sense for you.
GIVES YOU TIME
A brand giving you the time to try the product and create the content is another way to spot the best brand collaborations. You want to have time to make sure the product is something you actually like before you are required to post. Then you need enough time to create good content for the brand.
There are some brands who want to rush a project. They want to send you something overnight, have you create the content and then post the content all within a few days. Try to avoid this if at all possible.
You want to know that you are recommending a good product to your audience and something you yourself would use. You also want to make sure you have enough time to create content that your audience will enjoy and that benefits the brand. This can be hard to do on a tight deadline.
Communication is key in so many areas of life, and brand collaborations are no exception. Look for brands who respond quickly and communicate clearly with you.
It’s an added bonus if a brand will hop on a call with you. This often saves lots of time in back and forth emails and allows you to get to know the brand and for them to see your personality.
On phone calls or in emails, look for enthusiasm. It always makes it more fun to work with brands who are excited to work with you and who really see’s your potential. If they love your content and show it, that is a good sign.
Even if a brand like this doesn’t have as much money, sometimes it is worth it to work with them anyways. These are often the relationships that have the best chance of becoming long term.
Sometimes they come back a year later and say, “I know we only had $1000 last year, and we really appreciate that you worked with us for a discount. This year we have a much bigger budget and want to pay you your true content creation rates.” This doesn’t always happen, but it is more likely when the brand truly is excited to work with you on a project.
UNDERSTAND THE PRICE OF THE VALUE YOU OFFER
When a brand sees the value you offer and understands there is a cost involved in getting that value, that is a great sign. Yes, some brands want to take advantage of content creators or see what they can get without paying you. Others see the value in your audience and in your content and will be willing to pay for it.
The best brand collaborations also happen when the brand understands that usage rights and exclusivity have a cost attached to them. They understand that if they want those rights, they have to pay for it. When you tell them the cost, they agree and may have to negotiate based on budget but really want to meet you in the middle or be able to pay you what you deserve.
COVER THE COSTS
Chances are you have been offered a “brand collaboration” that offers you a discount or a free product but you pay for shipping. Think about how much your time is worth and if you would pay for that product to begin with – probably not. A good brand collaboration should cover the cost of the product and not ask you to pay for it.
For travel collaborations, depending on the brand and the contract, most of your travel expenses should be covered. If they are reaching out to you, they should be covering your airfare, your accommodations, your transportation, your meals, etc.
They are reaching out to you to promote their location, so they should cover the costs involved. They should not expect you to cover your own airfare to get somewhere to do work for them. If you reach out to them because you are visiting that destination anyways, that is usually a little different.
BUILD A CONTENT CREATION RELATIONSHIP
Another sign of a successful brand collaboration is when they love your content so much that they want to buy it to use for their socials and their channels or for advertising purposes. Sometimes this happens after the collaboration when they reach out to buy additional prints.
Other times it happens when they reach out initially. They don’t just want you for promotion or sometimes they don’t want you to promote it at all – they see your skill set and want to work together in a different way.
We have lots of great relationships with brands like this that pay great money for content. You don’t have to worry about it fitting your feed or sharing it with your audience. It just goes on their socials or is used for their ads on social or maybe their website depending on the contract.
FOLLOW & ENGAGE WITH YOU
We have some PR agencies that follow the influencers and love their work. It is a bonus extra thing that is really nice. Those reps take the work to their bosses and show it to them because they love it so much. When they find a brand collaboration that is a great fit, they reach out.
This is a great way to get brand collaborations as well as continue working relationships with PR agencies. When a person can vouch for you and say, “I’ve followed this account for several years now, and he or she always puts out great content,” that goes far with brands and agencies.
These little personalized touches are just bonuses, but they differentiate the good brand collabs and the best brand collabs. When you receive a product with a personalized card (especially if it is a just because we love working with you or wanted to send this to you product), it means the world.
The same is true of when you arrive at a hotel and find a welcome card or gift. It might be something simple like a fruit tray or a dessert or a little card welcoming you, but it shows the brand took the time to personally welcome you.
These little extra touches help you feel more welcomed and appreciated by the brand. It is something that takes so little time for the brand but really makes an impact on the influencer.
PARTNERING ON A PRODUCT
Another thing that can make a brand collaboration extra special is when the brand wants to partner on a product. You get to give input or design your own product or product line with a brand. It’s the experience of creating your own product but with the safety and guidance of a brand.
There obviously can be good and bad examples of this as with anything, but it’s a special way to do a brand collaboration and get experience. Especially if you are already considering a product line like that in the future, it can be a way to gain valuable knowledge and to see if your audience is interested in it.
MAKING UP FOR ERRORS, MISTAKES OR PROBLEMS
When a brand takes the time to make up for something that goes wrong, that speaks volumes. Sometimes errors or mistakes happen. Sometimes problems come up with a product or a trip or the collaboration is cancelled.
One example of this happened recently with the pandemic. A brand was working with some influencers on a deal, but they had to cancel it due to the pandemic. As a way to show their appreciation for us working with them and trying to make the deal happen, they ended up sending some of their product anyways to make up for it.
This makes it more likely that we work to make a deal happen in the future. When you see a brand that is willing to go above and beyond, you want to work with that brand.
KEEP THE RELATIONSHIP GOING
Keeping a relationship going even when there isn’t a contract in place is a great way for brands to show they are a great partner. When they have a new product and send it out to influencers for free to try, it keeps the relationship going. Plus, they often get promotion from the influencer in stories or even a post if they love the product.
It looks good for the brand because it shows they want to continue the relationship. When they reach out for another campaign, it makes it more likely that the influencer goes above and beyond for them. Plus, they get some free shout outs in the meantime.
Some brands have a bad reputation for trying to gouge you for a million and one deliverables and pay low rates for them (or even just get them in exchange for product/a trip). Others will understand the value of your work and request a fair number of deliverables.
For example, for a trip, something like 5 stories a day and 1 post per day of the trip would be fair. You want it to be a good fit for both sides and not just a “take it or leave it – this is how we do it” type of conversation. Finding a brand that will meet in the middle is huge.
WANT TO WORK TOGETHER LONG TERM
Saving the best for last! A brand that sees the potential and value in a long term approach versus a short term approach is a huge deal. It may not always work out, but they see the value and want to make it work.
This doesn’t happen nearly often enough, but this should be how brands want to work together. Posting 3 posts over 3 months does so much more for the brand than a one off post that the audience forgets about soon after. Being able to showcase that brand over time helps the audience get to know the product and remember it later.
Not all brand partnerships will fit what we would call the “best brand collaborations”, but there are quite a few that will have at least a few of these qualities. Keep an eye out for them and take a chance when you spot them.
If you’re struggling to find those amazing brand partnerships or want help negotiating with them when you do find them and turning them into long term partnerships, we’ve got you covered.
Boost Society is now offering a one-of-a-kind small group coaching program on the influencer business. This is not teaching you how to be an influencer or how to grow on social media but how to negotiate from gifting to paid partnerships, how to read and understand contracts, how to pitch brands, and more. You can check it out here!
If you aren’t quite ready for that, you can still get our free tips for pitching brands below!
Subscribe to get your FREE “12 things to include in a pitch email” PDF & to get more tips and tricks from Boost Society!
What do you look for in brand fit? Have you ever organically posted about a brand only to end up collaborating with them later? Have you ever done a brand collab that you looked back at and realized it wasn’t a good fit? Share about your experiences in the comments below!
For more Influencer tips, check out these posts:
- How to Work with Brands and PR Agencies
- How Influencers Really Make Money
- How to Work with the Right Brands as an Influencer
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