Are you an influencer looking to partner with brands on Instagram, TikTok, or your blog? Here’s what I’ve learned brands look for in content creators and influencers.
In 2016, I started taking my blog and Instagram more seriously as a side hustle. I was at 2,000 followers on Instagram and driving around 500 monthly page views and I knew I wanted to build my community and my brand online. One thing I wanted to learn how to do was also monetize my influence. I learned early on that influencers and bloggers could work with brands and potentially get paid for brand partnerships.
I sought out the next few years to learn how to build my blog traffic, build an engaged community online, and figure out the business side of blogging. Fast forward 5 years later, and after getting unexpectedly laid off my aerospace career, I decided to take content creation full-time. After 5 years of building Emma’s Edition as a side hustle, I learned how to work with brands as my main source of income as an influencer.
- In 2017, I made my first financial goal as a content creator to cover my fixed cost and be able to cover the cost of hiring photographers. I had started graduate school and was working full-time.
- In 2018, I met my financial goal and brought in $10,000 in revenue with my blog and my Instagram. I was in graduate school full time and working full-time.
- In 2019, I met my financial goal of $40,000. I graduated from grad school and continued to work full-time.
- In 2020, I met my financial goal and matched my corporate salary of $90,000 and surpassed it. Again, I had gotten laid off my aerospace career of 6 years, but I was grateful I was able to replace my aerospace salary.
Through years of working with public relations companies, influencer agencies, and brands directly, I’ve learned what brands look for in content creators and influencers. I first started working out with brands on gifted basis. And over the last few years, a majority of my brand campaigns have been paid.
Here’s what I’ve learned brands look for in content creators and influencers:
You’ve organically talked about the brand.
If you’re looking to work with a brand in the future, it helps to already be a fan of the brand. Brands have teams (or at least one or two people) running their social media channels. Brand teams will notice if you’ve been a longtime fan of the brand if you’re organically:
- Tagging the brand in-feed posts or on IG stories
- Using their brand hashtags – You can see what hashtags brands are following by clicking on the brand’s “Following” (NOT followers), clicking “Hashtags”, and you’ll see all the hashtags the brand is following.
Personally, I’ve heard from influencer agencies I’ve worked with that some brands will only source influencers who have already organically talked about their brand.
You’re active on other platforms.
Even though most of my influencer campaigns are focused on Instagram and my blog, all my brand partners have the option to extend the collaboration on my Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Podcast.
One reason why brands source influencers for social media marketing campaigns is to create multiple touch points with their (potential) audiences. If you’re able to provide more touch points to the brand, you’re able to extend the brand’s reach to your other audiences. Even if you don’t have a massive following on Twitter or TikTok, having at least one other active platform is something to work towards as a content creator.
Personally, I have less than 1,000 followers on Twitter but I’ve had brand contract me for campaigns since I was active on the platform.
Your content isn’t mostly ads.
You’ll hear a mix of peoples’ responses to how much ad content vs. organic content you should have as a content creator. The general consensus I’ve heard is that your content isn’t mostly ads. This means that when someone scrolls your feed, every photo shouldn’t be an ad.
Personally, 75% of my content is my own and 25% of my content is brand partnerships. You might hear others say that’s too much ad content, but it’s worked for me. I personally am posting across 5 times a week in feed, 3-4 reels a week, stories daily, as well as weekly blog posts and weekly podcast episodes. I’m also on Clubhouse twice a week – building community. My goal is always to create valuable content for my audience.
You’re already posting consistently
You have to be in the business of creating content to attract brand partnerships for your Instagram, blog, YouTube, or whatever your platform is. One of the major reasons why brands hire influencers is to produce fresh, original content. Brands want to know you’re able to create new content for them.
Consistently is variable and depends on everyone’s own capacity and schedule. Some people will view consistency has posting on Instagram 3 times a week, while others might view posting as 5 or 7 times a week. Regardless of your schedule, know that taking a 6 month break off the app will inevitably signal to both brands and your audiences that you aren’t creating content.
You have clear brand identity
From your bio, your feed, your stories, your blog post, etc., it’s clear who you are, who your target audience is, and what type of content people can expect from you. People will always argue that you don’t need a niche, but you do need people to understand who are and what you do at a glance. Having a clear a content strategy and plan can help you establish clear brand identity.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend working on your bio. Does your bio include:
- Your name
- Your mission statement
- Your location
- Your email address (remember, that email button isn’t on the desktop version of Instagram)
Your content (reels, images, stories) and overall page should reinforce what you’ve stated in your bio. For example, if you call out, you’re a “Seattle Foodie”, I expect to see Seattle, Seattle/local restaurants, or even recipes represented on your page.
You have a healthy engagement rate and a real audience
Influencer agencies can pull your metrics on the backend (if you’ve linked your social media accounts to their platform). Agencies and brands can see if you’ve bought followers (you can use Social Blade too) and if you participate in engagement pods.
According to influencer marketing hub, here are the average Instagram engagement rates:
- Less than 1,000 followers: 7.2%
- Less than 5,000 followers: 5.3%
- Less than 10,000 followers: 3.7%
- Less than 100,000 followers: 2.1 %
- 100,000 followers+: 1.1%
My brand partners have stated that an engagement rate above 2% is acceptable for brand partnerships.
There you have it friends! I hope thist blog post about what brands look for in social media influencers was helpful.
What other things have you learned that brands look for in content creators and influencers?
Thank you for reading!