Have you ever received an email from a brand asking to collaborate with you, but you aren’t sure whether or not it’s a real brand partnership? Here are 5 tips to help you determine if it’s a real brand collaboration or a scam.

Brand collaboration or a scam - Instagram collaboration – influencer brand partnerships – how to work with brands as an influencer – influencer instagram brand collaborations – tips for working with brands as a content creator – image from www.emmasedition.com – copyright @emmasedition

One my greatest piece of advice to any content creator or influencer at any stage of their journey is to continue to build your business acumen. If you have hopes of building a profitable side hustle or taking that leap into full-time content creation, having strong business skills will help you do that. Building your sense of business takes time, experience, and probably some mistakes along the way.

If you haven’t heard of the term business acumen before, business acumen or business sense just means you’re able to assess a situation (of the risks and opportunities) that will lead to a positive result. Having business acumen as an influencer means you’re able to figure or not whether opportunities that come your way -OR- potential business ventures make sense for your brand, business, and your audience.

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Over the last 5 years of side-hustling and building Emma’s Edition alongside my aerospace career, I’ve learned how to assess whether or not brand collaborations are legitimate offers. I’ve taken on brand partnerships that make sense for my brand and audience. And I’ve also taken on partnerships that didn’t make sense and felt more one-sided. If you’re trying to figure out whether or not the brand collaboration in your inbox is truly an offer to partner or a scam, this blog post is for you.

5 tips to help you figure out if it’s a brand collaboration or a scam:

1.Before you hit reply, make sure the brand is a real company

Step 1 in figuring out whether or not it’s a brand collaboration or a scam is to verify that it’s coming from a real company. Here are a few easy ways to determine if it’s a real company or not:

  1. Ask yourself if you’ve personally heard of this company before? There are new brands and businesses emerging every day. If you’ve seen on a Hulu commercial or heard them on a podcast ad, the brand is probably legitimate. You should continue to do checks to see if this is a real brand or not.
  2. Do a Google Search. By doing a simple Google Search, you’ll find the company’s website, LinkedIn page, social channels, and any news articles if they’ve been written about or mentioned in media.
  3. Check the brand on social media channels. If this is truly a new brand looking to build their business, they would have at least one social media channel. Check to see if they have a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

2. Make sure the email is coming from a real person

If you aren’t sure whether or not this person emailing you is real, you can look the person up on LinkedIn or do a quick Google search on their name. You might also be able to find them on social media.

Additionally, if the person or company emailing you has tons of spelling errors and grammatically mistakes, this is a huge red flag.

And if they’re asking for personal information, it’s a scam. If a brand is asking you to collaborate and they’re asking for your:

  • Instagram username
  • Password
  • Your credit card information
  • And social security number, it’s a scam.

There is no reason why a brand or a business would need your credit card or your password to your social media accounts.

If a brand asks for your credit card information to ship a product, it’s a scam. Brands or PR teams don’t need any of that information to send you product. If you’re truly entering a gifted or paid brand collaboration, you would provide your address for shipping.

Brand collaboration or a scam - Instagram collaboration – influencer brand partnerships – how to work with brands as an influencer – influencer instagram brand collaborations – tips for working with brands as a content creator – image from www.emmasedition.com – copyright @emmasedition

3. If the brand collaboration is coming in the form of a DM, but not from the main brand’s account

If a person who DMs you say that they’re a part of the brand’s team and the brand would love to work with you, I would be highly suspicious.

In my last 5+ years as a content creator, the actual brand has sent me either an email or started the conversation via DM through the main brand’s account. There are social media teams who manage the brand’s account, but they should be reaching out to you via the main brand’s account.

4. If they offer a paid brand collaboration, but they don’t have a formal contract

If a brand approaches you with a paid brand partnership, chances are they’re going to be some negotiations via email or even over the phone. I’ve personally gotten on the phone for my long-term campaigns (3 months, 6 months, and even 1 yearlong partnerships) to discuss the required deliverables, go over the creative brief or brand playbook, and talk through the budget.

Brands will either send over a contract via adobe PDF, a Microsoft Word document, or even an electronic contract like Docusign. If a brand is saying they’ll pay you, but there isn’t a contract, this is a red flag.

If the brand is represented by an influencer agency or public relations company, they should still provide a contract. The brand who hired the influencer agency or PR company signed contracts with them to hire out/outsource influencer marketing. They know the significance of having the statement of work, budget, and scheduled outlined in a contract.

5. If they’re asking you to purchase the product, it’s not a brand collaboration

There are companies out there who want to work with influencers but don’t want to gift products. They reach out to influencers and share a discount code to get % off the sale but requests that influencers create social deliverables. I’ve seen these come in the form of “ambassador programs” – where brands will automatically comment like “DM to Collab with us!” or email “join our ambassador team!” By the way, if a brand asks you to apply for an ambassador program, it’s not a brand collaboration.

I’ve also seen this in the form of affiliate programs – There are some companies who market their affiliate programs as influencer marketing programs. There are times when affiliate programs make sense. But for the most part, when these affiliate programs target new influencers and content creators, they’re looking to get the most out of influencers.

In my opinion, these are not brand collaborations. Whether you’re an influencer or not, you could probably find a coupon or discount code somewhere to use and NOT have to post any social deliverables. Even if you’re just starting out as an influencer, you can find brands to work with on true gifted brand collaborations – where you don’t pay for product, shipping, or anything like that.

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What other ways have you learned whether or not a brand collaboration is a scam?

For more influencer and content creator tips, I recommend checking out:

How to Get Started as an Influencer/ Content Creator from the Content Creatives Podcast

What Brands Look for in Influencers & Content Creators from the Content Creatives Podcast

5 Tips for Working with Brands for Blog & Instagram Collaborations

Thank you for reading!