- There are a few different ways social-media influencers can land their first brand sponsorship deal when starting out.
- The best way to build a relationship with a brand as a micro influencer is to reach out to the brand directly, through email or Instagram direct message, SeatGeek’s director of influencer marketing, Ian Borthwick, told Business Insider.
- There are also networks, like Social Fabric and Social Native, which are used by influencers as a way to get started with brand sponsorships.
- To land a brand deal, an influencer should focus on their engagement rate (or clicks, likes, views, and comments) because engagement is what’s valuable to brands, Borthwick said.
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Getting a brand sponsorship deal might seem like something only open to celebrities, but even if you’re just starting out as an influencer, there are steps you can take to secure one.
We spoke to influencers and brand execs about their tips for landing that first deal and there are a few avenues available, from reaching out to a brand directly, to signing with a network that places influencers in brand campaigns, or having an agent who can help facilitate a direct brand connection.
Reach out to brands directly
It might seem like a shot in the dark, but reaching out directly to brands can be an effective way of landing your first deal.
The "Mommy blogger" Jehava Brown, who has 70,000 Instagram followers and blogs about motherhood, food, travel, and style, earns a six-figure income entirely off her brand, made possible through promoting products, she told Business Insider. Brown said she landed her first brand sponsorship by emailing the company directly. She would search for brands which she felt matched her online presence.
"A lot of bloggers will find a media contact for whatever brand you are wanting to work with, and just send an email about their pitch and stats," Brown said. She said this is a common method that most bloggers and influencers under 100,000 followers will follow.
In the beginning, there’s lot of, "I’ll share this if you send me those products," she said. But as you grow, you can start to ask a certain rate for your content. Brown said she was okay with promoting products without getting paid at first because she was still benefiting by receiving things for free.
SeatGeek’s director of influencer marketing, Ian Borthwick, told Business Insider that the best way to contact a brand is through email or Instagram direct messaging. He said to cut to the chase and lead with your engagement rate. Start off with something like, "Hey I saw you with X influencer … here is why my audience is a great fit for you." It’s best to find a common connection and show that you care about what they are selling, he said.
"Learn how to market yourself to a brand because you’ll need to know how to articulate yourself in the future," Borthwick added.
You’ll want to turn that initial sponsorship into a more consistent relationship and you can do so by building a relationship with the brand.
Influencers can also connect with brands through referral or ambassador programs. Brands like SeatGeek and Glossier use programs like these as a way to work with smaller influencers. Influencers can sign up for these programs directly and typically they will earn money when a follower uses their specific discount code.
Sign up with a network or get on PR agency lists
Screenshot of sign up page.
Bloggers or influencers can apply for these networks if they reach minimum threshold of some standard metrics, like pageviews or platform engagement, Brown said. Brands approach these agencies with requests, like how many influencers they are looking to hire for a certain campaign.
How many followers do you need?
For Social Fabric, you’ll only need 1,000 total followers across all connected networks, according to the membership application. You can connect an Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, or Facebook account with the network, depending on which platform you want to promote products on.
Another network that connects influencers with brand sponsorships on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter is FameBit (which is owned by YouTube). Users can submit a brand proposal, set a promotion fee, and get paid via PayPal or Check, according to the company’s website. On its website, FameBit says it has sponsorships with Canon, Adidas, and Conair, and takes a 10% service fee from every sponsorship deal.
But according to industry insiders in the influencer marketing space, this method isn’t usually as effective a long-term option as building a connection with the brand directly. Connections are important because they can lead to future opportunities, like larger-scale deals.
PR agencies can function similarly to networks. Brown said in her experience, PR agencies work directly with brands, which now help her secure the majority of her sponsorship deals. These PR agencies will pitch her a campaign via email, rather than receiving a deal on a website portal through a network. Working with brands and PR agencies is usually more profitable for her than working with a network, she said, because she is able to set the price herself based on her rates.
PR agencies have a better selection of deals that are more tailored to her content, Brown said. Every day she receives emails from different PR agencies and will respond back with her specific rates, she said. These agencies profit from the deals as well, taking a cut which they factor into her rate, she said.
The difference between a talent manager, agent, and PR agency
Borthwick said that he’s seen influencers, some with as few as 50,000 followers, represented by a talent agent for a brand sponsorship, but said he prefers to work with an influencer directly when they are representing themselves.
"The most successful partnerships we’ve had a direct connection with the influencer," he said.
Influencers will sign with a talent agent to help them facilitate a brand sponsorship and agents will take a percentage of the deal.
"The best agents facilitate that direct connection between the brand and the influencer, providing structure and keeping ball rolling," Borthwick said. He advises influencers to first learn how to work with brands before you sign with an agent. If you are thinking about signing, think about what value an agent would provide that you couldn’t provide yourself.
Once an influencer is more established, they will often sign with a talent manager through management firms, like Select Management Group or Digital Brand Architects. Talent managers assist an influencer with their overall brand and business operations.
Alongside having a talent manager, some top influencers also have a separate PR agent, who will represent them and assist them with other portions of their growing brand, like media coverage.
What these brand deals look like and how much you’ll make
To be attractive to brands, focus on your engagement rate, or clicks, likes, views, and comments, Borthwick said. Typically, you see higher a monthly engagement when you’re a smaller creator, he said. That’s valuable to brands.
According to Brown, the "rule of thumb" in the industry for a sponsored Instagram post has typically been to price at $100 for every 10,000 followers you have. Other industry insiders confirmed that is generally correct, though it can vary based on the category of your content.
When Brown worked with networks, she said she’d make around $300 from a sponsored post, after the network took a its portion of that money, she said.
"They are pretty low pay, but initially it seems like good money," Brown said. At first, this may seem like a lot, but Brown said now that she is more established in the influencer space, she charges between $1,500 and $2,000 for a sponsored Instagram post or Story combination.
For more on the business of being an influencer, and a breakdown of how YouTube creators make their money, check out these Business Insider Prime stories below:
- An Instagram influencer breaks down how much brands pay for sponsored posts, starting at 10,000 followers
- $300 million Cameo hired a TikTok exec to lead its international expansion, as the celeb shoutout app looks to add Bollywood and K-Pop stars
- Comcast’s CTO on why he once left the company for a startup, and the lessons he brought back that helped him change its tech division