Becoming a social media brand rep is an aspiration of many moms. It provides a way to make some extra money while still working from home and raising children. On the surface, it seems glamorous and fun, and it definitely IS those things! Still, brand repping actually takes a ton of work and many disappointments. Especially at the beginning.
So, as a small influencer with big aspirations, what can you be doing RIGHT NOW to make yourself appealing to the brands you want to work with?
I am a social media influencer and also an owner of a recognizable brand. I know both sides of the coin. I can relate to your struggles, since I am still growing my social media influence, too. But I also know what mistakes you could be making that are limiting your potential to grow and to work with great brands.
I don't have all the answers, but I do know how to help you stop making some of the mistakes that hamper success. Let me break down what I think are the best and worst practices for small YouTubers, Instagrammers, and Bloggers who want to work with big brands.
Some very unhelpful people out there have wrongly suggested that success on social media is about cranking out as much content as possible. Having more content might help boost your rankings in YouTube and Instagram algorithms, but it's not going to help you get brand deals. Brands want to work with influencers who create high quality content that meets a need. They aren't looking for last minute, scraped together content. They will chose quality over quantity every time.
Now, by "quality content" I don't necessarily mean that you have to have an expensive camera, a paid photographer/videographer, etc (although those things do help). What I mean by quality is that you need to create content that serves a purpose. Regardless of what social media platform you are using, you can bet that your content will be considered quality in the eyes of a brand if it does one of the following things:
- makes people laugh
- makes people cry
- makes people relate to you or the brand
- inspires or motivates people
- educates, instructs, or demonstrates
When you sit down to plan your content, ask yourself if it meets any of these criteria. If it doesn't, post it on your Facebook wall and forget about it. If you want to create a cohesive, high quality social media presence that will appeal to brands, only post things to your public persona pages that meet at least one of these criteria. Let go of the temptation to generate more content than you can handle. It is better to carefully plan one high quality piece of content a week and put everything you have into it than to produce daily mediocre content with no value.
In terms of the appearance of your content, my one pearl of wisdom is to always use the best possible lighting EVERY TIME you create content. That's really the only rule you absolutely must follow. You don't have to have expensive equipment! Use natural lighting to your advantage if you don't have studio lights. Shoot outside when you can. Early morning and just before sunset are the best times to get great natural light. Avoid taking photos at night in your home unless you have professional lighting, as household lights give off a yellow glow that can be hard to correct. Making the best use of lighting can make your photos and videos look like professional quality even if they are shot on your smart phone. As an example, here are two photos featuring the same Lillebaby ring sling. Both photos were taken on a professional DSLR camera. The photo on the left was taken indoors at night, with two professional studio lights pointing directly at me. The photo on the right was taken during day time with no studio lights. The differences are so obvious that it seems silly to point them out, but pay special attention to the clarity of the images and the color tone.
Focus on Organic Growth
Brands want to see that you have an authentic fan base. After all, the term "influencer" suggests that you are someone with social capital who can impact people around you. The very worst thing you can do for your social media presence is to shortcut the system by participating in "support groups" that promote:
- Like for Like (members of the group all exchange likes on each other's content)
- Sub for Sub/Follow for Follow
- Comment for Comment
- Share for Share
- Views for Views
You may be getting more engagement that way, but that engagement is not organic or authentic. It's like saying you gave a speech in front of hundreds of thousands of people, but all of them were playing on their phones and not listening to you at all. Sure, they were there in the room. But did they care?
My first question is, why would YOU want that kind of audience for your content? And my second, more important question, is why would brands want to work with you when you have that kind of audience?
Listen, as a growing influencer myself, I understand that there is a certain aspect of "fake it til you make it" that goes into the social media game. I'm not judging anyone who has paid for followers or used a sub for sub group to gain some social clout. All I'm saying is, while those methods might increase your viewership and engagement, they do nothing to increase your appeal with brands.
Frankly, if you are using those methods, I think you're doing yourself a big disservice when it comes to working with brands. Any brand worth working with is going to review your social media with a fine-tooth comb before agreeing to a deal. When they see evidence of bought followers, comment for comment, or any other method that creates the appearance of a thriving channel without actually making it thrive (and believe me, the signs are obvious) they will not be interested in working with you.
Growing an authentic fan base takes time and hard work. There is no quick solution or short cut. One of the most effective ways to gain a REAL following is to be a REAL follower of other people and an active participant on your own social media.
- Reply to every comment on your work, if you can
- Search every day for new channels or feeds that captivate you, and engage with them
- Use things like Instagram Stories to show your followers a little more insight into your life
- Share other people's content (and credit them for it) on your social media
- Comment on videos or posts that you like, and tell the creator why you like it
People love nothing more than to feel liked and appreciated. If you dedicate yourself to following these steps, you will gain an authentic following of people who genuinely like you and maybe even want to be like you. This, in the eyes of a brand, is to be valued most of all.
As a general rule of thumb, brands will likely look at your "view to follower/subscriber ratio" to determine if your following is authentic. Generally, a good ratio is about 10-12%. That is, if you have 1,000 subscribers, you should be averaging at least 100-120 views per video. On the other hand, if a channel with 10,000 subscribers is getting 100-120 views, that leaves their ratio at around 1%, which looks very bad. It tells a brand that either (a) those subscribers were bought or were acquired through a sub for sub group, or (b) the channel was successful at one time but is now dying. In either case, brands won't want to work with that channel. I would choose any day to work with an influencer with 200 extremely loyal fans who engage with her content than an influencer with 20,000 "fans" who never engage. Anyone can use shady tactics to gain a false following. Brands want to see that you are REAL.
Show Brands That You Are Already A Fan
When a brand considers doing a deal with a social media influencer, they want to know that the influencer is going to create content that makes their brand look fabulous. It is risky to send money or free product to someone who knows nothing about your brand. It is always far better to work with someone who you can tell is a loyal fan.
The worst emails I get from influencers start with, "I have never tried the [insert product name], but I've heard great things about it! Would you be interested in sending me one in exchange for a review and a shout out to your store on my YouTube channel?"
I would just never do that. It's far too risky that I'll send this person something at my own expense, only to get in exchange a negative review that hurts my store and my brand.
If you really want to get a brand's attention, show them that you are already a fan of theirs. Decide NOW which brands you want to collab with and begin creating content with their products today. Tag the brand in everything you post. I promise they don't mind, even though it feels awkward at first. Do your best to get lots of engagement on that content to show that you are getting people excited about the products. Then, when you have created a small portfolio of content for that brand, send them an email about collaborating and give them the links to all of your content! Show them that you have already worked hard to grow their brand because you sincerely love it. A little flattery can go a long way when it comes to striking a deal!
Be A Story Brand
Some influencers may think it sounds silly to consider yourself a "brand." But the truth is, if you are trying to use your social media presence to gain exposure and collaboration opportunities, you are a brand whether you think so or not. Every brand needs to be appealing, unique, interesting, and marketable. In order for your brand to stand out, you need to have a clear and compelling story. Our story at The Sensible Mama is that we are a brand who puts kindness above all else, and that we are on a mission to educate, equip, inspire, and share. Everything we put out there on social media tells a piece of that story.
You need your own story. You can't just post Instagram pictures of your favorite products, slap together a quick narrative like, "loving this gorgeous this bag!" and think you are going to have appeal with big brands (or your social media followers, for that matter).
Everything you post needs to tell a story. How does this product reflect something about you? Why do you relate to this product? How do you connect with it on a personal level? What can you share about yourself through this post that your followers did not already know about you? These are the things you need to consider when you are posting content to your social media channels. Telling the story of you instead of the story of the product will always be more engaging, interesting, and appealing to your followers and the brands you want to work with. Check out this example below which shows how I often tell a personal story about a product, instead of just promoting the product. See what a difference it makes when you personalize your content and tell a story instead of just selling a product?
Engage, Engage, Engage!
Most social media platforms -- and Instagram in particular -- have algorithms in place that "rank" content according to its value. How is value determined? Usually, it's determined by the number of views, likes, comments, and general engagement the content receives. Hear me: If you want to be successful on social media, you cannot afford to be an island unto yourself! Don't just publish your content and wait around for people to engage with it. Your feed or channel will be a dead zone in no time.
Instead, publish your content and then spend just 15 minutes or so scrolling through your social media and finding accounts to engage with. Like, comment, and follow/subscribe. Be authentic in what you say. Don't go around posting heart-eyes emojis on a hundred posts. Say something thoughtful and kind, and most importantly from the heart. When you do this, the first upside is that those accounts will come engage with your account in return, which will boost your account's engagement. But perhaps more importantly, these exchanges will boost your content's rankings. As an example, Instagram rewards accounts who engage frequently on their own content and other accounts' content by putting more of that account's photos on the Explore tab where new accounts can find it. Being personable and friendly, and sharing the love, is one really effective way to boost your rankings and get more exposure for your account. This, of course, will lead to more followers/subscribers, more views, more engagement, and ultimately more appeal in the eyes of the brands you want to work with.
If you're still here, thanks for sticking around til the end! I hope these tips were helpful. I really do believe that if you follow these instructions, you will see your social media begin to grow and your opportunities for brand deals begin to take off! Be yourself. Be dedicated. Be patient. It will happen, mama!