How to Successfully Navigate Brand Partnerships on Instagram

You’ve finally done it! You’ve nailed down your niche, posted consistently, engaged with your audience, and reached influencer status, congratulations! Now you have a brand that wants to partner with you but you have no idea how to make sure it’s a good deal. Don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to make sure you are successfully navigating the potentially turbulent waters of brand partnerships so that you, your audience, and the companies you partner with are all happy with the end result.

Know What You Want

Don’t be tempted to skip this section just because you think you know what you want. You may know that you want to get paid, but do you know how much and for how much work? Don’t think about this in terms of an individual partnership. Sure, getting paid or free swag right now may seem like a great opportunity. But if it isn’t getting you closer to your primary goal, then it isn’t worth doing.

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To determine what you want, start with the end game. What is your primary goal for becoming an influencer? Then think about the steps and types of partnerships that would help you get to that goal most efficiently and what types of things might derail your progress or even make you take a few steps back.

Everything you choose to do will have an opportunity cost. This means, while you are pursuing one opportunity it will come at the cost of something else in your life or business. If working with a brand will be financially rewarding but require you to give up the time you usually spend engaging with your audience, not really appeal to your ideal audience only a small subsection of followers, or in any other way take you off the path to where you want to be, you need to be able to identify that in the negotiation stage. That way you can quickly address your concerns and resolve them or decline the opportunity.

Provide a Portfolio

Think of your Instagram account as an evolving portfolio for potential brand partnerships. When you post, it should always be aligned with your channel and personal branding and be created to provide value for your followers. In essence, your entire feed IS your portfolio. But if you want to really showcase what you can offer prospective partners, get creative.

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Think of the types of sponsorships you’d like to have and how you would offer value to the company and your audience. If you are a makeup artist, make sure to have links to posts about tutorials or unboxings available to provide brands. If your channel is geared towards the foodie niche, make stories, posts, or IG TV episodes demonstrating a recipe or technique that features a brand you already love.

It’s important to be able to show marketers that you have the potential to give them the kind of exposure they want with your audience. You have access to all of your favorite things already, be creative and create content around them to turn your feed into a next level portfolio.

Useful Resource: How to Brand Yourself On Instagram

Be Detail Oriented

The devil is in the details. Make sure to thoroughly review your contract. If specific deliverables aren’t included, ask for them.

Some things you should know before you sign include:

  • What type of content should be posted?
  • How many posts are expected?
  • Are there specific links or hashtags you need to use?
  • Are engagement goals required before payment and if so what are those goals?
  • Content usage rights
  • Repurposing
  • Length of promotion
  • Content ownership

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If you aren’t sure what any of these means, it’s time to begin doing a little research to determine your personal preferences.

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

Have you ever gone out on a first date with someone who looked absolutely perfect on paper (or their digital dating profile) but then in person the chemistry wasn’t there? That can happen when you begin negotiating with a brand too. Sometimes the one you think you’ve been waiting for shoes up with flowers you’re allergic to, horrid taste in music, and chews with their mouth open. Sometimes you just need to walk away.

One obvious reason you may want to say no to a brand is that the offer just doesn’t fit your audience. It could be something you genuinely love but not applicable to the people who follow you for something else. For example, if your account is focused on all things food and you’re suddenly showcasing your favorite pen via a sponsorship – is it really relevant to your audience or is it just something you could probably get away with. If it isn’t adding real value to your feed, let it go.

Another reason you may need to say no is that it isn’t a good investment of your time. If the company isn’t offering you something that is equal to your value (which you determine, not them), then don’t devalue your own time just to make them happy. You know how long what they want will take and if what they are offering is a fair exchange. If it isn’t and they can’t provide you with more value, don’t be afraid to leave the offer on the table.

Integrity & Respect

When you know what you want, it’s easy to know if saying yes to something will be in integrity with who you are and what your channel stands for. If you’re a green foodie and a company wants to work with you that isn’t transparent in their sourcing policies offers you an amazing deal – what do you do? Do you pass or do you hope your followers don’t notice? It probably depends on where your ethical lines in the sand reside.

No one else can tell you what is right for you or your audience. But if you’ve consistently been opposed to something and its reasonable to assume your audience would continue to expect that opposition in future posts, it would be out of integrity to accept an offer.

Whether or not you decide an offer you’ve received falls within your personal guidelines for what is acceptable, be polite when you respond to the offer. Just because it may not be a good fit for you or your audience, doesn’t mean you should bash the offer on your channel or in your response to them. As Thumper said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

What if you do everything right and in the end, you spent way more time than you intended for far less return? Even worse, what if your audience hates the partnership or the way you presented it to them and many unfollow you? Or what if the brand you worked with decides they hate the result and don’t feel you provided enough value for their investment? While none of these are ideal results, they also aren’t the end of the world or even the end of your tenure as an Instagram influencer. Ultimately, they would just be a learning experience. If you always take what doesn’t turn out exactly as you had hoped as an opportunity to learn and evolve into a better version of yourself, then nothing is ever a failure. It’s just another step on your path to becoming the influencer in your niche that you want to be.

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