You’ve probably seen loads of influencers on social media, posting photos and videos on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If it seems like it can be a pretty sweet gig, you’re right. But it’s not as easy as it might look. You can’t just snap a selfie or two with an ice cream cone and expect the brands to beat a path to your door. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and consistency for an influencer to successfully connect with brands.

How to Get Started as an Influencer

Before you reach out to brands, the first step is to get started as an influencer by building your following and establishing yourself as someone who is authentic, reliable and dedicated both to your content and your following.

How do you get started as an influencer? By investing time and effort in building a trustworthy foundation, as these tips explain:

Stay True to You: Be yourself and keep your content focused on something you’re passionate about. Influencer authenticity is key with brands because they’re often looking to reach a specific target market — and an influencer that aligns with it.

Post Consistently: Make sure to post on a regular basis to show that you’re consistently committed to your following and content. Brands don’t want to partner with someone who may disappear.

Engage: Respond to your followers to show that you care and also to keep the likes and comments coming. Engagement can be just as important to brands as the number of followers you have, if not more so. It’s also an important way to get feedback about your content.

Think Beyond Numbers: Reach is another crucial part of the follower equation. Clicks and conversions are contingent on reaching the right people, not just a lot of people. That’s another reason why it’s important to stick to your niche with your content.

Earn Respect: Create a trustworthy, reliable reputation for yourself as an influencer. Be respectful in your posts and in your interactions with followers and brands.

Stay Honest: Don’t buy followers. Ever. It’s not worth it to your reputation, and brands are becoming extremely savvy about detecting influencer fraud.

Keep Quality High: Don’t just go through the motions or copy other influencers. Be thoughtful and original. Post about topics that are relevant and interesting to your followers and that they will want to engage with.

When Are You Ready to Connect with Brands?

Although bigger numbers usually mean larger fees, micro-influencers can also do well with brands, especially those that want to reach very specific audiences. Macro influencers usually have followings that range from 50,000 to 300,000, but you don’t have to wait for your numbers to get that high to get started. When your follower numbers on a specific platform have reached 2,000, you’re widely considered a micro-influencer and can start pitching.

How Influencers Connect with Brands

When your numbers are there, and you’re ready to directly pitch a brand, here are some of the best ways to connect.

1. Pitch the Brands You’re Passionate About

Pitch the brands that you know best because you use them and have a high regard for what they sell. Don’t pitch a brand just because you know it has deep pockets or your favorite celebrity has a partnership with it. Remember your niche and work to align yourself with brands that make sense. If it’s a brand that you really love and use, then a partnership should come naturally and feel authentic to your followers.

2. Research the Brand

Even if you’re passionate about a brand, there’s usually more you can learn that can help demonstrate that you’re a good fit. Often you can uncover info about new products the brand will soon launch and new marketing directions it’s planning to take.

Maybe there’s a brand you love and use all the time that doesn’t have much of a presence on social media. A little research could tell you that they’re planning to change their strategy and target certain niches on Facebook and Instagram. Including what you’ve learned about the brand’s strategy in your pitch and how your content and community can help them reach their target markets can also help you to stand out from the competition.

3. Create a Media Kit to Send to Brands

Create a professional media kit for brands in order to encapsulate why they should work with you. It should include your following and engagement stats and a rate sheet showing what you charge for different deliverables — for example, your rate to create a certain number of branded posts.

Make sure your media kit is laid out attractively and professionally and is easy to understand. It saves time for you and the brand and looks better when you send a PDF of your media kit to brands rather than including the same information in the body of an email over and over again.

4. Be a Pro

Approach the potential relationship in a business-like way and the brand like a valuable client. You should treat any brand or person you interact with in a professional way. Even if you don’t reach an immediate connection, the brand might have a project in the wings that makes sense for your following. Word of mouth also spreads quickly if you behave in an entitled or otherwise rude way. Keep your reputation stellar among brands by always acting like a pro.

5. Focus on the Benefits of Working with You

Be clear about why brands should work with you. What are the benefits they can gain through a partnership with you? Describe how your content and community are relevant to the brand, and highlight the things you have in common.

For instance, say your followers are jet-setters who love to experience the latest in travel thrills and have FOMO big time. You’re pitching a hotel brand with a new hotel that will be the tallest in the world with a transparent observation deck on the penthouse balcony. Let the brand know that your following is passionate about travel, exactly those types of experiences and doing them before anyone else does.

Or, say you connect with gluten-free foodies who love to bake, and you post popular videos of yourself baking treats with new gluten-free recipes. The brand you’re pitching just introduced a new gluten-free brownie mix. Make sure to focus on the similarities between the product and your very specific gluten-free baking content and following.

6. Pitch What You Do Best (and Where)

Pitch brands about what you do best on the platforms that work best for you. Say you’re an outdoor adventure influencer whose action-packed videos have tens of thousands of subscribers on YouTube. You also have several hundred followers on Facebook and post there, but most of your videos live and perform best on YouTube. Naturally, you should pitch the successful video platform to the mountain bike brand you love rather than a platform that’s more static.

7. Create a Profile on an Influencer Marketing Program

Influencers can complement a direct outreach to brands in other ways. You can also create a profile on any of a number of influencer marketing platforms that help brands and influencers connect. Brands can search for social media influencers and bloggers on these platforms and find you when your audience matches their target market.

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