Brand Collaborations: The Basics

Brand Collaborations

Alright, alright, ladies and gents, let’s talk about collaborations! I’m here to spill all the tea on collabs and how to score ’em. This is one of my most requested topics from new or aspiring blogger gals. And ah, there’s so much to say, that I don’t ever feel like I can squeeze it all into one DM! Honestly, I’m not even sure how I’m going to squeeze all of this information into one blog post, and I probably won’t. You know one place I probably will put all of the information? My upcoming e-course. (How’d you like that shameless plug?) 

In this post, I want to cover the basics. I don’t think it’s effective to just say “hey, this is how you do it,” because understanding why and how collaborations work is important to making sure they’re successful. Also, brands are making an investment in you — they’re choosing to put some of their advertising/marketing budget into you specifically, so showing them that you know about the “business” side of things is extremely important. If you’re just in this for the “free” stuff, I’ve got news for you. It’s not gonna work out. It just isn’t, my friend.

My Experience with Collaborations

I have finally made a breakthrough with my blogging — at the end of this month alone, I’m set to make back what I paid for my law school tuition for this semester through strategic collaborations and partnerships. Just as I said I would take a break, it’s as if the universe heard and said “wait, you just made it.” I’ll go into this a bit more at the end of this post, but hard work and consistency is the best advice I can give you for securing brand collaborations. Keep GOING. Even when you feel like you just can’t, it’s not worth it, it’s too hard… just continue forward. I promise you won’t regret it. 

What is a collaboration? 

Let’s start with the basics. What is a brand collaboration? If you’re new to the blogging game, I’m sure you have an inkling of an idea of what a collaboration is. Perhaps the idea of collabs fueled your desire to start your blog, or maybe you’ve received collaboration proposals from your Instagram or in your email inbox. In the age of Instagram and YouTube, it’s hard to believe that someone hasn’t heard of #ad or #sponsoredcontent. 

Jord Watches

This is a brand collaboration I did with Jord Watches a few months ago. Read it here (it’s a great example of a brand collaboration!). 

A brand collaboration is when a brand works with an “influencer,” meaning a blogger or social media user with a following, to promote a product or service. The “following” can be anywhere between 10 to 10k to 10 million followers — it does not matter. There’s a huge misconception that there must be a certain number threshold that someone has to hit in order to “earn” the title of influencer, but that’s not true at all. What matters is that you have a highly engaged audience, that trust you (read about how to build a highly engaged audience here). Your credibility and integrity are everything. What good is an opinion if you don’t trust the person giving it to you, you know? 

Brands usually send an influencer their product, whether it be skincare products, clothing items, food, etc. It can be anything. Services are also up for grabs for brand collabs, but those have to be more local. In exchange for that product, influencers also get paid to create content for that brand. Content creation means high-quality photography, a video review, a blog post, sharing on social media, etc. Each brand has different requirements for their collaborations, which is sometimes detailed in the form of a written contract (but most times isn’t). 

Why Brands Collaborate with Influencers

Branded content is extremely successful right now — and there’s a reason for that. It has been proven that consumers are so much more likely to purchase something that someone they trust has recommended (20 Influencer Marketing Statistics That Will Surprise You). This includes bloggers and influencers, folks, and the percentage of Millennials and Gen Zers who trust their favorite bloggers’ recommendations are so insanely high. Brands know that. 

Mapiful Map | Jade of Trades

This is a brand collaboration I did with Mapiful a few months ago.

It’s extremely important to realize that when a brand invests in a collaboration with you, they’re not investing just in you as a consumer; they’re investing in you sharing your opinion with your audience, which is most likely an audience of their “target audience.” I won’t get too content-marketingish in this post, but I do want to drive home this point in particular. 

Think of when a brand pays for an advertisement. Let’s say this is a makeup brand — their target audience is women from the ages of 16-35. Where would be the best place to post their advertisement? Probably before a video about a makeup tutorial, right? We know those people watching the makeup tutorial are probably interested in makeup, and therefore would be more likely to purchase this type of product. They’re the target audience that this makeup brand is looking for. 

Additional reading: 

By doing this, which is called “target marketing and segmentation” (read my post all about that here), brands are paying their marketing dollars where it is most effective. So, they’re spending money where it matters! Which is exactly what they’re doing with you. They’re paying to be advertised by you, who is followed by their target audience. Plus, you’re a trusted opinion by these people since they choose to follow you! This is key to understanding brand collaborations, loves. And understanding how to get PAID for these collaborations, but I’ll get to that riiiiiiight now.  

Sponsored v. Gifted Content

SO, now that we understand why brands do this, let’s dabble in why influencers do this. Many influencers are driven by the ability to get “free stuff” — but I must highlight that the products aren’t really free. Sure, you’re not paying for them, but you’re exchanging (or bartering) work in exchange. When brands just give you a piece to try without paying you, this is known within the blogging/social media community as “gifted” content. I always make sure to disclose whether or not a product is gifted in my Instagram posts, stories and blogs as I think it allows your audience to assign appropriate weight to your opinion. As a consumer, I would want to know if a product was given for free in exchange for social content — and transparency is the best policy. Always disclose when a product gives you a product for free. 

This is a brand collaboration I did with Hello Fresh a few months ago. Read it here.

The next type of content we have is “sponsored” content. This is usually disclosed as #ad, #sponsored, or #spon on Instagram or YouTube. There is a big distinction between gifted and sponsored content — sponsored means that you are being paid for this collaboration. Not only have you received the product for free, but you have now received payment to create content and post this onto social media. This is the way brands should definitely approach influencers for their work for adequate compensation for their work. 

How to Get Started

Create Beautiful, Intentional Content

First off, if you’re just starting out on your blogging or Instagram influencer journey, work on creating amazing, beautiful content. (Need help? I offer Instagram auditing for just $10!) This is your portfolio for brands! Don’t wait until you have a collaboration or partnership on your shoulders to commit to building a beautiful portfolio of work. You want to show brands what you can do. Work on your photography, work on your copy, work on your call-to-action captions. Follow accounts that you want to use as inspiration, do your keyword and hashtag research, work on your engagement. These are all things you should be doing anyhow, but this will help you build your account and your credibility amongst your following. 

Build Meaningful Relationships

Additionally, start researching brands you could see yourself working with in the future. Which brands are you interested in working with in the future? What’s your dream brand to work with? After defining that, you can start using social media to engage with those brands and build relationships with them that show them that you are a consistent, loyal customer. This will be useful later on. 

Work on Your Engagement

Next up, one of the main things brands look at for prospective collaborations is your engagement rate. Engagement is so important — brands want to know that you are trusted by your followers. One great way to measure that is through authentic likes and comments (authentic engagement). I have some awesome tips over on IGTV linked here that you can watch and learn from, explaining the Instagram Algorithm and all the secrets to IG. I would highly recommend watching it! Also, I have a blog post about creating a highly engaged IG audience that you can read here.

Join Some Networks

Lastly, one of the best things I can recommend is to join some collaborative partnership networks. Some that I worked with in the past include Influence.Co, Heartbeat, Glambassador, and Ambassadher. These are very nifty for starting out — they link influencers to “smaller” brands that are seeking influencers for collaborations. This is where many of my first collaborations came from that allowed me to build my portfolio and set the groundwork for brands later on. I no longer work with them now, but I highly recommend beginning here! 

What’s to Come

I have a lot more to say on this, my friends. I plan on so many more of these to come. In future posts, I plan on talking about how to write pitch emails (with an example), how to successfully complete a collaboration, and how to build lasting relationships with brands. Have more questions you’d love for me to go over? Let me know! 

Stay on the lookout, or follow me on Instagram @jadeoftrades_ to be informed when I let ‘ya know when they go live! 

Jade Nicole

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