When growing your brand in today's digital space, collaborations and partnerships are an essential element of growth - be it from a brand or influencer perspective. Everyone has gotten wind that collaborations and partnerships are crucial to reaching an even bigger target audience. However, as more and more partnerships are being made, one thing that several brands and influencers forget is that the main ingredients to a successful collaboration are trust and authenticity. Read on for a few key elements on what makes a successful collaboration that is rooted in trust.
There is power in saying no, and as an influencer, you have to know which partnerships to say no to. If you've grown an engaged audience over a long period of time, your followers will be very cognizant of your likes, dislikes, and what's on brand for you. With a larger engaged audience, more and more brands will pitch you partnerships so they can appeal to your followers. Some might even entice you with a hefty check. You have to make sure that the partnership being offered is not only genuinely on brand for you, but also something your audience will resonate with. If your only reason for doing the partnership is for the paycheck and you're not passionate about it, then it's best to wait for a better one to come along. Money does not equate to authenticity. If you're promoting a brand you don't use or the brand doesn't fit with your goals and vision, then it will likely do you more harm than good. Ultimately, it can hinder the trust that you've worked so hard to establish with your audience.
As a brand, you have to look at which influencer offers the most value and ROI, as well as who fits into your brand's identity, message and ethos. As the influencer space is getting more and more competitive with bloggers trying to go from making a hobby into a full-time gig, some content creators have resorted to buying followers, likes, and engagement to boost their numbers. Social media is a numbers game, but you have to make sure that you're investing your money into the right numbers that will ultimately bring a great ROI to your brand. (Read: How Good Engagement Goes Beyond A Good Engagement Rate) We recommend any brand looking to work with influencers to dive deeper into their followers and the kind of engagement they're getting. Keep an eye out for fake followers (profiles that have 10 followers, but follow close to 4k accounts), ghost followers (accounts that haven't had any activity in months), and fake engagement (likes coming from fake followers and generic comments 'Nice!', 'Dope pic', and 'Love this!'). Boost groups are another form of fake engagement, because it's not a real representation of how responsive the influencer's audience is to their content. Boost pods are a band-aid on an underlying engagement problem in which they should be working harder to create content that authentically engages their audience. If you see the same 15 or so people add generic comments on each of their posts, that's a dead giveaway they're relying on boost pods. You can learn more about boost groups/pods here on our Instagram Live Sessions.
Many brands are new to influencer partnerships, and can therefore lose sight of the fact that influencers have a strong and trustworthy relationship with their audience. Nobody knows their audience better than the influencer, and brands have to remember to trust that. When it comes to collaborations, staying on brand is key in order to maintain authenticity. There should be communication established beforehand on what the expectations are for the partnership. It's good to set guidelines, but also give influencers creative freedom. If a brand gives the influencer an exact script to go by, that already shows they're not trusting them to create a message that will resonate with their audience. Again, THIS IS ALL ABOUT TRUST. Brands have to think of an influencer as a consultant, so they should both work together to create a message that not only creates an ROI, but connects with the audience. It's important for influencers to share collaborations that are on-brand, so that it doesn't have a negative effect on the trust they've established with their audience.
Brands have to do research on influencers to see if they'll provide a successful ROI and brand visibility that will resonate with their audience. If you look at any of their past partnerships and see they're not successful or their engagement is faulty, then it's not a partnership you want to invest in. For influencers: if a brand is waving a good amount of money at you for a collaboration, you have to remind them that you're essentially a consultant, not a puppet. If not, is it really a collaboration? We recommend that you thoroughly read over contracts that give collaborative control over the message and make sure that you're not saying yes to a deal just because it's a good chunk of change. Stand your ground and protect your brand, because you know your audience better than anyone else. Don't dilute your brand just because the paycheck is good. Trust in the power you have as a content creator, and brands will reciprocate the same trust towards you. However, this does not mean that you have to shut down every suggestion or talking point - keep an open mind and make sure to establish a synergetic environment in which any partnership can thrive. Collaborations are a tool, so make sure you use them the right way and have them work for you and your brand. If it's built on trust and a genuine relationship between brand and influencer, it can be a collaboration that will benefit influencer, brand, and audience.