How to Build Your Brand to Land Instagram Sponsorships

Photo by Zachary Raber

In the age of influencer marketing, creatives are building a world where social media dictates our decision making and purchase behaviors. As many companies are shifting gears from traditional forms of advertising content to work with social marketers and influencers – there has never been a more opportune time to work and land Instagram sponsorships.

If you’re looking to break into the space of influencer marketing through social platforms such as Instagram, you will need to understand what it takes to build your brand and land the coveted mark of sponsorships. Here are a few in-depth ways you can start to develop your niche and work within this rapidly expanding world of social influence.

Find Your Style

Whether you’re a photographer or model, developing and determining your style is the most important aspect of building an influencer platform and landing Instagram sponsorships. Considering that companies and brands are seeking individuals with a loyal following, you will need a specific niche and vision to cultivate an interested and dedicated audience.

In order to find your style, you must start with what kind of content you will focus on producing. Will your expertise lie in the realms of fashion, travel, lifestyle, music or fitness? As a growing influencer and brand partner, you will need to find a market and build your content and imagery around this singular focus. Once an influencer has established a niche by sharing consistent, cohesive work – they can begin to grow their personal brand exponentially.

To determine your style, choose an area that aligns with your lifestyle, interests and even career goals. For example, fashion influencers take up a huge space in the influencer marketing world and have the potential to land valuable sponsorships with high profile brands. Yet, being a fashion-focused blogger, photographer or model requires a deep interest and passion in the field. You will need to understand trends, designers, seasonal looks and new and upcoming events in the industry. As per this example, whichever style and niche you choose, you must have a vested and ingrained interest to grow a successful influencer profile.

Understand the Message You Want to Express

An additional element to creating your style is to understand the message that you want to express to your audience. It is found that thriving and successful influencers perform well in this landscape of marketing due to their individual voice and vision. Instagram can be a great place to build a following to whom you can spread your personal and passionate message.

To continue with the fashion influencer example, let’s focus on the idea of sustainable fashion. Now more than ever, there has been a distinct turn in the market toward creating a more conscious and environmentally friendly idea of fashion. Influencers who are passionate about sustainability, repurposing fabrics and choosing vintage pieces over cheap consumer goods can use Instagram to express these opinions. In return, they can choose to showcase their personal preference of brands they support in this movement by creating content for their loyal base of like-minded individuals.

When you are navigating through the digital space, having a clear and distinct message is a sure fire way for you to gain recognition and interest in the work you produce. In a media-saturated environment, those who are using social platforms to express a clear message will be able to grow a successful online presence.  

Determine Your Visual Aesthetic

Considering that Instagram is a visual platform, your aesthetic can truly make or break your personal brand. Once you have established your style and message, you will want to brainstorm ideas of how you will depict your content. Your visual representation is a chance for you to be creative and showcase your artistic direction and abilities.

Depending on your niche, you can allow several factors to be the driving force of creating your aesthetic. If you’re in the fashion space, you can focus on textures, tones and colors to create your feed. If you’re in the travel sector, you can create a unique and personal composition to your images. Or if you are in the lifestyle field, you can find cohesiveness in your self-portraits, layouts, and elemental designs.

As an Instagram influencer seeking brand sponsorships, you will want to curate and create content that showcases your ability to put together creative and unique concepts. Since this landscape of media is always growing and changing, in order to stand out you will need to give your partners added value and cultivate interesting viewpoints for their products. In some cases, a brand may choose an influencer with a specific vision over one with a handful of followers, but who only creates work that feels monotonous and overplayed.  

Photo by Taylor Jarvis

Determine How You Will Create Your Content

Depending on what type of creative you are will determine how you will create your social content. If you are a photographer, you most likely capture photographs of your surroundings or of other people to build your portfolio of work. Yet, on the other side, if you are a model you create work by having others photograph you.

The way we create content is a fluctuating scale and truly dependent on the personal preference of the influencer. For examples, many influencers will create a mixture of content they personally shoot with their own equipment or with images that others create for them.

When you are beginning to build your portfolio you may need to consider:

  • Will you shoot content with your phone or invest in more professional gear?
  • If you’re a model, will you hire photographers to photograph you?
  • Could you find other creatives and influencers to collaborate with on creating images?
  • Will you have a specific style of imagery such as only shooting on film or using digital methods?
  • Will you create only still imagery or integrate the use of video into your work?

After deciding how you will go about building your content, you can now purchase any relevant gear you may need to bring your creative musings to life. When you are beginning your social career, it may be best to keep costs low and use your available resources to create images, employ the aid of a friend or even hire a photographer for a specific project. Either way, you choose to conceptualize your projects, feel free to be creative, play around with techniques and mix and match various artistic formats.

Build a True Following With Engagement

The biggest mistake that many social influencers and marketers make is focusing too heavily on the number of followers rather the quality. Although seeing a large number in your follower’s section may be viewed as a success, this truly means little to nothing if their engagement with your content is low.

Now, I know some may argue that due to the changing complexities and algorithms of Instagram, users have noticed a substantial decrease in overall engagement with their audiences. Although this may be true, it seems like no better time than now to focus on cultivating a more interested and engaged base of followers. Instead of focusing on continuous and rapid expansion, hone in on your current audience and aim to grow in increments daily – through actively engaging with other users on the platform.

Brands want to see that the influencers they choose to sponsor will provide a true return on investment. This is factored by the concept that a successful social marketer will have worked to create and build a following that actively participates with their online content. If your engagement is currently lower than you’d like, employ the techniques of interacting, producing consistent and quality work and setting a benchmark for metrics that allow you to measure your growth.  

Figure Out What Brands You Would Want to Work With

Before you begin jumping into the world of brand sponsorships, you need to determine which brands you would want to work with. As you are just starting off in building an online presence worthy of collaboration, it is best to set your sights on companies within your range of social influence.

A good place to start your search for brands to work with would be local, within your own city. Finding local companies can be a valuable step to building relationships within your specific industry’s community. To continue with our fashion influencer example, let’s say you are based in the New York City area. Like a concrete jungle of fashion and luxury, a relatively new face on the scene may be tempted to jump-start their career with big fashion houses and couture brands. Yet, the social influencer chain works just like a career ladder – you have to begin small and work your way up.

Focus on finding local, New York-based, up and coming fashion brands and companies that align with your personal style and message. Reference their social media platforms and study their brand direction, vision and aesthetic. Is there content something that aligns with yours? Is there space or an opening for growth and creativity? Could you concrete potential ideas and effectively pitch a collaboration?

Create an organized list of potential brands, organizing them into categories such as what kind of products they sell, their target market, their visual representation, and location. Putting together a database of brands you would like to work with allows you to work with specific and focused attention. Additionally, you should aim to research the brand more thoroughly by referencing their website and any articles that may be recently written about them. Find what you like about their work and make a note – this will be a great starting point when it comes to introduce yourself and pitch them your creative ideas.

Photo by Taylor Jarvis

Start to Contact and Pitch to Brands

Once you have created your list of brands you would want to collaborate with, you can begin to contact and pitch the idea of a collaboration. It is important to note that not every brand you contact will follow up with you – this is just the nature of the industry, so manage your expectations before venturing into the realm of building brand relationships.

When you pitch to brands in order to secure and land sponsorships, you will want to focus on a few essential elements to include in your communications, These include:

  • Referencing something you find interesting or intriguing about the brand. This shows you did you research and are engaged with their mission and vision.
  • Explain in short, but effective detail who you are, your platform and your skillset.
  • Propose concrete, specific ideas for a creative collaboration. You can even include a mood board or inspirational images to set the tone for what you envision.
  • Include any relevant statistics that strengthen the reach of your personal brand, including your engagement and demographics of your followers.
  • Suggest a time to hold a meeting or set up a call to put the communication into motion.
  • Always end with a sincere thank you for their time and consideration.

This is just one method of reaching out and contacting brands that you are interested in working with. Considering that each individual influencer and social marketer will operate in various ways, take this example as a starting point and add your own personal touch and feel to your pitches.

Establish Terms of Collaboration

If you have put in the time and effort to pitch to brands, you have most likely landed one or several potential collaborations. Before beginning to create and shoot content for the company, you will need to establish the terms and expectations of the collaboration. When you are first starting off, you may be unaware of the terms that each brand has for its sponsorships. It is best to be upfront and ask for the guidelines that you will need to adhere to while working with the brand.

As an example, these are a few points to consider:

  • Will the brand require a set amount of images?
  • How long will the collaboration last?
  • Is this an exchange of product for content? Or will you have to return the product after the project end date?
  • In what capacity will the brand use your images?
  • Can you use them on your personal website?
  • Is there a contract involved?

These are all questions you will need to consider when beginning a new professional relationship with a company. If you want to be proactive and showcase your initiative, you can always craft your own influencer agreement and contract for the brands you work with. This can simply state your capacity of content to be produced, the usage for the images you supply, your monetary compensation (if not a direct good for content exchange) and how you plan to use the photographs you create in your own personal capacity.

Considering that influencer marketing and social media collaborations have become a staple in a company’s outreach initiatives, you can expect the brand to have their own contract and terms they will present to you at the beginning of your project. As with any contract, read over its entirety and don’t be afraid to ask any questions for concepts that may need further explanation.

Photo by Taylor Jarvis

Begin Your Project

After researching, pitching and establishing project guidelines, you can now begin to create and craft your content.  This is the part of the collaboration that should feel the most creative and artistically driven – as you are now able to showcase your style and vision for the brand.  

When creating content for your Instagram brand sponsorships, remember to take note of any client expectations and stick to the voice of the company while infusing your own personal style. For the majority of projects, the turnaround time is expected to be quick and efficient. Plan your content ahead of time and begin working as soon as you have received the product. Since this will most likely be the first time you have worked with the brand, strive to give them more than they asked for.

When you over-deliver to a client, you are showing that you are dedicated and passionate about maintaining the professional relationship you have built. Over-delivering can include giving more images than the expected amount or even adding in another element that gives the project a creative dimension. Whichever way you decide to go above and beyond for your client, will be representative of how your professional relationship will progress and grow with time.  

Continue to Build New Relationships

In the realm of Instagram sponsorships, projects can range from a one-off collaboration to a relationship that spans over several months or even years. As it all comes back to the work you produce and how your client receives your collaborative efforts, you could find yourself in a position that is consistent and expansive with a specific brand.

Yet, even when it seems that your level of work is high – you should never stop continuing to build and cultivate new relationships. Working as an influencer within the Instagram space is essentially a freelance lifestyle. In some scenarios, you may receive monetary compensation, while in others you may be able to keep a product from the brand. With this balancing game of clients, you can never expect that a professional relationship or sponsorship has an indefinite end date.

With this, you should always be actively seeking new brands to work with and read through any requests you may receive. Once you have landed several Instagram targeted sponsorships, you will start to receive inquiries and proposals from brands who will want to work with you.

As a standard for taking on new work, always examine the opportunities prior to jumping in without a reservation. Are the brands that have contacted you a representative of your style? Would you be able to create content they want without straying from your own vision and message? Are they serious about building relationships or just looking for quick exposure?

The influencer sponsorship market is one that needs to be navigated with level-headedness and responsibility. Aim to always find new work, but don’t jeopardize your integrity for a big payoff. You have built a loyal and engaged audience for a reason, with the pursuit of sharing content in which they can feel connected and invested. When you start to disregard personal message and vision, your audience engagement will begin to diminish.

Finally, as you begin to gain traction and exposure in your social influence, always be evaluating your metrics and capacity for working with larger brands. You may not have had the experience when first starting off to land the larger Instagram sponsorships, but as your content and audience grow, you can begin to consider pitching to larger brands. It is important to remember that the larger the company, the more they will expect from an influencer and your workload will substantially increase.

More established brands will offer sponsorships and collaborative projects to influencers who are willing to give them exactly what they want and need to push their advertising expenditures. This is the next step in creating a name for yourself in the influencer market, so make sure you are prepared and ready to take the leap into the big leagues.

Securing Instagram sponsorships with brands and companies has become a focal point in the interests of professional social influencers. With brands offering collaborative projects, product giftings and even monetary compensation, those creative individuals interested in sharing their vision and message can now do so through the targeted world of Instagram.

If you are interested in working within the social influence industry, you must have a style, message, aesthetic and dedicated following that is invested in the content you create. From developing your niche to researching brands to pitching and maintaining relationships – landing an Instagram brand sponsorship can be a detailed and intricate process. Yet, with a narrowed focus and true passion for cultivating a community – you can begin to build a strong network of social influence.