If you’re someone who believes you need 100K+ followers on your social media platforms to be desirable to brands looking for influencers, you’ve fallen victim to one of the biggest influencer marketing myths of the biz! In this blog post, I’ll reveal the top myths about working with brands as an influencer so you can make informed decisions about your creator journey.
4 Influencer Marketing Myths to ignore
Myth #1: Only Influencers With Tons Of Followers Get Paid Brand Sponsorships
I have a secret for you: my first few clients were under 20K followers and they were making 6-figures a year. You don’t have to have a huge following in order to work with brands! In fact, it wasn’t until I was months deep into working with them that I realized people had his misconception.
So, you might be asking yourself “what is the cutoff number of followers for being an influencer?” Honestly, there’s no one answer, because it depends on what your skillset is. When people realllly press me for a number, I tell them to aim for 3500 as a first milestone before they start asking for money, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Perhaps you only have 1,000 followers, but they’re super niche and very engaged. If the brand is looking for exposure to your particular niche, you might be the perfect fit! The real question then is: does your brand align well with the brand you want to partner with? If so, try reaching out!
Or, it might be that you don’t have a huge following on social, but you are a ridiculously talented photographer. If your IG profile demonstrates your portfolio and the brand likes your aesthetic, you have a good chance of getting picked up for a shoot without even having to post to your site.
Often times travel destinations, small business, exhibits and attractions might want to hire you for your content — i.e. your photos for their site, not yours! That makes you more of a content creator rather than an influencer as you’re not asked to share on your platforms or reach your audience.
Maybe you’re adept at selling products via your social handle. If you have a small-ish following but tie your compensation to a commission structure (e.g. affiliate sales), the only limit to how much money you can make for yourself and the brand you’re working with is how many people you can convince to purchase the product.
Just remember: there’s no magic number of followers to work with a brand, so long as you have something they want. That can be a particular slice of humanity, or it can be a skill that you can provide. No matter what kinds of gigs you get, though, make sure to include these projects in your portfolio.
Myth #2: You Have To Take The Cards You’ve Been Dealt
If you’re just starting to work with paid sponsorships, you may have a false notion that you have to take whatever the brand offers you. That’s simply not the case.
Be prepared to go to bat for yourself, because there’s generally at least a little wiggle room on what the brand is willing to give you OR the scope of work they want. You just have to ask for it.
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Here are a few examples:
A lot of times, brands will approach smaller influencers and try to trade product for posts. But remember: product doesn’t pay the bills! Don’t work for free. (Granted, if you’re working as an influencer on the side, getting a free hotel room or a fun new gadget might be all the incentive you need — and that’s fine, too!)
Or, perhaps the brand wants you to write a blog post, do multiple social media posts with both still shots and short-form videos, AND post across multiple sites — but they only offered you enough compensation to complete one of those tasks.
It is perfectly acceptable to outline your pricing structure, back it up with how much time & effort you’ll be exerting for each line item (or even what you have been historically paid for a similar campaign), and then ask for a fair price. They may counter with a lower price than you asked for, but might remove some of the deliverables in exchange.
Keep in mind that not all brand partnerships are worth pursuing. Some may want to get too much for how much they’re willing to give. In those cases, it’s fine to POLITELY decline the offer.
And remember, if a brand has reached out to YOU — even if you don’t end up working with them — that means they see the value in your work. You should take that a good sign that you should start reaching out to other brands and seeing what other (more fruitful) partnerships exist!
Myth #3: Brands Don’t Have Room For Negotiations
Remember, brands are looking for their best ROI (return on investment), so they’re always going to try to get the most amount of work for the least amount of compensation. If you know that going in, you’re already a step above the competition.
In case you haven’t heard, negotiation is an art, not pure science. I suggest that before you start working with brands you do some homework. What are your peers with a similar following, level of engagement, and quality of work charging? Are you a beginner, intermediate, or expert at your skillset? How big is the company you’re trying to work with?
In that same jam session, figure out what your wants and needs are. How much do you want to get paid per hour or per deliverable (blog post, social, Tiktok video)? How many hours will certain tasks take you (e.g. how long does it take you to photograph and edit X number of pictures? Or, how long does it take you to write a blog post?)?
Granted, you’ll generally get faster (and better) over time (especially when you begin to grow your team), so I’m not suggesting you stick to an hourly rate. Instead, do some back-of-the-envelope calculations to figure out what your time is worth, and then demand your fair price. It’s always worth it to ask around so long as you’re asking people in a similar vertical, range of following, and engagement.
Need more help deciphering how to structure your agreement? Check out my post on the 4 common mistakes influencers make when negotiating with brands.
Myth #4: Social Posts Are All That Brands Are After
While there are definitely a lot of brands that are looking for social engagement, there is also a surprising number who are after blog posts or content that you create for their website.
Again, it’s time to reflect back on your skillset. Are you an exceptionally talented writer? Are you stellar at taking photos? Can you illustrate a gorgeous infographic? Are you a wicked convincing salesperson? These are all highly sought-after services that don’t necessarily have anything to do with social media.
So, what does that mean for you? THAT YOU CAN SELL YOUR SKILLSET, NOT JUST YOUR FOLLOWING!!
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that you:
- Don’t need a gazillion IG followers to land a brand partnership,
- Have agency over contract negotiations, and
- Can leverage your unique skill set to get paid sponsorships.
In the words of the great Diana Ross, “You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” Now go out and get ‘em, tiger!
Influencer Marketing Myths FAQs
Why is influencer marketing risky?
Any marketing, not just influencer or instagram marketing, is risky. If the brand hasn’t done their research to know who would be the right influencer for their big or small business, it could backfire. The brand might not see an ROI (return on their investment) if they invest in an influencer marketing strategy without knowing who their target audience is or what their campaign goals are.
Understanding what the brand wants to get out of the influencer collaboration is a necessity. Is the brand looking for brand awareness? Are they looking for conversions (new client sign ups, sold product, or booked appointments)? Is it a very localized campaign vs promoting a product or service that is virtual?
Sometimes, the ideal influencer for a campaign isn’t the biggest celebrity influencer. The best brand partner can be a smaller influencer, like a nano influencer who has less than 20k followers.
There’s actually a lot of data showing that nano influencers have better engagement than larger influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers. Why? The smaller influencers are more likely to engage with their community.
Do influencers affect consumer behavior?
Yes, Influencers affect consumer behavior. By nature of being an Influencer, that marketer can impact decisions and purchases of a brand’s consumer.
What is an influencer media kit?
Great question. Lucky for you I wrote a longer article about influencer media kits. The quick answer is that they’re essentially a blend of your business calling card, your influencer resume, and a snapshot of your portfolio.
Do people trust influencer marketing?
What an interesting question, especially to ask someone who has an entire business around influencer marketing! So yes, I say (at least some) people do trust influencer marketing, influencers’ recommendations, and digital ads they see across their social media platforms.
But like all things, you must do your research to ensure you’re following someone who is a genuine influencer. The idea here is to make sure the person you trust doesn’t have fake followers, inflating their audience, and possibly even their engagement rate.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about influencer marketing, especially that just because the creator is paid for the content, that they can’t be honest or their opinion can’t be trusted. That’s not true! It all depends on the agreement the content creator has with their brand deals. I can honestly say that I know the social media influencers I represent are truthful in their content with their brand partners.
Which mistakes one should avoid for influencer marketing?
I’d say one of the biggest mistakes to avoid for influencer marketing is hiring an influencer who isn’t the right fit for your campaign goals or brand. You want to make sure the content being created is not only a good representation of your company but that it’s also going on the platforms where your audience is spending their time.
For example, if your ideal customer (or the people the brand wants to reach) is on TikTok but you hire someone to do a YouTube short instead, that piece of content won’t get in front of the right eyeballs.
Another mistake to avoid? If the brand isn’t running the campaign in-house, ensure that they’ve hired an effective influencer marketing agency. You want an agency who knows how to select and hire talent, how to best allocate the budget for the maximum return on investment (ROI). In other words, the agency needs to have a successful influencer marketing track record.
Wondering whether influencer marketing will work for your brand?
If you’re wondering whether social media marketing will work for you brand, it’s best to do your research before you commit to a social media marketing campaign. First off, I would make sure you know your audience, or your customers, really well. Understand where they hang out, and on which social media platforms. What are their buying habits?
In a best case scenario, you should understand what type of content converts best for you. Is it lots of product placement in the content? Or is it better if it’s more lifestyle and less product showing throughout the content? Once you start to truly know your audience and what makes them tick, the more effective you’ll be.
Do consumers listen to influencers?
Yes, they sure do! That’s what makes them influencers.
What do most brands get wrong with influencer marketing?
Brands often pick the wrong influencers for their marketing strategy. Content marketing is both science and an art. Yes, it’s a matter of looking at the numbers like engagement rates and followers to get an idea of how many eyeballs you can get your influencer marketing campaign in front of. But it’s also an art of picking the influencer who best embody your brand – who can tell your brand story best? Who would be a great ambassador for your brand?
What are some red flags when looking for influencers?
Do your research and scroll through the content of your favorite influencers or ones you’d like to go to more for information and education. Get to know their content, their voice and style. A red flag is if they always write more or less the same things for each post. Does their opinion and experience come through with every post?
Another BIG red flag is if the instagram influencer doesn’t disclose their partnerships. It’s required by the FTC that influencers have to be up front and very clear when they have been paid by the brand for their content.
To me, another red flag is if an instagram influencer appropriates other cultures or can’t read the room so to speak when it comes to racial, gender or cultural differences. I fully understand we’re all human and makes mistakes. We’re all still learning.
BUT if/when an influencer, be it a macro influencer or micro one – follower count doesn’t matter here — does NOT own up their mistake, ignores comments and the conversation happening there, that to me is a huge red flag.
What sorts of things classify an instagram account as being fake?
To determine if an Instagram account is fake or not, I always scroll thru their followers. I look at their engagement rate. I know that it can fluctuate thanks to the Instagram algorithm doing whatever it wants. But if their engagement has massive peaks and valleys, meaning a very high number of likes on one post but then the others are more consistent with a similar numbers of likes and comments, that always gives me pause.
I also read through the comments to learn more if an account is fake or not. Click on the profiles of people commenting and how well structured their comments and grammar are.
Trust your gut.
Is influencer marketing actually effective?
Yes it is! A well executed influencer marketing campaign can be incredibly beneficial to a brand. The influencer marketing industry isn’t a new industry. I’m in my 40’s and I have VERY strong memories of Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan with Nike or Julia Roberts with Revlon (??) magazine ads. Air Jordans anyone?! Those people were, and still are, influencers.
The only thing that has changed is the medium, the platform where these ads now exist. Now we have digital marketing, which didn’t used to exist (or, at least TV & radio was never referred to as digital marketing back then).
Do influencers actually influence anything?
Yes, they do! In order to be an influencer one must have some area of expertise – be it baking, or parenting skills, or makeup applications, or sewing or DIY house projects… Whatever it is, they have to be able to talk about something with authority, based on experience.
What are the 3 main challenges when rolling out an influencer engagement strategy?
When implementing an influencer engagement strategy, there are several challenges that marketers and brands may encounter. Here are three of the main challenges as I see them:
- Finding the Right Influencers who have the right audience and can authentically promote your brand can be challenging. It requires significant research to identify influencers who align with your brand’s values and target audience. Not every influencer will be a good fit for your brand or product, and it’s important to take the time to vet potential partners.
- Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing can also be a big challenge. Unlike traditional marketing, influencer marketing is often less measurable and harder to track, making it difficult to determine whether or not it’s providing value to your brand. Brands may need to develop new metrics to measure the effectiveness of influencer marketing, such as engagement rates, website traffic, and sales conversions.
- Ensuring Authenticity. Influencer marketing can only be effective if the influencers are authentic and genuinely interested in your brand or product. Consumers are becoming more savvy and can quickly detect when an influencer is not genuinely promoting a product. Brands need to ensure that they are partnering with influencers who truly believe in their products and can promote them in an authentic way. This requires building long-term relationships with influencers and giving them the freedom to create content that resonates with their audience.
Are influencers more effective than ads?
Influencers and their digital content are ads (and remember, the FTC requires they are marked as such!). Are they more effective than what may be considered a traditional ad? Perhaps. Oftentimes an influencer has a personal touch or story to it. But the end of the day, we all need ~ 7 touches from a brand before we’re moved to buy. Influencer marketing is one (or more) of those touches.
Why use paid ads on instagram?
Some brands use paid ads as part of their digital marketing strategy because they can be directed to land right in front of the target audience they want to reach. Effective right?
How effective is instagram influencer marketing?
Instagram influencer marketing can be incredibly effective when done well. The right influencer marketing agency (that has a successful track record of running campaigns) is a great place to start. Choosing the right influencers, be it nano influencers or macro influencers, also has a huge impact on how well the campaign is run.
Do you really need a social media style guide for your brand?
Absolutely. It’s super beneficial to you, the brand, to have a cohesive brand style. This helps teach your audience, your followers to recognize you and your voice on whatever platform you’re showing up on.
Think of the logo and font for Apple. You’d recognize that a mile away, right?! So much is conveyed with a social media style guide. Your guide is essentially insurance that the trust and brand confidence that you have is carried across social media platforms — even with different influencers working on different campaigns.
Is it ok to trust social media influencers?
Absolutely it’s okay to trust social media influencers. Always go in with your eyes wide open as you would to any relationship. I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you’ve had moments of forgetting that perhaps you don’t *actually* know them IRL – even if you know all about them through their social media platforms.
How often should I post on social media?
Honestly, post as often as you like AND can sustain. I would say be consistent with your schedule, whatever you decide. If you’re partnering with brands or building your business so that you can partner with brands to do influencer campaigns, remember: brands like to see consistency. That means don’t post 3 times in a week and then go dark for weeks or months!
Don’t commit to posting 2x a week if you can’t keep it up for more than 1 month (honestly, even that feels exhausting for even 3 days). And don’t think that you have to post on all the platforms. Pick one or two — again choose ones you like hanging out on — and start there, committing to being consistent with your posting frequency.
If you do eventually want to start posting other sites, it’s best practice to repurpose your content. Be efficient as often as possible!
Why is it so important to display your social media insights?
Influencers don’t display their social media insights so much as share them when an influencer marketing agency asks for them. This helps the agency understand and manage their expectations about what sort of engagement might they get on their content if they work with that influencer (even though at the end of the day, we’re all really at the whim of Instagram, right?).
Social media insights from that specific campaign are then shared with the agency, if they aren’t already pulled in through an influencer marketing platform. This is so the agency or brand can see the results of the campaign and how effective it was.