How I Secured Six Brand Collaborations With Less Than 1,000 Followers
Let’s talk about that time in 2018 when, four months into the year, I returned from a yearlong social media sabbatical and over the next eight months spoke on a panel at High Point Market, appeared on four interior design podcasts, launched a virtual conference, secured sponsored collaborations with six brands, and put into motion launching a brand new podcast with sponsorship.
I share this with you as a sort of humble brag because, while I am immensely proud of those accomplishments, what I am most proud of is the circumstances under which I hit those milestones — I did all of the above with less than 1,000 followers/subscribers across any of my social channels. While we often hear about the pressure to have high numbers as social proof, there is something to be said for the micro-micro-influencer who, as the saying goes, is small but mighty!
So how did I secure interviews and collaborations with a small audience?
The techniques I used were not contingent on my numbers, so whether you have 1,000 or 1,000,000 followers & subscribers, there are a few key things you should be doing to boost your visibility and brand attractiveness.
Your Talent is Your Influence
Broadly, an influencer is someone who is defined by their following — “influencers” are expected to evoke emotion and inspire action from their audiences, whether it’s to spark a conversation or sell a product.
When pitching myself for a partnership or an interview, I made a point to share how my skills and unique position as an online interior designer and content creator could be valuable.
Am I the only online interior designer or design blogger or design podcaster or whatever else out there? Not even close. But I leaned into these rolls, while highlighting how it would align with their objectives.
See what I did there?
While I may have my own agenda, I had to ensure that my expertise & experience would serve them first and foremost. Getting the yes is what serves me.
Pitch With Intention Or Not At All
Often when someone tells me they were rejected (or ignored) for a pitch and I ask them what they said exactly, it’s a very generic and broad, “I’d love to work with you because I’m awesome & you’re awesome so we should be awesome together!” Chances are they already know they’re awesome — you’re reaching out to them remember? — and they don’t know you so they don’t have a reason to care if you’re awesome…yet.
Every single one of my pitches, no matter the medium, I pitched only if it was in alignment with their brand, as much as mine. The verbiage, even with some similarities, was always catered to meet the specific needs of the brand and the proposition I was presenting.
There are lots of companies I’d love to pitch for one reason or another but fact is, no matter how much I may love the brand, loving them didn’t automatically qualify them as a right fit for my plans or vice versa.
Get Over Your Numbers and Yourself
Like most people with small numbers, I used to be really down on myself, seeing my low follower and subscriber count as a deterrent. But here’s the thing — everyone has to start somewhere.
Think of some your favorite influencers — if you dig far back enough, you’ll find a time when their audience was the same size as yours now. Yet here they are now, months or years later, thriving! You won’t grow if you continue to use your number as a handicap.
Instead, what other numbers can you start to leverage?
You’re not the only small creator out there, so that’s not what makes you special. It’s not what made me special. Instead of fixating on those numbers, that were completely out of my control, I shared in my pitches my client count, affiliate marketing income, projected sales, and other quantifiable data, alongside my influence, to close the deal.
Research Your Target From All Angles
Before ever reaching out to anyone for anything, a lot of research needed to be done. Yes, research!
Research on their previous partnerships and campaigns.
Research on their current content initiatives.
Research on their product offerings & target audiences.
Research on their brand values & messaging objectives.
Research on the right freaking contact.
Lots and lots of research to ensure we were actually a good fit, because I was also certain they would research me just the same. In addition to wanting to be as well-informed as possible, my due diligence would also allow me to better prepare (and position) myself for when the research tables were turned.
Brag on Yourself… A Little
The cherry on top of your pitch is the humble brag! At the end of it all, they want to know who you are the one that can do all the wonderful things you said you could do. With every pitch I submitted I shared a bit about myself, my idea, and where I could see our partnership together. In there I would sprinkle in previous interviews, collaborations, and accolades, all adding to my credibility.
The key was only sharing what was relevant.
Pitching for a writing opportunity? What else have you written? Pitching for a speaking appearance? Where else have you spoken? Pitching for a sponsored collaboration? Who else have you worked with?
Even where you may not have explicitly had the same experiences, what have you done in your career that aligned with this next step? This required a lot of self-reflection, but paid off as I realized how dope I really was. And they realized it too!
Not all of us have the luxury of a publicist pitching us to the world — so we have to be our own publicist. And while having a background in advertising and public relations came in handy, it came down to remembering that I am the only one that truly knows what I bring to the table, and to that end, I am the only one that can sell what I bring to the table.
Whether it’s to be interviewed on a podcast, featured in a national magazine, or collaborate with our favorite brands, we have to be willing to present and pith ourselves, in the same way that we present and pitch ourselves to clients.
Over the next few months, we will be further developing The Influence Directory, with new courses to help you as both designer and entrepreneur. One of our new courses, Pitch Your Influence, will focus explicitly on how to optimize your influence, no matter your audience size, and how to go from plan to pitch to paid with intention, clarity, and strategy. Until then, remember to own your unique influence and pitch it like you mean it.