- “hi dear, beautiful feed, DM our main account, we want to collab with you!”
- “team up? DM us to collab xx”
- “Gorgeous! message us, we want to work with you!”
- “hey love, we have a question for you. please message our main account for an amazing opportunity”
- “gorgeous profile! we want you to be one of our ambassadors!”
- “we want to send you some beautiful jewelries, bikinis and makeups, how does that sound? DM us!”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? If you’re on Instagram (literally at all), chances are they probably do. Even if you’re not getting comments like this on your photos, I bet you’ve seen things like this on other people’s accounts.
A few years ago, I had no idea what this meant. I assumed these were actual brands reaching out to people, but I had no idea what “collab” or “ambassador” meant. Now that I’ve been involved in the bloggerverse, instaverse, influencerverse (whatever you want to call it), I now have a completely different view. I’ve been blogging for about a year now, and finally feel like I have all the info I need (yes…from experience) to spread the awareness.
In this post, I’ll share with you the different types of brand partnerships, what they each mean for you, and how to spot a scam from a mile away. Even if you are not an “influencer,” you’ll want to read on to make sure you’re not falling for these tricks!
**NOTE: All Instagram accounts and brands mentioned in this post are solely for the purpose of an example. I am in no way expressing any opinions (personal or professional) on any brands or accounts mentioned.**
1. Identify How They Find You
Before we dive in, let me explain how these “brand managers” find you. At first, I was flattered that brands were reaching out to me, assuming they genuinely liked my content. This may be the case, but what’s more likely is that they found you using the tags you are including in your posts.
While this should not stop you from using tags on your photos (they can be very helpful for your reach and potentially serious brand inquiries), it’s good to be aware of how these brands are targeting you specifically.
The easiest way for brands to “find” you is through the hashtags you are using. It’s very easy to search hashtags on Instagram. If the comments and DMs from brand managers are coming in seconds or minutes after you post, it is because they are using Instagram’s search function and filtering by “recent” posts.
The reason that brand managers use hashtags is because it is easy to identify Instagram users with a particular niche or interest. So, for example, if you are hashtagging “fashion” on your posts, fashion and beauty brands are likely to reach out to you in hopes that their brand and products would interest you.
Another way that brand managers find your profile is through a tagged location. For example, if you are tagging your post location as New York City, it is likely that NYC-based brands, clubs, or restaurants may reach out to you.
Other Tagged Brands
When I first started blogging and influencing, I tried to tag as many brands as I could in my posts. For example, if I was wearing an outfit from Forever 21, I would tag @forever21 in my posts in hopes of getting reposted by a big brand, increasing my reach.
After a while, I started noticing that after I posted a photo with big brands tagged, I was getting more comments and DMs from brand managers (and not the brands that I tagged). This is because brands will look at the tagged photos of a brand similar to themselves to find Instagram users. Their hope is that if you like Forever 21 products, you’ll also like their products.
2. Identify Exactly WHO Is Reaching Out To You
Now that I have experienced an actual brand collaboration (paid and otherwise), I know what to expect in terms of WHO will reach out to you. This is very important, and a very easy way to identify a scam.
9 times out of 10, a legit brand with a legit collaboration offer will reach out to you from their main account. If you are being contacted by a “brand manager” proceed with caution. (Note: this is just for Instagram. When it comes to emails, a brand may have an “influencer partnerships” representative, or something like that, reach out to you.)
For example, a brand might reach out from their main account to do a product-for-post collaboration (I will explain what this is and the different types of collaborations in #4, below) or this might come from a brand manager account. Here is what these two types of accounts look like. You’ll notice that the brand manager account will include the brand name (and possibly the representative’s name as well) but is not the actual brand.
3. Identify HOW They Are Reaching Out To You
It is extremely easy to identify a legit brand offer or a scam in the WAY that they reach out to you. Here is a simple list of identifying factors:
- 9 times out of 10, brands will NOT reach out to you in your comments. If an account is commenting on one of your posts asking for a collaboration, this means that they 1) have likely not followed your account, and therefore 2) are not able to DM you directly. This also means that they are likely commenting on hundreds of posts with the same message. If they were to do this in DMs, Instagram would flag their activity as spam quicker.
- Many messages from scammy brands will be over-complimentary. They often begin with phrases like “hi sweetie” or “hello dear” followed by a message complimenting your content or style.
- Look for typos. Legit brands will not send you messages with a lot of slang or with typos. If the message or comment you are receiving is sloppy with a lot of emojis, consider this a red flag.
4. Identify WHAT They Are Offering You
Last but not least, this is the most important part of any potential brand partnership. There are so many types of partnerships out there, but here is a list and explanation of the types that I have experienced the most.
- Paid Collaboration: As an influencer, a paid partnership is the goal. In this case, a brand will likely send you a product (completely free of charge) in exchange for content. This could include a product review, blog post, social media post, etc. They will then compensate you with a mutually-agreed upon price.
- Product-For-Post Collaboration: This is the most common type of partnership that I have experienced as a newbie influencer. In this case, a brand will send you a product (completely free of charge) in exchange for content like product reviews or social media posts.
- Ambassadorships: This is a tricky one. MANY of the scammy messages you receive from “brand managers” will mention “free product” that ends up not actually being free. If brand managers are reaching out to you with an ambassador code or discount (in exchange for a promo code for your followers or a feature on their page), this is simply a way for them to get more sales. If you are just starting out and want to be a brand ambassador (and are willing to pay for your product), this can be a good way to get your foot in the door. However, you should know that if brand managers are asking for you to pay for product or shipping of ANY amount, this is simply their way of getting you to buy from their brand. Beware of “too good to be true” offers, as they often are.
- Affiliation: Affiliate partnerships is a great way to make money with your blog or social media. In this case, you make money with every sale that you generate for the brand. Just know that some brands may ask you to pay for your first order or shipping in exchange for this opportunity.
- Amazon Sellers: This is a new social media trend that I’ve noticed recently. Amazon sellers often have their own “seller” account with photos of their products and mentions of “free products” on their profile. While this can be a good way to get free product to share with followers, Amazon sellers are simply out for reviews. They will ask you to review your product as quickly as possible, and will then refund you for your payment. I have done this in the past, but just be careful of scams. Not everyone is going to pay you back.
I hope that this post has provided some clarity on brand partnerships, and potential scams to watch out for as an influencer. It took me about a year to recognize and collect information, so hopefully you don’t have to! Always proceed with caution, especially when money is involved. And be aware of who you are sharing any personal information with. Healthy skepticism is key!
If you have any questions about brand partnerships or have hesitations about a message you have received, reach out to me! Feel free to DM me on Instagram, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.