Brand deals can be a great source of income for content creators. Depending on the type of content you make and the ambitions you have, they can be anything from a fun way to get free products, to a nice little side hustle, to a major source of money for full-time creators.
But there are a few big misconceptions floating around when it comes to brand deals. Things like who is ready for them, what they entail, how much you'll get paid, and what they mean for your content career longterm.
So let's look at a few common misconceptions content creators have about brand deals.
You Need To Have A Lot Of Followers To Land Brand Deals
This is probably the top misconception, not just among content creators, but among most people who think about "influencers" and brand deals in general. Most people just don't really know what you need to have in order to work with brands. And because they probably see a lot of celebrity endorsements and recognizable creators in sponsored posts across their feeds, they think you need a lot of followers.
But that's not true.
Brands will work with anybody they think brings a good energy and association to their products. The reality is, followers really don't mean nearly as much as people may think. Social media platforms have been moving away from the idea of creating brands out of individual creators for a while now. Or, as you may have read on this site before, they're serving the content over the creator.
In other words, followers are more a signal of past success than an indicator of future success. There are plenty of creators out there landing deals with all kinds of companies with only a few thousand followers, comprised mostly of friends and family. That's because companies aren't necessarily looking for reach — they can buy that, and fairly easily. They're looking for a positive association and a sense of authenticity from the creator.
Brand Deals Mean You Have To Personally Endorse The Product
This is an interesting one, because a lot of people believe that if you agree to work with a brand or company, you're also agreeing to personally endorse the product. But that's a pretty old school way to think about brand deals.
In many cases, brands simply want you to be honest about their product. And if they've done a good job not only creating something people want, but also finding the right creators to do deals with, then it'll happen organically. There are different levels of working with a brand, and very few of them entail a creator turning on their camera, smiling big, and saying, "[insert product] is the best product I've ever used!"
Sometimes it's just a matter of doing an unboxing, walkthrough, or review. Sometimes it's just talking about what the product is. Or maybe you want to make a skit that includes characters who like the product (instead of you personally), or write a funny song. We've even seen some pretty fantastic examples of "anti-marketing" that help create brand lift in unexpected ways.
But you should think critically about whether or not you are ok with working with a brand. If you absolutely hate something, you need to consider whether it's a positive association for you to still take that deal and then post that content. In many cases, brands need to approve content before you post it. It's best to just be honest with them than to try and sneak something negative by. That said, if you have a really emotional response to it, consider making non sponsored content about the product or brand for your regular audience. Authenticity and honesty are always good ingredients for your content.
Basically, if you're worried that working with a brand means you'll be transported to a commercial from the 1950s, fret not. Most people in control of influencer marketing and sponsored content at brands are much more savvy to what actually works and matters for their brand (though a spoof of a 1950s commercial isn't a bad idea...).
You'll Make A Ton Of Money But You'll Compromise Your Values
This is twofer. For one, the days of five-figure influencer deals aren't over, but they're much more rare. While plenty of more established creators ink bigger deals with companies, those usually take a bit longer to establish and are more longterm. Most brand deals for creators with a few thousand to even a few hundred thousand followers range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. And they usually include multiple things, like story posts, vertical videos, content on multiple platforms etc.
That's not to say you can't make great money from brand deals — many creators do. But it's going to be more about establishing multiple deals or long-running partnerships than landing a single major endorsement. It's important to note there are also certain brand deals that are more "in kind" or affiliate and referral-based. These usually ask less of creators, but also give creators less incentive.
That doesn't mean they're worthless, though. If you're getting your footing in the brand deal space, doing a deal to receive free product can be valuable because it also allows you to expand the list of brands you've worked with. This is helpful when going to other brands in the future. Plus sometimes you just really like a company and are happy to do some promo for swag.
And that brings us to the less tangible, but still very real fear: that doing brand deals with "compromise" your values or make your audience think less of you. This is something that some creators fear more than others. It usually depends on what type of creator you are and how "accepted" sponsorships typically are in your certain field.
But the one thing that is true no matter what: your real fans will support you no matter what, your casual fans probably won't care, and anybody you lose probably wasn't going to stick around anyway. As long as you are somewhat judicious and only choose to work with brands that are either a net positive or neutral for you, don't sweat this one. Sure, you probably don't want to build a brand around vegan lifestyle and then do a deal with a steakhouse. But as long as the sponsored content feels true to your own style and the brand isn't the antithesis of what you normally do, your normal audience is probably going to like it.