On Instagram, you do not need to have millions of followers to get your first brand sponsorship. While the large Instagram accounts are impressive, marketers are seeing that it’s engagement – not number of followers – that truly matters. Numbers matter – to a degree – but brands are beginning to work with micro-influencers to yield better results than big name partnerships.

I spoke with motorcycle culture micro-influencer Tasha Paz to find out how small Instagram accounts can get their first sponsorship.

Background

Tasha is a Russian-Israeli location-independent marketer and journalist, passionate about motorsports, motorcycle culture, and content. Although writing is her favorite medium, Tasha became interested in Instagram a few years back because of the visual experience it offers to her followers.

Almost 7,000 people follow Tasha’s Instagram (@restlesstasha). Although it’s a small number,  she has been successful in securing various sponsorships, both free products  and cash. According to Tasha, it’s all about the right content, networking, and value.

Tasha works with various motorcycle gear and apparel companies like Indian Motorcycle (@indianmotorcycle) and Premier Helmet (@premier_helmets).

Get the Visuals Right

Tasha’s visual style is reckless elegance: stylish motorcycles and gear with a hint of freedom. It’s a good fit for her Instagram audience because she represents the millennial motorcycle culture worldwide.She gained experience in photography and content creation through her work as a marketer, as well as using online Instagram courses.

“If you’re aiming to get your first Instagram sponsorship, your visuals are incredibly important,” Tasha explained, “If you don’t take great photos yourself, see if you can collaborate with a budding photographer or friend to help you really bring out the best visuals you can. Your Instagram content needs to look professional, stand out, and reflect your ideas and values.”

Videos can be helpful too, especially if you’re attending events or trade shows, or specialize in “how to” content. Tasha posts videos from bike competitions and occasionally video filmed from the bike. Videos are promoted on Instagram’s Explore feed, so posting videos on Instagram and IGTV is an excellent way to get discovered.

Takeaway: Make the brands you partner feel proud to repost your visuals on their own channel.

Network at Events

Once your Instagram account is up and running, and you have amassed a few thousand followers, it’s time to start networking.

“Personally, I go to lots and lots of motorcycle events, I’m present at most shows and rallies,” Tasha said, “This way, I’m more visible… Meeting brand representatives, owners, marketers face to face is always more valuable than social media shout outs or DM’s.”

It’s also important to make yourself reachable. Make sure you have business cards for when you meet someone that you’d like to stay in touch with, or connect with them on social media so you don’t lose contact. Ensure that your email address is available on your Instagram, website, Facebook page, Twitter bio, and/or LinkedIn bio. Open your Twitter DMs and check your Instagram DMs. Making yourself reachable enables companies to reach out to you more easily.

Takeaway: Figure out what events or live shows in your niche you could attend to network with companies. Meeting brand representatives face-to-face makes your account more credible and sponsorships more likely.

Become an Expert in Your Niche

Tasha started the Motoculture Journal, a blog where she and other enthusiasts contribute lifestyle and cultural articles for the biker community. In addition to great content on Instagram, her articles, graphics, and published work expand Tasha’s reach and make her voice more authoritative. She links to the Journal from both her personal and business Instagram bio so that brands can browse her work and recognize her as an expert voice in the field. She also links to her Instagram pages from the blog for brands that find her on the web.

“In addition to growing your Instagram account, you need to build a reputation outside social media,” Tasha explained, “Brands often reach out to me because I am a recognizable face at events or because they love my blog content.”

In addition to a blog, Instagrammers can also increase their presence on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook Groups. Brands browse these platforms when looking for influencers to work with.

Takeaways: Brands are more likely to discover and trust you if you have a presence outside of Instagram as well.

Perfect Your Pitch

Once you are regularly producing engaging content, it’s time to reach out to brands.

According to Tasha, first step is finding a good match. See which brands align well with your niche and follow them on Instagram. Then, start engaging with them to get their attention.

“Getting noticed is important. You can do this by posting content relevant to that particular brand and tagging them or choosing the same hashtags. You should also frequently comment on their content,” Tasha explained.

Once you’ve put some content out that they may have noticed, you can pitch a partnership to them directly. “Finally, it’s time to reach out, either by email or DM’s on Instagram if their accounts are active,” Tasha said, “I would start with a collaboration offer rather than a sponsorship request – that way, you appear more professional and knowledgeable.”

Takeaway: You can’t hit a homerun if there isn’t a pitch! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and reach out cold to brands who might be interested in partnering with you.

Grow the Relationship

Much like you shouldn’t rely solely on Instagram to build your online presence and reputation, it would be useful if you offered brands to do work on other media, too. In addition to Instagram posts and hashtags, you could also write a blog post about the product, add an IGTV video, or make a YouTube review. This will add value and depth to your sponsorship offer.

If your collaboration with a brand is successful, you can then try and ask for a monetary sponsorship. According to industry standard, brands offer $10 per 1,000 followers, but it’s up to you to define your worth.

“The exact amount is something that you discuss with the brand directly and it can vary greatly depending on your niche and the quality of your engagement,” Tasha said, “Generally, when asking for a cash sponsorship, simply up your original offer. You could, of course, say, “I now have 10 or 20k followers more, so I’d like to be paid”, but that’s cheap. Instead, tell them about your increased numbers but also offer something extra – extra photoshoots of their product, extra exposure – when you’re pitching them for paid work.”

In addition to developing your existing brand relationships, it’s always a good idea to seek new ones out, too. “What worked really well for me was gradually building a collaboration relationship with one apparel company which evolved into paid sponsorship,” Tasha explained, “However, don’t get comfortable with just one or two brands – seeking out new opportunities leads to growth”.

Takeaway: Start small and work your way up to fully paid opportunities rather than having too many requirements up front.

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