Shopping Links Blog

The Influencer's Guide to Working with Top Brands

July 10, 2018
Blogger, Brand, Agency

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It’s not just big-name influencers that secure top brand collaborations: with the right approach and the right audience, even micro-influencers can work with major brands. From putting your best foot forward with a click-optimised blog, to harnessing the power of influencer gifting, here’s how to work with top brands.

Build an engaged following

While it may seem like your follower count is everything - and while it may be easy to get discouraged by influencers using underhanded tactics to boost their engagement - those who have been putting in the hard yards to build an authentic, loyal follower base will be immediately attractive to top brands.

After last month’s New York Times fake follower expose, the spotlight is shining on false engagement and bot followers brighter than ever before. This was made obvious recently, when Melbourne influencer Angela Giakas of The Sunday Chapter received widespread backlash after her followers jumped from 25k to 400k+ in the space of a few days.

Read: How Sunday Chapter's Angela Giakas organically gained 300k+ followers in less than a week

Though Giakas had earned those followers through the value of her content - her viral Instagram story templates have proved to be an overnight sensation - the pushback she received showed her that false engagement was becoming the industry norm, not the exception. Writing about the experience in a blog post titled 'The Dirty Business of Influencer Marketing', Gikas urged influencers to turn this perception of the industry around, and go back to basics: creating meaningful, beautiful content.

Just as bots are increasingly becoming more sophisticated, detection technology is not far behind. Soon, brands and agencies will be easily able to catch bloggers who are cutting corners with large followings but disengaged audiences. At Shopping Links this year we’ve seen increasing numbers of brands requesting in-depth metrics and insights like actual reach, engagement and audience demographic breakdowns before agreeing to work with bloggers. If you’re looking to land a top brand collaboration, making sure your audience is organic and highly engaged is more important than worrying about its size. If brands weren’t closely scrutinising an influencer’s follower count before, you can be sure they will be now.

Read more: 5 Ways to Organically Build Your Instagram Following.

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Bigger isn’t always better

With brands looking for quality over quantity in their brand collaborations, bloggers who can prove they have an authentic and engaged follower base will stand out from the pack. With micro-influencers becoming the buzz word of 2017, being able to show your account isn’t saturated with sponsored posts, but rather filled with content that targets a highly-engaged niche, will make you highly-attractive to top brands. Can we expand on this point a little more?


With brands increasingly looking to engage micro-influencers for gifting collaborations, signing up for these type of collaborations is a great way to get your foot in the door when working with a top brand. This year, we expect see a trend towards brands engaging multiple influencers for a single gifting campaign to test new demographics in a cost-effective way. They’ll be looking for everything from top bloggers to niche micro-influencers to reach diverse new markets, which makes it a perfect chance experiment with big brand collaborations.

Read: Why All Influencers Should Accept Gift-Only Collaborations

Know Your Strengths

By digging into your Instagram Insights and analysing your audience demographics, you can play to your strengths and make yourself even more appealing to brands. Influencer marketing is no longer about follower count alone, so even if your follower count isn’t in the hundreds of thousands you can still prove your worth by being an expert in your target demographic. With brands looking for tangible results over perceived influence, knowing how to create content that will drive conversions is more valuable than an inflated follower base.

Turn to tools like Google Analytics and Instagram insights to give you invaluable information about your followers: who they are, what they like and where they’re from. If you have a great understanding of the gender, location, age range and style of your audience, you can not only create content that speaks to your followers, but you’ll also gain a stronger understanding of which brands will appeal to your audience.

Now that you’re an expert in your audience demographics, take the time to actively engage your followers. As an influencer, you need to treat your followers like a brand treats their valued customers. In the ephemeral, fast-moving world of social media, if you don’t add value or engage with your audience, you will lose them ­– and they’ll likely be gone forever. Grab yourself an assistant if you’re not able to reply to ever email, DM or interaction, and make sure you have a good retargeting strategy.

Make Your Content Clickable

With click-throughs being one of the metrics a brand is most concerned with, having the sponsored posts on your blog easily clickable is a crucial - and often overlooked - way to impress potential brand collaborators. When it comes to posting your content, make sure the layout of your blog isn’t undoing all your hard work planning, styling and editing your images and text.

Having a clear call-to-action appearing next to a product with a direct link to a purchasing page can inspire clicks, and is an easy way to make your content work harder. Likewise, adding links directly beside an image will perform better than having that link at the end of an article, because it inspires readers to act immediately on the purchasing (or more information) impulse as it occurs, rather than five minutes down the track.

Instagram Stories is also driving major traffic to ecommerce sites, as bloggers look to convert with swipe-up links that allow a consumer to check-out a look then check-out the item: all within the convenience of the one app. We are seeing increasingly high levels of conversion from Instagram stories and Highlights, which allow shoppers to swipe up to shop posts over an extended period. What’s more, bloggers incorporating a series of stories and swipe-ups is driving far more traffic than one-off swipe up stories.

Changes in the Instagram algorithm mean it’s an ongoing challenge to get your posts seen in a follower’s feed: that’s where Instagram Stories provide a direct line to your followers and an ability to share more informal, personal communications. That doesn’t mean swipe-up stories shouldn’t be ascurated and styled as your feed: the quality of styling, design and call to actions in your Stories can mean the difference between a swipe-up and a swipe left.

Share more of what you love 

The most successful collaborations result from brands working with influencers with a personal affinity for their products, rather than simply large followings. Keep this in mind if you’re intimidated by approaching your dream brand: instead of waiting for them to come to you, why don’t you share some of their products that you love? This organic interaction could be the first step in establishing a strong brand relationship.

Even Blank Itinerary’s Paola Alberdi – who has over 700k+ followers – still takes the time to personally reach out to brands she admires.

“I like to reach out to certain brands that I like or that I have recently started using to start a relationship,” she tells Shopping Links.

If you can demonstrate a real understanding of the brand and its ethos, have an engaged and loyal follower base, and know how to create content that will blend the two together, you have the makings of a great collaboration. Don’t be afraid to let the brand know! Savvy bloggers will know how to play to their strengths – and that speaks louder than a follower count ever will.

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