How To Spot A Brand Collaboration Scam

If you’re on Instagram or a blogger who’s done a good job promoting your blog, you will get the inevitable message or email from a brand schmoozing you to partner with them on a collaboration. I’ve had so many messages over the years, that now I can identify a brand collaboration scam very easily.

It can be flattering to receive interest from a brand, but you have to take a step back and ask, “Is this legit?”

I’ve worked for many years with brands that reached out to influencers and bloggers.

I know how they approach influencers and bloggers for partnerships and sponsored posts. And it’s not with the types of requests you get from scammers.

So before you get your hopes up, put on the common sense hat and remember a few key things!

Before you go any further, I do recommend you read my post on how to proactively go after getting brand collaborations and sponsorships. Although it’s geared primarily toward bloggers, many of the lessons apply to Instagram and TikTok influencers.

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click on a product or service, and decide to purchase it, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. All recommended products and services are based on my positive experience with them. For more information, please read my Disclaimer.

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How To Spot A Brand Collaboration Scam

Let’s look at how to figure out whether an email or message you receive on social media is a scam or not.

There are some emails and messages that you should just not respond to, at all!

There are several key indicators when you see an email or message on Instagram that identify a brand collaboration scam.

Don’t even bother responding to them. Just press delete!

These include:

  • Requests for you to purchase their product first for reimbursement later.
  • Requires you to purchase at a discount.
  • You have to cover the shipping fees and expenses.
  • Asking you to create content for their use on their Instagram/website, using their product but they don’t pay you or give you the product. In return, they will help promote your social media accounts (i.e. will credit you)
  • Claiming to be seeking brand ambassadors and that you’re a great fit – even if their product doesn’t match your niche or the type of content you usually post.
  • Brands requesting a collaboration by commenting in your comments on Instagram, or your blog. They’re using a shotgun approach hoping you’ll bite.
  • Using language that isn’t professional (i.e., sweetie, darling, honey… you get the picture).
  • Spelling and grammar errors! This is one of the biggest indicators that this is not a professional request.
  • A brand collaboration scam will always have caveats in the email or message that makes extra work for you, without really compensating you for it.
  • Offering you a special affiliate commission with a “discount” for your followers (there are affiliate programs galore that you can sign up to).
  • It’s from a sketchy company that when you Google it, seems to be doing some questionable work or has poor reviews.

When it comes to any collaboration that speaks about affiliate sales, I immediately ignore them. I have affiliate sales from Shareasale, NameHero and many others without having to purchase anything. And I’m doing fine, thank you very much.

| RELATED: Start Creating A Passive Income With Affiliate Marketing – The Ultimate Guide

Backlink Building Schemes

Sometimes you’ll get an email from a freelance “blogger” or writer or a digital marketing agency asking you to place a “guest post” or article with a “do-follow” link.

They’re willing to pay you to place this on your blog.

Avoid them! Just delete or respond “no thanks.” It’s not worth the money.

Why do I recommend this?

  • In many cases, the content they want you to link to is not related to your content.
  • Usually, the article isn’t in your voice – your readers will notice this
  • Your loyal readers want to hear from you, as they deem you credible
  • Too many of these types of “paid article placements” will come across as advertisements
  • Usually, it’s obvious it’s to promote a specific brand
  • Sometimes articles are recycled, meaning, you can get flagged by Google for spam content
  • There is the caveat that you’ll have a “do follow” link, which Google can potentially penalize you for
  • They’ll want you to keep that article on your site in perpetuity.

Instead, it’s better to pitch your own sponsored post opportunity with brands you love and know. Or work with an affiliate contact and see if there’s an opportunity to get in touch with the brand representative to figure out a paid sponsored post.

You write the article, and your readers appreciate YOUR opinion and tips. It works so much better in building your own personal niche expertise.

| Related Posts: Top Affiliate Marketing Programs For Beginner Bloggers

When You’re Asked To Do Something Pervy

This is a pervy brand collaboration scam that I came across recently. On the surface, it didn’t appear so. But when you looked at the ask, it was creepy.

I was perusing an Instragam Influencer Facebook group recently when I noticed one question from a member.

A brand had reached out, asking that the influencer go to a store selling their fashion brand. The influencer had to try on their clothes and take photos in the changing room, to be posted on their own Instagram.

There would be no product for the influencer. No payment. Instead, they would help promote her Instagram profile on their account.

NEVER, ever let yourself be used like this on social media. If somebody wants you to do something that is even remotely pervy or makes you uncomfortable, delete, delete, delete!

It can ruin your online reputation while violating you as a person.

There is an audience for this kind of stuff and you don’t want them following you.

So, delete, block and ignore completely.

No Sponsorship Contract, No Partnership

If you do get approached by a brand, and they’re asking you to partner with them in a legitimate paid collaboration or sponsorship, always ask them to sign your contract.

Any brand that’s not willing to sign the sponsorship contract that you send to them to ensure you are protected legally, should be turned down. They aren’t coming “to the table” with the right intentions.

But where can I get a sponsorship contract? I don’t know all the legal jargon.

Woman signing a contract - tips for how to spot a brand collaboration scam.

Luckily there’s one that you can use that’s been developed by a blogger who’s also a lawyer.

Amira at A Self Guru has an easy-to-customize Sponsored Posts Contract, that helps you identify how you’ll work with a brand while protecting you legally and financially.

If you’re a blogger, you probably already know about her amazing Legal Bundle that every site needs to be legally and financially protected.

Any brand that refuses to sign the contract is not coming to the table with a legitimate collaboration in mind.

Purchase the Sponsored Posts Contract and have it on hand for when you do have a legitimate brand collaboration opportunity. I’ll tell you how to get them in just a moment.

It’s a worthwhile investment that will ensure you’re paid for whatever work you do for brands.

How Do You Get Legitimate Brand Collaborations?

I’ve written extensively on how to promote yourself to brands and PR reps from my position as a blogger. Some of my tips can certainly help Instagram influencers as well.

If you’re serious about building yourself as a personality, or a brand, then you need to think like a business person.

You need to build networks and relationships.

The best way to do this is to email the right people working with brands.

These are either a brand manager or a marketing manager working with your favourite brands, or a PR representative or PR agency that represents a brand.

They can either work directly with you or connect you with the right people who are handling influencer marketing for a brand.

To learn more about how to get on “influencer lists” check out my post on the best ways to reach out to brands and PR reps.

| Read More: How To Create Your Media Kit For Brand Collaboration Pitches

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Influencer Marketing Agencies

There are many companies out there that work with Instagram influencers to connect them with brands.

Some are fantastic, and some are a waste of time.

As I’ve never been big on making my Instagram account a big money-maker for me (it’s a hell of a lot more work than a blog to make it big!), I really haven’t focused on these types of agencies.

They are also seeking specific types of people and Instagram accounts, with huge engagement.

So you can look into them, but it might be worthwhile going YOUR OWN route by proactively reaching out to a brand.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short: Don’t Fall For Brand Collaboration Scams

In a nutshell, do not fall for a brand collaboration scam, and don’t cheapen yourself.

Always think that your time, effort and your profile or blog are worthy of a paid collaboration, where you get compensated properly.

Your time can be better spent proactively pitching opportunities with brands than responding to questionable brand collaboration inquiries.

PRO TIP: Review brands you love. Build a blog that people love to visit with great content like these trending lifestyle blog post ideas.

Learn To Understand Brands And Influencer Marketing

The best way to learn how to work with brands is to read about their influencer marketing strategies, needs and approaches to working with influencers.

Read about influencer marketing from quality resources.

Surprisingly, the newsletters and blogs for some of the best Instagram tools have great tips on influencer marketing.

Check out Later which is one of my favourite newsletters on all things influencers.

The more you know about how to spot brand collaboration scams, and how to do things the right way, the more you can adapt your approach to achieving success.

Want To Learn How To Pitch Brands?

As a blog coach, I do more than instruct on starting a blog. If you’re interested in learning how to successfully pitch brands for brand collaborations, I do offer sessions on this topic.

Let’s connect and see how I can help you learn how to monetize via sponsored posts and influencer activities.

QUESTION: What is the craziest brand collaboration scam email you’ve ever received? Share your stories!

How Not to Get Suckered In By a Brand Collab Scam

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