You don’t need to have millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of followers to build a social media presence that brands are excited to work with. The most effective influencer marketing comes down to one thing: how well someone creates and cultivates an engaged audience.

When building a personal brand, you should be doing all you can to use social media to your advantage. Creating and curating your own content allows you to build an online presence that represents your unique perspective, while also standing out in your industry or niche.

But there are many differences between simply building a curated personal presence and building a profile that brands actively want to partner with. It takes time, consistency, and the right balance of personal taste and business tactics to go from a pretty feed to money in the bank.

Above all, remember that influencer marketing, when done right, is mutually beneficial to the brand and the influencer. It’s not just about financial KPIs and your bottom line. You’re helping each other connect with an audience that wants to hear what you have to say.

Here are the most important things you must do to build a profile that brands want to work with…

Get CRYSTAL clear about your brand goals

When you create a social media profile, you are creating a personal brand. In order to land paid partnerships, you need to think of yourself as a business, not just a personality. Businesses have branding goals, and so should you!

So how do you define your branding goals? Ask yourself: what do you want to be known for? Dig deeper than the generic, overall categories of “lifestyle influencer” or “B2B blogger”. What specifically are you going to be creating and sharing day after day after day? The more you niche down what your specialty is, the more likely you are to succeed in landing paid partnerships.

Stay Consistent

It takes a while to build up enough posts for brands to see not only that you have a clear brand, but that you’re connecting with a dialed-in audience who wants to consume your unique brand of content over time.

In order to build up a library of relevant posts, you need to stay consistent. Resist the temptation to share anything that isn’t directly aligned with your overall brand goals. Remember: if you’re asking someone to pay you to promote something, you’re no longer just a personal account, you’re a business and you have to treat yourself as such.

Also, when building an audience, consider the platform that’s going to work best for your brand and invest the most time and energy in building an audience on that platform. If you’re an entrepreneur starting a business, then LinkedIn is going to generate the most traction. If you’re a photographer or sell physical goods, then you should focus on Pinterest or Instagram. Are you a blogger who posts about the news? Then Twitter is the one for you.

Engage with your audience

You can’t just post on social and forget about it. No matter how beautiful your profile looks, if you can’t back it up with an engaged audience, brands aren’t going to care. Every time you post, make it a point to check in and respond to your followers’ comments and messages. Do some research and see where your ideal audience is spending time online and interact with them there. The more you invest in cultivating a good relationship with your followers, the more successful you’ll be in securing brand partnerships.

Know Your Metrics

Once you build a profile that catches their initial attention, brands are going to want to know what your metrics are behind the scenes. This means you need to know your analytics, your engagement rate, your demographics, what kinds of posts have done the best, etc. List your most successful or viral posts. Know the anatomy of your audience and be able to tell the brand what demographic engages with your content most.

Yes, most brands have SaaS software that allows them a more in-depth look at a creator’s profile, but you should understand your numbers in order to talk about your strengths and how you can help that brand meet their influencer marketing goals.

Be Authentic

Don’t buy followers. Don’t buy likes. Don’t buy comments. Period. There’s nothing worse than a brand discovering you’ve done this. (But also, it’s just not cool to do that in general). If you do buy followers, beware! Brands and agencies now have platforms like Tagger to help them spot influencers who have falsely inflated profiles and engagement metrics.

“Vanity numbers” are empty for both you and any brand who wants to work with you. No one wants to waste money paying an influencer to market their product to fake profiles. Buying followers, likes, and comments is a waste of time, money, and most importantly, trust.

Just don’t do it.

Know your ideal rates & contract terms

Have a good idea of your rates and acceptable contract terms before you begin contract negotiations. You can research what other influencer contracts in your space have been and adjust your rates accordingly depending on your level of experience.

The kinds of posts you’re willing to create for brands can help you craft a contract that plays to your strengths. Are you a talented video editor? Include a stories option. Are you known for your photography skills? Consider including evergreen Pinterest posts. Your unique skills and strengths can guide you on how much to charge for what services.

Every successful campaign starts with planning and market research. Use these guidelines to build a profile that brands can’t wait to work with, no matter how many followers you have!

Want to learn more insider tips on influencer marketing? Download our free e-book, 4 Essential Steps to Influencer Marketing Success!