When I started my @stephhh_it_uppp instagram account back in 2018 to document my fitness journey, the last thing on my mind was becoming an influencer or getting free stuff. After all, I was an Audit Analytics Specialist at Deloitte - not a personal trainer. Fitness was, and is still, just a hobby.
It's been three and a half years since I've started documenting my journey. I've picked up a little over 8,000 followers and along the way, I've had several great collaborations where I've been given freebies in exchange for stories, posts and reels. Some of my favorites include wireless earbuds, a smart scale, travel pull-up holds, sunglasses, protein drinks, jump ropes, a spartan necklace, compression socks, protein chips, energy shots and an ab wheel.
The best part? No outreach was done on my end - all of these opportunities came from brands noticing my content and reaching out to me. Easy!
So how can you take your social media presence to the next level to get some awesome partnerships? Keep reading for my five top tips!
1. BUILD YOUR BRAND
Before creating my fitness account, I had a personal instagram dedicated to photography from my travels. Other than trying to post the best images from my travels, I didn't give my personal account too much thought or get too creative with the handle.
I wanted to do something different with my fitness account. The name I chose - @stephhh_it_uppp - was the first step in building my fitness brand. It was catchy and it supported what I was trying to do with the page - document my fitness journey and show progress toward my fitness goals. And in many of the workouts, I would "step it up" from the last one. It made sense!
My content has evolved quite a bit since I started posting in 2018:
2018 - mainly gym videos as I built my grip strength and upper body strength mixed with obstacles course racing photos and videos
2019 - mainly obstacle course racing photos and videos mixed with some running
2020 - mainly pull-up videos, jump rope videos, running posts and the start of ninja content
2021 - mainly ninja content and pull-up videos, some running posts
We're all human, it's natural that our hobbies may change over time. But if you build a strong brand from the beginning, you have some wiggle room to grow your content to encompass different aspects of fitness so you can grow as a person along with your brand.
Things to keep in mind when building your brand:
2. BUILD A FOLLOWING
After you've started posting regularly and have some solid content out there, it's time to build your following.
How you build your following is critical to receiving collaboration opportunities. And keep in mind, all of my opportunities (over $1K+ in freebies) came about when my following was between 3,000 and 8,000 followers. One of the most important things I've learned on instagram over the last couple of years is that quality matters much more than quantity. Not just with content - but also with your followers.
It can be tempting to use a service that will get you more followers. However, in most cases, the followers you get from these services are not engaged followers. They won't comment or like your posts and will ultimately lower your engagement rate. Some brands will check engagement rates (there are a variety of tools out there that do this) in order to decide whether they want to partner with you. They'll know if you paid a service to inflate your following.
So how do you build an engaged following?
Remember, people you know and people you don't know will follow you for different reasons. People you know will most likely stay connected with you regardless of your content. People you don't know are most likely following you because they like the content you've been posting - if you post off brand content (i.e., non fitness related family posts, inappropriate photos, etc.), you risk losing their following.
3. INSPIRE OTHERS AND STAY POSITIVE
When partners are looking for collaborations, they are usually looking for accounts that inspire others and are positive.
Before you post your content, consider a vibe check. What type of vibe will your post or story put out there? Try to stay away from controversial subjects (as fun as these may be!) and instead focus on content that will uplift or inspire others. We could definitely use more positivity these days!
âIf you feel like your content may be getting a bit stale and you want to spice things up without getting into controversial topics:
All of these options can inspire others, add some positivity into your follower's feeds and engage your followers in potential discussion!
4. EVALUATE COLLABORATIONS BEFORE SAYING YES
Getting free stuff is cool and it's easy to want to say "yes" to every opportunity that comes your way. Almost every partnership requires content to be posted in exchange for their product. If you say yes to everything, before you know it, your instagram feed will become a stream of ads. This could lead to a dilution of your fitness brand and disengage your followers. This can also reduce the number of collaboration opportunities you receive in the future.
I've politely declined more collaborations than I can count - it's allowed me to keep the number of ads in my feed limited while supporting brands with high quality products that I use regularly (over a year later, I still wear my sudio wireless earbuds regularly at the gym!).
Here's the process I follow for reviewing collaboration opportunities:
I've never reached out to a brand asking to partner with them. However, regularly engaging with the content for some brands ("wow, this product looks awesome - I need this!") have led to opportunities for collaboration. Engagement is key!
5. CREATE ENGAGING, ON BRAND CONTENT FOR YOUR COLLABS
Other than getting to try new products for free, the best part about collaborations is creating the content! Creating engaging content with a lot of views, likes and comments can lead to future opportunities with the same brand and new opportunities with other brands.
One of my most engaging posts over the last couple of years was my reel collaboration with TYR. I was showcasing their new no-slip sunglasses while going through an outdoor ninja course in Florida. It was perfectly aligned with my typical content but different since it was outside.
Generating content that aligns with your personal brand while showcasing the product you're advertising is a win-win - you're not at risk of losing followers since your content isn't a typical ad and you're able to support the brand you're collaborating with doing something you enjoy.
And remember - be genuine when you are posting about the products you receive! Highlight the features that are important to you and the features you think will be important to your followers. If you are posting as part of your collaboration agreement, make sure you are using the proper hashtags to disclose you were gifted the product. And of course - if you love the product, post more than once to show your continued support for that brand!
So, there you have it. You don't need to be a personal trainer or have over 10K followers in order to be a fitfluencer. Focus on building your brand and following while inspiring others and the collaboration requests will follow!
What are some tips that have helped you secure brand collaborations? Comment below!
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