Are you an aspiring content creator and/or UGC creator but don’t know where to start? Or, have you already started but want to improve your collaborations? 

At The Lighthouse Social Summit September 2023, TikTok content creator Lia Groves, shared her experiences in branded and user-generated content (UGC) creation.

The recording is available on YouTube:

Her story is not just about her impressive background, but also about the practical aspects of working with brands as a creator and the best practices for turning this into a successful career.

Lia Groves: From Marketing Graduate to Content Creator 

During Lia’s time at the University of East Anglia, she had been creating YouTube videos for her own channel. Halfway through her BSc Geography degree she joined the student ambassador programme and further developed an interest in marketing and content creation. Lia continued to study for a Masters in Marketing and Management and joined the University’s content team as a social media intern.

As a content creator, Lia has since carved out a niche in the travel sector. Her content is not just informative but also engaging and visually captivating, reflecting her personal experiences and insights into the world of travel.

Lia’s passion for content creation has. so far, led her to collaborate with notable brands such as Scape, Skiddle, G Adventures, Trtl Travel, and Journee. 

At the time of her recording for The Lighthouse Social Summit, Lia had amassed a total of 35,000 followers, with her content generating 452,000 views and 23,000 likes on TikTok in just 28 days – a testament to her content’s reach and impact.

Why Do Brands Flock to TikTok?

Why are brands increasingly turning to TikTok? Here’s a breakdown of the compelling reasons Lia highlighted, making TikTok an irresistible platform for brands.

TikTok’s Popularity

  • The Most Downloaded App: In 2022, TikTok achieved a remarkable milestone by becoming the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store. 
  • Large Daily User Base: TikTok boasts a staggering 50 million daily active users. This vast and engaged audience provides brands with an opportunity to reach a diverse and active user base, increasing the likelihood of their content being seen and interacted with.

A New-Age Search Engine

TikTok has evolved beyond being just an entertainment platform. It’s increasingly being used as a search engine, especially among younger audiences. This trend opens new avenues for brands to be discovered organically, making it a vital platform for enhancing visibility and engagement.

The Advertising Potential

  • Expansive Reach of Ads: The potential reach of ads on TikTok is an impressive 945 million.
  • Consumer Spending: TikTok isn’t just about views and likes; it’s a driving force for consumer spending. Being the top app for consumer spending speaks volumes about its influence on users’ purchasing decisions. 

Working with Brands as a Creator

In her session, Lia offered an in-depth perspective on how fellow creators can effectively work with brands. Here’s a deep dive into each stage of brand collaborations, as well as practical tips for creators seeking to navigate these waters successfully.

  1. Initiation: It all starts with receiving an email from a brand. This is your first contact and the beginning of a potential partnership. However, you can also take the initiative to reach out to brands yourself- especially if you have a lower follower count.
  2. Agreement: Next, you’ll agree on the deliverables, payment, and deadlines. This stage is crucial for setting clear expectations on both sides.
  3. Contract Signing: A formal contract cements the agreement. This step ensures both parties are bound to their commitments.
  4. Content Creation: Now comes the fun part – filming, editing, and sending your content for review. 
  5. Feedback and Revision: Once the brand reviews your content, they may provide feedback. Be prepared for potential tweaks or revisions.
  6. Posting the Content: After approval, you post the content on your chosen platform or send it to the brand to post on their accounts- depending on your arrangement. 
  7. Payment: Finally, send an invoice or request for a bank transfer, and receive payment for your hard work. Ideally, you should outline a duration that you expect the payment to be sent after your work has been completed, such as 30 days.

Getting Brand Deals

Here are some tips if you are struggling to get brand deals or if you aren’t sure where to begin.

  • Contact: Add an email address to your bio, advisably a separate email address to your personal email. It’s a signal to brands that you’re open to collaborations and keeps your work and personal email inboxes separated.
  • Consistency is Key: Regular posting keeps your profile active and attractive to potential brand partners.
  • Followers Matter…Sometimes: For influencers, a significant following is crucial. For UGC creators, follower count is less important.
  • Reach Out: Don’t hesitate to contact brands directly. A proactive approach can open doors.
  • Media Kit and Portfolio: Always send your media kit and portfolio to potential collaborators. It showcases your style, reach, and previous work. If you’re unsure where to start, we will go through tips later in the blog.
  • Self-Promotion: Back yourself. Highlight your strengths and what makes your content unique in your niche.

Spotting FAKE Brand Deals

If you have been creating content for some time already, you will likely be familiar with fake accounts that tend to fall into your message request asking for influencers. They are usually easy to spot as being fake. However, some are more tricky- especially emails. So, here are some tips to be able to distinguish the real from the fake.

  • Personalisation: Genuine brand emails will typically address you by name. A generic greeting is often a red flag as this suggests that they are spam sending the same message to multiple accounts.
  • Check the Details: Watch out for spelling, grammar mistakes, and poor formatting. Professional emails should be well-written and formatted.
  • Email Authenticity: Scrutinise the sender’s email address. It should align with the brand’s official domain. If you are unsure, head to the brand’s website to see what email address they use. If it is different, the domain should at least be the same. If you are still not sure, perhaps email the email address that is on the brand’s official website and ask them to verify if the email you received was real or fake.
  • Professional Sign-Off: Legitimate emails typically include a signature with links to the brand’s website.
  • No Payment for Products: You should never have to pay for products in a genuine brand deal, not even delivery fees.

Your Media Kit

Think of your media kit as your business card. It introduces you to brands, highlights your analytics, and outlines your rates.

Here are five key elements to include in your media kit:

  1. Professional Bio and Introduction: Start with a compelling bio that highlights your unique background, expertise, and the niche you specialise in. This should give brands a quick snapshot of who you are and what you represent.
  2. Content and Audience Statistics: Include relevant statistics such as your follower count across platforms, engagement rates, audience demographics (age, gender, location), and any notable growth trends. This data helps brands assess your reach and the potential impact of your content.
  3. Visuals and Branding: Add high-quality images of yourself and examples of your content. Visuals make your media kit more engaging and help brands get a sense of your aesthetic and style.
  4. Previous Collaborations and Testimonials: Showcase your experience and credibility by listing past successful brand collaborations, campaigns you’ve been a part of, and testimonials or quotes from previous partners. This establishes trust and demonstrates your ability to deliver results.
  5. Contact Information and Call to Action: Clearly state your contact information and encourage brands to reach out to you for collaborations. A call to action can be as simple as an invitation to connect or discuss potential partnership opportunities.

Remember, your media kit is a reflection of your personal brand. Make it visually appealing, concise, and informative, ensuring it effectively communicates your value as a content creator.

Pricing Your Work

Knowing how to price your work as a content creator can feel overwhelming, but it’s a crucial aspect of turning your passion into a sustainable career. Understanding how to value your time, creativity, and the tangible impact of your work is key. 

  • Learning Curve: Understand your worth and adjust your rates as you gain experience.
  • Gifted to Paid: Aim to transition from gifted products to paid collaborations. Remember, if you want to make this your business, you cannot make a living from gifted products. That being said, gifted collaborations are not something you should always turn down, especially if you are interested in the brand and the products. Perhaps the company is a small business and you want to build a working relationship with them, so you start with gifted content that could turn into paid in the future. Assess each opportunity with its own merits.
  • Negotiation: Don’t be afraid to negotiate your rates. Factor in your time and effort.
  • Affiliate Links: Upsell by asking for affiliate links. It’s an additional way to earn from your collaborations, especially on gifted content. 

Creating Branded Content That Performs

Creating branded content that resonates with your audience and satisfies brand expectations is not always easy. Of course, we would all love to click our fingers and go ‘viral’ overnight. However, it is unfortunately not that simple. It’s about striking the perfect balance between your creative voice and the brand’s message. 

  • Clear Expectations: Ensure you and the brand are on the same page regarding the content. You know your audience and what performs well on your account. If a brand is trying to make the content too rigid and staged, this is likely going to translate to your audience as a ‘forced’ and ‘insincere’ video. Try to communicate what you think would work on your account, and work with the brand to reach a happy medium.
  • Quality Matters: Use high-quality video (1080p or 4k) and ensure good lighting and a steady frame. No one wants to watch a video that looks like its been taken on a potato.
  • Engaging Editing: Keep your editing clean and concise. Tailor your content to fit the required aspect ratio (9:16 for Reels and TikTok).

General Tips for Creators

  • Selective Collaborations: Don’t say yes to every brand deal. Choose those that align with your brand and values.
  • Product Testing: Always try the products before agreeing to a collaboration.
  • Efficiency with Templates: Use templates for emails and invoices to save time.
  • Organisation: Keep track of all your brand deals for smooth operation and financial management.

As we wrap up, it’s clear that Lia’s experiences offer invaluable lessons for aspiring creators. From understanding the ins and outs of brand collaborations to crafting a compelling media kit and strategically pricing your work, we hope the insights shared by Lia were useful for you.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refine your approach, remember that authenticity, quality, and strategic thinking are key to making a lasting impact in the career of content creation.