Building and sustaining influencer relationships isn’t a new concept for brands. However, the digital boom brought a new generation of influencers with it. Insta famous fashionistas, globetrotting bloggers and YouTube Vloggers have taken the world by storm. Brand trust is said to be at an all-time low, organic reach is declining, and online advertising is being resisted by the general public through the use of ad blocking software. Influencer relationships is the perfect solution to these challenges.
Many brands are want to capitalize on increased reach, engagement, brand advocacy, authenticity and lead generation that sustaining influencer relationships can bring. But in order to enjoy such luxuries, a solid influencer strategy must first be in place.
While social media influencer marketing has a ton of pros, it can also be extremely expensive if the outreach strategy is not based on authentic relationships. We wouldn’t expect favors from strangers and the same goes for dealings with social media influencers. Actual friends – or in this case, true brand advocates – are often willing to lend a helping hand at no cost.
The most important factor in building organic, authentic and sustainable influencer relationships is how we choose our desired influencers and nurture the partnership over time.
Finding the right influencer isn’t simply about searching for people with the most followers. Followers are a vanity metric, and recent headlines on influencer fraud have shown that followers are often artificially increased. Furthermore, even if an influencer has a large following, if their audience isn’t your target audience, you may as well not bother!
So what should you look for in influencers and where should you look to find the most suitable ones for your company?
1. Use social listening to follow relevant industry related trending keywords, hashtags and topics developing across key social networks. Understand what social media channels your audience and industry engage with the most, helping you to allocate resources.
You also get to know potential thought leaders driving the conversations in your space and start building influencer relationships based on this. Don’t forget to look for communities on social channels such as Twitter chats or LinkedIn groups. Jot down their most active community members; it’s likely that they’ll be well connected.
Another way to find influencers on social media is by looking at who your target publications are following. Finally, have a look at the twitter lists of active community members for further thought leaders & influencers.
2. Research blogs that talk about your industry and keep a note of the authors. A quick Google search looking for the “top 10 blogs in xx industry to follow” will unearth a list of blogs to start with. I’d then recommend looking up the blog/ its author on Twitter to see how many people follow and engage with them, this is a good indication of the blogs readership (and author’s influence).
3. Use a social influencer marketing database to reveal your perfect match. Meltwater’s tool lists more than 500 million global influencers in more than 60,000 different categories. Searching through all those Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and blogger contact details to find the perfect one would be extremely overwhelming without the use of advanced search. As such, most social media influencer databases will allow you to filter searches. Meltwater offers the below search filters to help you find the needle in the haystack.
4. Influencers can, and should, be leveraged throughout the entire customer acquisition funnel; the key is to determine at which point in the funnel a particular influencer will provide the most value. The top of the funnel is about building awareness, so look for influencers who are up for creating content with you to drive brand reach and awareness, for example, host a joint webinar or co-brand a white paper. The middle of the funnel is where purchase preference is formed. Here, you want to partner with influencers who can help buyers evaluate your product via reviews, for example. Bloggers and Vloggers sit well in this part of the funnel.
Make sure you know what the point of your influencer marketing campaign is, so that you can choose the right influencers for your brand.
It’s a good idea to involve influencers early on in your content creation process, not just during the execution, as this helps improve buy-in.
Persuading them to work with you
So you’ve done your homework and found the right influencer. Now how do you persuade them to work with you? Firstly, you need to remember that it’s not about you. In some cases, it’s not about the influencer either but rather the community they’re trying to build and maintain. This may be their livelihood after all.
Do your research
Before we can move forward to the next steps, learn everything there is to know about your influencers. How do they communicate with their audience? Do they promote other brands? What are their likes and dislikes?
If you want to build a genuine connection and sustain influencer relationships, don’t make the first contact about what you want them to do for you. Instead, interact with them on social media, comment on their blogs, share their content, ask them questions and deliver value to their audience.
Act as the advocate you say you are.
Show them that you fully understand what they do and their community. The next step is to engage with them over a period of time, slowly building up a rapport of mutual respect and not at the last minute when you need them. This is key to sustaining influencer relationships.
The main thing to take away is that in order for brands to go about sustaining influencer relationships, you should only approach influencers about partnering with your brand only after you have built a rapport with them.
Even if you’re willing to dip into your pockets and pay to work with them, it’s likely other companies are approaching them too so a relationship will help you get ahead of the rest.
Ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship
Both parties need to feel that they’ve received a good deal from the partnership, otherwise, it won’t last. To ensure this, you need to decide what kind of opportunity is going to be the most mutually beneficial. Whether or not you’re willing to compensate your influencers is a key consideration. With some, payment is expected. Some influencers aren’t interested in money but would accept other incentives, such as free access to your product.
Sometimes a frank and honest discussion is required to ensure both parties are happy with the agreement.
Don’t be too demanding
You have to give up some freedom with your brand messaging when working with influencers. Like working with a journalist, you cant expect them to talk about your brand exactly how you would. Additionally, their post won’t seem authentic if it’s not in the style of how they post. Trust that they know how to communicate with their audience.
Making the most of the influencer relationships once you’ve established them is vital. Especially considering the time and effort you’ve put into building it. Think about how you can keep the social media influencer engaged. You may want to offer them VIP access to events or inform them of brand announcements and product releases before other outlets. Showing your ongoing support of your influencers by sharing their content and celebrating their success is another way to keep the relationship warm.
Whether we’ve paid the influencer or not, sustaining influencer relationships take up time and resources - and we must understand whether it has been worth it by measuring ROI. There are a few things we can do to measure the success of our influencer marketing strategy.
UTM or personalized discount codes
One way of tracking the success of an influencer campaign is to add a UTM code to the end of the URL that they’re sending people to. Googles UTM builder is great for tracking influencer marketing in google analytics. You can even track what percentage of people are converting into sales (if your product is buyable on your website). Set up ‘Goals’ in Google Analytics to do this.
Alternatively, we can provide them with a personalized discount code, that will not only allow us to track how many people have bought our product, but also incentivize people to buy the product at a discount.
By using widgets such as media exposure, we can measure whether we’ve had an increase in engagement since working with an influencer. Meltwater integrates google analytics with media exposure, so we can track whether a particular post has led to an increase in traffic on our website.
By blending data types such as trending themes, sentiment, reach and media exposure we can understand whether the influencer has had an impact on 1) website traffic 2) media exposure 3) brand perceptions 4) brand awareness.