When early influencers unwittingly stumbled onto the scene using platforms like Instagram and YouTube in the early 2010s, the social media landscape was a very different place. A simple streak of independent aesthetic and a small following could earn a spot on a featured page, or even catch the eye of an eminent record producer. This level of exposure made careers for the likes of millennial celebs like Jenna Marbles and Justin Bieber.
Meanwhile, celebrities with their own brands were growing their audiences during this time as well, as loyal followers took their fandom online. With the proliferation of social media over the next 10 years, celebs like the Kardashians saw their fan bases skyrocket. And, a new trend was taking hold: What influencers liked, their audiences liked. If Kim said to buy it, they did.
These kinds of “pioneers” in the online influencer space paved the way for stars, athletes — and eventually regular people — to become paid influencers. As influencers grew their audiences, brands took notice and also got in on the action, often with much success. When the influencer-brand match is a good one, the relationship is fruitful for everyone involved, bringing valuable engagement to both the influencer and the advertiser.
More recently, influencer marketing has shifted from art to science, going from back-of-the-envelope, small-time engagements to a $13.8B industry. Indeed, influencer marketing is now a true opportunity for influencers and brands alike to cultivate their audiences and drive engagement.
At the heart of it all is the influencer-brand relationship, the crux on which the entire campaign is built. When there is a true connection between the brand and the influencer, both parties have an equal interest in the content’s performance. Influencers always care about the performance of their content, but when you can connect with one who also shares your brand’s investment in the campaign results, your influencer becomes an even stronger ambassador.
Today, we’ll take a look at three key components of a strong influencer relationship and tips for incorporating influencer engagement into your marketing strategy.
3 Keys to Building a Strong Influencer Relationship
Like it is with personal relationships, communication is everything when it comes to success with influencer marketing. Open communication helps ideas flow and ensures everyone remains focused on the same objectives. Have point people who can facilitate communication, and consider using influencer relationship management (IRM) software to keep track of records and campaigns.
Establish metrics for success early on. What does success look like? Remember, the more interest your influencer has over the outcome of your campaign, the more in-tuned they will be to delivering high-performing content. Establish these standards early and often and as clearly as possible, so that everyone is always marching toward the same goal.
- A well-oiled creative process
It is absolutely crucial to build out a creative process together for how content will get pitched, created, edited and published. But as you do so, remember to respect your influencers’ creative position. One of the primary values of influencer marketing is that influencers come with built-in followers. But as a brand, you didn’t build that base of followers — the influencer did. Their name and reputation with their followers is on the line with every campaign, and as such, it’s important to respect their voice in the creative process. To this end, it’s equally important to work with influencers whose content is a natural fit for your brand. (More on that later.)
Incorporating Influencer Marketing Into Your Overall Strategy
Managing influencers can be so time consuming that it eats up potential ROI if you’re not careful. Here are some tips for rolling out your strategy in a way that will facilitate the smoothest launch of campaigns and their respective management.
- Make time
Influencer marketing shouldn’t be a task on someone’s to-do list. Studies show that influencer marketing isn’t going away any time soon. Make time, allocate budget, and build teams who can create plans and execute them. In a 2020 survey, 62% of respondents say they intend to increase their influencer marketing budget over last year, and another 11% intend to spend more than 40% of their marketing budget on influencer campaigns.
- Work with the right influencers
Like the celebrity spokesperson of old, there is a lot of matchmaking involved in influencer marketing. A leggy supermodel is probably an awkward fit for a notoriously unhealthy fast food brand, for example. While this example is rather obvious, it’s important to understand it’s not just about optics. Influencers have clout over their audiences — but their influence wanes significantly outside the confines of their target demo. Not only that, the best influencers are acutely aware of this fact and strive to work with brands who understand what is relevant to their audience.
- Find reputable partners
Whether it’s an agency of record, or an influencer-specific management support team, working with the right partners can mean the difference between failure and success. Seek out those who understand influencer marketing and already have their own network and management process. With the right investment and solid partners, influencer marketing can be one of your top performing channels. In fact, in one survey by Medizkix, 9 out 10 marketers agreed that the ROI from influencer marketing is comparable or superior to other marketing channels.
Influencers are here to stay, and with the right focus on relationship building, they can be a powerful driver for brand engagement. Want to talk more about influencer marketing? Let’s chat.