How to Scale Your Influencer Program Without Compromising Relationships

Mon Sep 30 2019
Mel Muncy
Industry and Best Practices

Instagram / @lanadmitruks

In life, people might forget what you said and what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel. In influencer marketing, it’s the same. Creators might forget what was exchanged in negotiations or the specific content pieces used for campaigns, but they will always remember how brands made them feel throughout the process.

By now we know that influencer marketing isn’t just a short-lived marketing ploy. It’s a proven movement that’s projected to be worth $15B by 2022.

One aspect of influencer marketing that has gained importance is the relationship between brands and creators. Whether you’re focused on building an influencer, affiliate, or ambassador program*, genuine relationships dictate the success of your campaigns. Relationships don’t just require time and energy to build; they also require time and energy to maintain, which makes scaling the number of relationships you have that much harder.

If your goal is to simultaneously scale your program and prioritize maintaining meaningful partnerships with your creators, read on for our best relationship advice.

Know Your Brand

A strong, scalable influencer program requires knowing your brand inside and out. Do some self-reflection and ask yourself these questions:

  • • Why does your brand exist?
  • • What is the most unique thing about your brand?
  • • How do your biggest fans identify with your brand?
  • • What types of influencers will resonate with your audience?
  • • How will those influencers identify with your brand enough to tell captivating stories?

The answers to these thought-provoking questions will help build a strong brand foundation and influence everything that follows when building campaigns and relationships.

Lean Into the Power of Personalization

When you search for influencers to work with, you might look for high engagement rates. On the flip side, you can expect influencers to look for brands that have engaging and thoughtful outreach.

Influencers are often presented with multiple opportunities to choose from. As the space becomes more saturated, one challenge brands face is fighting for influencers’ attention and convincing them it would be worth their while to partner.

To overcome this, start by building a relationship prior to inviting them to a campaign. You can follow their content, like their pictures, engage with their posts, send them product to try out with no commitment, and invite them to events you’re hosting. Then make each influencer feel special when inviting them to a campaign by showcasing why they should be excited about being a part of your brand’s mission, what makes your brand unique, and how their content could amplify that. As you scale the number of influencers you’re managing for each campaign, don’t lose sight of this.

See: Ask an Influencer: Why Aren't Influencers Responding to My Emails?

Write an Effective Creative Brief That Doesn’t Hinder Creativity

At its core, influencer marketing is about building relationships with creators that can share your brand with their audience. Understanding them, their audience, and what they stand for should drive your content strategy and direction. They have spent time building their own brand and voice. You want them to help tell your brand story in a way that's natural and authentic to them. Otherwise, it will feel forced and their audience will see right through them. And influencers know their audiences from years of two-way interaction.

The best way to build these types of collaborative relationships is by setting and managing expectations, which is where your creative brief will be most impactful. As you scale, you have the opportunity to be as detailed as possible when outlining outline campaign objectives, expectations, and guidelines to any number of potential influencers you’ll be working with.

Influencers need both clear direction and flexibility to add their personal spin to appear as a natural extension of the brand's core message. Telling influencers what goals you want to accomplish without telling them exactly how to do it will improve campaign results and relationships. But you also need some guardrails on creative freedom to make sure influencers still tell a genuine story that will drive those results for your campaign.

A large community of influencers will add a level of creativity that wouldn’t otherwise be achievable in-house, so view them as an extension of your brand.

“We do prioritize authenticity and select influencers who do have a genuine love for our food and our brand. While we do provide some creative direction, we generally allow creators to do what they do best - creating content that speaks to their audience.”

- Rachel Bindl, Digital and Social Media Manager at Stella and Chewy’s

Foster Long-Term Relationships

Nearly 50% of marketers are now working with influencers for six months or longer.

If there is a mutual and natural narrative between the influencer and brand, the relationship has the potential to blossom into an always-on partnership, which will boost the authenticity of every campaign you launch. If you’ve established a roster of influencers you trust, you no longer need to constantly pitch new influencers for each campaign, which makes scaling a lot easier.

Long-term partnerships provide both brands and influencers with the opportunity to experiment with testing they couldn’t do otherwise. Influencers can work alongside the brand to A/B test different approaches to messaging, channels, and types of content. This allows both parties to get granular on what metrics to pay close attention to and what resonates with their audience so you can optimize campaigns.

You can also go beyond the campaign itself by leaning on your influencers for feedback, sending them birthday gifts, celebrating holidays with cards, and peeling back the layers to understand who your influencers really are.

Repurpose Influencer Content

Once you have solid working relationships with your community of influencers, you can scale your campaign initiatives by repurposing their content.

Influencers don't always have to be the one to promote you. You can promote influencers by repurposing their content on your own channels, giving them more exposure to a wider audience. Don’t be shy — ask influencers for additional photos, like product shots, that they don’t necessarily need to post on their own channels. You can use this content to mix into your brand’s overall aesthetic, repurpose on your website, incorporate into email marketing, or help support your paid social team. When you expand influencer marketing to all aspects of your marketing efforts, you create these larger-scale programs.

By repurposing their content, you’re communicating a level of trust in their hard work and defining their content as good enough for your brand. Typically, influencers are excited when their content is leveraged in a special way. This locks in the idea that you view them as a valuable partner and helps to create those long-term relationships.

And because IGC boosts engagement rates 8x, it’s a win-win.

Meet In-Person

We all know that nothing beats meeting face-to-face. To humanize your relationships even more, remove the digital barrier and activate in-person events to build even stronger bonds. Instead of only driving website traffic, drive some foot traffic.

Engaging with influencers in real life makes them feel like an integral part of the brand and makes the relationship seem less transactional. In turn, the partnership (and resulting content) appears more authentic.

Partner With the Right Platform

It might seem too systematic and not personal enough to work through a platform when prioritizing influencer relationships and scaling. However, sometimes email and Instagram lead to miscommunication and unorganized process. Fortunately, there are ways to combat this.

As previously mentioned, relationships require time and energy to maintain and improve over time. At AspireIQ, we prioritize building the features you need to help brand and influencer partnerships flourish.

With our robust CRM, you can chat directly with influencers in order to graduate your influencer relationships to committed partnerships. Our platform is an ecosystem of record for building a brand, customizing your approach, recording all interactions, and offering insights so you can scale your influencer relationships.

With more emphasis on emotional marketing, brands are starting to lean into what makes them human to connect with their audiences on a deeper, more personal level. The best, proven way to do that is to put humans — aka influencers — behind every key growth channel.

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