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May 07, 2017

7 Ways to Build a Healthy Influencer Marketing Relationship

social influencer taking a selfie

[Estimated read time: 6 minutes]

The odds are good that you’re planning to launch an influencer marketing campaign within the next year—over 80% of marketers have at least one in the pipeline—but do you know what it will take to make it successful? Just like any lasting relationship, the one you build with a social influencer takes thought, dedication, shared goals, and hard work. Follow these seven tips to set yourself up for a win.

1. Define the relationship

Let’s start at the beginning with a definition of “influencer marketing.” Forbes explains it as “a non-promotional approach to marketing in which brands focus their efforts on opinion leaders, as opposed to direct target market touchpoints.”

Or, to put it another way, this type of marketing is leveraging the reach and impact of a celebrity or thought leader to expand your audience and increase engagement.

Soul Mate or Expensive First Date?

Right now, you’re probably thinking of celebrities who are paid to talk about your product or service to their fans. But influencer marketing can also be earned, using existing relationships with high-profile customers who are already recommending your brand.

Every Relationship Is Different

The brand-influencer relationship can work in a few different ways:

  1. The brand creates content for the influencer to share with their followers, allowing the brand to reach a broader audience.
  2. The influencer both creates the content and shares it with their followers, which expands the brand’s reach without sacrificing any authenticity.
  3. The influencer participates in content that the brand shares. This tactic increases the brand’s credibility with its current followers, attracts new viewers, and, bonus, gives the influencer access to a new audience.
  4. The influencer takes over the brand’s social account for a limited time. The results are the same as in #3, but amplified because of the “must see” factor.

group of teens taking selfie at diner

2. Give them something to talk about

When you create the right relationship, influencers can spur word of mouth on a much larger scale. McKinsey found that what it calls “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth” generates more than twice the sales than paid advertising does. If the message is right, it can even affect brand perceptions, purchase rates, and market share.

But influencer marketing plays double duty here because it has the potential to create a viral word-of-mouth message that moves from “marketing-induced,” to “consumer-induced,” to unstoppable!

Consumer-to-consumer word of mouth plays a part in 20-50% of all purchase decisions, especially when consumers are buying a product for the first time or are looking at pricier products. It’s the only factor that ranks among the biggest drivers of consumer behavior at every step of the purchase process. And customers acquired through word of mouth have a 37% higher retention rate.

3. Count your blessings

Influencer relationships can add significant value to your marketing program. Tomoson reports that businesses are making an average of $6.50 for every dollar they spend on influencers, with the top 13% earning $20 or more.

When Twitter looked at the effect of influencers on its subscribers, it found some impressive results. Almost half of Twitter users rely on recommendations from influencers on the channel, and about 40% have made a purchase as a direct result.

The company also quantified the impact of adding an influencer to the mix: Purchase intent increases 2.7x when consumers are exposed to tweets from brands, but it increases 5.2x when they’re exposed to tweets from both brands and influencers.

“TWITTER’S POSITION AT THE EPICENTER OF A REAL-TIME CONVERSATION GIVES COMPANIES A PLACE WHERE THE POWER OF CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS CAN BE COMBINED WITH THE WILDFIRE OF WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING.” -KATHERINE KARP

4. Picture your soul mate

Now that you understand the definition and the value, it’s time to move on to developing and implementing your influencer marketing strategy. The first step? Figuring out what your ideal partner looks like.

What’s in a Name?

When influencer marketing began, it didn’t look a lot different from the old celebrity product endorsements. But along the way, our definition of celebrity changed.

In the social media world, celebrities aren’t just actors, athletes, musicians, and moguls. While older demographics (45 and up) prefer typical, “household name” celebrities, Millennials are much more interested in digital content creators (“handheld names”). Four out of 10 YouTube subscribers in that age group say their favorite creator understands them better than their friends, and six out of 10 would follow that creator’s advice on what to buy over their favorite TV or movie star.

“LET’S FACE IT, ENGAGING LADY GAGA TO INFLUENCE BUYERS OF SPORTS SOCKS MAY SEEM A BRILLIANT IDEA, BUT...20 KEY BLOGGERS MIGHT SERVE THE PURPOSE BETTER, AND FAR MORE COST EFFECTIVELY, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE LONG TERM.” -PHIL BUTLER

The trend continues to younger consumers. In a Variety survey of U.S. teens, YouTube creators took eight of 10 spots in a list of top influencers—and 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to the channel’s creators more than traditional celebrities.

Does (Audience) Size Matter?

As the popularity of this strategy increases, so does its cost. Unless you’re on the Forbes 100 list (or even if you are), you should consider investing in a “micro-influencer.” They don’t have the same reach, but they make up for it with a highly engaged audience and tend to provide better returns. A Markerly analysis of 800,000 Instagram users found that influencers with 10,000–100,000 followers offer the best combination of reach and relevant engagement.

“EVEN SMALL BUSINESSES AND BOUTIQUES WILL SPEND A BIT OF MONEY FOR A SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER WITH A FEW THOUSAND FOLLOWERS IN THEIR MARKET. WHY? BECAUSE WHAT THEY’LL GET IN RETURN IS TARGETED EXPOSURE TO THE RIGHT KIND OF CONSUMER, ONE WHO IS ALREADY INTERESTED AND WILL LIKELY PAY ATTENTION.” -AJ AGRAWAL

5. List your must-haves and deal-breakers

Once you’ve decided what type of influencer you’re looking for, you can start developing your list of specific criteria, based on your needs, your budget, and your audience.

At the very least, you want an influencer who meets these expectations:

  • Has engaged followers
  • Is relevant and relatable to your target audience
  • Seems to be authentic and trustworthy
  • Posts frequently and is responsive to commenters
  • Has a tone and style that fit your brand

Probably most important of all is finding someone your audience trusts and respects. Without that, you won’t get the results you’re striving for, and you may actually do damage to your brand.

young woman smiling at ipad experiencing influencer marketing

6. Use technology to find “the one”

When it comes to finding the right partner, social listening technology will be invaluable. Think of it as Tinder for influencer marketing.

Look for a social listening tool that lets you search not only the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but also community forums, blogs, and other potential sources of relevant discussions.

The right social listening tool will help you find people who are:

  • Mentioning your brand or products/services
  • Talking about your target market or your competitors
  • Sharing your content
  • Using relevant hashtags

You’ll want to find a tool that also incorporates sentiment tracking technology, so you can see if the posts you’re finding are positive or negative. The last thing you want to do is spend time studying someone who turns out to be posting nonstop complaints about your brand.

7. Set some #RelationshipGoals

Don’t forget to identify two or three KPIs (key performance indicators) to help you define what success will look like. Do you want to gain 10,000 followers? Double video views? Increase hashtag usage by 30%? If you’re working with an established influencer, consider asking their advice on the best KPIs for your specific situation.

In a recent study, Group High discovered that 40% of organizations are using three or more tools to track the metrics they need to prove the value of their influencer marketing efforts. Astute Social’s advanced analytics dashboard provides real-time data and actionable insights, and its leading-edge social listening tool crawls the entire web for relevant posts. It includes everything you need to build and maintain healthy influencer relationships, in one comprehensive software solution.

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