How to work with influencers

Do you work with influencers or plan too? If you answered yes to either of these, I have tips that I have learned over the last few years. These may seem pretty straightforward, but a lot of brands don’t follow them. 

Influencers are not employees or contractors 

I have worked at businesses that viewed influences as employees. They are NOT employees. The influencer has a specific audience you want to reach. Instead of an employee, think of them as a partner. 

  • You are paying them, but they aren’t on the payroll – Influencers is a paid media activity. Think of them as a publication or website. Not a contractor or employee 
  • They have a specific point of view different from your company – You approached this influencer for a reason, so you have to accept they may have different points that differ from your brand’s view. You have to determine early if it’s a problem or not. 
  • They are answerable to their bosses (their followers) – An influencer is only an influencer if they have an audience. You want to let them do projects that will resonate with their followers. 
  • Listen when they say something won’t work – One thing that I have been on both sides of the coin. If someone tells you that your campaign won’t work with your audience. Listen to them, either find another influencer or change the campaign to match their audience

When working with influencers, Build a relationship.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with influencers is not building a lasting relationship. Influencers can be one of your biggest allies, but if you mistreat them, they can be your biggest enemy. How can you build a relationship?

  • Read their blog/follow them on social. Send them an email when they do something you like that doesn’t pertain to your company. This will show them you have an interest in them and what they do
  • Connect them with other companies – I’m not saying introduce them to your competitors, instead introduce them to companies that you partner with or a company you fill they will get value out of the introduction 
  • Check in often – check in and see if there is anything you can assist them in or see how they are doing 

It’s a two-way street – give as much as you get 

How do you like dealing with a person that only takes and never gives back? I’m pretty sure you, like me, hate this. If you only take from the influencers, then they will stop working with you and tell their friends not to work with you either. 

  • Give them a behind the scenes look – Let them see how the sausage is made. Give them some insider info on how things work or what new products are coming out. 
  • Get them involved with new product development – if the campaign is a new product, get them involved during the process. They can give you the insight you may not have thought of before. Plus, they will have a vested interest in the product launch. 
  • Promote them in social media – One big way to give is promoting influencer’s projects and accomplishments. Give them shout outs on your social media, especially if it is something adjacent to what you do for your business. It’s all about sharing the love. 

Don’t micromanage the influencer’s creative process. 

Working in corporate America, there is one thing you can guarantee; someone in management will want to control every step of the process. They will want to be involved with every bit of the influencer’s creative process. You picked the influencer for a reason. It was their voice, style, or something else. You need to let them do what you liked so much. 

Don’t get me wrong, and you need to have a kickoff call and discuss what you want and find out how they can accomplish it. But once that is decided, it’s out of your hands and all on the influencer. I can almost guarantee that if you set clear goals and initial idea, the influencer will rock it. 

  • Give them a clear vision of what you want to accomplish – If you start with a clear vision of what you want, you should have no issues. Just don’t go changing every other day. Don’t even approach the influencer till you have it figured out your goals and parameters.  
  • Let them use their creativity – Some of the initial ideas you have may not work in application. Give the influencer a way to use their creativity to improve on the initial concept. They don’t want a flop either, so let them tweak it in minor ways that in the long run make the campaign better. 
  • Sometimes you have to let go – Sometimes you have to put your faith in someone else. If you love their style and what they do, let them have fun with the concept. You may just be surprised by the outcome 

Set up goals and success metrics together

What is a success? This is going to be different for each of you. As a brand, you have specific goals you want to achieve by working with an influencer. The influencer will have goals specific to them. You could view the collaboration as a disappointment, but the influencer could see it as a winner.

You both need to sit down and discuss what each of you is looking to accomplish. After talking, define what success for both of you is. Then follow up after the campaign and see where things worked and didn’t’ work.

  • What metrics do you need from the influencer – It’s important to share metrics when the campaign is complete. In the beginning, let the influencer know the when and what metrics you need from them.  Set up a time frame, a few weeks to a month, to turn them into you.
  • Share your metrics with the influencer – The influencer will want to know specifics on your end too. Share how the engagement compared to other posts if there is purchase, how well it did and etc. 
  • Have a debrief to go over the campaign – If this is an influencer you want to work with on a regular basis, go over the campaign. It’s important to see what went well and what didn’t. No matter how successful a campaign you can always find something to change in the next one. Allow an open dialog for each of you to bring ideas to the table to improve the next campaign. 

The key to a successful influencer campaign is communication! Be proactive and be helpful when you can! 

Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

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