In one of the most widely covered influencer marketing case studies to date, Nielsen Catalina Solutions logged an astounding 11x return on investment in direct sales from a campaign featuring White Wave Foods.
Hundreds of smaller brands have reported similar numbers. In fact, many of these brands credit influencer marketing with elevating their business out of their startup phase and into rapid expansion.
How do these brands achieve such high returns with their influencer marketing?
What all of these brands have in common is a unique ability to nurture quality relationships with their influencers resulting in long-term influencer partnerships.
Qualities of successful influencer-brand partnerships
The relationship between a brand and its creators is a business partnership.
That said, influencers choose to leverage their personal lives into a public name on social media. Being vulnerable as a full-time job is not easy, and influencers are among the most creative professionals you will ever find.
The best influencer marketing programs treat their creator relationships with great care. Whether you’re currently working with influencers or just starting to look into a partnership, it’s important to know what a positive influencer-brand relationship looks like. Keep these three characteristics in mind, and strive to put them at the center of your partnership.
Consumers will quickly write off brands with partnerships that seem fake or one-sided. Telling a creator exactly what to post or share about your product can often be too sales-y and disingenuous. One of the major benefits of partnering with an influencer is gaining their expertise in what your target market likes. Trust in their abilities, and together, you can collaborate to create content that reflects both of your ideals and engages your target audience.
Frequent communication between your brand and any creators you partner with is essential for a strong relationship. Share details about what you think is working and what could be tweaked a little, and listen to them if they have any concerns or ideas. Chatting with them regularly also helps show that you care about them as a person, not as a number.
Additionally, ghosting your influencers and then showing up out of the blue with a campaign idea will put a bad taste in their mouths. Send them updates, encouragement, questions, and campaign ideas to show them that they always are on your radar.
A strong partnership depends on both parties gaining something of value. While it might seem obvious on the surface (the influencer gets paid, and the brand gains a form of advertising), the benefits are more complex. For the creator, this can mean partnering with a business whose products or services they truly love. For the brand, this can mean having a true advocate speaking on their behalf. However, if this authentic appreciation on both ends is absent, it can render your partnership less effective.
How to connect with the right influencers
As a brand, there are a few steps you need to take to connect with the right influencers.
First, you have to determine your target audience and use this information when evaluating different creators. If you skip this step, it doesn’t matter how many followers the creator has. When it’s not reaching the right people, it’s ineffective.
It’s also essential to consider your budget when researching influencers. Those with large fan bases will have higher costs per post, while more niche creators may be more affordable.
Start reaching out to influencers once you have a list of names you think would make great partners for your brand. However, skip the copy-and-paste greeting. You’ve done your research, and now it’s time to put it to use. Customize your messages to show that you truly understand the influencer, and don’t be afraid to share unique benefits they could receive from partnering specifically with your brand.
Benefits to entering long-term influencer partnerships
Great influencer relationships produce great results. Among the most common benefits of long-term influencer partnerships are:
Higher sales overall
Partnering with an influencer for an extended period means they will share more content with their audience over time. This repeat exposure can be great for brand recognition and convincing followers to make purchases.
More brand stability
Partnering with several influencers over a short period of time can be great for brands looking to reach an expansive audience, but having them all post only once may not provide the stability or longevity that your brand desires. Having a steady stream of content coming from one or even a few influencers can be a great way to build a strong foundation for your brand.
Better creative flow from influencers
The more you work with someone, the more you understand them and the more comfortable both parties feel. On the influencer’s side, this can lead to the courage to be more vocal with innovative ideas. These new ventures can lead to better-performing content and a higher ROI for your brand.
More opportunities for influencer feedback
When collaborating for the first time with a creator, you may immediately come up with a great idea that both parties love. However, work with them long enough, and there’s sure to be at least some differences in opinion. Take their concerns, thoughts, and ideas to heart. Not only will this feedback help you in your influencer marketing, but it can benefit your overall campaigns as well.
A strong, steady working relationship can lead to a sense of trust and security, allowing influencers to be more vocal with their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. This honest communication is essential for creating authentic content and a loyal business relationship.
Better campaign forecasts
Whenever you begin a campaign with a new influencer, you can’t be certain about the results. However, when you’re working with a creator who has consistently delivered great results for your brand, it can be easier to estimate what to expect from your new campaign.
More calculated risk-taking when testing a marketing idea
After working with the same creator for an extended period, you will have plenty of insights into what types of content resonate with their audience. When it comes time to branch out and try new ideas, you can use the data to guide your choices. Infuse elements known to work with the new, and you’ll have a little more security when making the jump.
Did you know maintaining a strong business relationship with an influencer can help you recruit more good influencers?
Creators are natural communicators, and just as you chat with other colleagues within your field, so do influencers. If they are impressed with how you handle your partnership, they may tell other creators who may wish to work with you. On the other hand, influencers also share details about companies that aren’t great to work with, so managing your partnerships is essential.
Tips for long-term influencer relationship management
Trust is the most crucial ingredient in any relationship, and building it may be easier than you think. Here are some of our favorite methods for maintaining strong influencer partnerships.
Keep in touch
While it may seem like the most efficient use of your time to contact your influencers only when you need posts or have a new campaign rolling out, this isn’t ideal for maintaining a strong and trusting business relationship. Reaching out frequently to talk about ideas and campaigns can show creators that you trust them and value them as a business partner.
Note changes in behavior or tactics
Social media is a fast-paced world. Influencers are experts at keeping up to date with trends and channels, and as a result, they often make decisions that keep pace with the dynamic nature of their industry. Noticing when your creators use their voice in a new way—such as adding a new channel—can help you develop more meaningful campaigns with them.
When you see something new, discuss it with them! Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to help you build this into branded posts or evolve these ideas even further with your assistance.
Note changes in engagement metrics
As you gain more experience managing influencer relationships, you may see changes in your engagement metrics, either good or bad. Celebrating your influencer’s success is a great way to deepen your creator relationships. But reaching out to collaborate on projects to improve not-so-great data can show that you’re willing to help them grow just as much as they’re trying to help your brand.
Spend time with campaign winners
Not every influencer deserves your utmost attention. Sometimes, a particular influencer just isn’t a good fit for your brand, and that’s okay! Once you’ve determined that’s the case, it is best to move on from that influencer sooner rather than later. This approach ensures that you spend time with your most valuable influencer relationships.
Can short-term partnerships be effective?
While long-term partnerships are great, they may not always be the best fit for your brand. Short-term partnerships can be effective when you’re trying to reach short-term goals, such as promoting a new product when it launches. These relationships can be as brief as a single post or even encompass a campaign.
When to implement short-term partnerships
There are several times when a short-term partnership is essential, including:
- When your brand is just getting started with influencer marketing. In this case, short-term relationships are your only option. In your initial round of influencer recruiting, you will learn quickly how each creator differs, as well as which social media channels to use. From there, you can narrow down your pool of influencers and begin to form long-term partnerships.
- When your company is looking to experiment. Since these relationships are short and lower risk, you have more freedom to try several different ideas. In fact, even mature influencer programs use short-term relationships to test new ideas.
- When your organization is looking to make a big impact. One popular marketing tactic is to radically increase brand awareness by partnering with many creators all at once. Even if you don’t partner long-term with most of those influencers, their reach makes short-term relationships a great success.
- When your marketing team is short-staffed. When you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, short-term relationships may be the answer. Long-term influencer relationships tend to be labor-intensive without IRM software to help you manage the many details relevant to each influencer.
What to keep in mind
Without a history of successful collaboration with a single influencer, you will not be able to refine your message and approach for more lucrative campaigns with that creator. However, that’s not to say that short-term influencer relationships fail to yield meaningful ROI (because they absolutely can).
Instead, creators that know you and feel comfortable with your product line can promote your brand with greater ease and authenticity. Like any business partnership, you and your favorite influencers can work together more efficiently and with higher potency.
When using short-term influencer partnerships, it becomes a little more difficult to separate fake influencers from real ones.
Fake influencers can manufacture likes, followers, and posts to give the appearance of high engagement metrics. If you lack background and experience with certain creators, your short-term approach may not yield the best possible results.
Lastly, most influencers prefer sustainable, long-term relationships with the brands they love. That’s why brands that only use short-term influencer relationships eventually struggle to retain top-performing creators, which can also lead to their recruiting efforts becoming less effective over time.
Key takeaway: Focus on building long-term partnerships with influencers
The first step to building a long-term partnership with an influencer is finding the right one for your brand. If this is your first foray into influencer marketing, take some time, do your research, and try out a few creators on a trial basis. As you build experience, your brand is sure to see opportunities for strong, mutually beneficial partnerships to grow. And while maintaining these relationships can be time-consuming, having the right tools can help.
Frequently Asked Questions