What is IRM, Influencer Relationship Management?

A cluster of wooden cubes featuring a central figure painted in red.

Brands that embrace IRM – Influencer Relationship Management – enjoy results that other marketing channels simply can’t offer.

That said, working with influencers is not the same as managing ad settings in a traditional digital marketing campaign. Influencers are marketers with an audience, and brands that solicit help from influencers must respect the influencer’s engagement process.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how influencer marketing works and the expertise of influencers that drive results. Most importantly, we will show you how to forge strong relationships with your influencers and scale your influencer relationship management (IRM) using the right tools.

If you would like to jump to a specific part of our guide, feel free to select one of the sections below.

  • What is Influencer Marketing?
  • Why is Influencer Marketing Important?
  • How are D2C Brands Using Influencer Marketing in the eCommerce Space?
  • What is it Like Working with Influencers?
  • What is Influencer Relationship Management (IRM)?
  • Influencer Relationship Management Software
  • In Conclusion

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing occurs when a brand partners with an individual – the influencer – that has nurtured a significant online following, primarily through social media.

Defining a “significant following” means looking at social media follower counts and engagement metrics, such as the number of comments, shares, and ongoing user-generated content on influencer posts.

There are three main categories of influencers:

  • Nano – 1,000-10,000 active followers
  • Micro – 10,000-100,000 active followers
  • Macro – 100,000+ active followers

Influencer categories

Influencers exist in every industry and niche, and they hold considerable sway within the online community they’ve created. Brands that engage in influencer marketing leverage the voice of an influencer to increase brand awareness and sales.

Why is Influencer Marketing Important?

Though the discipline of Influencer Marketing is something of a 21st Century phenomenon, the technique has been around for ages.

Endorsements by the Pope in 16th Century Europe could influence monarchies to wed or entire countries to go to war. This extreme form of celebrity marketing illustrates the psychology of influence.

But we can see the psychology of influence at work in the way we trust recommendations from friends and family. That trust further extends to authentic reviews from unbiased customers. 

For example, a Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report found that “eighty-three percent of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family.”

Similarly, Bright Local discovered that 89% of consumers between the ages of 35 and 54 said that they trust authentic reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family. 81% of consumers between ages 18 and 34 agreed, as did 61% of those 55 years old and above.

Influencers combine all three approaches – celebrity endorsements (even if only among an audience of 5,000 people), friend recommendations, and authentic reviews. The result? Influencer marketing works better than almost all other marketing channels combined.

Influencer Marketing: The Bottom Line

Influencers have the unique expertise to build deep levels of trust with their followers. As influencers, they seek to improve the quality of life for their audience by offering an informed perspective on brands.

Once an influencer finds a brand that aligns with their voice and offers quality products, influencers gladly recommend that brand’s products to members of their audience.

Today, influencer marketing is responsible for an average return on investment of “$6.50 for each dollar spent.” Experts project this medium to be a $10 billion industry before the end of the year.

How are Direct-to-Consumer Brands Using Influencer Marketing in the eCommerce Space?

Online stores work with influencers to generate greater brand awareness and higher sales.

When seeking to increase brand awareness, the eCommerce vendor requests relevant content from their influencer to create brand recognition and enhance the brand’s website SEO. These requests include:

  • Sponsored social media posts
  • Guest blogs/articles
  • Video or written product reviews
  • Authentic backlink outreach

To increase sales, D2C brands frequently send products to their influencer for testing. The influencer publicizes their use of the product and engages their audience with a referral link to purchase the same product for themselves.

Once a D2C brand establishes an influencer relationship, it can begin using influencers to announce:

  • Product giveaways
  • Guerrilla campaigns (like holiday discounts)
  • New or featured products
  • And more

Influencers can be used for product giveaways

What is it Like Working with Influencers?

From a previous article on working with Micro-Influencers:

Influencer marketing is more than a business transaction. A successful influencer marketing program is a partnership and calls for building strong relationships with your influencers that are representing your brand through their posts, videos, and blogs. Go beyond metrics and get to know your influencers’ content, style, and personal brand.

A brand that micromanages influencers may find it challenging to work with influencers. Because of the relational disconnect, they will fail to leverage influencer marketing to its fullest potential.

Seasoned influencer marketers will tell you that if you recruit the right influencers, those influencers are creative, enthusiastic, and experts in their field. Those same marketers will say that influencers work with you, not for you.

Managing relationships with influencers requires trust from both sides. Each must demonstrate strong communication skills and a quality product or service. 

Marketers partnering with influencers for the first time should front-load their expectations and communication efforts. Once both parties are on the same page, it’s time for the marketer to sit back and track the influencer’s work.

Why is Influencer Management Important?

Amid setting expectations, creating unique links for each influencer, and getting agreements in writing, all the details can be overwhelming if all of the moving parts of an influencer program are not organized.

An influencer management process first helps you remember the name and style of each of your influencers. Additionally, successful influencer management stores and organizes all your influencer analytics.

Influencer marketing is a business partnership. As the brand, you have just as much responsibility to build and maintain trust as does the influencer – if not more so.

Top influencer marketers will sometimes go to extreme measures if it means managing their influencer relationships well. 

These management efforts pay off in the long run. Your best influencers eventually become brand champions that continue to have a powerful impact on your financial bottom line.

What is Influencer Relationship Management (IRM)?

IRM is similar to CRM (customer relationship management), except that it focuses on influencer relationships.

As influencer relationships grow stronger, your brand will be able to ask and receive more from your influencers. That said, managing all aspects of your influencer relationships is no easy task.

Common Frustrations in Influencer Relationship Management

Launching an influencer marketing program for the first time can seem simple at first.

You might initially be managing a few influencer relationships. But sooner or later, you will want to expand your program with more and build out partnerships with the champions in your program to extend your brand reach for your industry. Before long, you may be drowning in a sea of critical IRM tasks.

Here are five of the most common IRM pain points for marketers trying to scale their influencer program.

Identifying the Right Influencers

In your initial batch of influencers, some will be a better fit for your brand than others. As you continue your recruitment efforts, you will learn better ways to identify the high-performing influencers.

Additionally, you will begin to expand your influencer searches into new social media channels and engagement styles. You should track your progress and calculate engagement rates, even if doing it manually on a spreadsheet.

Gaining Reliable Engagement Metrics

Speaking of engagement metrics, social media channels like Instagram are helping marketers differentiate engagement over vanity metrics. Doing so will help you stay away from fake influencers.

Vanity metrics are follower counts and page/post likes. Audience members don’t have to engage the influencer to “like” them. Also, vanity metrics can be manufactured through deceptive means. 

By accurately calculating engagement metrics from your influencers, you will be able to know which ones are most likely to help your brand meet its marketing objectives.

The technique to manually calculate an influencer’s engagement rate is as follows:

Number of relevant comments and post shares / Number of followers

As tedious as it might seem, identifying an influencer’s valid engagement rate is critical to recruiting the right influencers for your brand.

Organizing a Growing Team of Influencers

Once you’ve hired your crack team of influencers, you’ll need to monitor their content across all channels and any ongoing user-generated content.

This approach will help you see how each influencer is contributing to your brand’s success. Also, you will better understand how your influencers relate to their audience.

In time, you might find that some influencers do a better job of increasing brand awareness, while others are great at boosting your sales directly. Having a handful of accomplished influencers in both categories is necessary for your influencer program’s success.

Attributing Results to the Right Influencers

If you’ve picked the right influencers, you will inevitably see your sales and web traffic climb. 

Using tools like Google Analytics can help you identify the digital path that a prospect took from the influencer post to a sale. That said, GA can only do so much, and proper results monitoring often means investigating where your new customers originated from.

Ideally, you want to know how every new prospect or customer first learned about your brand. Not only will you want to know which influencers are responsible for the increased traffic, but your influencers will want credit for their work.

Many brands manually create individual links for each influencer campaign. Afterward, marketers organize their links by influencer and social media channel.

Finding the Right Platform to Manage It All

When you ask most influencer marketers how they initially managed all the details described above, they usually say that they used spreadsheets.

In many of our recent case studies at GRIN (MVMT and Trifecta, for example), we hear the same story again and again. Brands see great success from their influencer programs and want to expand. But the details are too overwhelming for traditional spreadsheets and CRM software platforms.

These solutions work for a time, but before long, reliable IRM becomes impossible. Shopping for the right software can also be a headache. IRM software must be more than just a CRM; it must be agile enough to keep up with the dynamic social media environment.

The Solution to Scalable Influencer Relationship Management

Ultimately, finding the right influencer technology is key to scaling your influencer marketing campaigns. 

Thankfully, it is possible to streamline all IRM tasks in one place. From influencer outreach to influencer analytics, marketers don’t need to drown in a sea of spreadsheets.

Influencer Relationship Management Software

What should you look for in influencer relationship management software? 

You don’t want a variation of the same software platforms that you’re already using. Instead, you want your IRM software to simplify your life and free up your team. If you ever hope to scale your influencer program, streamlining the influencer process has got to be the primary goal.

What Does Influencer Management Software Do?

The right IRM platform does more with less complexity and effort. It should automatically track influencer analytics, such as engagement rates, user-generated content, and sales attribution.

IRM software should also significantly improve your influencer recruiting. For example, GRIN’s IRM platform curates a list of over 33 million potential influencers with verified emails, along with each influencer’s industry and engagement metrics. GRIN clients can use their influencer lists to find the right influencer to fit a brand’s needs.

Most importantly, IRM software should be user-friendly. A powerful platform that takes months to learn will only slow your team down.

Why is Influencer Management Software Important?

At the end of the day, a growing influencer program gets stuck without the proper IRM software.

Marketers will relish the results from their initial campaigns but begin to sour relationships with influencers when they attempt to expand their influencer program without the right tools.

How Can Successful Influencer Relationship Management (IRM) Software Improve ROI?

Utilizing the right IRM software ensures that no influencer management tasks fall through the cracks. Further, the marketing team instantly has more time to scale the program.

If every $1 becomes $6.50 after invested in an influencer campaign, why not just invest more dollars?

For a CEO, the logic seems simple. However, marketers know that the answer is so much more complicated. While the financial ROI is straightforward, the sheer volume of IRM critical tasks require hundreds (or thousands) more human hours. 

Successful IRM software eliminates the labor constraint. Put simply, the right IRM platform improves the quality and number of influencers that a marketing team can effectively manage. 

In Conclusion

The fast-growing success of influencer marketing makes it a popular marketing medium for D2C brands. And getting started is simple. A well-executed influencer marketing campaign produces significant results in a short period.

The trick is managing your influencer relationships as your program grows. Influencer relationship management helps you keep track of influencers – their engagement metrics, content, and results.

As your influencer program reaches maturation, it is time to abandon old IRM methods and find a software solution that breaks through time constraints. After identifying the ideal IRM solution, the sky’s the limit on scaling your influencer program and with it, your entire brand.

This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.

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