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Influencer relations: influencer marketing 2.0
Ready to level up your influencer marketing? Learn what influencer relations is, what the benefits and challenges are, and how to activate the strategy for your brand.
We’ve all heard of public relations, but what about influencer relations?
Public relations is a strategy that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public. Influencer relations is very similar, except it revolves around the relationships between an organization and the influencers who promote it instead of the public.
What is influencer relations exactly? How is it different from influencer marketing? How should you go about installing an influencer relations strategy for your brand? This article will break it all down.
What are influencer relations?
Influencer relations is a long-term strategy that focuses on building authentic relationships with social media influencers.
You might be wondering how influencer relations is different from influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is a term that encompasses many approaches to working with influencers, but these approaches all have something in common: influencers get paid for promoting brands.
This means that influencer marketing can feel very transactional. Brands approach influencers as a media opportunity. But with influencer relations, brands approach influencers as partners and try to build real emotional connections over time. Influencer relations is less about marketing and advertising, and more about communications.
The ultimate goal in influencer relations is brand advocacy. Brands focus on nurturing relationships with influencers as you would with friends or coworkers, instead of just paying them. The idea here is that influencers will feel goodwill toward the brand, which in turn leads to them promoting the brand because they’re genuinely fans, not just because they’re getting paid.
Now, that’s not to say that influencer relations can’t start out as influencer marketing. Many brands prefer to involve influencers in a one-off campaign before delving into a long-term relationship. This is like a test drive, and helps brands decide if the influencer is in fact a good fit.
Benefits and challenges of influencer relations
Before we look at how to do influencer relations, let’s run through a few benefits and challenges.
Benefits of influencer relations
Influencer relations is more natural than influencer marketing. This relationship-based approach has various benefits, like:
- Influencer relations is cost-effective. Nurturing real connections with relevant influencers can turn them into brand advocates that promote your brand for free. And while it might take some time to get to this end goal, the investment you make along the way is minimal.
- It’s more authentic than traditional influencer marketing. Consumers are getting smarter when it comes to spotting sponsored posts and paid partnerships. In fact, 1 in 4 consumers said they see too much branded content on social media. Influencer relations help you get around this, since influencers promote your brand organically instead of being paid to do so.
- It leads to more brand awareness and better perception. By having influencers advocate for your brand organically, you become part of the conversation among the dominant voices in your industry. You also get exposure among diverse audiences besides just your own.
- It better sets you up for future collaborations with that influencer. In the event that you want to recruit brand ambassadors or try out influencer whitelisting, having strong relationships with influencers makes activating those other strategies easier.
Challenges of influencer relations
There are also some challenges to influencer relations that you should be aware of before starting with the strategy.
A few key challenges are:
- Influencer relations take time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to build great relationships with influencers. But you do have to put in the time. Just like a friendship, a relationship with an influencer requires regular tending.
- You won’t see an immediate ROI. Due to the fact that this strategy takes time, don’t expect to profit from it immediately. Or better yet, be mindful of setting realistic goals for influencer relations so you properly manage your expectations.
- Attribution can be tricky with influencer relations. One-off campaigns generally have a limited time frame during which you can expect to see results. They might also use tracked links. These factors help you attribute results to that campaign. But when influencers are posting about your brand over longer periods of time and often without prior warning, it can be trickier to know which results come from their efforts.
How to run a successful influencer relations strategy
Like any relationship, a successful influencer relationship begins with a positive first impression and continues with regular contact. Let’s take a look at some tips to help you run a successful influencer relations strategy.
Find the right influencers for your brand
Just as you would when preparing an influencer marketing campaign, you need to start by defining and finding your target influencers. Not every influencer will be right for your brand.
This mirrors real relationships. Think about all the people you meet. You’re more likely to build a lasting relationship with people who share something in common with you, right?
Likewise, for influencer relations to be successful, you need to reach out to influencers who are relevant to your brand. A few questions to ask yourself here are:
- Do this influencer’s interests align with my brand and our products/services?
- Does the influencer share my brand’s values and mission?
- Does their aesthetic style complement my brand’s?
- Do their audience demographics sync up with my brand’s target audience?
Make a good first impression
Another key to successful influencer relations is making influencers feel special from the very beginning.
There are many ways you could reach out to influencers, but here are a few examples that can help you grab their attention:
- Personalized outreach emails. Tailor your message to each individual, and make it clear you’re familiar with their content and personality.
- Following, sharing, commenting on, or reposting their social media posts (always get their permission before reposting).
- Sending them a handwritten message.
- Sending them gifted products to try out. This is also known as product seeding.
Whatever method you choose, just remember that generic template messages won’t work here. You want the recipient to feel special and seen, and bulk messages just don’t achieve that.
Finally, one last tip. It can be tempting—especially as a marketer—to send the typical follow-up email when you don’t get a response straight away. Don’t! You want to give your new relationship space to breathe.
Influencers don’t have the same work rhythms as marketing teams. So sending a follow-up if you don’t hear back in a day might overwhelm them or make you brand come across as pushy. After all, I did say this is a long-term strategy!
Nurture relationships going forward
After the first contact, think of all your interactions with an influencer as a chance to nurture that relationship. Be professional, respectful, and friendly in all communications.
For example, if you’re negotiating a campaign with them, be sure to lay out all your expectations and campaign terms clearly. This will help evade confusion, anxiety, and stress in your relationship with the influencer. An influencer contract can help you do this.
That said, you should also be open to questions and suggestions from the influencer. Maybe they want to negotiate a different compensation package. Maybe they have a different idea about what type of content to post. You want influencers to feel valued in negotiations so that the relationship feels like a two-way street instead of just a set of demands.
And once you launch a campaign, follow through on your new relationship. Show support by checking in periodically to make sure everything is going okay. Show trust by giving the influencer creative freedom and resisting the urge to micromanage. If something goes wrong, show respect by asking if there’s something the brand could have done better to avoid the said problem.
When the campaign ends, thank the influencer for their work. Next, take a look at the results, but don’t focus on specific metrics. Remember that influencer relations is a long-term strategy that won’t always yield the results you want immediately.
You might not reach X impressions or Y sales during your very first collaboration with an influencer. Instead of just metrics, take into consideration all elements of the collaboration, like:
- Did the influencer create stellar, on-brand content?
- Did their written content nail your brand’s voice?
- Were they easy and friendly to work with?
- Did they seem genuinely enthusiastic about your brand and products?
If you see more positives than negatives, then continue to engage with the influencer going forward so as to maintain a positive relationship. You can engage with their content on social media, but a friendly email or free gift also goes a long way.
To sum up, influencer relations is different from influencer marketing in that it approaches influencers as partners to build relationships with instead of just paid media opportunities. This leads to closer, more authentic, more trusting relationships with the people who promote your brand.