Influencer marketing has changed over the years, with influencers now being seen as consultants to brands and not just someone that creates content. This shift has also changed the ways brands communicate with influencers, and vice versa.
When working with influencer marketing, forging strong relationships between your brand and the creators you work with is essential for a successful campaign. But just how simple is it to achieve this affinity?
In this article, we’ll cover five best practices for influencer/brand collaborations so that your influencer marketing strategy runs as smoothly as possible in 2022 and beyond.
Give your influencers creative freedom
The best influencer marketing strategies revolve around the influencer’s content being authentic and relatable, which in turn helps to build a strong audience connection. When brands opt for collaborations with an influencer, they should be open minded and put their trust in the influencer. If a brand is very specific about an exact brief and art direction, they’ll lose the authenticity as it won’t feel like the influencer themselves is creating the content.
It can be undeniably daunting, handing over creative control to a creator. However, keep the reins too tight and it will become painfully clear to the influencer’s audience that the content is synthetic. Creative freedom is needed for the collaboration and influencer strategy to work, but of course control of certain aspects can and should be maintained by the brand: any incentives you offer, for example, or the calls to action. Striking this balance will not only generally result in a higher ROI but it will also protect the audience relationship for future collaborations and campaigns.
Leverage audience insights
With the influencer marketing industry growing year on year, it can feel like a labyrinth to the uninitiated. But with an experienced influencer acting as your guide, you can unlock a wealth of audience intelligence. Influencers know a huge amount about the industry and they know their audience better than anyone else, engaging with them across comments and direct messages every day to build on this knowledge. Brands can capitalise on this by approaching influencers as consultants, allowing them to shape and refine your strategy to best resonate with your target audience.
Influencers are regularly confronted with the dilemma of posting the content they love creating vs posting the content that gets the most engagement. When trying to decide on what to post, influencers need to look at the stats and make sure that there’s a balance between giving people what they want to see but also staying true to themselves and the content they enjoy posting as an influencer. This challenge can be compounded when a brand gets involved and a third agenda is added to the mix.
Having learned how to balance their own (sometimes contradictory) objectives, influencers can lean on historical performance and engagement data to optimise your influencer strategy, advising as to what content will be most effective, when to post and how to make sure your message ingratiates you to your prospects.
Find a strong brand affinity
The first step to finding a good brand match when considering influencers is to look at their post history and ensure that it fits with your narrative and echoes your values. After all, if you’re a sustainability brand then collaborating with the fast fashion fanatic is unlikely to feel cohesive. Further to this, they are unlikely to reflect your target in their audience—which is the second thing you should analyse.
When you’re then at the point of reaching out to an influencer, influencers will generally first try to establish both if they know and like the brand, as well as whether their audience would be interested in it. If your product or offering is new to the influencer then it can be invaluable to offer a trial period to see if the influencer is happy to recommend your brand before signing off on paid work.
The reason this is important is that influencers that genuinely like a brand and its products will likely create better content, playing into that thirst for authenticity and, as a result, generating higher levels of engagement and conversion.
You don’t have to do everything yourself
Many brands are still hesitant around influencer marketing over a fear of execution and ensuring results, something that is often exacerbated by limited resources in-house. However, effective influencer marketing is not an insignificant commitment, and it also isn’t something that has to be done entirely internally. It’s no surprise that 80% of B2C brands are outsourcing their influencer marketing. Influencer marketing often works best when executed collaboratively by a brand and an influencer marketing partner.
There are many benefits of taking this approach. Brands can capitalise on the established influencer relationships of an agency and let them deal with the mundane, everyday tasks, while planning out the more creative activities in-house.
Influencers have bills to pay too
In the early days of influencer marketing, a lot of brands relied on offering free products in exchange for exposure. Unfortunately, we still see a lot of that today, and the reality is that brands that do this or who fail to pay influencers on time are grossly underestimating (and undercompensating) the real value of influencer marketing and the creators that make it possible. Many content creators work full-time and still have bills to pay, so brands should always be reliable when it comes to payments and overall maintain good work ethics.
If brands aren’t reliable, organised or ethical when it comes to influencer marketing, the influencers they work with will be put off and the word can quickly spread, ultimately leading to missed collaboration opportunities for the brands as influencers do in fact have a very strong influence on their audiences and other content creators.
Summing it up
Influencer marketing is becoming more sophisticated each year, with new additions to platforms and smarter strategies being deployed. For this reason, it’s important to know how to work effectively within the channel and with the creators who lead it if you want to secure a positive ROI whilst making all parties happy in the process.