When brands and agencies plan influencer marketing programs, their first thought is often “how can we get users with tons of followers to share about our products?” Unfortunately, approaching influencer marketing from this perspective– with a media-buying mindset– is what leads to the spammy posts that you’ve seen skewered lately. The reach is everything mindset is similar to buying followers. It doesn’t lead to authentic engagement nor organic audience growth. Successful influencer marketing comes from approaching creators as partners and working to build meaningful relationships with them. When properly fostered, a creator-brand relationship can help audiences form an emotional bond with your brand, which is a step beyond awareness and a step towards trust. But respect for and trust in your brand can only happen when you give due respect to content creators. The magic happens when you approach them with enthusiasm and enable them to tell your brand story from their perspective.

Approach them with enthusiasm

Enter the partnership like good friends doing business. Afterall, influencer marketing is an unconventional approach to marketing. It should be fun. You’re not doing taxes, you’re creating cool campaigns for your brand. If you come to them with excitement they’ll respond with excitement and that will show through their content. This is what separates the good campaigns from the great ones, driving meaningful relationships with your brand, your audience, and the creators.

Empower them to interpret your brand story

Enabling content creators comes in two parts: Giving them tools to succeed and then trusting them to create something incredible. Set them up with appropriate brand education. This includes brand guidelines, what you are trying to achieve with your campaign and any additional background needed to familiarize them with your brand. The second piece is giving them the creative freedom to interpret your brand story and campaign goals into an authentic post that will resonate with their audience. With the proper education, you’ve established the guardrails they should follow. Now, let them roll.

Don’t stop after the post is shared

Continue engaging with the influencer by interacting with the content they share. This will show the creators and their audiences that your bond is deeper than the transactional and will increase the authenticity and impact of the post. In addition, it will help build brand awareness and further spark post engagement as the followers respond to the conversation between the brand and their favorite creator. Influencers have a strong connection with their community, this is a great way to inject yourself into that community. Which is the point of all of this work, right?

Consider re-activation for future programs

If a content creator is a perfect lifestyle match and did great work for your campaign, look for opportunities to bring them back onboard in the future. When you’re able to reactivate influencers, it increases the authenticity of their affinity for your brand and will double down on the engagement from their audience. Don’t look at this as simply a transactional one-time tactic. Build the relationship for future engagements to continue activating their audience.

The influencers that you want to be working with are creating amazing content that drives meaningful engagement around your brand. They’re not real housewives copy-pasting photo captions, they’re people like Lauren Randolph getting TIME Magazine mentions for her thoughtful collaborations. They are putting heart and thought and enthusiasm into their work, you should too.