The benefits of using influencer partnerships in your marketing strategy are many: It fosters trust with your target audience, builds brand awareness, and can generate engagement through a loyal audience network. Yet choosing figures to publicly represent your brand values and bring the right tone to their messaging is a nuanced evaluation process. It’s not as apparent as snagging the most well-known celebrity in your space.
If not done with careful deliberation, your efforts and money could go to waste, and you could risk coming off as inauthentic or inconsistent to your target audience. Keep these factors in mind when deciding who are the best voices to tell your brand stories.
Before you decide which influencer partnerships are the strongest, start with asking why you want your brand to participate in these relationships.
Spend some time pinpointing exactly what it is that you want to achieve by collaborating with an influencer. Do you want to push out a particular service, product, new feature, or message? Maybe you want to establish a personable voice on social media or bolster engagement within an existing segment of your base.
Image attribution: Greg Ortega
Whatever your motivation, you can narrow in on which influencers best suit your needs. Are you trying to build brand awareness or promote a new feature via video? If so, narrow down your candidates to those influencers with a booming list of YouTube subscribers or Instagram IGTV channels with consistently high views.
It’s important to look for influencers who are actively demonstrating their expertise and interest in specific content spaces and are already contributing to the communities your brand wants to be involved with. If they created a popular YouTube channel a few years ago, but their last upload to that account is over two years old, they most likely are focusing on other mediums, and are no longer a relevant resource for your current content strategy.
You’ll be more successful if the influencer has a strong understanding of your brand and their target customers, explains Tess Wicks, a content creator and host of The Wander Wealthy Podcast. This goes beyond simply understanding what products and services you offer. To be a true brand ambassador, influencers should be able to demonstrate insight into both your brand’s voice across different channels and have a detailed picture of your target personas.
In turn, your brand should be well-versed in the creator’s own brand and their target audience. Wanting to work with a mega-influencer simply because they are a household name in the space may not be the best fit when their large following has never demonstrated prior interest in your industry. When this fundamental disconnect occurs, your marketing team will likely feel that the name recognition wasn’t worth the costly investment. You might be better off with a micro-influencer or an “everyday influencer,” who offers a smaller audience that is deeply engaged in all of their content.
Your efforts will be more fruitful and feel more genuine if you allow the influencer to contribute their own ideas. Amanda Abella, a Latina brand influencer and the founder of Make Money Your Honey, understands the innovation that companies can gain by bringing outside perspectives in to tackle content creation roadblocks.
When she learned that a finance brand she worked for wanted to spread a particular message to their shared audience but weren’t sure the best tactic to distribute it, Abella came up with the idea to create a series of videos for Instagram’s IGTV.
If you give content creators the freedom to come to the table with ideas on how to achieve the goals for a campaign, you may be pleasantly surprised with the fresh perspective they can add to these long-term business objectives. Before giving an influencer a final draft of your promotional strategy or a completed social campaign calendar, schedule a brainstorming session to collaborate.
Due to their familiarity working within these social and digital spaces, influencers have insights of their own that could improve upon nascent ideas.
After you’ve picked a few influencers to potentially work with, have talks to go over the details about creating content. “Getting on the phone and having an honest discussion about what the creator is comfortable making when it comes to the type of content is going to be the most important,” says Wicks, who has partnered with brands in the personal finance space.
“This is also the most successful way to collaborate together and brainstorm ideas,” she says. “It takes the pressure off each individual side to come up with the next brilliant campaign and allows for a lot more ideation.”
While the influencer can create articles, social media posts, and videos, depending on the type of collaboration or brand they may not be up for creating articles and sharing them on their social media for that particular campaign. Maybe they’re shifting direction in their content creation efforts, or they’re only available to produce certain type of content for brand partnerships.
If you’ll be working together on more involved content, such as a video series, figure out how much the influencer will be bringing to the table. Beyond sharing content on their platforms, will they have their own crew and equipment? Which parts of the video production will be outsourced? Will this be included in the rate? Establishing these expectations in the planning stage means you won’t get blindsided by extra work or costs, which could lead to unexpected, frustrating delays when completing the campaign.
Wicks has both approached and been approached by companies to collaborate on content together. When approached by the company, they saw the type of content their audience was responding to and the subset of their audience that they wanted to engage. In turn, they sought Wicks out as she was the right person to create that type of content. Plus, she happened to be a very close match in terms of the audience demographic that they want to have these conversations with.
With another brand, Wicks directly reached out and identified a fit with a company by seeing where there were gaps in their content. She then made the case that the type of content she creates for that specific audience is exactly what the brand needed for customer retention.
Image attribution: Elevate
“When it comes to finding the right brands and influencers, it’s a two-way street,” says Wicks. “We continue to reassess by viewing the analytics to understand if we’re both happy working together to know that it is the right type of partnership.”
For lead generation, Wicks advises having trackable links available on both ends. “As a creator, I’m always checking the success of the piece of content and the conversion from views to retention to actual clicks,” says Wicks. Figure out which metrics are most important to check, and review results at different points of the campaign. You may want to do a slight pivot midway, before you create new content.
While it’s important to check metrics to see how well an influencer partnership performed, Wicks points out that a successful collaboration is much more than ensuring that leads are being generated for the brand. “Although views and conversions into leads are very important for the collaboration partnership, it’s also extremely important to understand that there are other things that could be at play if conversions don’t come,” says Wicks. “From the type of content to the content vehicle, all the way down to the very specific topic.”
Depending on the complexity of the campaign, allow for plenty of time to brainstorm ideas, collaborate, and make sure all the logistics are in place, including realistic timelines for internal and external reviews and navigating the intricacies of legal and compliance departments.
“You’ll be surprised at the number of campaigns that expect you to go from ideation to launch in a matter of weeks,” points out Abella.
When it comes to influencer partnerships, careful research and an understanding of the connections between each partner’s content strategy will help you determine which influencers will be the best fit for your brand to gain trusted exposure through powerful advocates.
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Featured image attribution: Thought Catalog