Thinking Long-Term: How to Master Influencer Relationships
Many marketers struggle to find the right influencers for their brand: 61% of marketers agree that influencer search and engagement stage remains a major challenge when planning an influencer marketing campaign. So if you finally identified an ideal opinion leader, it might make sense to stick to this partnership and build a long-term influencer relationship out of it. There is no question that making friends with an influencer is a positive thing: when you have a trustworthy relationship, it is easier to communicate, negotiate and collaborate. However, do long-term influencer relationships bring any real value for a brand? Do continuing partnerships positively affect influencer marketing ROI? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of long-term influencer partnerships.
THE PROS OF LONG-TERM INFLUENCER RELATIONSHIPS
Influencers turn into loyal brand advocates
One of the benefits long-term influencer relationships offer is trust. As an influencer is talking more about your product, his connection with the brand becomes more authentic. It makes influencer’s preference look honest and entails deeper trust from his followers. Ongoing support of a product by an influencer appears much more genuine, so the audience is more likely to develop a strong affection for it. A brilliant example is partnerships, that gaming hardware brands like Razer or Steelseries build with Twitch streamers. If a gaming mouse or headphones brand starts working with a streamer, the influencer will constantly use the peripherals while playing. It means that the product will be exposed during every stream. A manufacturer of PC peripherals and components Corsair has even worked out a special streamer program to incite gaming influencers to the long-term partnerships.
Comprehensive brand exposure
If you are not new to influencer marketing, you probably know how to brief an influencer for a project. The scope of deliverables in the influencer agreement should be very concise and accurate and it is usually limited by video length or by the number of mentions. It means when you have a one-off campaign, the influencer will present your product to his audience in a brief way, without going into details. An influencer who’s creating multiple posts about the same product isn’t locked into covering just one aspect of it — with every new integration he can use a different approach to highlight other angles or ways to use the product.
Streamlined campaign workflow
Communication with influencers can be challenging. Despite any comprehensive influencer contract or SOW, sometimes they still do not meet deadlines, break agreements or simply cease to get in touch. Though, when you keep working with the same influencer for a longer time, he would more likely return your trust with prompt feedback and a stronger commitment to project completion. Also, in the long run, an influencer gets to know your product better, so you don’t need to spend time on detailed briefing and all-over again product presentations with every new project. After your first successful collaboration, you can sit back and let the influencer do his creative job. For example, the energy drinks company Monster Energy has been sponsoring Team Liquid, a professional esports team. The team’s uniform is branded with the Monster Energy logo, as well as the team members’ social handles. Team Liquid players also regularly promote the brand when streaming on Twitch.
We all know how to bargain: the more you purchase – the deeper the discount should be. Why not apply this principle to influencer marketing? If you are negotiating a long-term campaign with multiple brand integrations, it would be reasonable to ask the influencer for a lower rate. At the same time, when you are talking about a one-off promotion, the influencer might be less flexible with reducing the price.
Long-term partnerships provide brands with an opportunity to test different messaging or visual formats. By running A/B testing on different approaches, you can compare their effectiveness and get some insights for future campaigns.
THE CONS OF LONG-TERM INFLUENCER PARTNERSHIPS
Limiting your campaign to several influencers who constantly promote your product leads to narrowing the size of your audience. Whereas switching from one influencer to another you will have better chances to increase the number of unique people who will see your product. Using media buying terminology, you will get higher Reach, but smaller Frequency for your message.
Drop in the audience engagement
When you carry out multiple projects with the same influencer, you should consider the risk of possible effectiveness decrease over time. The number of clicks brought by influencer campaigns might drop, as the audience becomes surfeited with your offer. In this case, you might need to review the campaign’s messaging and content format, or even put collaboration on hold for a couple of months.
HOW TO NURTURE INFLUENCER RELATIONSHIPS?
If you have analyzed all the pros and cons of playing long-term and decided that long-tasting influencer relationships are suitable for your brand, here are some suggestions on how to establish and nurture effective partnerships:
Working on a project with an influencer involves a lot of interaction. Campaign planning, content creation, time management, results tracking – all these activities require consistent communication with an influencer almost on a daily basis. When a campaign is over and an influencer has delivered all the deliverables, don’t ditch this relationship. Check up on the influencer from time to time in a friendly manner to show your appreciation. A great idea might be sharing some industry news with the influencer, asking his opinion on a particular event or story, etc.
Go beyond professional
The best way of building a strong relationship is to go beyond professional and add some personal touch. Building any successful relationship requires being compassionate, understanding and helpful. Become friends with creators and treat them as people who have their own passions, fears, problems, and needs. Listen to their concerns and opinions. Help them with content creation, share ideas, and brainstorm together. Show them the human face of your brand, so that they become the voice of it.
Offer exclusive deals and product insights
In order to gain influencers’ trust, you can go even further and provide them with some exclusive perks. These may include unique collaboration opportunities or sharing brand news and product updates with the influencer exclusively, prior to announcing them to the general public.
The most fruitful influencer relationships grow when a brand puts trust into micro-influencers and supports them during the early stages of their career. You are more likely to get appreciation from a micro-influencer who has few brand partnerships and works hard to meet your brand’s requirements. When this influencer’s social channels develop and the audience grows, his initial affection to your brand will strengthen. His pricing would be more flexible and his commitment would be stronger with regard to your long-lasting connection.
A mutually-trustful relationship with an influencer may lead to greater benefits for your brand. Companies that have found relevant influencers are locking them down with exclusivity agreements, so brands that don’t want to fall behind will need to find their own long-term matches. As they say: “Old friends and old wine are best”.