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Three Steps to Building Productive Influencer Relationships

Published on October 26, 2020, at 4:00 p.m.
by Emie Garrett.

While scrolling through your Instagram feed, you notice a freshly posted picture from your favorite influencer. The photo shows said influencer laughing while wrapped up in a cozy-looking blanket. She tags the brand that sells the blanket, and in the photo’s caption she gushes about how much she is loving her new blanket this fall and how you can get 20% off of your purchase with her special discount code. You have never heard of this brand before, but the blanket does look cozy, and if your favorite influencer loves it, then certainly you will, too. Now you are buying the blanket, or at the very least, you are browsing the brand’s website.

It is no secret that brands have learned to utilize influencers in order to build relationships with potential consumers. Consumers are often reluctant to place their trust in online advertising; instead, many turn to their favorite influencers for product recommendations. Thus, more brands are choosing to collaborate and build working relationships with social media influencers in hopes of also being introduced to a new pool of consumers.

Today, influencers on social media amass anywhere from tens of thousands of followers to the most popular garnering millions. With such large followings, it can be hard for many brands to break through the noise and successfully reach out to these individuals, let alone to form a business relationship. Brands send emails, letters and PR packages in hope of sparking the interest of these busy social media mavens. But with popular influencers receiving numerous inquiries and PR packages daily, how can brands be sure to make a connection?

Build relationships
In 2019, Harvard Business Review conducted 27 in-depth interviews with popular social media influencers, and what it found was frustration.

Photo by Kaylan Colvin.

More people are turning their wide-scoping social media presences into careers through partnering and collaborating with brands. Influencing has become a business, and these businesspeople are looking for true partnerships.

Kaylan Colvin (@xoxokaylan), a fashion and lifestyle Instagram influencer from Chattanooga, Tennessee, said that she looks to work with brands that parallel her lifestyle and fashion.

“Brands who are consistent in communication, timely in response and clear on expectations are the easiest brands to work with. Communication is key. Influencers are not able to deliver the needed services unless they are told. Most of our communication with brands is strictly through email and direct messages, so it can be hard to understand expectations and feedback without clear instruction,” Colvin said.

Bailey Anderson (@bailey_mae), a fashion and lifestyle Instagram influencer from Hurley, Mississippi, said she likes partnering with a brand that is “so authentically itself that it stands out from the crowd.”

Photo provided by Bailey Anderson.

“To collab with a brand, I need to know that it is going to benefit both sides, not just them. I need to trust that the brand is not just reaching out to make a one-time interaction just for the sake of doing a collab,” said Anderson.

To build lasting professional relationships with influencers, brands should focus on creating authentic connections with the people behind the Instagram page — as opposed to viewing them as a means to an end. These relationships are built through transparency about setting clear brand expectations, maintaining consistent communication and creating partnerships that are mutually beneficial.

Trust influencer creativity
Influencers are not simply the middle man in the process of connecting with consumers. Most are highly creative and know their online voices, brands and audiences better than anyone, so companies seeking to establish influencer relationships should listen to them.

Photo by Kaylan Colvin.

Every brand has its own unique aesthetic and relationships with its established consumers. To enhance said aesthetic and capture the attention of new consumers more likely to appeal to brand ideals, focus on reaching out to key influencers whose social media presence aligns with the brand’s own — then let them take the reins.

“Most of the brands I work with reach out to me because they like my style and aesthetic,” Colvin said. “This helps when it comes to creating content that parallels their brand image, as well as mine! Creative freedom is there when a brand trusts that your service delivery matches your previous content in both style and quality.”

Established influencers have carefully curated their content and should be trusted with a certain degree of creative liberty when it comes to posting for brand partnerships. While it is important that the brand message remains clear, it is equally important that the message from the brand is seamlessly integrated into the influencer’s usual style of messaging. This integration not only creates trust within the brand’s partnership with the influencer, but also with their following, as the message feels authentic and not staged.

Grab attention
While brands must communicate clearly with influencers and trust their creativity in order to build a solid working relationship, first, brands have to grab influencers’ attention, usually achieved through emails, direct messages on social media platforms, or PR packages.

PR packages are items sent to influencers with the aim of convincing them to pursue a partnership after trying the goodies in the package. Whether brands are trying to reach an influencer with a following that’s big or small, it is important that these packages stand out.

When creating a PR package, attention to detail will make or break it. It is crucial that every element reflects the brand, from the products in the box, to the tape used to seal it. Sending a PR package is like giving influencers a small taste of a brand — so the company should make it good.

It is clear that forming relationships with influencers is an essential part of any brand’s social media communication plan. With troves of followers and brands attempting to contact them, cultivating these influencer relationships sometimes feels like shouting into the void. But by communicating consistently and transparently, allowing for creative collaboration, and sending a killer PR package or two, any brand is sure to stand out.

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