Brands that develop a personal relationship with their influencers gain an edge that other brands simply cannot offer. Relationship building is a slow process at first, but with the right team and the right tools in place, brands can take full advantage of an influencer’s engaged audience and leverage it to drive massive returns with careful influencer relationship management.
Influencer marketing is important because it allows brands to leverage an influencer’s powerful voice to increase brand awareness, build trust, and drive sales.
Influencers help brands accomplish these goals by providing three invaluable assets:
Social proof is the idea that people copy the behavior of others to inform their own actions. Rather than trust the biased opinions of brands, consumers would rather consult the experiences of other buyers. This generally comes in the form of UGC, which is any content mentioning a product or brand coming from someone other than the brand itself.
Influencers are generally seen as industry experts, whether it be for fitness, health and beauty, gaming, or any other niche. When someone is seen as an authority on a particular topic, consumers are far more likely to take action on that individual’s recommendations.
Aligning with popular influencers gives brands instant credibility with that influencer’s audience. Brands are far more likely to capture the attention of their target audience when they partner with someone who is liked or idealized.
Influencers are essential to DTC brands in the ecommerce space. According to Insider Intelligence, roughly 40% of shoppers in the United States say an influencer or celebrity has introduced them to a DTC brand, while more than a third of shoppers consider influencer recommendations before making a purchase.
To increase brand awareness, ecommerce brands use relevant content from their influencer to create brand recognition and enhance website SEO.
These requests include:
To increase sales, D2C brands can offer free products to their influencers in exchange for posts. The influencer then publicizes the product on their social channel and provides a referral link where their audience can purchase the product for themselves.
Product gifting is one of the best ways for D2C brands to establish a connection with an influencer. Once that relationship strengthens, brands can leverage influencers to announce product giveaways, guerilla campaigns (like holiday discounts), new or featured products, and more.
Influencer marketing is more than a business transaction. A successful program requires brands to go beyond traditional metrics to get to know their influencers’ content, style, and brand on a more personal level.
Influencer marketing – at its core – is about building relationships. And like any strong relationship, brand-influencer partnerships thrive on mutual respect and open dialogue.
But it can’t happen overnight.
Brands have to dedicate time to build the trust needed to spark genuine connections with their influencers before they collaborate on branded content that resonates with consumers.
Sabrina Medert, the senior social media specialist at Vera Bradley, spends about 90% of her time communicating with the brand’s influencer partners and handling relationship management.
“There’s a relationship between (influencers) and their followers,” Sabrina says. “So I believe that there needs to be a relationship between the brand and the influencer, too. Our influencers become people that we can rely on. And then at the same time, they can rely on us, too, because that’s what you do with your friends. That’s what you do with your relationships.”
Brands can be more open and honest with their influencers when they develop a strong bond. At the end of the day, influencers want to work with brands, not for brands. Brands should encourage two-way communication and make sure they are giving – and receiving – honest feedback to help create the highest quality content.
IRM is similar to customer relationship management (CRM) except that it focuses on influencer relationships instead of customer relationships.
Your brand will be able to ask more of its influencers as relationships grow stronger. But managing each relationship is no small task. Based on your campaign goals, you’ll need to zero in on what you need to do to make your relationships flourish and get the most out of your program.
The right influencer is someone who aligns well with your brand’s mission and values. Some of your influencers will be better than others when you first start recruiting, but you will learn better ways to identify high-performing creators as you continue your efforts.
Brands should also consider expanding their influencer searches into new social media channels and types of content. Be sure to track progress and calculate engagement rates, even if that means doing it manually on a spreadsheet. Finding influencers can also be streamlined by using a tool that integrates with a large influencer database.
Vanity metrics like follower count and page/post likes can be deceptively manufactured and aren’t as meaningful as comments and shares. Influencers who use shady tactics to inflate their numbers can sometimes be hard to spot, but social media channels like Instagram help marketers differentiate true engagement from vanity metrics to help brands stay away from “fake” influencers.
By accurately calculating engagement metrics from your influencers, you’ll know which ones are most likely to help your brand meet its marketing objectives.
Pro Tip: The technique to manually calculate an influencer’s engagement rate is:
Number of relevant comments and post shares / Number of followers
Great brand-influencer relationships can dissolve quickly without a sustainable contract. It is discouraging for you and your team to go through the entire influencer recruitment process and then lose what could have been a successful, long-term influencer relationship.
That’s why your influencer agreement is so important. If you’re new to influencer marketing, spend a little extra time making sure your influencer contract is complete. As you gain more experience, you’ll begin to anticipate when and how an influencer agreement may need tweaking from one campaign to another.
Once you’ve hired the right influencer team, you’ll need to monitor their content across all channels, as well as any ongoing UGC.
This approach shows you how your influencers relate to their audience and helps monitor each influencer’s contribution to the success of your program. In time, you might find that some influencers do a better job of increasing brand awareness, while others are great at boosting your sales directly. It’s best to have a handful of successful influencers in both categories to maximize the success of your influencer program.
When your web traffic and sales start to climb, try to understand how every new prospect or customer first learned about your brand. Not only will you want to know which influencers are responsible for the increased traffic, but your influencers will want credit for their work, too.
Google Analytics can help identify the digital path that a prospect took from influencer post to sale. But Google Analytics will only take you so far, and properly monitoring results often means investigating from where your new customers originated.
To achieve this, many brands create individual links manually for each influencer campaign. Marketers can then organize their links by influencer and social media channels.
Most marketers use spreadsheets when they first start managing an influencer program. Spreadsheets work fine at first, but before long, the details become too overwhelming for traditional spreadsheets and CRM software platforms. As you scale your program, you’re going to need an influencer-specific software platform.
Finding the right creator management software will take time. The platform must be agile enough to keep up with the dynamic social media environment. Having the right influencer marketing platform in place will streamline your program so you spend less time jumping across multiple spreadsheets and more time managing your influencer relationships and using an influencer database to recruit new creators.
The right creator management software simplifies your life and frees up your team. If you ever hope to scale your influencer program, streamlining the influencer process has to be the primary goal. The software you choose should ensure that no influencer management tasks fall through the cracks and instantly gives your marketing team more time to focus on your big-picture goals.
The sheer volume of IRM tasks can require hundreds –or even thousands – of human hours. But successful IRM tools eliminate that labor constraint. Simply put, the right IRM tools improve the quality and number of influencers that a marketing team can effectively manage.
When searching for a IRM software, make sure it has tools allow you to:
Influencer relationships are built on communication. Access to a single communications hub brings all of your communication under one roof so every message between your team and influencers lives in the same place. The software should integrate seamlessly with all your platforms, including Gmail, Slack, SMS, and Outlook.
Your true brand champions should be in it for the long haul. An ideal IRM software gives you all the tools you need to nurture those marketing relationships, including tailored email sequences and the ability to track opens, clicks, and replies.
Once you find the perfect influencers for your brand, it’s time to consider partnerships. The software you choose should allow you to easily create, share, and manage one-on-one promotions, and provide you with deliverable tracking, product management, contracts, and more.
Managing relationships can get complicated as you field applicants and court prospects, all while caring for your long-term favorites. Make sure your IRM software serves as your headquarters for all of them, with filtering options like audience report, sequence stage, and network reach.
Whether you have a team of five or 5,000 influencers, you need to give each one the attention they need. Preferred platforms make this easy by filing all your campaigns into one place and allowing you to organize relationships by stage, managers or agents, or custom properties.
It can be simple enough to manage influencer marketing campaigns with just a handful of creators. And after a few early wins, brands might be tempted to expedite growth and start scaling their program before they’re ready.
But successful brands recognize it’s nearly impossible to manage influencer programs manually at scale. A controlled approach gives them ample time to pivot and invest in necessary tools to avoid becoming overwhelmed by busy work.
If you’re interested in scaling, you likely have a strong framework in place to effectively manage a small influencer community.
An influencer manager at this stage of the game should already have the following tools in place:
Once you’ve mastered these tools and can run effective campaigns with about 50 creators without any major hiccups, it’s time to start thinking about scaling your program.
If you’re still struggling to manage a small creator team or haven’t yet mastered the tools listed above, take some time to review the basics before adding more influencers to your team. Honing these skills will save you time, energy, and money in the long run.
The most successful programs feature a broad spectrum of creators—from athletes, affiliates, celebrities, podcasters, bloggers, and more. Brands win by forming long-term partnerships with the highest-performing creators of the bunch and deploying them as brand storytellers who can give honest product endorsements with a human touch.
But as you grow, you’ll quickly realize there just isn’t enough time in the day to scale your program while maintaining strong relationships with your favorite creators. At that point, it’s time to consider software that will free up time in your day and streamline your influencer marketing approach. The right software should include the following.
Your top influencer marketing tool is whatever platform you’re using to manage your influencer relationships and campaigns. Whether you’re using manual tools (spreadsheets) or automation (influencer marketing platform, IRM software, etc.), your management support helps you achieve the following:
Nine times out of 10, the quality of your influencer program comes down to the quality of influencers you partner with. Many marketers lean heavily on a combination of tools to achieve the following:
Launching an influencer marketing campaign requires various workflow and project management tools. Keeping your campaigns organized from start to finish requires you to identify tools that will:
Creator content library
When your creators post for a campaign, you’ll need a system for downloading, saving, or taking a screenshot of each post. Within your content library, you can confirm that your influencers are posting as agreed, and you can also use that content library to repurpose high-performing creator content for paid ads.
It’s not feasible to manage paper contracts with your influencers in this day and age. Instead, you’ll need a process for sending, negotiating, and signing influencer agreements that holds everyone accountable to what you expect from your creators, as well as how you will compensate them.
Whatever ecommerce platform you’ve chosen for your brand, you’ll need to integrate inventory, selling, and fulfillment with your influencer campaigns. This is especially true if you plan to utilize various social commerce tools, such as in-app shopping, IG stickers, etc.
If you’re using a reliable email provider attached to your domain (such as G Suite or Outlook), you’ll have many communication tools at your disposal. You must maintain open communication with your creators before and during your campaigns.
Depending on your program size, you may have too many influencers to email them individually for every task in every campaign. As your program grows, consider adding a tool that allows you to:
Your influencer program exists as a piece of your greater marketing strategy. You’ll need to coordinate your creator collaborations with other campaigns, such as product launches, experiential marketing events, holiday promotions, and more.
A great addition to your influencer marketing technology list is project management or productivity tools that make it easier for you and your team to oversee workflow, timelines, and milestones.
Performance tracking and reporting demonstrate to you and your leadership that your influencer program is working. When your program is young, pulling together key metrics from multiple spreadsheets and manually calculating ROI is understandable. But once you’re overseeing multiple campaigns and a handful of creators, you’re going to need a tool that gathers your performance metrics for you. Ideally, you want your reporting tool to track:
The key to convincing management to sign off on a new influencer marketing software is to clearly detail the success you’ve already had working with creators and lay out exactly how scaling the program can increase ROI even further.
When reporting high-level influencer marketing metrics to your boss, start by identifying numbers that best reflect how customers move through the marketing funnel.
Your TOFU metrics demonstrate how well your influencers generate brand awareness.
Your MOFU metrics demonstrate how well your creators engage and inform your audience.
Your BOFU metrics demonstrate how well your influencers convert and drive sales.
Keep in mind, the right influencer marketing software enables one person to do the work of an entire team. Show your management team exactly how much money the new tool will save the company, and make sure you’re ready for the extra responsibility.
MVMT Watches is an influencer marketing pioneer. They started their program by finding micro influencers producing content that matched the brand’s aesthetic and offered them products in exchange for brand-sponsored Instagram posts. As MVMT’s collection of influencer-generated content (IGC) grew, the team quickly realized the potential of leveraging creator partnerships as a highly cost-effective way to drive sales.
With only five team members, spreadsheets were no longer feasible to monitor an expanding list of creators over various platforms and analyze the performance of each campaign. MVMT needed a way to free up its team as it continued to scale the influencer program.
MVMT picked software with everything needed to scale its influencer marketing efforts and keep a strong online presence. The platform enabled the brand to recruit fresh talent quickly and helped keep its creator roster neatly organized.
Most importantly, the software offered a Shopify integration, making it simple to create unique promo links for each creator and send them products from within the platform.
MVMT Watches now had a comprehensive tool that put email outreach, product fulfillment, and discount code and affiliate link creation all in one place.
The new, streamlined approach enabled the brand to:
Tubby Todd Founder Andrea Faulkner Williams started her influencer marketing journey by sending everyone in her “mommy network” free baby-safe bath products. Andrea didn’t ask for anything in return. She just hoped to receive genuine feedback.
The laid-back approach paid off, and influencer marketing became the foundation of the business.
Tubby Todd organized its program by breaking creators into tiers. The first tier received products in exchange for posts. The second tier received a unique URL and earned commission on sales generated.
Tubby Todd initially managed its influencer marketing program on Google Sheets. But adding an extra tier for its creator partners meant the team needed to send more products, track commissions, and produce tax forms. With a roster of more than 400 creators, Tubby Todd needed a better solution for organizing and scaling their influencer program.
Tubby Todd found software that enabled them to send creators quarterly gifts, track commissions, and pay influencers from a single platform. The platform made it easy for the brand to identify top-performing creators and easily repurpose their content across multiple platforms.
Tubby Todd’s new approach gave Andrea time back to run her private Tubby Todd Mamas creator group, which focuses on building relationships, sharing educational tips, and getting the Tubby Todd community excited about the brand.
Since implementing the software, Tubby Todd has achieved:
Nutpods didn’t have to go looking for their first group of creators. They had fans clamoring to be more involved with the brand and part of the community.
Marketing Manager Lydia Lee was tasked with vetting and onboarding new creators for the brand’s ambassador program, hand-packing product samples, and sending them out to each creator. When it came to end-of-the-month reporting, Lydia had to piecemeal data from various sources to report on the program’s success.
Managing everything manually became impossible when the nutpods influencer roster grew to 50 creators. The company runs a lean operation, and it wanted Lydia to continue to grow the brand ambassador and affiliate programs without increasing headcount. While nutpods had the demand and momentum to grow their influencer program, Lydia didn’t have the bandwidth to do it without software.
With the right software in place, nutpods grew its influencer program from 50 to 150 creators without increasing headcount on the marketing team. Lydia could now search for creators, track posts, manage creator content, onboard new members, and fulfill orders from a single dashboard.
Nutpods has since grown its influencer roster to more than 250 creators and has become the No. 1 creamer substitute on Amazon.
Picking the right influencer marketing software also enabled nutpods to:
Choosing the right creator management platform streamlines your entire marketing strategy and frees up time to focus on the most important aspect of influencer marketing: building and maintaining influencer relationships.
Here are a few tips to help keep your team happy and ensure you get the most out of each partnership:
Sometimes all it takes is a simple “thank you.” Consider sending your influencers a quick message thanking them for their content and contributions. If you want to get fancy, you can send something more. That could mean a paper card, a small trinket, or maybe even an exclusive gift—just for your creators.
Keep in mind that your token of appreciation should go beyond anything agreed upon in a contract. Something small and unexpected should suffice, as long as you make an effort to show your appreciation.
Your creators give you mentions and shout-outs, tag you and your products, and share your content with their followers.
Do you do the same for them?
“Sharing is caring” should be your mantra for influencer relations. If you’re not giving your creators access to your network by occasionally sharing their posts or mentioning them on your channels, your relationship is lopsided.
Here are some ways to improve:
More than 77% of influencers say they are more likely to work with a brand more than once if that brand provides ample creative freedom. Restrictive guidelines only kill creativity and hinder the brand-creator relationship. Remember, creators know their audience better than you do. Make sure they are clear on deliverables, then step back and let them work their creative magic.
Most creators have spent countless hours building their brand the same way you have. Asking them to deviate from that path is disrespectful and will only tarnish the reputations both of you worked so hard to build.
“Money is motivation” is an age-old truth. And the same principle applies to your influencer relationships. Money shouldn’t be the only thing your creators care about, but providing them fair compensation speaks volumes about how much you value your creators and their work.
For more information about scaling your influencer program, check out our YouTube playlist:
Strong creator relationships are at the heart of every successful influencer marketing program. And as you build your program, investing in the right tools is the only way to ensure you and your team have enough time in your day to nurture them. For a marketing campaign to reach its full potential, brands must automate processes whenever possible to free up their team to scale their program and build strong relationships that will help achieve even the most ambitious long-term goals.
Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101
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