Influencer Relationships: Long-term or short-term – when and how to use both

long term short term influencer relationships

In one of the most widely-covered influencer marketing case studies to date, Nielsen Catalina Solutions logged an astounding 11 times return on investment in direct sales from a campaign featuring White Wave Foods.

Hundreds of smaller brands have reported similar numbers. In fact, many of these brands credit influencer marketing with elevating their business out of their startup phase and into rapid expansion.

How do these brands achieve such high returns with their influencer marketing? 

What all of these brands have in common is a unique ability to nurture quality relationships with their influencers.

The Influencer – Brand Relationship

The relationship between a brand and its influencer is a business partnership. 

That said, influencers choose to leverage their personal lives into a public name on social media. Being vulnerable as a full-time job is not easy, and influencers are among the most creative professionals you will ever find.

The best influencer marketing programs are those that treat their influencer relationships with great care and make use of both short-term and long-term influencer relationships.

And while long-term influencer relationships are generally more lucrative over time, short-term partnerships have their place. The key is knowing when and how to use each of these relationships the right way.

What is a Short-term Influencer Relationship?

Short-term, or “one-off” influencer partnerships don’t reflect deep connections between the influencer and the brand. The lack of depth in these short-term relationships often results from the fact that they are new. 

Long-term influencer relationships may begin as one-off relationships. Or, your brand may merely be trying new things. Either way, short-term influencer relationships have their pros and cons.

When It Works

If your brand is new to influencer marketing, short-term influencer relationships are your only option. In your initial round of influencer recruiting, you will learn quickly how each influencer differs, as well as which social media channels to use.

As such, short-term influencer relationships give you the opportunity to experiment with a wide range of influencer campaign ideas. Even mature influencer programs use short-term relationships to test new ideas.

Another popular marketing tactic is to radically increase brand awareness by partnering with a multitude of influencers all at one time. Even if you don’t partner long-term with most of those influencers, their reach makes these types of short term relationships a great success.

Lastly, if you’re short-staffed, using short-term partnerships saves you time. Long-term influencer relationships tend to be labor intensive without IRM software to help you manage the many details relevant to each influencer.

What to Keep in Mind with Short-term Influencer Relationships

Without a history of successful collaboration with a single influencer, you will not be able to refine your message and approach for more lucrative campaigns with that influencer. However, that’s not to say that short-term influencer relationships fail to yield meaningful ROI (because they absolutely can).

Instead, influencers that know you and feel comfortable with your product line can promote your brand with greater ease and authenticity. Like any business partnership, you and your favorite influencers can work together more efficiently and with higher potency.

When using short-term influencer partnerships, it becomes a little more difficult to separate fake influencers from real influencers. 

Fake influencers are able to manufacture likes, followers, and posts to give the appearance of high engagement metrics. If you lack background and experience with certain influencers, your short-term approach may not yield the best possible results. 

Lastly, most influencers prefer sustainable, long-term relationships with the brands they love. That’s why brands that only use short-term influencer relationships eventually struggle to retain top-performing influencers. And their recruiting efforts become less effective over time.

What is a Long-term influencer Relationship?

In a long-term influencer relationship, each player – the brand and the influencer – remain in contact over an extended period and develop a bond. Long-term relationships breed trust, collaboration, and efficiency.

That said, maintaining long-term relationships with your top favorite influencers takes a lot of work. The burden of strong influencer-brand relationships lies upon your marketing team – not the influencer. It is the result of an intimate knowledge about who these influencers are, who they market to, and where their core competencies lie.

Keeping track of details related to each influencer on your team can be overwhelming without the right tools. Manually updating influencer metrics, tracking UGC, and accurately attributing sales to the right influencers prevent brands from not only scaling their influencer program but also establishing and maintaining long-term relationships

If your brand favors long-term relationships with influencers, you’ll need to invest in an influencer relationship management (IRM) platform that streamlines your program and gives you more time to care for your influencer relationships.

Why It is the Most Effective Influencer Relationship

Influencers are creative professionals that care about their image. If they’ve agreed to work with you, they genuinely want to see you succeed, too. As such, influencers perform best when they know you trust them to get the job done.

Case Study: Organifi

In a recent Brands Working Remote Talking Influencers with Katya Allison, Organifi’s Taylor Patterson and Lauren Maxwell discussed building long-term relationships with influencers.

“We went from almost 4,000 [ambassadors/influencers] or so, and then we were down to 10,” Lauren said. “And now, we have about 250 active [influencers]. So we significantly dropped the number of ambassadors we had.”

Organifi wanted to shift their strategy to developing deeper partnerships with influencers. That meant creating the infrastructure that could maintain those key ambassador relationships. 

To establish that infrastructure, Organifi needed a software tool that could aggregate top-performing influencers, report engagement metrics, and filter by type/social platform/audience. 

Organifi leaned heavily upon GRIN’s influencer relationship management platform. The software allowed the Organifi team to perform “deep dive” research on those ambassadors that best aligned with their brand.

But building long-term relationships with their influencers was not just about being pickier in their influencer outreach. Organifi decided to properly onboard new influencers to their team and nurture those relationships in a variety of ways, from tailored troubleshooting to regular ambassador shoutouts.

Organifi’s strategy paid off significantly. Lauren recalled:

“The ambassadors we have are so quality and such a great fit that our revenue numbers are higher than they ever have been.”

Importance of Building Long-term Relationships with Influencers

In any relationship, trust is the most crucial ingredient. As confidence grows, both you and your influencers become more skilled at promoting your brand on social media.

How to Build Long-term Relationships

Investing time and attention to each of your top influencers will naturally yield more trust and collaboration. Here are some of the most effective ways to build long-term influencer relationships.

  • Keep in touch. Ghosting your influencers and then showing up out of the blue with a campaign idea will put a bad taste in the mouths of your influencers. Send them updates, encouragement, questions, and campaign ideas to show them that they always are on your radar.
  • Note changes in behavior or tactics. Social media is a fast-paced world. Influencers are experts at keeping up-to-date with trends and channels, and as a result, they often make decisions that keep pace with the dynamic nature of their industry. Noticing when your influencers use their voice in a new way – such as adding a new channel – can help you develop more meaningful campaigns with those influencers.
  • Note changes in engagement metrics. As you gain more experience managing influencer relationships, you’ll be able to identify influencers that have yet to achieve their full potential. Celebrating your influencer’s success is a great way to deepen your influencer relationships.
  • Spend time with campaign winners. Not every influencer deserves your utmost attention. There are many reasons why an influencer just may not be a good fit. Once you’ve surmised that that is the case, it is best to move on sooner rather than later. This approach ensures that you spend time with your most valuable influencer relationships.

Benefits to Long-term Relationships with Influencers

Great influencer relationships produce great results. Among the most common benefits to long-term influencer relationships are:

  1. Higher sales overall
  2. More brand stability by staying “front of mind” within your audience segments
  3. Creative flow from your influencers
  4. Invaluable user feedback on products and messaging from your influencers
  5. Improved communication
  6. Better campaign forecasts
  7. More calculated risk-taking when testing a marketing idea
  8. Influencer referrals (yes, good influencers can help you recruit more good influencers!)

In Conclusion: Build Lasting Influencer Programs

When building your influencer team, consider what you want your influencer program to look like one, two, and five years from now. Choose carefully and build trust with the influencers you have.

With better tools and more experience, you’ll be able to juggle both short and long-term influencer relationships in sustainable ways. These influencer relationships can help you scale your program in size and quality for maximum ROI.

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