Smart brands and influencers have realized that one-off influencer campaigns don’t benefit anybody. They create more work for both parties and simply aren’t as effective as long-term cooperation. Building reciprocal, long-term relationships with influencers that perform well is the way to go. But how can brands do that?
Why are long-term relationships with Influencers beneficial?
The stronger an influencer’s relationship is with a brand, the more committed and invested they will be in campaign results. When influencers love your products and love working with you, it will shine through in their work. They know that if they go above and beyond on a campaign, they will be rewarded with future projects.
An added benefit is that the more you work together, the more comfortable you will become with each other’s communication styles and expectations. The influencer’s work will only get better with time as you both gain more experience working with each other.
It’s also a time-saver. If you find an influencer that brings great results, keep working with them. Having quality influencers on your roster is extremely useful when you need to execute crisis management, when you have a tight turnaround for a campaign, or when you simply need reliable results from someone you trust.
Another reason to work with an influencer long-term is that the repeated endorsement of an influencer will come off as far more authentic to their audience than if they recommend your brand one time and then never talk about it again. Brands appear more credible when the influencer promotes their products in a natural, ongoing manner as opposed to a one-off post.
How to build long-term relationships with influencers?
Now that the benefits are clear, let’s talk about how you can go about developing long-term relationships with influencers. Most of these practices are nothing new. A lot of the same principles that apply to good professional networking apply to developing a relationship with an influencer, yet many brands fail to treat it that way.
Get to know the influencer gradually
Before you start working with an influencer, begin by really getting to know them. That means paying attention to their work. Follow their accounts and consume their content – don’t just skim it.
Read their articles, watch their videos, observe their updates and notice who they pay attention to. You should also comment on their posts but do it sincerely.
Approach relevant influencers only
If you plan on working with an influencer for the long-term, you only want to work with those who are a perfect fit for your brand. A Crowdtap study analyzed what motivates influencers to work with brands. They found that 44% of influencers would like to work with brands whose offerings are relevant to their followers. In fact, relevance is the number one motivator for influencers. If your product and brand don’t resonate with their audience, the content won’t do well. In turn, neither of you will want to keep working together.
Regularly involve them in campaigns
The core of building long-term relationships with influencers is working with them on an ongoing basis. That might mean just two campaigns a year, but even this shows commitment to the influencers.
And in-between campaigns, brands should maintain contact with the influencer. The worst thing you can do after a campaign is disappear and leave the influencer wondering if they will ever hear from you again.
Give them creative freedom
Influencers like creative freedom. When you allow this, it shows that you respect not only them but also their ideas. Many influencers will refuse to work with brands that are controlling. Influencers put their audiences first and will avoid putting out any work that does not fit their style and image, for fear that their reputation will be compromised.
Compensate them fairly
Nobody wants to keep working with someone if they feel taken advantage of by that person. Brands should acknowledge influencers’ value and compensate them fairly.
The only exception is micro-influencers who are sometimes willing to work with premium and large brands on an unpaid basis since they will benefit from the association with the brand. But, in China, it is normal even for micro-influencers to expect payment for more formal campaigns.
Interacting on a Regular Basis
Outside of working on official campaigns together, the key to long-term relationships with influencers is consistent interaction.
Be a fan
Continue following and engaging with the influencer’s content even after you start working with them. Just as brands should only work with influencers who are a fan of their products, influencers should only work with brands who are their fans.
Occasionally, try to meet face-to-face. This can be arranged by inviting the influencer to brand events.
Reciprocity: Create value for them, don’t just take, take, take
Just as with professional connections, think about how you can create value for the other party. In addition to campaigns, connect with the influencer by inviting them to fashion shows, dinners, and other brand events. Influencers are often willing to go to events for free because they can network with other influencers and, if your event is interesting and visually appealing, they can create content for their audience. Remember, influencers are always in need of good content and will be willing to post about something for free if they like it enough.
Besides events, gifting, also known as product seeding, is an excellent way to develop and maintain long-term relationships with influencers (and possibly get some free exposure). However, gifts should be thoughtful and relevant. Sending a generic gift, especially something that does not suit the influencer, could have the opposite effect. The message you’ll send is that you just ship the same product to everyone.
Get them involved
Another great way to develop stronger long-term relationships with influencers is to show that you value their opinion. Brands should leverage influencers and their audience to get valuable feedback and ideas.
Influencers and their audiences can inform brands on growing trends and provide opinions on their products, and brands can source new ideas.
In sum, building long-term relationships with influencers does not have to be difficult. It just takes time and consistent effort, just like any true relationship.