Working with influencers can be a brand-making experience, or it can be a bit of a let down-- and sometimes, expensive. The outcome all depends on you. When planning to work with an influencer you want to make sure you approach the right people with the right idea and most importantly, the right expectations. Here are a few of our tips to help you get everything you want out of a partnership with an influencer.
Pick the right person. Does this person’s brand really speak to you and your brand, or are you just feeling the siren song of momentary popularity? While it’s certainly not a ‘kiss of death’ to partner with someone whose aesthetic isn’t perfectly in line with your brand, it might not be worth the investment. Think of it like dating: you’re looking for a complement, not a carbon copy. An influencer who is too similar may not give you much additional reach, while a campaign with one who is too different could fall flat.
Remember that this is their job. While they may present a carefree, perfectly filtered social media presence, that is literally their job. Even though it looks easy, each shot is crafted and considered in the context of their entire feed and repertoire. Just like you will be hesitant to partner with someone who doesn’t feel quite right for you, they’re likely to do the same. Another element of this is to remember that when you gift material goods to an influencer, it may take some time for them to formulate a post worthy of your gift. It’s never just “point and click!” They may be planning to incorporate it in a professional shoot they have scheduled or even just making sure they’re getting the right setting and context. They’re operating a brand strategy just like you are. Plus, they don’t want to let you (or their followers!) down with a half-baked post.
Bigger isn’t always better. This applies whether you’re courting a local or a national market. Think about it like this: With more than 100M followers, Kim Kardashian may be one of the most popular social media influencers of our time, but when you look at her comments, how many are truly engaging with the content of her post? What percentage are trolls, ‘gain followers now’ bots, or random companies/individuals trying to shill their own goods? Influencers with super high followers can come with a high price tag, lots of rules, and limited ‘real’ engagement. For those reasons, we encourage you not to discount folks with south of 10k followers. They’re typically much easier (and less expensive!) to collaborate with, and their followers are more likely to have a personal connection with their brand. Connections = clicks = conversions.
Clearly outline your expectations. If you’re going to partner with an influencer on an event, product, anything, you’ll want to lay out your expectations up front and in the clearest language possible. If you’re going to provide A, B, and C (whether it’s money, product, a platform or any combination thereof), you expect X, Y, and Z in return (whether that’s a blog post, Instagram story posts, Instagram posts, etc.). Make sure to be specific! You want X number of mentions, you want to be tagged in each image, you want a mention in the description, and so on. Being specific upfront avoids awkward discussions and missed moments later on.
Don’t forget to outline your metrics for success! Will the campaign’s success be measured by an increase in followers, attendees at an event, conversions, or warm fuzzies? Make sure to establish in advance of even the conception of a partnership what it is you’re looking to accomplish. You can never achieve goals you don’t set and the modus operandi of social media is ‘distraction’-- even when you’re trying to use it as a tool! Establishing your goals up front will help you focus on what’s important through every step of a partnership-- from selecting your influencer to implementing the roll out. One note: while you can share these goals with your influencer and ask for their insight on strategy, these types of metrics are more for internal use.
Working with social media influencers is still the Wild West of public relations and marketing. Like any new frontier, it’s challenging, a bit scary, and as-of-yet uncharted, but in the same vein, the payoff can be huge. If your first foray isn’t all you hoped, don’t be afraid to try it again-- the next one could be a gold rush! Yippee ki yay, y’all!
About the author...
Mandi grew up in Montana and graduated from the University of Montana in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in economics. After university, Mandi interned for the Senate Finance Committee in Washington D.C., and moved to Austin shortly thereafter.
Now, she splits her time between Sara Hussey Public Relations and wardrobe styling. Mandi's styling work can be found here.
She and her husband are proud adoptive parents to two elderly chihuahua mixes and avid consumers of local rock 'n' roll, yoga, and Asian food.