Influencer Relationship Management: 5 Ways to Nurture Long-Term Connections
Within a short span of seven years, Gymshark has transformed into a multimillion-dollar fitness apparel brand. But in the last four years, the UK-based company has seen a massive 200% year-over-year growth.
They've been using some seriously smart marketing strategies, one of which involves teaming up with a handpicked crew of ten big-name athletes and fitness influencers for the longest period to run diverse campaigns.
Whether it is product reviews or home workout videos on your social media feeds, Gymshark collaborated with these influencers for a considerable time — aligning the company's vision with the creativity of these influencers.
Wondering how you can build such lasting relations with influencers? The key lies in establishing clear communication, a sense of trust and partnership, and mutual value exchange. According to experts, you need to consciously put in the work to establish fruitful collaborations.
Effective influencer relationship management can result in targeted and well-strategized campaigns. Also, long-lasting influencer partnerships can help you save your brand from the uncertainties of the changing creator economy, the cookie ban, and TikTok restrictions in specific countries.
To help you nail the best ways to collaborate with influencers, we have compiled advice from top influencer agency owners and marketers on how to build a healthy relationship. We also dive into the role of influencer relationship management softwares in driving effective communication. Let’s begin!
Long-term influencer relationship vs. one-off engagements
Brands and creators have been focusing on building authentic influencer partnerships to improve the content creation process. Research reveals that 52% of brands are investing in long-term relationships. At the same time, another report from Fohr, an ambassador marketing agency in the US, shows that 79% of influencers prefer long-term brand collaborations, while only 23% look for one-time collaborations.
But are long-term influencer relationships really more effective than one-off engagements? Let's explore!
Importance of building successful long-term influencer relationships
The influencer marketing space is becoming more and more uncertain. Montana, a western state in the USA, has already banned TikTok, and restrictions threats are looming over other states. Plus, as per the new French bill, influencers must disclose filter use. Such changes in the creator economy affect how influencers create and monetize branded content.
With lasting influencer relations, brands can easily navigate the unpredictability within the influencer marketing industry. Effective influencer relationship management can help build a strong foundation, boost credibility, win loyal customers, and stay unaffected during uncertain times.
"The value of encouraging ongoing partnerships is seen when the organization/brand is able to establish a consistent presence and awareness that leads to more meaningful connections with their target audience. Influencers also prefer this because they are able to elevate trust within their audience by promoting the same messaging/brands," explains Laura Guerrero, Director of Content & Influencer Marketing, Sensis Agency, an integrated cross-cultural agency in the USA.
Investing in healthy creator partnerships facilitates meaningful content and churns better ROI, more sales, improved influencer creativity, and more.
1. Influencer creativity
The more you work with the same influencers, the more they are encouraged to be vocal about their ideas, resulting in top-performing content. Additionally, working with the same brand for a long time helps influencers understand everything about the product's features, brand's values, and the target audience, which lets them create honest content.
2. Brand stability
Long-term partnerships = brand stability = steady stream of content.
One-off influencer engagements are ideal for brands looking to reach a larger audience. The influencers post once and achieve huge traction, but your brand gets lost in the feed. Long-lasting relationships, however, provide the right stability and longevity your brand craves. Repetitive mentions help create consumer awareness and win loyalty, giving your brand image more stability.
3. More customer touchpoints
Influencers post several content pieces like stories, posts, blogs, and videos, creating multiple touchpoints with the customers to interact with your brand. Ultimately, this builds trust in the audience and encourages them to purchase your products or services.
4. Influencer feedback
Influencers can share relevant feedback with you and also suggest ideas through which you can better appeal to your audience and develop better solutions. Working for a longer term allows influencers to identify the persistent gaps in the market and understand how customers feel about your product. Since influencers remain in touch with their followers, it allows them to understand the kind of content they prefer consuming.
5. Influencer brand referrals
One of the top advantages of maintaining a long-term influencer relationship is that you can recruit more talented creators. Influencers talk amongst their community when they work with a good brand, encouraging other influencers to connect with you too.
6. Quality content
Quality content is what gets your customers hooked and keeps them coming for more. Effective influencer relationship management enables creators to focus on the nitty-gritty of building quality content that provides value to the audiences.
5 Expert ways of building and maintaining long-term influencer relationships
No relationship is built in one day. The same goes for constructing a long-term relationship with influencers. "Establishing and maintaining long-term partnerships with influencers requires a thoughtful approach. With the right strategies and tools, brands can build fruitful, enduring relationships," says Seema Rao, Influencer Marketing Specialist, Baotris, an organic marketing company in the USA.
Let’s dive deeper into the 5 approaches for effective influencer relationship management!
1. Choose influencer relevance over reach
Partnering with relevant influencers is the first step to building authentic, long-term influencer partnerships. But audience reach alone cannot help you pick the right creator. Consider relevance instead. Influencers are relevant to your brand if they target the right audience segment, understand your brand messaging and values, and have a content style that aligns with the brand's identity.
Kiran Lachwani, Head of Marketing and Operations, Power Your Curls, a hair care retail company in the UAE, suggests conducting research to identify influencers who align with your target market, industry, voice, and vision.
"Take into account their reputation, authenticity, and interaction rate instead of focusing on influencer popularity or quantity of followers. Consider relevance over reach and quality above quantity," says she.
Here are quick steps for you to vet influencers and pick the right one for your campaign:
- Check the age, location, interests, and brand affinity of the influencer's audience
- See if the influencer is an existing customer of your product
- Ensure they have a content style that showcases your product the right way
- Make sure the influencer understands your brand and product well
- Go through comments to analyze if followers have a positive sentiment towards the influencer
2. View influencers as more than advertising vehicles
Influencers are amazing at driving brand promotions. But they are more than advertising channels. Influencers are creative individuals who can drive demand for your product or service through relatable content. And if you want to partner with them for the long term, making them feel valued and respected is essential.
Put in the required time and effort to build a partnership based on mutual trust and respect. Experts suggest the best ways to build and maintain a strong influencer relationship:
- Establishing clear expectations
- Providing support
- Offering incentives and rewards
- Establish mutual trust and respect
- Keeping communication consistent
"You must get in touch with them frequently and follow through on your pledges and promises. Additionally, you must be receptive, adaptable, and professional in your response to any problems or worries. Don't ignore them, ghost them, or abruptly alter your mind. Make it clear to them that you value their time and effort and are reliable and trustworthy," adds Lachwani.
Check out our free email templates that you can steal for reaching out to influencers!
3. Offer complete creative control
Providing creative freedom is the first step in strengthening your connection further. It shows you trust the influencers' creativity and skills and are giving them a chance to represent your brand in the best way possible. Plus, influencers work best when they completely control the narrative they want to share with their followers, resulting in authentic and engaging content.
"Influencers know what resonates with their audience better than we do. They should be the ones leading the creative process, not following strict orders from brands and agencies," said Katy Tenerovich, Director of social strategy, Carmichael Lynch, to DigiDay.
Many influencers prefer working with brands that do not interfere in the creative process. It makes their content seem inauthentic and fake, creating distrust among the followers. Celina Blanche, one of the top TikTok creators, addresses this in an interview with Cure Media. She says, "Being flexible is super important for brands because I think a campaign would flop if the brand interfered too much. As an influencer, I know my audience best."
In the same interview, another famous social media influencer and TikTok star Lovisa Wallin, said, “I think for me, the best collaborations are when I get to choose how I want to make the video for a brand I'm collaborating with. I can have my own imagination to create a video that is more spontaneous and authentic.”
Check out the full article where Wallin and Blanche pinpoint the common mistakes that destroy a TikTok creator campaign.
4. Request feedback and improve
Asking your influencers for constructive feedback and including them in the ideation process is a foolproof way to establish a communicative relationship.
Brands like Gymshark, Pretty Little Things, and Visible appoint influencers as creative directors for ideation and strategic influencer marketing approach. In February 2023, Visible Wireless partnered with comedian and influencer Benito Skinner, aka Benny Drama, to roll out a Singles' Awareness Day campaign.
The American virtual network operator has hired Benny as a creative director to incorporate his point of view. With a high percentage of Gen Z and millennial followers, Benny was able to help the brand execute a campaign that appealed to the younger audience segment.
Such partnerships let the creator know their ideas and feedback are valued, forming a solid relationship.
To develop incredible content strategies, include influencers in creative discussions and content briefings. Ask their thoughts and suggestions, and try to put them into practice. The practice not only makes the influencers feel respected but also boosts the efficiency of their content.
5. Provide mutual value exchange
Influencers expect brands to take care of their needs. They won't stick around for long if the partnership is not mutually beneficial. To avoid this, offer them meaningful incentives beyond compensation that can help them succeed.
For effective influencer relationship management, Kurt Uhlir, the globally-recognized marketer, operator, and speaker, suggests:
- Offer influencers unique and valuable content, experiences, or opportunities that align with their interests and their audience's needs.
- Invite them to exclusive product launches, behind-the-scenes experiences, or expert interviews.
- Provide them with resources or information that can enhance their content and make it more valuable to their audience.
You can opt for an affiliate influencer marketing model to incentivize your influencers based on their performance. An affiliate model allows you to track the sales driven by influencers through links and codes and reward them for their performance. This enables individual influencers to perform better and earn for what they drive, building stronger brand influencer relationships.
Role of AI-driven influencer relationship management platforms
AI-backed influencer marketing platforms help create deeper relationships with the influencers. The platforms automate your entire campaigns allowing you to focus on the things that matter—building strong connections. With influencer marketing tools like affable.ai, you can do everything in one app, from identifying creators to managing communications and measuring their performance.
According to Guerrero, "Influencer marketing platforms highlight the brands and organizations influencers have partnered with multiple times and show what return may look like. They also show what brands/organizations influencers prefer and what languages they prefer to develop content in. This way, they create authentic relationships that allow influencers to be genuine and true to who they are.”
Being an excellent influencer relationship management softwares, these platforms enable you to choose the right communication channels, A/B test influencer outreach and messaging, and evaluate email acceptance rate. With such data-backed insights you can tweak and improvise your outreach approach, increasing the chances of onboarding top-performing influencers.
The best influencer relationship management softwares are packed with incredible features that:
- Streamline communication
- Manage bulk influencers
- Track real-time performance and content
- Allow content approval
- Provide insights into message open, delivery and click rate
- Simplify product gifting and payments
- And a lot more!
Evidently, influencer platforms are game changing for managing influencer relationships! Request a free trial to learn how these platforms can transform your campaigns.