Influencer marketing is one of the hottest industry topics in 2017, but not everyone fully understands the distinction between influencer marketing and influencer relations. If you want to implement a successful influencer program, you’d better have a strong foundation on which to build it. You have to sow the seeds of rapport before the brand/tastemaker relationship can bloom—and social is the Miracle Grow to make it happen. At its core, influencer relations shares a lot of common ground with social media. The brands that understand how to connect and integrate the two are the ones that will have the benefit of strong influencer relations AND social media programs in the long haul.
The traditional semantics of building relationships hasn’t changed—the tools and platforms have. But as with any relationship, these things take time. Sure, it would be great if there was an app that allowed you to connect with prominent, brand-appropriate influencers near you. But we’re talking about developing meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships, here—and swiping right just isn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately, the “courting” phase of the relationship building process is often overlooked, as brands skip right to paid engagements. But believe me when I tell you, that’s a big mistake. I’m not saying you have to wine and dine your prospective influencers, but there’s something to be said for taking it slow (and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of wooing here and there!).
Social media is the perfect place to begin warming up those influencer relationships, making sure they’re primed and ready for strategic benefit. To make it easier, we’ve broken it down into 9 simple tactics social marketers can use to cultivate those influencer relationships:
#1. Tune in:
Create curated lists of influencers. This makes it easy to monitor and hone in on conversations. Cap your lists at around 10 people so you have a manageable size to work with, and make sure to check in at least once a day—every day.
#2. Sharing is caring:
Get the attention of your influencers by regularly sharing and promoting their social content on your own profiles. This is low hanging fruit! It’s easy to incorporate into your day-to-day social media activities, and can have a huge impact on your influencer relationships. Just make sure to credit their profiles and backlink to original content.
#3. Spread the love:
Post a favorable review of the influencer’s product on your blog, and then share it on social. Better yet, generate some original content (a snap, image, video, etc.) that showcases you using the product in a real-life scenario.
#4. Shout outs:
Look for opportunities to spotlight influencers in your content. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them for a quote or a piece of advice to use in your own blog or graphics. (Social Tribe did this recently for our 2017 Predictions blog and it was a big hit with the influencers we reached out to!)
#5. Engage meaningfully:
Leave a meaty, worthwhile comment on the influencer’s most recent blog post. Beware, fluff won’t fly here. Make sure you do your homework and read through their content comprehensively so that you can offer perspective or insights that truly add value.
#6. Solicit their opinion:
Credibility counts and when you’re soliciting someone else’s opinion, as you’re indicating respect and authority. When posting a new piece of content, tag relevant influencers and invite them to contribute their opinion or reaction to your content. Sometimes asking a simple question like, “Hey @ABC – thought you’d get a kick out of this. What’s your take on XYZ?” is enough to get the party started.
#7. Why so serious:
We often make the mistake of limiting ourselves to communicating in a professional context, but in today’s world we’re really in the business of human-to-human connections. Make the effort to find out what personal interests spark your influencers’ attention and incorporate that into your ongoing engagement strategy. Even something as light-hearted as, “Saw XYZ and couldn’t pass up the share – hope this brightens your day!” can go a long way.
#8. Be helpful:
This ties back into social listening—into really understanding what is top of mind for your influencers. Once you have a handle on that, go the extra mile! Find resources that can address the problems they’re trying to solve and maybe even help them reach their goals.
#9. Hand over the (social) controls:
Once you’ve gained some real traction with your influencers, you can explore more sophisticated collaborations like social media takeovers. This involves giving an influencer control over your social media for a day, so that they can infuse your brand with their experience…and bring their community along for the ride.
Relationships aren’t easy—whether they’re plutonic, romantic, or influencer. But when you find the right person, they tend to be worth it. Just don’t sell your brand short and settle for a one-off engagement, when you’re really looking for a long-term commitment. Remember, influencer relations provide an advantageous platform for both the tastemaker AND the brand. So put your organization out there, and don’t be afraid to turn on the charm. Sure, you might not need to share that influencer’s blog post, just like you don’t need to bring your partner flowers every now and then. But hey—it couldn’t hurt!