Influencer marketing is one of the fastest-growing fields in marketing. In the last five years, it has grown more than five times, and in 2022, it’s reaching $16.4 billion.
Considering the increasing competition, brands have learned what works and what does not – and as more brands are turning to long-term collaborations, influencer relationship management has become a trending topic in the industry.
Let’s learn why it’s essential for marketers to turn their focus to influencer relationships and how you should manage your influencer relationships.
What is Influencer Relationship Management?
Influencer relationship management (IRM) refers to the practice of building and maintaining strategic relationships with influential individuals or content creators who have a significant impact on a target audience’s purchasing decisions and brand perceptions. IRM involves identifying, engaging, and nurturing relationships with relevant influencers to leverage their reach, credibility, and expertise for the benefit of a brand or organization.
An influencer program is an integral part of an overall influencer marketing strategy, which focuses on leveraging the power of influencers to promote products, services, or brand messages. Influencer marketing efforts encompass a range of activities, including identifying and engaging with influencers, co-creating content, and tracking campaign performance.
The process typically involves the following steps:
- Identification: The first step is to identify influencers who align with the brand’s target audience, values, and industry. This includes conducting research, analyzing social media platforms, and using specialized tools for influencer discovery. Social listening, which involves monitoring online conversations, can provide insights into the influencers who are already mentioning or discussing the brand.
- Outreach and Engagement: After potential influencers are identified, the brand reaches out to initiate a conversation and establish a connection. This step includes personalized outreach messages that demonstrate knowledge and appreciation for the influencer’s work. Building a genuine relationship is crucial in gaining the influencer’s trust and interest.
- Collaboration and Content Creation: After establishing a relationship, brands collaborate with influencers on various initiatives. Think: sponsored content, product reviews, guest blogging, social media takeovers, or co-creating content. The goal is to leverage the influencer’s creativity and expertise to create authentic, engaging content that resonates with their audience and aligns with the brand’s messaging.
- Relationship Nurturing: Influencer Relationship Management is an ongoing process that requires nurturing and maintaining relationships with influencers. This involves regular communication, providing support, and recognizing their contributions. Engaging with influencers beyond individual campaigns and fostering long-term partnerships helps build loyalty and strengthens the brand’s reputation among influencers and their followers.
- Performance Evaluation: Measuring the impact and effectiveness of influencer collaborations is essential. Brands track key performance metrics such as reach, engagement, website traffic, conversions, and sentiment analysis to evaluate the success of influencer marketing efforts. These insights help refine future influencer strategies and optimize the return on investment.
The Importance of Influencer Relationship Management
Due to the rapid growth of influencer marketing, marketers are facing increasing competition from influencers as well as consumers.
First, there is strong competition for high-quality influencers. Your goal is to build strong relationships with your influencers that they wouldn’t even consider working with a competitor.
Next, our social media feeds are overflowed with ads and sponsored posts. In this commercial chaos, authentic collaborations are the ones that stand out. As a marketer, your goal should be to find influencers who really use the product and are willing to sincerely recommend it to their followers.
Influencer marketing is evolving into relationship marketing. Instead of random one-off collaborations, brands and influencers are seeking authentic, sustainable partnerships. In fact, long-term partnerships are one of the most important trends we’re seeing in the influencer marketing industry.
Long-term collaborations feel more trustworthy, generate more touchpoints with potential customers, and thus, bring better results. As both parties learn to know each other, collaborations require less time.
Moreover, many brands are turning their best-performing influencers into brand ambassadors. In fact, brand ambassadorship is considered to be the most effective form of influencer marketing.
5 Steps to Managing Your Influencer Relationships
What does it actually take to build strong relationships with influencers? Here are 5 steps to managing your influencer relations.
1. Create an influencer onboarding plan
In the early phase of your collaboration, you should clearly communicate your expectations to the influencer. That might include providing your influencer with the following details:
- Brand guidelines. How would you introduce your product or service? What are the features you’d like to highlight? How do you want your brand to feel?
- Marketing goals. It might be generating brand awareness or increasing sales. If influencers know your goal, they can create their content and choose CTAs accordingly.
- Expected number of content. How many posts, stories, and videos monthly do you expect the influencer to create?
2. Give influencers creative freedom
Sincere recommendations and authentic content are what bring results in influencer marketing. That’s why brands need to give their influencers creative freedom.
Influencers know their audience the best: as they’ve been creating content for years, they know exactly what their followers like.
As a marketer, you should give influencers key information about your product, but you should also never give them strict guidelines on how to promote it. If you do, the collaboration might feel off for their followers and not bring the expected results.
3. Maintain open communication
As in every area of life, building influencer relationships requires time, honest communication, and mutual respect.
Try to establish a friendly, open, and trusting relationship with your influencers. On one hand, be willing to acknowledge your mistakes: for example, if you didn’t give them enough time to create high-quality content, have the courage to admit it.
On the other hand, encourage your influencers to turn to you whenever they have questions, comments, or troubles. That creates a trusting environment where both parties feel like they can be honest with each other.
4. Constantly nurture your relationship
Building influencer relationships is all about small details.
Follow them on social media and celebrate their wins. You also can send them surprise packages, remember their birthdays, and invite them to your press events.
That’s one reason to use an influencer management tool, so you can store contact and shipping information, preferences, birthdays, and previous campaigns’ results for every creator you work with.
5. Show that you value their work
Mutual respect and appreciation help with building relationships.
As a marketer, you can show appreciation simply by engaging with influencers on social media. If they mention you in a story, react with an emoji and repost the story to show that you value them. If they tag you in the post, react with a heart and write a short comment.
In addition to building relationships, repurposing influencer-generated content also helps you to build trust in the eyes of your audience.
6. Pay agreed compensation on time
When it comes to building trust, keeping your promises and deadlines is crucial – especially when it comes to payments.
As a brand, you should never undervalue the work that influencers do for you. Coming up with creative ideas, preparing a photo shoot, getting accessories, editing photos, and confirming the content takes way more time than you assume. Take these activities into account when compensating influencers.
Also, keeping promises is another crucial part of building relationships. If you’ve promised to do payouts on a certain date, make sure to do it. Late payments tend to cause worry and might become the reason why influencers end the relationship.
7. Analyze performance and growth together
You should agree on a reporting schedule. Many brands have a monthly briefing where they update their influencers with the last month’s results and the current month’s goals.
Based on your marketing goals, you can agree on the metrics to measure.
- If your goal is raising brand awareness, focus on reach and impressions.
- If your goal is improving brand image, focus on engagement-related metrics: likes, comments, saves, and new followers on your brand’s social media channels.
- If your goal is boosting sales, focus on discount code redemptions, the number of purchases, and revenue.
Analyzing the results together is an opportunity to give and receive feedback about the campaign’s performance. Constructive feedback helps influencers to become better – while positive feedback generates positive emotions and makes your relationship even stronger.
About the Author
Marelle Ellen is the CMO of Promoty: an influencer management tool that allows you to manage all your influencers, collaborations, and content in one place. Additionally, you can search for influencers worldwide and see their detailed insights.