Influencer Activation: Best Ways to Activate Influencer Relationships

Influencer Activation: The 8-Step Process to Best Activate Influencer Relationships

Now that influencer marketing has become a major force in the business landscape, more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, even smaller brands have found that their business can grow if they just let influencers introduce them to customers through their social feeds. Furthermore, for an increasing number of businesses, there are influencers already interested in their brand.

Whether an influencer has existing brand affinity or is previously unfamiliar with a company, the first step is to activate influencer relationships. Doing this effectively requires several steps, to forge a healthy relationship with the influencer in question, and to make sure that the influencer content being put out across social platforms meets the standards and goals of both you and the influencer in question.

1. Define Your Target Audience and Goals

Define Your Target Audience and Goals

Before you try to activate influencer programs or set a metaphorical foot into an influencer marketplace, it is important to know your goals and target audience. One reason for this is that the influencers you choose need to appeal to your target audience. The type of influencer marketing campaign you choose will help dictate which influencers you use.

For example, let’s say you want to appeal to Millennials with a relatively high income. This is a niche market where consumers have significant money to spend, but they don’t necessarily buy a lot of “old fashioned” brands. To reach this audience, you will probably do best with someone who is young and has upscale taste. Alternatively, you can go with an influencer that is older but does a good job of appealing to the young. 

When defining your audience and goals, it is also important to consider whether you would best like to use micro – influencers or influencers who are larger and more thoroughly established. There are all types of influencers in the influencer marketing industry, and the influencer marketing strategies that you pursue will be greatly informed by decisions you make regarding influencer size and scale, business goals, and ideal audience. 

2. Discover the Right Influencers to Activate

Finding the right influencer is probably the hardest part of the job. With so many influencers competing for your business on a given influencer marketing platform, the variety of choices can seem overwhelming. Picking the right one–and even the right influencer platform–can result in a highly rewarding collaboration. On the other hand, if you activate influencer collaborations with the wrong person, you can lose your money or worse. To discover the right content creators for your campaign, make sure you:

Find some good people

First, find some good people

If you know what kind of influencer to look for, there are plenty of influencer discovery tools to help you. Google is your friend, but so is the social media network you hope to influence. Dedicated influencer discovery tools are there to help brands and influencers find each other to develop influencer posts. Besides third-party sources, I always recommend that brands look in their own backyard for influencers by searching through social media followers and existing influential customers.

Determine who is suitable

Keep in mind: even influencers who are good choices for your brand overall won’t be appropriate for every collaboration. Maybe they are excellent at doing Instagram Stories, but wouldn’t do well with IGTV. A YouTuber who has an excellent beauty channel might not capture the same thoughts well on Instagram or TikTok. When you’re ready to activate influencer campaigns, think carefully about who you choose and the type of authentic connections you are trying to develop.

Further Reading: How Your Brand Can Build Your Own Influencer Database

3. Engage in Influencer Outreach

Although an influencer will never work 9-5 for you, reaching out to influencers is somewhat similar to hiring an employee. You need to announce your intention to form a relationship and then move on to mutually beneficial arrangements. A conversation with influencers requires some degree of awareness and finesse, so make sure you have your ducks in a row in the form of monetary expectations, campaign duration, and preferred content before you reach out. Some ways to effectively reach out include: 

Consider freebies

Consider freebies

With influencers, this can be done several ways. For example, some companies send samples of their product to people who are influencers without a specific collaboration agreement. For many companies, this is part of a public relations strategy. Here, the point is to introduce yourself and see what the influencer does with your offering. Activate influencer collaborations on a more planned basis if they do a good job.

Getting down to business

Another way to do influencer outreach is through messaging or emailing. Introduce yourself and let influencers know you are interested in working with them. Make some observations about their work, because they probably get a large amount of pitches every week. No matter what approach you choose, make sure they see a relationship with your company as potentially valuable.

4. Move Influencers through Your Influencer Pipeline

Once you have influencers willing to work with you, it’s time to discuss a potential project. Let them know what your goal is and see what they recommend. Compensation needs to be discussed, as do the level of editorial control and regulatory expectations you have in mind. Keep in mind, you or the influencer might decide that the campaign goals and influencer don’t match. However, if they’re interested in future work, then keep them in your influencer pipeline. You have worked hard to nurture this relationship, so hold onto it for future campaigns if previous interactions or campaigns proved to be a positive experience. It’s often possible to activate influencer relationships at the right time, even if the relationship isn’t an ongoing one.

Let discussions percolate

If you find it is necessary to dialogue with a different influencer, don’t be discouraged. There are many influencers out there, and you should soon find the right person. Influencer marketing is more relationship-based than most other marketing disciplines, largely because the services provided are so personal. As a businessperson, it can be hard to realize that influencer marketing blends personal and business relationships, because this asks an influencer to introduce you to their friends. Think of influencers more like your sales staff or a networking meetup rather than a hired service. By doing this, you’ll be more likely to attract and retain influencers within your pipeline. Then, you can activate them when the time is right.

5. Sign a Contract with an Influencer

Signing a Contract with an Influencer

Just like any other business matter, when you activate influencer relationships for pay, there needs to be a contract. The first reason for this is simple: although the service provided is personal, it’s still a business expense. Depending on the amount of money and tax jurisdictions involved, there might be reporting requirements. By signing a contract, you will be able to demonstrate the monetary value of these relationships when necessary. Another reason to sign a contract is that it provides security for both parties. Money is being exchanged for services, so there needs to be a written guarantee that the exchange will happen as agreed. Activating influencer relationships without one means inviting disaster.

Proper influencer contracts lay out expectations. Besides the services for money clauses, you need to include wording that protects your company. For instance, both a company and influencers can get fined by the FTC if certain rules are broken. And, depending on your brand, there might need to be expectations about influencer conduct. Be sure to reach out to legal counsel for appropriate wording before drawing up your contracts.

Further Reading: How to Create a Rock-Solid Influencer Contract (+ 8 Sample Influencer Agreement Templates)

6. Create and Implement Your Influencer Marketing Campaign

Once legal matters have been settled, the fun part begins. As you activate influencer campaigns, the chosen individual will create content. Depending on the stipulations of your contract, you can have a greater or lesser amount of editorial control. Creativity is what influencers do best, so I generally encourage brands and businesses to allow them a relatively large amount of freedom. Within these parameters, though, there are several considerations to take into account. The ideas to consider may include:

  • Single pieces of content, where the influencer will make sponsored postings. Sometimes this means a series of small items, such a daily or weekly post on Instagram Stories. Methods can be anything from educational discussions to reviews.
  • Giveaways or contests, where the influencer acts as “host” to a little competition on their social media account. These tend to be very popular and they’re a lot of fun.
  • Product unboxing, which involves the influencer discovering something along with their followers. These typically take not only the product into account, but also the packaging and delivery, so plan accordingly. 

Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s engaging. This helps both the brand and the influencer.

Further Reading: 10 Steps to Creating a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

7. Measure Your Performance

Measure Your Performance

Once you activate influencer creativity, it is critical to measure campaign performance. Your definitions of success, and the metrics chosen, will depend a lot on the type and goal of your campaign. For instance, if the overall goal is brand awareness, then “likes” and “shares” are a great metric to watch. Positive changes in your social listening results can also signal that the brand awareness campaign was successful. When brand awareness is achieved, people will talk about your brand more often. Just make sure those comments are positive.

Alternatively, your goal might be a direct increase in sales. While engagement and awareness numbers are easy to track with most analytics software, sales tracking is a bit more difficult because customers might not buy immediately. Fortunately, there are ways to combat this problem. Using affiliate links and coupon codes are great ways to incentivize a prompt purchase and track the source of your leads. Cookies placed on a special influencer-specific landing page can also help, especially with later purchases.

Further Reading: Influencer Marketing ROI: The Ultimate Guide to Measuring It the Right Way

8. Nurture Relationships with (High Performing) Influencers

Just like any other kind of employee or contractor, there needs to be accountability for influencer performance. When you activate influencer collaborations, it’s always done for a business purpose rather than camaraderie. Even if your marketing department is completely in control of its budget, you need to ensure that lower performing influencers are eliminated from your program.

On the other side of the coin, the best influencers should be worked with on a somewhat regular basis. For instance, consider a brand ambassador program where their brand grows with yours. If this is too expensive, think about paying for regular projects or campaigns. Invite them to speak at a conference for long-lasting impact if this applies to your brand.

Most importantly, make sure that high performing influencers feel valued. Influencers who feel neglected are more likely to “jump ship” and support a different brand. Worse, they might talk about how you didn’t treat them well. By valuing your influencer relationships, you can both maintain them for the long term and prevent PR disasters.

Using these steps, you can encourage a positive brand reputation, develop mutually beneficial relationships with influencers, and nurture ongoing growth and exposure.

Further Reading: What is a Social Media Brand Ambassador and How to Leverage Them for Influencer Marketing

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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