The marketing world continues to crank up influencer marketing budgets, and with good reason. An assortment of brands are experiencing benefits of influencer marketing campaigns firsthand. For an industry expected to reach $5-10 billion by 2020, not much stands in the way of influencers steering the ship. That is, so long as the marketers investing in the strategy continue to treat it as a relationship, rather than just a business deal.
As with any relationship, it’s probably a good idea for all parties involved to have a vested interest in sustaining the partnership. Lopsided relationships cause misalignment when it comes to measuring the return of the investment. Just as influencers invest in building long-term relationships with their audiences, brands need to have the foresight to invest in long-term influencer relationships.
An influencer relationship doesn’t just come about. At the outset, a marketer normally identifies a target and/or niche audience, then researches individuals who have influence among that demographic. Once vetted, the marketer reaches out to key influencers to express interest in arranging a mutually beneficial agreement. Assuming the influencers say yes, the marketer can get the ball rolling by outlining the campaign and collaborating with—not controlling—influencers.
But what ensures this partnership will actually evolve into something impactful? The answer often lies in clarity around the goals, the audience, and the trust between parties. If a brand has thoroughly defined long-term goals, a closely aligned target audience, and has done their research when selecting influencers, then the activation should have long-lasting and fruitful effects.
Take it from beauty influencer, James Charles, who firmly believes brands owe it to themselves, their audience, the industry, and influencers to conduct proper research on which influencers to partner with. His hope is that the influencer space will be considered more legitimate as brands invest more in the long-term strategy: “Hopefully, [longer term, more traditional ambassadorships] will take scrutinization off of the influencer space, so we can be taken more seriously.”
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Based on interviews with social media content creators, Crowdtap pulled together some telling data regarding the state of influencer marketing. Influencers cited several factors that make them likely to partner with brands more than once, such as compensation and alignment of values. The most common reason cited, however, was creative freedom.
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We all know how important it is to feel confident when we smile ⭐️ I have always been happy with my teeth but I must admit that since wearing traditional braces a few years ago they have moved a little and wanted to get them perfect again but without the hustle of wearing visible, high maintenance braces. That’s why when I researched and learnt more about @invisalignukie I had no doubt this was exactly what I needed to correct my smile! Already had my initial consultation with @dremmalaing at @harleystreetdentalclinic where after the easiest scan I could see how the final result will look like and literally can’t wait to get started! #invisalign #smilesquad #ad #studio4lara
Fashion influencer Irene Lara discusses how she decides to partner with brands that naturally align with her style: “When I work with a brand it’s because it’s something I really like, wear, or use in my daily life. I always try to test the products I’m showcasing to give a real and clear message to my followers. Luckily, I also work with a lot of brands I’ve been using for years, so I always keep it honest.”
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INFLIGHTENMENT ✈️??♀️✨ 30,000ft in the air, and never felt so grounded ?? So thankful to have had the opportunity to be on board @virginaustralia for the world’s first ever in-flight guided meditation! And also thankful this sort of self-soothing tool is being recognised and introduced more prevalently in society! It is such a simple solution to so many overwhelming emotions and feelings! And the perfect tool for anyone who gets a little (or a lot!) anxious whilst flying/travelling. So sit down, buckle up, and enjoy being soothed and soak up the benefits of meditation on board your next trip!! ? @virginaustralia @smilingmind
Social media empress, Sjana Elise, echoes Irene’s devotion to authentic influencer relationships: “I think that is the most important part of being an influencer is being selective about who you do and don’t work with. Not only do I want to ensure that it is a brand I respect and support, but I also want to ensure the product is either something I do use, will use, or genuinely love. That way, the collaboration is genuine and not forced…Brand synergy and resonance is essential to maintaining quality posts and an authentic relationship with your followers!”
Fitness influencer, Tammy Hembrow, expresses similar sentiments regarding two brands she has a special affinity for: “I love Women’s Best, I have partnered with them for a while now and I personally use their products every day so it made sense to work with them. I also love Fashion Nova…If you scroll through my Instagram you will come across a lot of Fashion Nova because they have pieces for every occasion…”
No doubt, authenticity helps maintain an engaged audience, but Irene, Sjana, and Tammy allude to the significance of supporting brands whose products they’ve been using or plan to use long-term. This factor alone builds trust with their audiences who come to understand the influencers’ true preferences. It also demonstrates the branding power that can arise when both parties invest in long-term influencer relationships.
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To boost longevity and authenticity, several brands have reinvigorated their influencer marketing strategies with long-term partnerships. Sephora previously worked with influencers on a one-off basis, which usually entailed intermittent campaigns and less genuine messaging. Realizing the diminishing returns of sporadic collaborations, Sephora invested in a long-term brand ambassador program. Says Deborah Yeh, the company’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand, “Developing [this kind of] partnership unlocks a lot more opportunities for us to be authentic and brings a level of continuity.”
Additionally, CEO of influencer platform Influential, Ryan Detert notes, “Recently, influencer contracts have become more in line with traditional talent contracts.” This shift to longer contracts has made waves in the industry, and it explains why influencers often act as the face of brands they partner with rather than just a random product promoter. Founder of law firm Hashtag Legal, Jamie Lieberman has also observed a rise in the amount of agreements that contract influencers six months to a year as opposed to just one time. The legalities of long-term contracts also help ensure influencers avoid controversy.
The wait is over! ? We are so excited to announce that we have collaborated with @tangleteezer on our own Tangle Teezers! This is such a dream collaboration for us and working with Tangle Teezer on this project has been so fun! Lydia and I have designed 2 compact stylers! ? pic.twitter.com/XAUpWmjl5r
— LUCYΛNDLYDIΛ (@LucyAndLydia) May 29, 2018
Better yet, long-term partnerships have the power to turn into influencer-brand product collaborations. Whether creating a joint fashion line, new beauty products, influencers and brands have the makings of a more creative and impactful force.
When deciding whether or not to engage in long-term influencer relationships, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of one-off vs. longer-term contracts. There will be times when broadcasting your message across multiple influencers on a one-off basis meets the needs of a given campaign, but if sustaining lifetime value is important, then well-nurtured partnerships offer a better route to this goal.
Influencers often only work with brands that fit into their life, just as any normal customer would only buy products they need. Investing in long-term relationships empower brands on a level that one-off collaborations simply don’t attain.
As influencer marketing continues to grow and secure larger portions of brands’ marketing budgets, it will be equally as important to sustain the growth and success of meaningful influencer partnerships. We have a proven track record of long-term influencer relationships here at Mediakix, and we encourage brands looking to harness influencer marketing to invest in the long-haul.