By Jeff Cann
For as long as brands have been in the business of selling, they’ve also been in the business of building and leveraging relationships with influencers – hoping their opinions and authority might affect others and drive sales.
The concept of influencer marketing is nothing new, but what has changed throughout the years is how brands are establishing, nurturing, and leveraging these relationships.
Studies show the bigger influencers receive close to 10 opportunities to work with brands each week. Smart PR pros already know influencer marketing isn’t limited to “Let us tell you about X, now go talk about us.”
Brands that win are willing to try new tactics to engage influencers and build lasting relationships.
In today’s digital landscape, influencer marketing is likely already part of your game plan. The challenge is how to take your strategies to the next level. To help get you started, here are five ways you can strengthen influencer relationships.
Create a Feedback Loop
Influencer marketing should focus on building relationships and cultivating feedback, not just driving transactions. You won’t be successful if you simply treat influencers as sales tools. Instead, open up lines of communication and create opportunities for influencers to provide feedback on your products and services.
Give them early access to new products or a first crack at special content, offers, and news, and then ask them to share their thoughts with you. The influencer will appreciate the opportunity for their voice to be heard, and your brand can gain invaluable insights.
Co-creating content with influencers is an effective way to deepen relationships, and both sides have something to gain from it.
For example, earlier this year Marketwired partnered with TheCommunityManager.com to create a co-branded eBook in celebration of “Community Manager Appreciation Day.” By sharing insights and advice from seasoned community managers, the book helped reinforce TheCommunityManager.com as the go-to site for community management resources and information.
It also helped Marketwired build new relationships in this community, while also creating a meaningful spike in web traffic. In addition, the eBook received more than 25,000 views on Slideshare.
Lesson learned? Don’t be afraid to get creative. When you think beyond the blog, that’s where the magic happens.
Take the Relationship Offline
Plenty of companies use social media to identify and engage with influencers online, but savvy marketers take things one step further by creating experiences and interacting with influencers offline as well. Online jewelry retailer BaubleBar recently took online offline by hosting an in-person event for members of TheLi.st, a platform for accomplished, connected women.
At BaubleBar’s Soho popup shop, influencers were treated to a unique offline experience, including special discounts and freebies, as well as valuable networking with other members of TheLi.st. By creating a “real world” experience, the brand simultaneously deepened relationships with influencers, connected with new potential customers in their target demographic, and sparked user-generated content sharing online.
Showcase Influencers’ Expertise
When you first began researching influencers to connect with, you likely started your search by identifying the experts who were leading the conversation within your industry. Now that you’ve established a relationship with that person, why not give them an opportunity to share their expertise with your audience? This could be as simple as inviting them to become an expert panelist for a Twitter chat, or as complex as inviting them to join an “influencer advisory board.”
Surprise and Delight
In the words of author Spike Jones, “surprise and delights are just that — surprising and delighting.”
Take Outback, for example. In 2011, they decided to surprise one of their most loyal fans, Dave Parsons, by sending him a package of 40 gifts for his 40th birthday – along with a challenge to spread the love and share the gifts with 40 other people.
By making this super fan a brand rock star for the day, Outback deepened a key relationship and expanded its online footprint by sparking new conversations around the birthday festivities.
Influencer marketing takes time, creativity and attention, but when it results in credible buzz, increased sales, and new customers and business opportunities, it’s easy to see this as a wise investment of marketing dollars.
How are you engaging influencers?
P.S. We have Jay Baer joining us on August 29 for a free webinar about his new book, Youtility. You can register here.