By John Heavey
For many brand marketers, working with influencers is a regular part of the annual marketing plan. But on the other side, not many brands have experience working with an influencer (preferred term, creator) to connect with brands, negotiate partnerships and enhance the creator's personal branding and overall content strategy. But we have.
Suki Cat, a high-profile creator from a previous brand partnership, enlisted us to manage all this and more for a community of millions of fans. This unique connection to Instagram’s and Netflix’s most notable traveling Bengal cat gave us a rare and insightful look on the other side of the creator relationship by coordinating partnerships with globally recognized brands. This experience has helped us enhance programs with other creators on behalf of our clients. After two years of working together, these are the five most important learnings on how to get the most out of your influencer partnerships.
1. Avoid Overly Promotional Content
As a brand, performance metrics are crucial in proving the influencer program a success. Metrics such as impressions, engagements, swipe ups and video consumption are common KPIs. For our creator, we carefully analyzed these metrics in various A/B tests and found that the best way to boost creator content is to allow the messaging to be both inspirational and authentic.
How much better are we talking? Brands can consistently achieve 25% higher results in their influencer programs if the creators are empowered to publish content that is genuine, inspiring and tells a story as opposed to strong promotional or low-funnel sales messages. When this approach was taken, we consistently saw audience reach skyrocket, content view time increase and website traffic rise sharply
2. Give Them a Reason to Believe
Sure, you’re paying the creator to promote your brand, but authenticity is key. If they don’t believe in what you’re doing, it will come off that way. Or worse, they’ll pass on working with you altogether.
If your brand values environmentalism or donates a percentage of proceeds to a noble cause, these are things you should share with the creator. They’ll not only be more inspired to work with you, but they might even give you a discount or add in an extra post to promote your goodwill efforts. If your brand lacks a unique or differentiating purpose or reason to believe, the right creator or creator management team should be able to help bring out that brand essence in a meaningful way.
3. Posts Are Only the Beginning
When discussing program deliverables, the common ask is a set number of posts. This usually means your brand is interested in the reach and audience. But there’s another side less frequently considered: production. Often, these influencers are hyper-talented creative professionals who are capable of creating assets other than social posts.
In partnering with creators, consider discussing rights to content for a set amount of time. This can be used for a variety of purposes and you might need to produce these assets anyway. Consider working with them to create cover photos, highlight videos, blogs or social ad creative. Of course, this includes discussing things like universal, exclusive, digital or perpetual rights. It’s important to clearly understand your needs and fair values before opening those conversations.
4. Create a Campaign Brief
As marketers, we’re very close to our brands, often living their lifestyle. It’s easy to forget nuances and client needs that seem obvious but might need extra communication. Do models in your ski or boat brand need helmets or life vests? Does your product need to be used a certain way? Is there a specific tone you need to communicate or avoid?
The best way to handle this and avoid awkward re-shoot situations is to proactively outline your needs in an easy to understand brief and make time to run through this with the creator. It’s good to be transparent about these needs at the very beginning of conversations and again before production.
5. Don’t Burn Any Bridges
Creators make a living by talking to people, so it’s no surprise that they often talk to other creators. Just like marketers, they attend award shows, niche events and might have even become friends with another creator while working on a job together. And don’t forget to consider the likelihood that they are active in private social media groups specific to their niche (like we often are). It’s not a stretch to think that these creators could discuss past partnership experiences before signing on.
Like with all business and personal relationships, being fair, respectful and steadfast can go a long way. Things like knowing fair value of an exclusive, perpetual digital asset license or the average CPM of an Instagram post might come in handy. Knowing realistic timelines or the importance of balancing authenticity might too. It could mean opening a partnership door that you might not have otherwise opened.
About the Author:
As Content Manager at Hoffman York, John Heavey has provided strong social strategies and a dedication to sparking passion in the digital space for clients like Sazerac, Montana Tourism, Yamaha, Kohler, Black and Decker, Wisconsin Lottery and Wahl in addition to playing agent for three high-profile Influencers. His clients consistently see strong ROI and have won notable awards and gained media attention.