Have you been asking yourself: “What Influencer Relations Strategy Should I Use?” If so, you are not alone. Everyone one is seems has a different answer. Yet, I think there is only one solution.
Many brands approach influencers with a “spray and pray” model. This means they target a lot of influencers by paying them money and hoping something good will happen. It might work, for a moment. It will not work over time.
Because your goal should be the creation of a web of influencers not an army style, says influencer and social media expert Sarah Conley, you need to think about sustainable influencer relationships. An army of influencers means a mass number of people willingly obeying the commands of whomever is in charge at any given time. They will follow the leader with the money and they will share the messages of that commander. A social web of influencers is a much different thing. By creating one, you are sowing long term seeds that will have a much bigger impact on your brand at a much lower cost.
“Building a web of people is calculated,” says Conley. “It’s about creating deep relationships and opportunities with a small number of people. Those people will act as your beacons within their specific communities. Then other influencers will come to you. You will be creating a web of people who want to be associated with you.”
A web is dependent on the center to exist. A brand becomes the center. The first round of influencers are the first nodes on the web. Those who come next form another node and another circle around the first layer of influencers and the brand. Think of a rock thrown into the water and a ripple that forms. This social spread continues organically until you have a large network of influencers who are in mutually supporting relationships and act as natural extensions of the brand.
“Brands move too fast. They try to do too much at once and we (influencers) can see right through it,” Conley added. She says there are brands she doesn’t work with because they clearly don’t care about her but see her instead as a conduit to her audience. Those are the brands trying to build armies.
“My job is to protect my reader. I have the power to sway people’s opinions, but keeping their trust is very important to me.” So when brands act in an inauthentic manner, she becomes worried about how that brand will treat her audience. In the end, because she practices authenticity with her readers, she wants to see brands be authentic with her, as well.
Authenticity can be a squishy word. In Content Rules, the authors Ann Handley and CC Chapman define authenticity in the following way: “When we say to be authentic, we mean you should make it clear that your stuff has the stamp of an actual person or actual people and that person or those people have the qualities… that make for a compelling approach to content as a solid foundation for the start of your relationship with your audience. You should also be comfortable being who you are.” This is exactly what Sarah means – she wants to work with brands who are comfortable and transparent about being who they are with her and with her readers.
“It’s fascinating when you see a brand, and I’ve been with brands that have done this, work with a big name, big money social media celebrity and yet, they don’t get the results they want. Often, it is because that person isn’t actually in an authentic relationship with their readers. They don’t have real influence because they haven’t built real trust.” If a brand is searching for a set number of followers, rather than engagement, then the influencer work will be less successful.
As a healthcare communications advisor for the past fifteen years, Steve Campanini, CCO of Splash Media and a former VP at Tenant Health, understands the role that trust plays in the ability of a company to deliver on its mission. Trust is more paramount in healthcare than in virtually any other industry because healthcare is so intimate. In many ways, your healthcare provider knows more intimate details about you than anyone else. Steve believes that trust is built in two ways: transparency in your actions and connection to your community. Anyone trying to build deep relationships with their audience needs both.
Trust and authenticity form a two-way street. Brands must show those qualities and they must look for influencers who possess them. Ultimately embracing an approach that centers around trust and authenticity is the cornerstone of creating your own web. This network will then be your conduit to create partnerships that drive awareness and sales.
Many of you may already be engaging with influencers. Likely, you have fans who are already commenting, tweeting, posting. Possibly, you have people who are active, engaged AND have their own valuable following. Have you asked them to post or share content? Have you invited them into your store, sent them samples or asked for their opinions?
If not, get out there and galvanize your audience. The first step of influencer strategy is to work with the influencers you already have. If you are thinking about creating a web, it is easiest to start with those who are already brand affiliated. You could create an “advisory board” of influencers who will help you figure out who else to target; they will easily be able to spot the authentic and engaged in their peer circles. As Amanda Duncan, influencer marketing manager at Microsoft says, “look inward. Who has tagged you in their posts? Who has already engaged with your brand by sharing your content? Those people are already influencers working for you. How are you rewarding or engaging with them already? It may be more effective to work with them than to look for someone new.”
So take stock. To get started, ask yourself this:
- How do you currently engage with influencers?
- Do you have influencers already who you are not engaging with?
- What would you need to make that a more strategic manner of engagement?
- What would be your goals in engaging more individuals?