Influencer Basics: Best Practices for Working with Social Influencers

What is a social influencer? To a brand, a social influencer (typically a blogger) can create new audiences, build brand loyalty among their dedicated following and promote great content that gives context to a product. In addition to having a bigger following than a brand, influencers are also more trusted resources.

With an oversaturated digital marketplace and steep competition for consumers' attention, brands are finally understanding the importance of including influencer marketing in the mix - but do they also understand what makes an influencer tick? Here are some best practices for working with social influencers, from the proper way to pitch and compensate bloggers to building and maintaining an ongoing relationship.

1. Have a vetting checklist ready. Finding the right social influencers for your brand will take work. Search through all social media platforms relevant to your brand or enlist a "Community Manager" to find potential matches. To ensure your partnership will be a success, create a list of set questions to determine if a certain blogger is right for your brand or campaign. Questions can include:

  • What is his/her area of influence? Is it beauty and fashion, health, food, or maybe technology?
  • What social channels does he/she use? Are these the channels where your target audience frequents?
  • How marketing-savvy is he/she with her own brand?
  • Does he/she frequently engage with her audience?

2. Set all partnership expectations from the get-go (with a contract!). Once you've found and selected the influencers who are ready to show love for your brand, ensure all details are in place. This includes deadlines, content requirements, disclaimers and disclosures, termination parameters and more. Don't forget to take the influencers' requirements into consideration, as well. Most are after two things: recognition for their content creation and compensation. In order to leverage their partnership with your brand, influencers may want to be recognized on your website and social channels, invited to brand-sponsored events, or request you run paid advertising on their sites.

3. Compensate bloggers for their work accordingly. Influencers are today's online tastemakers, and their opinion is valued above all else by their loyal follower base. Therefore, influencers are not going to work for free and should never be expected to do so. However, the "going rate" for each influencer is going to be different, and each may accept a varying degree of cash, products, trips, gift cards, etc. as compensation. The amount you compensate depends on the ask, their level of reach and expertise and other factors. Expect to pay for blog posts, videos, social posts, event attendance, live broadcasts and anything else that requires influencers to take time out of their day to give your brand the exposure you desire.

4. Integrate social influencers into your overall marketing plan. If you silo the influencers you partner with from the other aspects of your overall marketing strategy, you're essentially dismissing the "of the people" perspective and influence they can bring to your campaign. Influencers have the ultimate social clout, so why not utilize that expertise within your own social channels? Influencers can also be full of innovative ideas to help with your PR efforts.

5. "Date" the influencers you are working with. First and foremost, social influencers are not puppets for your brand. You should get to know them as more than a Twitter handle or blog URL. Like any relationship, that requires some work on your end. Get to know your influencers by asking questions, listening and understanding--as you would with any prospective employee or new friend. By knowing more about who they are, you can provide influencers with product information that is relevant to their interest and audiences, which makes it easier for them to craft natural stories about your brand. Authenticity is key in these relationships and that can only be cultivated with experience, transparency and communication. Don't expect a couple of emails or a brief Twitter correspondence to make the cut.

In today's sharing world, influencers are re-writing the rules on communicating with consumers. They are the gatekeepers to dedicated and trusted social followings. Sending a stock email and a product as compensation will get you nowhere. If you put in the time to establish a worthy partnership, social influencers will give back quality work--ten times over. They are the preeminent builders of brand loyalty, after all; make sure you treat them as such.

[By Amy Callahan] [Read More] [Image from luckymag]