As founder of Scope, influencer search (scopeapp.io), I work with brands on a daily basis. All of whom have founded their business around influencers, or decided to bring the work with influencers in-house. These brands work with hundreds, sometimes thousands of influencers per month.
Finding good employees is challenging for any business. Likewise, finding good influencers is challenging for brands. Harder though, aside from finding promising profiles through data and engagement rates, is retaining influencers - just like employees.
In March 2019, when H&M evaluated their influencer strategy, one question circled: "Are we getting the most ROI of our influencers or is it a "one and done" approach?"
After concluding that they had previously gone with a one and done approach, they began brainstorming around building long-term strategies and lasting relationships.
As influencer marketing has matured, influencers get more collaboration proposals. Influencers see this as an opportunity, as they quickly can get cash from brands that are new to the space and rely on one-off collaborations. Might sound obvious, but just like you wouldn’t buy a Maldive trip on your first date, it’s not sustainable.
In short, one-offs are expensive, hard to predict and sustain ROI and growth. Long-term relationships require hard work, but will pay off in the long haul putting you on a path to sustainable growth.
H&M decided to turn their influencers into ambassadors. The H&M League was created, where H&M carefully selected profiles whos aligned with the brand and its values. Ethnicity, body positivity, sexual orientation, families, abilities and disabilities were considered. Influencers that participated in the program committed to a one year relationship.
With this initiative, H&M could minimize risk and evaluate ambassadors on a year to year basis to decide whom they would want to continue working with. Another way to minimize risk is to start with the long-tail.
Start contacting micro influencers. This will help you find your influencer audience, and know whether you have a great product. A common trait of our customers that do well with influencers, is that they have an ROI positive strategy with micro influencers.
Work with micros, grow with micros. Influencers that have been with a brand for years live its culture and stand for its products. These influencers attract their circles to follow their decisions. The more loyal your influencers are, the more frequently they will mention you. Finding people like this is invaluable for any business. You should not work with anyone that won’t want to work with you in the long haul.
If you have gained brand awareness, try to find influencers that have shown signs of interest for your brand. For example, look through your followers or activity. This will increase your chances of reply and collaboration.
As mentioned earlier, most of the brands we work with have founded their business around influencers. What they all have in common is that none of them started with paid influencer collaborations, but instead barter deals. I’m sure this is one of the reasons why they have succeeded.
Non-paid collaborations (often referred to as barter deals) is a strategy where the brand gift their product in exchange for exposure. This is good for many reasons.
First, non-paid collabs pushes you to find influencers that are proud to be associated with you, and genuinely interested in using your products, not one-offs starring blind for $.
Second, the influencer have most probably done this more than you. They know that good collaborations lead to more products and paid collaborations.
Along the journey, influencers grow their follower base. While others get expensive on-off deals, you’ll be seen more as a friend to the influencer rather than yet another annoying “business partner”. You’ll get better and cheaper collabs, the influencer will also be more genuine in your collaborations, just like they would with any friend.
Once you know which smaller influencers that loves you, identify bigger influencers (macro) that are influential to these micro influencers.
Last, re-contact and follow up. This is what differentiates great brands from good ones.
Once profiles have posted, follow up and give your thoughts on the post. "Just saw the post, beautiful! Thanks for the collab!". When you contact for a new collaboration they should have a very positive experience of working with you before. Still, do not take anything for granted. Another idea is to reward performing profiles on a set time, for example the top 50 loyal profiles might get: “Here’s a Christmas present, we’re very happy to be working with you, and honored that you’re a part of our family”.
The influencer space is more crowded than ever. In summary, to succeed be thoughtful and do the opposite of what lazy actors do. To succeed, start with micro influencers, don’t fall for one-offs, instead build long-lasting relationships.