Flings usually don’t result in positive or healthy relationships. Often, one party will want something more out of the short-term situation and when the other party can’t or won’t put in the same level of commitment, someone gets burned. We’ve all been there — probably on both sides of it. Yes, flings usually result in less than ideal, and not mutually valuable relationships. The same can be said for flings within the realm of influencer marketing.
Many brands are still experimenting with influencer marketing; they’re attempting to distinguish the budget, cadence and goals that will work best for them. As a result, many brands are not necessarily thinking long-term right now. Perhaps cultivating long term relationships with influencers feels like too much commitment too soon — especially if brands have just recently adapted influencers into their overall marketing practices. We get it. Commitment is scary. But more often than not, it results in worthwhile results and relationships.
For many, initial forays into the world of influencer marketing come in the form of single campaigns. From a budget standpoint, it makes sense to test the success of a timed influencer marketing campaign around a major product launch or promotion. While this approach makes perfect sense for the beginning stages of influencer marketing, this structure may not be strong enough to maintain long-term value.
Only thinking about influencer marketing in terms of short-term, timely campaigns creates a volatile pattern. One month brands are interacting with influencers on an almost daily basis to execute a campaign, and the next month they’ve gone silent. This approach fails to maximize the impact of influencer marketing on two fronts:
Inconsistent Communication — Digital and social audiences are already accustomed to seeing traces of influencer marketing practices across their feeds and timelines. Influencer marketing has shifted from a novelty to a tried-and-true practice for many brands, and audiences are accepting of that (for the most part). In fact, audiences may connect more with brand products when they are seen through the feeds of their favorite influencers. Brands make the conscious choice to embark on influencer marketing journeys because they want to connect with audiences who they aren’t adequately able to engage with on their own. So, if they are able to grab the attentions of elusive demographics through an influencer campaign, why would they want to stop the conversation after one post? It’s much more difficult to have to continually start up communications than it is to maintain them. By only participating in annual or bi-annual campaigns around certain promotions or launches, brands are doing a disservice to themselves – they’re missing out on months of opportunities to connect with digital and social users who, through influencer marketing, could be moved to become customers.
Me Before You Mindset — Influencer marketing should have a focus on influencers, right? An influencer marketing strategy that only engages with influencers when something is needed out of them is not advisable. Influencers don’t need to participate in your individual campaign, and their livelihood does not necessarily depend on the success of your singular campaign. If influencers feel as though brands are only approaching campaigns with their needs in mind, and not the needs of the influencer, they may cut ties. While influencers are individual entities, they also run real businesses based on their influence, and that business has needs, too. It’s important to approach influencer marketing with a sense of mutual respect – influencers respect your brand and the fact that you’re investing dollars into their content and you, as a brand marketer, must respect their content and their time. One of the best ways for brands to show their respect and appreciation is to engage with influencers on social media long after a campaign is finished and well before another is on the horizon. Retweet, re-gram, like and comment on their posts to send the message that you admire their creative pursuits. Ask any salesman about the secret to success and they’ll tell you that relationships are rarely, if ever, completely over. Salespeople are expert at keeping up with constant communication and outreach, even after a sale is complete; they understand the inherent, and long term, value of consistently connecting and re-connecting. The same philosophy should be applied to brand-influencer relationships. Even if brands don’t have a campaign, or a budget, ready for an influencer’s participation they should constantly be communicating and supporting influencers’ endeavors.
The key to long-term influencer marketing is acknowledging that no one likes to feel abandoned. Furthermore, no one likes to feel abandoned, ignored and then called upon to carry out a favor or task at the last minute. Put yourself in the places of your influencers: would you enjoy working hard on creating an engaging sponsored post for a brand, only to be ignored once the post is published, and then expected to put the same level of energy and dedication into a sponsored post months later? If that happened to you, you’d feel underappreciated and you might even re-evaluate the need to continue the relationship when the next campaign offer rolled around.
Before you convince yourself that you’re not yet ready to take a long-term plunge, first understand that long-term influencer marketing strategies do not necessarily mean a heavy investment of budget. They do, however, call for a consistent investment of time. Taking the time everyday to interact with a few digital influencers who may have already posted for your brand, or who you’d like to see post in the future, doesn’t cost you a dime, but it will pay dividends when a new influencer campaign opportunity comes to fruition.
Simply put, influencers are people and people like to feel appreciated. And no, campaign compensation is not enough to show influencers that you’re really in this for the long haul. How and when you choose to invest in influencer marketing is your choice. But with some commitment on your part, you could be setting yourself up for a long and prosperous relationship.