In recent years, influencer marketing has rapidly gained popularity among brands. From Starbucks to Boost Mobile, brands are partnering with influencers across social media to act as advocates, produce content, test products, and even attend events and summits. While they are investing in one of the hottest marketing strategies to date, are they truly building relationships with influencers?
With a variety of aforementioned tactics to choose from, brands that are new to influencer marketing often make one-off transactions with influencers. For example, they will send the influencer a product to be featured in one Instagram post or ask the influencer to appear at one event. When the request has been met, the brand will provide compensation to the influencer, and the two will part ways.
This approach to influencer marketing can be compared to filming a commercial and running it for one day on television. With one-offs, brands are missing out on many benefits that come from working on long-term programs with influencers.
Brands that are engaging in one-off transactions might argue that long-term partnerships would be too difficult or too expensive to coordinate. And if you’re equating influencer production to the time and cost associated with a traditional production, you’d be right. However, working with influencers is a more efficient use of time, as well as being cost effective for brands. Expectations should be adjusted.
Long-term programs prove to be worth the upfront planning and cost. Planning for a multi-month or multi-year influencer campaign forces brands to be strategic about how social media will play into the larger marketing mix, rather than wasting efforts on one-off pieces of content that don’t add up to a greater brand story.
Partnering with influencers is an ideal way for brands to amplify their campaigns, whether social or multi-channel. Over time, influencer audiences become more familiar with the brand. Imagine after many months or years of content how familiar they’ll be.
It’s also far cheaper to contract influencers for their high-quality content than it is to set up a traditional production shoot. In this Observer post, Brendan Gahan confirms, “Compare this [production] process to a typical YouTuber who handles their own ideation, production, casting, and distribution (to a loyal fanbase no less) for less than the cost of craft services for a traditional production shoot.”
While it might mean paying a larger fee up front, brands will be setting up long-term partnerships that leverage economies of scale. An influencer is likely to discount their rates when a brand is paying for posts in bulk. Depending on how much an influencer is paid and how much engagement a piece of content gets, it can cost pennies to reach each consumer. Influencers will also be more likely to sign an exclusivity clause for a long-term project, which prevents them from working with competitors.
Beyond long-term partnerships, even savvier brands will create networks of influencers engaged in longer term marketing programs. Rather than hiring an influencer to publish one social media post, they invite a group of influencers to participate in a campaign that lasts a few months to more than a year. These influencers are selected based on their audience demographics, their quality of content, and their fit for the brand.
What does this partnership look like? If budget allows, the program would begin with influencers traveling to a kickoff summit and attending a brand immersion. Over the following months, influencers would be contracted to create a number of monthly or quarterly social media posts to align with brand campaigns. These posts, which may include photo or video, go live across the social media channels that best reach a brand’s audience.
Numerous Epic Signal clients have worked with the agency to plan and execute long-term influencer campaigns.For example, Dominic “D-trix” Sandoval, the most popular dancer on YouTube, introduced the Now Add A Dancer series in June 2014. Upon seeing the success of the series, Mountain Dew tapped D-trix, who is genuinely a fan of Mountain Dew Kickstart, to integrate their product into the latest iteration of Now Add A Dancer in Summer 2015. Throughout the four branded episodes of Now Add A Dancer, Mountain Dew allowed D-trix to interpret the campaign and shape his content accordingly to garner audience views and engagements. Overall, these four videos received 3.8MM views, 160K likes, 7K comments, and overwhelmingly positive sentiment.
The key takeaway? Mountain Dew’s impressive metrics, glowing comments, and lasting relationship with D-trix could not have been achieved by contracting him to create one video. The project turned D-trix into a true brand ambassador, rather than just a dancer shilling soda.
Brands should look for opportunities such as these, to insert themselves into a series of content with the right influencer. In the end, it’s all about retention and loyalty: Long-term relationships with influencers will lead to long-term relationships with customers. And if your brand isn’t seeking out these influencers, your competitors probably will.