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How To Build Trust When Working With Influencers

Tips for working with social media influencers to tell your brand’s story

By Lauren Cardey, Senior Account Executive

Can you get a bachelor’s degree in “influencing”? Technically speaking, no, but the field of influencer marketing is a rapidly emerging career field and an important part of the media mix. Brands are estimated to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by next year, up from $8 billion in 2019. This comes as no surprise to marketing pros who have been watching influencers emerge on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok at an incredible pace. With so many influencers and brands partnering across platforms, how can your brand jump on the bandwagon?

While some brands may already have a leg in the door because of reputation, in many cases an influencer may be unfamiliar with you and your brand. So how can you build a strong influencer campaign? The first step is all about building a strong relationship, and that starts with trust. Here are four tips to get started and build trust among influencers:

Identify the right kind of influencer

The first step in creating a successful partnership is making sure you’re reaching out to the right influencer for the brand and the campaign. A big follower count or strong engagement rate just isn’t enough, and with hundreds of thousands of influencers to choose from, narrowing the list down can be tricky. While you’re researching potential influencers, make sure you understand their style, what their goals are, and who their audience is – and make sure it’s in line with what you’re looking for. Use that intel to inform your outreach and conversations with target influencers. If they see that you’ve done your research, they will be more likely to trust you and be more open to working together.

Some influencers now have the luxury of being choosy about which brands they work with, and they also recognize the power they have when creating content. That is why researching influencers (and their following) to make sure they align with your brand’s values and campaign goals is essential. Who is the influencer’s audience? Has the influencer ever been the center of a controversy? Do they have any long-term partnerships that might conflict with your ask? Does the influencer actively engage with their audience in the comments? Is there a noticeable difference in engagement in sponsored posts versus those that aren’t sponsored? Working with a well-matched influencer who has a loyal audience can often lead to a more successful experience – you may even get more bang for your buck. And while you’re researching a potential influencer partner, expect them to be doing their homework on your brand, too. Influencers want to align themselves with brands that have values similar to their own.

Foster open, honest communication

When reaching out to an influencer about promoting your brand, ensure you do it on their turf – usually influencers list their contact information in their profile. If an influencer has an email address listed, it probably means they prefer to be emailed for all business inquiries, but for those with no contact info listed it’s OK to send them a DM. Initiating a conversation via email or direct message are both tried-and-true methods and will more than often get a response. Opt for a personalized note and share plenty of details about the campaign with clear, realistic expectations of what you want the influencer to do. Providing reasons why your brand wants to work specifically with them instills a certain amount of confidence in you and a potential relationship.

It might go without saying, but treat influencers with respect and be professional and clear in your communication with them. Follow them on their social platforms, be personal in your pitch, and don’t treat the relationship like a transaction. Be human in your communication – this may help avoid potential negative reviews on the new glassdoor for influencers, F*** You Pay Me, or through word of mouth. Nurturing the relationship can help build longer-lasting ones that are beneficial for you and the brand in the long-run.

Maintain transparency about money

Having a binding contract is often recommended, as it’s a beneficial tool for both influencers and brands to understand exactly what is expected from both parties. An agreement can also come in handy in the rare case that things go south or an influencer doesn’t deliver on their partnership. When communicating with the influencer, share as many details as you can about the project and ask for their rate sheet or a quote for the project. Keep in mind that rates will differ depending on an influencer’s level of influence, and a micro influencer will likely not charge as much as a mid-tier or macro influencer for the same project. Be willing to negotiate – just know what your limit is.

Once an influencer agrees to partner with your brand, one of the easiest ways to strengthen their trust in you is to get started on filling out the financial paperwork you need to process their payment when the project is complete – they know they’re getting paid. Doing this from the very beginning also ensures that your payment plan and timeline can be maintained, preventing unhappy influencers. Above all else, make sure you pay them, pay them on time, and according to the terms laid out in the contract. While many influencers are very understanding and flexible in the rare case that payment isn’t completed on time, it can leave a bad taste in their mouth that may ward off future partnerships.

Let influencers shape the creative

As Big Tech expands its influence over how information is distributed and accessed, tension between them and media is increasing. The point of working with influencers is to have them share about your product with their unique voice on their platforms. They should absolutely have a say in the content style, from ideation to photography to copy.  Provide them with as much messaging and creative direction as possible – point out any areas of focus that you want them to highlight, and make sure they have the opportunity to test your product. While it is highly unlikely that an influencer will post without trying your product first-hand, it’s in your brand’s best interest to make sure they receive the highest quality product available without delay or damage. Don’t make them go on a scavenger hunt around town to find your product in stores or depend on unreliable shipping times – send them product directly from your company to ensure that it’s in good shape. Knowing they can rely on you for this makes it easier for them to focus on the content.

All said, when working with an influencer, although they will have an opinion on the content that will be displayed on their social channels, brands also have the opportunity to help shape that content. This can be more powerful for the brand than user-generated content where the brand has no control in how users of their product tell their story, leaving more room for interpretation and possible error. That might mean having a content mining session with the influencer to brainstorm ideas or providing suggested edits to their content and images. It’s important to work closely with the influencer on the content to ensure both parties are accurately and happily represented in the post.