You cannot force or dictate the way — or even if — influencers feature your product. Remember, as Rox Brown says, ‘forced posts actually turn followers off of the product.’
When I was asked to write this column, I began to map out why authenticity should be at the core of a brand’s approach and strategy. And then I paused. My biggest piece of advice is authenticity. Yet by writing this story solely from my perspective, I wouldn’t be heeding my own counsel.
To understand how to authentically engage with influencers, it’s best to go straight to the source — which is exactly what I did.
Below are five tips for cultivating influencer relationships – from influencers themselves – and getting them to share your brand organically.
Note: I am using the word influencer as the catch-all term for influential people who have an authentic and engaged community online.
Identify the right ones
Pursue micro-influencers with whom you can grow. Utilize social listening to identify influencers who already love your brand.
“Huge followings don’t matter,” says Rox Brown. “It’s about who follows. Most influencers or celebrities get influenced by people with smaller followings because they are closer to the ground and know what’s culturally going on first.”
Listen and learn
Listen to what they like and dislike to understand their brands.
“Brands need to take more time to understand the influencers they are reaching out to [in order to] ensure they align with the impact they are looking to have,” states Ade Samuel.
Samantha Gutstadt agrees. “Get to know the influencers,” she advises. “See what products are truly an organic fit for them, [products with which] they can grow a true long relationship.”
Take the opposite of the spray-and-pray route.
“You will be more likely to receive a response if your outreach is personalized,” says Caitlyn Chase. “Start with addressing the influencer by name and note why they may like or want to try your product.”
Lindsey Albanese suggests that brands keep in mind the fact that “higher-caliber influencers get a lot of packages shipped to them. Better to take the quality-versus-quantity approach and ask them what they would actually love and use, rather than sending them something they would never use.”
You can’t “edit” editorial
You cannot force or dictate the way — or even if — influencers feature your product. Remember, as Brown says, “forced posts actually turn followers off of the product.”
Will Nichols concurs. “I can make any product look good, but only if I have creative freedom.”
Create a Real-ationship
“Creating a lasting relationship will benefit both the influencer and the brand,” notes Vic Styles. “It’s important to try to activate the influencer several times. This lets our audience know that we really do like the brand.”
Brooklyn Blonde adds, “Establishing a relationship is beneficial to everyone involved. This way both the influencer and brand really have an understanding of what feels right and on brand for the person with whom they’d be in a potential working relationship.”
Brands should keep in mind that while paid campaigns certainly pay the bills for influencers, they are also just a fraction of the content they generate.
“I’m far more willing to give editorial coverage to brands who acknowledge what I do for them, offer to gift me new products every season and highlight me on their IG or stories,” says Everyday Pursuits. “There’s so much opportunity for brands to get in for the non-paid content if they go about it the right way.”
Ida Kay is a brand communications director at a leading lifestyle brand. She previously held top PR and marketing posts at G-Star and DC Shoes.