The modern millennial consumer hates traditional advertising strategies and tactics. In short, they don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to.
Even more than ever, this demographic turns to their friends for honest reviews and recommendations on everything from hostels to stay at in Thailand to which brewery in town crafts the best beer.
Aside from their friends, they also listen to the influencers in their lives—the people online they follow, and who they admire and trust. These people are everyone from the Kardashians to their favorite food bloggers.
If brands want to reach consumers without being obtrusive and do so in a very natural and authentic manner, using influencers can be very successful when done correctly. Influencers are so successful that Ford used 100 of them to promote its Fiesta subcompact. The result? More than 1 million visits to the Ford website with more than 80% of them being non-Ford (current) consumers.
After working with over 50 influencers for large regional and national brands, I’ve come to know a few things to be true about these folks. Many traditional PR strategies and techniques apply to working with influencers, but there are plenty of new scenarios and items to consider.
If you’re getting into the world of influencer campaigns, this is what I’d consider a solid foundation:
Do your research
Just like selecting media to pitch, do your research when reaching out to influencers. If you’re looking for someone to promote a new piece of clothing targeted at fashion-forward women with plenty of disposable income, don’t go after people who talk about saving money, living on a budget, or who don’t have anything to do with fashion.
Spend time in their feeds or on their blogs to get to know them. What’s their writing style like? Do they talk about the topics your brand associates itself with (or ones you don’t)? How engaged is their audience? How often do they promote other brands and products?
If you need help finding influencers, there are plenty of tools to help you. GroupHigh is a great tool to find both bloggers and social influencers. Their platform lets you drill down to your exact criteria (like female mommy bloggers who live in South Carolina, have 10k+ Twitter followers, and an average monthly page view count of at least 100k+). This makes it really easy to find exactly who you’re looking for. They also have tools to help you communicate with influencers and keep track of which stage you’re at with each.
Perfect your pitch letter to influencers
Working with influencers is serious business. Treat them just like any other member of the media when you craft a pitch letter. The key details should be:
- Tell them who you are and who you work for.
- Tell them two things you like about their blog/brand/account (this shows that you’ve done your research) and how they relate to your brand.
- Give them a brief description of the program you’re pitching and how it benefits them.
- Provide ways to get in touch with you.
- Keep it brief—no more than three paragraphs.
Depending on the influencer, they might receive over 20 pitches a day. If you want yours to stand out, put in the time to customize it to their brand and provide relevance.
Be transparent about what you want and what you’re offering
Once influencers decide they are interested in exploring more of your opportunity, be completely transparent with them about everything. Let them know how long of a commitment you’re looking for, how often you expect them to post, if they need to have messaging approved by the brand before posting, if they need to have anything permanent on their websites about you, how much you’re paying, etc.
Influencers get a bad rap for being lazy folks who spend their days in sweatpants and pondering life over Starbucks. The reality is that they’re business people who have built a new kind of brand and a new business model. Nine times out of 10, they’re in meetings with brands, producing original content, responding to their audience and brands via email, attending events, or planning for the next phase of their business.
If they have to spend a lot of time asking questions or get caught off guard at the last minute with unknown information, they’re more likely to pull out or not produce as good of content as they could. While they don’t need to be babied, they do need to be treated with respect.
They’re just as excited as you are
Pitching influencers can be a stressful job, but when you’ve got them on your side and bought into your program, they’re going to be just as excited about working with you as you are with them. I once had an influencer post to Twitter seven times before the program started to show her excitement and appreciation.
Not only are you helping them pay the bills, but you’re also giving them new opportunities and experiences—it could be a product to try out, a vacation, exclusive access to new features, events, face time with celebrities, and more. And even though they’re helping you reach a new audience, you’re also helping them reach new ones.
Start the relationship out on the right note. Show excitement in your emails or on phone calls, send them a personalized onboarding experience in the mail, and make them feel like they’re a part of your family. The more you can keep the energy going, the better the experience will be for the both of you during the duration of your program.
Track their performance
Once you’ve onboarded a group of influencers and got the program up and running, it’s time to get down to business. Depending on the complexity of your program, influencers might be required to deliver a lot of content on either a consistent basis or in a short window of time. One group of bloggers I managed were required to post to certain social channels a certain amount of times throughout the week, use a hashtag or tag the brand, and were also required to write a certain amount of blog posts every month.
If you’re working with even a handful of influencers, tracking all of those deliverables can become a time consuming process if you’re not prepared. I created an Excel spreadsheet with one column per deliverable and one row per blogger. Then, when a deliverable was met, I made a link to it in the Excel document and also took a screenshot in case it was removed for whatever reason. I also had a column at the end to track whether the deliverable was compliment with the program’s standards (like whether or not they used a hashtag). When I had bi-weekly checkins with the bloggers, it was really easy to keep them on track and hold them accountable.
If things are going great with an influencer, that’s awesome. But if problems arise, you want to be able to address them as soon as possible and in a professional manner. It gets really awkward when you get to the end of a program and (1) realize an influencer didn’t deliver on their end of the deal, or (2) decide at that point to address any issues. Trust me—I’ve been there, and it’s not fun.
Thank them when it’s all over
At the end of every program, I make it a priority to show my gratitude to influencers for our relationship. Sometimes it’s a phone call or an email. I’ve also sent them a small gift with a handwritten note.
Even though they were technically working for you and your brand, it’s still a relationship and they (hopefully) helped you achieve one or more of your business goals. And if you ever want to work with them again, it’s good practice to end the program on a positive note.