The Anatomy of A Perfect Influencer Partnership

The Anatomy of influencer partnerships
Mess up step one and your campaign is doomed for failure.
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A recent study indicated that 36% of marketers admit that finding the right influencer partnerships gave them the most difficulty – higher than any other aspect of running influencer campaigns. My opinion? Well, if you think that finding the right influencer(s) is the most difficult part, you’re probably underestimating the complexity of it all. Which is perhaps why brands are struggling in this space – it’s not a simple as finding the right influencer, sending them product, and having them promote it on their page. If this was the case, every marketer and their dog would be rolling in 11x ROAS.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, let’s breakdown what most of you admit cause you the most grief. Influencer discovery.

Too many people are doing it wrong

Most marketers are thinking because they’re in a certain industry, that they need to partner with influencers also in that space. If that’s also what you think, you’d be right. But the buck doesn’t stop there, it’s far more complex than simply looking for fitness influencers when you’re a supplement company.

Influencer marketing strategy tip

A recipe for success is when you have a brand that influencers would genuinely love and use, even if they weren’t being paid to. Then you assist them in creating content that their followers actually want to consume. This should be a partnership after all – you’re both in this together to achieve a common goal.

It starts by understanding who your customer is – they come first

Let’s assume that you’ve narrowly defined your target customer (if you haven’t, start there first). You should begin by writing out the characteristics and demographics of your ideal customer. I’ll give you an example:

An eCommerce food delivery company may say they target:

  • All genders, aged 23-45
  • Based in urban areas of the East Coast
  • A household income of >$80,000
  • Either a mature couple, or parents with young children and a busy lifestyle
  • Value convenience and access to quality foods
  • Are not budget shoppers, but get excited about deals and promotions

Now where many marketers fall short of the perfect influencer partnership, is that they look for food, health, and/or nutrition influencers who have solid engagement levels and a healthy follower count. While these aspects are certainly important, it’s not enough. In the case of the food delivery brand, they should target influencers that align as closely with their target market as possible. If possible, they should be current customers already.

After you write down all the characteristics of your target customer, give them a hierarchy from least to most important. When you begin sourcing influencers parnterships, try to find those that align as closely with who your customer is as possible. Assuming you’re running campaigns of at least 20-30 influencer activations per month, you’ll have a tough time compiling an influencer portfolio exclusively of those who are perfect fits. It’s more likely that it’ll take some time to build this up. You can even ask current influencer partners for referrals – chances are they know others who are similar to them.

The objective is to create a rockstar team of content creators who love your brand and would be the first one they’d mention when asked for product recommendations by their peers. If you’re simply one of the many brands they partner with in your industry, you’ll have a harder time standing out. Shoot for those that are very particular about who they collaborate with – you’ll likely pay a bit more, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Understanding how to connect, attract, and retain influencer partnerships

Now that you’ve determined who you’re looking for, it’s time to actually find them. There are a few ways that you can accomplish this – here are three in no particular order.

  • Influencer marketing platforms
  • Influencer marketplaces
  • Manual search and discovery using hashtags, location tags, and community searches

If you can’t afford to pay for these platforms (they can be expensive), you can consider outsourcing influencer discovery to a qualified agency or consultant. But for the purpose of this article, let’s assume you’re able to find influencer partnerships yourself.

Plug in your characteristics and demographics into an influencer marketing platform or marketplace, and open up the profiles of those you’re interested in. Carefully assess whether or not they’d be a good fit – compiling those in a shortlist.

Assuming your brand is attractive to content creators, you’ll likely see a 15-25 percent response rate. That being said, if you’re looking to partner with 20-30 influencers, you’ll need to contact 100-150 to find your desired number. So, once you have your shortlist, it’ll be time to do outreach. You can find a tutorial of the perfect influencer outreach strategy here.

You’ll want to ensure that you give content creators the autonomy to create photos, videos, and captions that they know will resonate with their followers. Remember, that influencer with 50,000 Instagram followers has been building their audience for years now. They know their audience better than you ever will. They likely post either every day, or multiple times each week, so they’ve gotten to know how people react to different types of content they post. If you try to control that too much, you’ll suffer from a low sponsored content engagement rate.

That said, it’s important to provide influencers with a campaign brief that acts purely to assist them in creating their content. Not to be a list of rules and guidelines, your brief should reduce the amount of repetitive questions and back-and-forth with influencers.

If you show them respect, treat them as colleagues (not employees), and stay involved in the partnership, you can expect to retain these relationships and everyone will be winners. If you’re not present, treat them as just a number, and fail to show them respect for their time, effort, and value, you will have a tough go.

Breaking down an influencer collaboration

The right influencer partnerships, fuelled by authentic content that aims to provide value first, is the recipe for success in this space.

While there’s certainly more to content creation on Instagram than I can cover in this short article, I will give you a high-level breakdown of what makes for impactful content that leads to measurable results.

1. An interesting brand in an unsaturated industry (ideal, but not necessary)

Influencer partnerships

Ideally, your brand isn’t simply just another fashion accessory, makeup line, or protein powder. If you wake up and find that you are, hopefully you’ve found a way to stand out from your competitors.

Consumers are tired of seeing the same products promoted over and over again. How many detox tea, beard oil, or clothing brands are there? Standing out in this space is incredibly tough.

23andMe is a great example of a successful brand in an unsaturated industry. Their influencer partners certainly don’t struggle to create engaging stories because of the nature of the product and the fact that social timelines aren’t littered with competitor’s sponsored content.

2. The right influencer partnerships

Influencer collaboration

I won’t dwell on this point since we’ve already discussed it, but understand that this entire thing falls apart if you fail to select the right influencer partnerships for your campaigns.

3. An honest and genuine product referral

Influencer Collaborations

I trust that you aren’t telling influencers exactly what to say in the content they create for you. It’s also best that you have them try your product first before paying them – you don’t want to put words in their mouths.

Ideally, you have measures in place to identify your customers who have true influence over an audience already. This way, you know that the content they create is honest and genuine.

4. A photo or video that stops from scrolling and is not simply product placement

Instagram partnerships

Think about what type of images and videos cause you to stop scrolling as you thumb through your timeline. Typically, the moment that your brain realizes that an influencer is promoting a product, you want to ignore and scroll by – despite whether or not you’d actually end up being interested.

The goal is to have influencers create content that immediately piques interest, grabs attention, and raises curiosity. At the root of all action is curiosity.

5. Non-promotional captions

Instagram promotions

The captions that influencers write should be personalized, relatable, and not read like an infomercial script. When the influencer-to-brand fit is off, the content comes across forced and consumers see right through it.

Let’s put it this way. Suppose you’re speaking at an event and you have to talk about a subject you know nothing about. Since you aren’t familiar with it, you read off a script that’s been given to you. In the audience are members of your friends and family, who easily identify that the words you’re speaking don’t come off as natural. It causes a disconnect.

In contrast, we’ll say that you’re an expert in the ketogenic diet and a brand that sells ketogenic meal delivery boxes asks to sponsor you. How much more natural is your content going to sound? Point proven.

6. Cross-promoted across a variety of channels

Instagram cross promotion

Generally, people follow content creators across multiple channels. To become a greater part of an influencer’s day-to-day, you should have them create and optimize content for a variety of channels and mediums.

For example, this could be a dedicated blog post, an Instagram grid post, and an Instagram Story where they unbox your product.

7. Consistency

Influencer partnerships

Your goal is to build a loyal community of customers and followers that love your brand so much that they want to tell others about it. After all, organic word-of-mouth is the most effective form of advertising.

To do this, you’ll want to activate your customers and influencer partnerships on a regular basis.

8. Fresh

influencer partners

It’s important that you’re inspiring content creators to create promotions that are engaging, but you want to ensure that the messaging doesn’t get stale. By running seasonal campaigns and alternating where you’re driving traffic to, you’ll keep things fresh.

9. Alternative call-to-actions and the direction of traffic

Influencer partnerships

Continuing off my last point, it’s more effective to drive traffic to a blog post rather than a sales page – depending on what your objectives are. You’ll get more traffic to content like a blog post than you would to a sales page, but you need to factor in conversion rates.

Both have their pros and cons, so I always suggest mixing it up. When you begin working with a new influencer, have them warm up and educate their audience about your brand and why they should care. Remember, the goal is to have influencers create content that piques interest, grabs attention, and raises curiosity.

The concept applies to the entire influencer partnership

This is not only true for a single post, it’s true for an entire collaboration. Early on, influencers should aim to pique interest and organically integrate your brand into their lives – documenting it on social media. From there, they begin sharing your relevant blog posts (that include lead magnets) in their posts and stories. After they start getting questions from their followers about the brand, they should begin getting more direct with their content. This is when it becomes more results oriented – “hey, here’s what this product does, here’s why I tried it, if you struggle with the same problems, you should check it out too.”

Driving cold traffic to a sales page on the first touchpoint is like asking for marriage on the first date. You want to prime your target audience through the warm face of true influencers, who have people who already know and trust them.

There you have it – the anatomy of the perfect influencer partnership. Ideally, your influencer’s sponsored content should perform on their page equal to, or higher than their average engagement rate (ER). So if they have a 3% ER, their sponsored content should be at least that. This is not typical and requires proper strategy, I will warn you. This is a metric you should be measuring (connect with us if you want to know how) as it’s a good indicator as to how well your campaign is structured.

If you’re experiencing limited success, try assessing your strategy. It all begins with the perfect influencer partnership.

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