It can be easy to think of the influencers with whom you work as an entity entirely separate from your organization. After all, part of the point in working with influencers is the very fact that they are not your employees but serve as independent voices.
What would happen, though, if you applied some of the principles for being an excellent manager of employees to the way you interact with and relate to your influencers? It is quite likely that you will build stronger relationships with influencers who are more engaged in and involved with your brand.
And in the increasingly competitive influencer marketing landscape, where you are vying for the attention of influencers, money or incentives are only going to take you so far – a solid relationship can have a big impact. (In fact, numerous studies have shown that money is actually a very poor motivator in many situations.)
Ok, so you’re on board with trying to be a great manager to your influencers, right? Now the question is what that means in practice. It can mean many things, but for today we’ll focus on one aspect – making people feel valued. Research abounds as to why making an employee feel valued is critical. For example, a 2012 study by the American Psychological Association found that 93% of employees who say they are valued at work report being highly motivated to do their very best (only 33% of employees who didn’t feel valued said the same). It’s not hard to draw the parallels and think about these findings within the context of working with influencers.
So what can you focus on to help your influencers feel valued? Here are four areas that we think can help.
Recognize them as individuals. Find ways to engage with influencers in a way that is personal and tailored to them. You can establish this dynamic right from the get-go. Eric Elkins, CEO of WideFocus, shared his thoughts on this matter. “Do your research – read up on each influencer’s work and personalize your pitch to that individual.” Once you have started working with an influencer tell him or her what makes that individual unique in your influencer marketing ecosystem. What is that influencer bringing to the table that is critical to the work that you do?
Listen to them. Any good relationship requires good communication. And good communication isn’t just about being clear in what you are telling someone. In this case, it is also about making sure that influencers have the opportunity to share information with you and feel like they are being heard. There may be feedback that you get from influencers by virtue of what they write publicly about your brand, and you should be responsive to that information. But to truly make influencers feel valued, create a vehicle for them to provide feedback directly to you or your company. In this way, you are telling them that their opinion is valuable to you not only when they share it with their followers. Engage with them about their feedback. Tell them what actions you are going to take based on their feedback. Share when a change has been made based on information they provided. If you can’t act on a suggestion, perhaps explain the rationale for why something was done in a particular way.
Keep them clued in. With influencers, as with employees, sharing information goes a long way. Providing context, explaining strategy or sharing outcomes can build a stronger connection and better results for your campaigns. “I’ve found that working closely with influencers and helping them understand what ‘success’ looks like within my organization often leads to the best results,” says Deborah Holstein who is currently VP of Marketing for Hightail. All of the information you share helps an influencer understand how they fit into the overall puzzle you are building.
Take it offline. You are unlikely to communicate with employees purely electronically. Going out to grab a quick lunch or stopping by their desks goes a long way in building a relationship. So why connect with influencers only electronically? Are you going to be in a specific city for a tradeshow or event? Invite influencers to drop by. Or perhaps invest in creating a specific opportunity just for your influencer community. For example, to build awareness for their upcoming launch of new Chanel No. 5, the company invited top Instagram influencers to their production facilities and to the flower fields that they use in creating the perfume.
Using some of these techniques can help you build a strong rapport with each one of your influencers.