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5 Tips for Building a Strong Influencer Program One CMO's strategy for revamping your approach to influencer marketing.

By Juda Honickman Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past year, brands have had to adjust their traditional advertising strategies, cancel in-person activations and attempt to keep up with ever-changing social channels and trends in an effort to stay relevant and reach consumers who are at home during the pandemic. Americans spent an average of 82 minutes per day on social media in 2020, according to eMarketer. Now that we're on our phones more than ever, influencers are becoming extremely valuable and powerful – both online and offline.

Related: Where Do You Fall on the Philosophical Spectrum of Influence Marketing?

Working with micro and macro influencers can provide companies with myriad benefits, such as building trust among core demographics, humanizing your brand and offering an authentic way to engage with customers. Although traditional marketing and advertising are great ways to push brand awareness far and wide, associating with particular influencers in your space can give your brand added validity. This third-party narrative makes the brand promotion feel much more organic and can result in more sales and positive brand awareness.

Below are tips on how to build and maintain a strong influencer program:

Identify your strategy

The strategy should start with what the business objective is, which will, in turn, inform the wider influencer strategy. Business objectives to build an influencer strategy around can include driving sales, creating a specific brand image or building the brand's social following. The strategy can be tailored accordingly to meet the objective and should include a strong call-to-action. If budget permits, amplifying an influencer post through advertising spends can also help drive ROI.

When developing your strategy, it is important to identify which markets you want to prioritize and keep in mind each market will have different nuances. You should also determine what platforms your target audience spends the most time on and research influencers in that space – YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Once your team has come to a conclusion on the strategy and vision for your influencer program, you can dive into research and outreach to find those perfect influencers who will resonate with your core customer and align with your overall strategy and goals.

Research for influencers and build authentic partnerships

It's important to choose influencers who are compatible with your brand and the brand message. Once you have identified your strategy, you can begin looking for relevant individuals who align with your core message and audience. Third-party tools or agencies with digital experience can help you research influencers and help you make informed decisions. These tools give a behind-the-scenes view on influencer accounts, providing insights such as affinity interests, audience health checks, location data and more.

Finding an individual who is already an advocate for the brand is a great starting point and will most likely lead to more organic and genuine promotional moments. An influencer who has a loyal following or fan base, partners with other like-minded companies and engages with their fans will have the highest conversion rates for your company or product. Most influencer programs are determined by budget, but it's important to think through all of your options and who you want to target before making a decision.

Related: Get to Know the 3 Types of Influencers

Build parameters

Once you've hooked your influencers and determined you'll be working together, set up a briefing where you can exchange ideas, give direction and establish content both parties will be happy with. It's important that you work with someone who knows and appreciates that this partnership will be mutually beneficial. It should help bring loyal customers to your company while simultaneously providing their brand with new content that will help build their following and engagement. With this understanding, develop a general contract or agreement that will help reach company goals and outlines content usage upfront. This helps both parties involved as it sets a positive partnership tone that will come across in posts and promotions. It also helps to gain the trust and further your relationship with these individuals. Transparency is key.

Foster relationships

Fostering relationships with short-term and long-term contracted influencers is beneficial. In the short-term scenario, if the partnership is strong and both parties see an increase in brand awareness, there is a great chance you can extend the contract. In the long-term scenario, you have the opportunity to plan and develop impactful social moments. Collaborating and brainstorming with influencers will strengthen your relationship and can lead to great content. They know their followers and their channels best, so taking the time to understand their brand and hear their suggestions will go a long way. Also, if you know of a similar brand (non-competitor) that you think they'd like, put it on their radar! Small steps like this can build that relationship and can prolong the partnership.

Monitor results

Take the time to really learn from your influencer program by analyzing what worked and what didn't, no matter if this is your first or fifth time using an influencer, it is always important to understand what came of it. Track when you saw spikes in sales, website views or an increase in social followings. Don't be afraid to change up your program — expand it to similar influencers if things have been going well or mix it up by finding a whole new space to penetrate with a different set of influencers. A lot of marketing tactics, such as building an influencer program, involve a lot of trial and error. Keep in mind organic traction can be limited and you can always boost select content through paid media to help expand the program and deliver bigger, tangible results. Track everything to find your rhythm and you'll be sure to see success.

Overall, if you feel that influencers are relevant for your brand and are looking to take the leap, step back and consider your strategy, goals and details of the contract. This foundation will set you up for success or might point out that your brand isn't ready to take on influencers yet — that is ok too. Once you have influencers in place, make sure to get to know them on a personal level, which will make it easier to keep an open dialogue of the results and discuss what is working and maybe what needs improvements.

Related: HBO's 'Fake Famous' Documentary Gets Influencer Marketing All Wrong

Juda Honickman

Chief Marketing Officer of Slinger Bag

Juda Honickman loves growth, strategy and being creative with disruptive brands. Currently serving as CMO for Slinger Bag Inc., an innovative sports brand focused on game improvement, Honickman previously held senior marketing positions in global consumer and tech companies.

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