How to Create a Happy Marriage Between Brands and Influencers

Don't just find the biggest names you can -- find the people who fit what you do.

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By Jonathan Long Originally published Mar 2, 2017

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The popular online marketing buzz word of 2017 is "influencer marketing." While it's been around for a long time, it's just now evolved into its own specific category. My agency has been involved in this space since the beginning, and it's so big now that it caused us to launch a second agency with the sole focus of running large-scale influencer marketing campaigns.

When done right, influencer marketing can be extremely successful. My new influencer agency has been flooded with inquiries from business owners wanting to get in on the action, but since we work with larger brands and budgets, I wanted to provide some actionable information that can help small business owners and startups create successful influencer relationships that result in business growth.

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Know your audience inside and out.

When you completely understand who you are marketing to, it allows you to identify the correct influencers to reach that audience. When the brand-to-influencer pairing is right it results in engagement, making both sides happy.

The brand gets the exposure and traffic it desires and the influencer doesn't push away his or her audience by posting irrelevant content. Imagine if you were following a fitness influencer on social media and they started posting content about stock market tips. Enough of those occurrences would more than likely cause you to unfollow them.

Don't get hung up on follower count.

Follower count doesn't mean anything. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. It's irrelevant.

I've seen first-hand a campaign with a few influencers with less than 100,000 followers produce results that completely trumped what the brand accomplished using an influencer with more than nine million followers.

Don't be afraid of using more niche-relevant micro-influencers. You don't need a Kardashian to promote your brand to be successful. Not only will micro-influencers put you in front of a much more targeted audience, but they are also much more affordable on a per-post basis. This allows you to spread your campaign across a much larger ultra-focused reach.

Related: 5 Ways Store Colors Can Influence Shoppers

Focus on building a long-term relationship.

Establishing a long-term relationship with an influencer provides your brand with two significant benefits.

Over time, as brand and influencer strengthen their relationship, they start to produce much better content together. Both sides learn how the other operates and they begin to collaborate more effectively.

There is also a cost benefit -- influencers will often discount their rate for multiple posts or a long-term partnership agreement. The longer you agree to work together, the lower the average cost-per-post. Never be afraid to negotiate prices, either with the influencer directly or their management team. There will almost always be some wiggle room to negotiate a lower rate and multi-post discount.

Try to provide value beyond monetary compensation.

Offering an influencer something in addition to monetary compensation helps create a much more beneficial relationship, especially when you are dealing with a big name.

Think about it for a minute -- the mega-influencers are being approached daily by multiple companies. There is a very limited amount of promotional content they are willing to post, as they don't want it to annoy their following. After all, that follow is enabling them to earn a living on social media.

The demand far exceeds the supply when we are talking about the top social media influencers. Can you offer them some free product or a service in addition to the payment? Do you have a potential business relationship that you can intro and facilitate? Anything that you can offer beyond what's on their rate card will help you in the long run.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Connect With Online Influencers

Keep your campaigns fun.

No influencer wants to post boring content. Even if you are in a boring industry, try to breathe some life into your campaign. An influencer is always going to favor an edgy or funny angle rather than a serious and boring one.

Social media is fun -- make sure your campaigns don't reek of an advertisement. The more organic they appear, the better the engagement and overall result. If you are unsure of an angle, ask the influencer to provide his or her input. The bigger influencers will often demand 100 percent control, but smaller ones will often let the advertiser run the show. Nobody knows how an influencer's audience will respond better than they do.

Work with influencers that share the same values as your brand.

Do you want your brand associated with an influencer posting offensive content? Of course not, so take the time to ensure you are partnering with someone that shares the same values as your brand.

If you are slinging semi-offensive t-shirts to a college crowd, that's a different story, but if you want to maintain a professional image, you need to be certain you are working with influencers that you will be proud to have represent your brand. A few minutes of due diligence can save you embarrassment and a PR nightmare in the future.

Jonathan Long

Founder, Uber Brands

Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, a brand-development agency focusing on ecommerce.

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