How to Earn the Love from Social Influencers

Ashley Waters

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Image from Joe the Goat Farmer used under CC license.

Earlier this month at ad:tech NY, comedian/Vine star and social influencer Ry Doon — as well as speakers from Absolut, L’Oreal Paris Haircare and Crowdtap — took the stage to discuss how brands can “earn love” from social influencers. Brands often see social influencers as the gateway to reaching potential customers in a genuine way, but before they earn their love, they first need to earn their trust. Here are the steps the panelists suggested to “earn the love from social influencers”:

1. Respect the craft

Some of the misconceptions about social influencers are that they will work for free or samples alone, that successful content takes minimal time and effort, and that they don’t need to be treated like other publishers because they don’t offer as much. Buying into any of these myths will immediately impact how successful your relationship is with social influencers, and might end it completely.

Ry Doon said, “The best way to have a successful partnership with social influencers is to make us feel good. We’re insecure and sensitive.” He may have been half-joking— he is a comedian after all— but he does make a point. More than half of participants in a recent Crowdtap survey said they would partner with a brand more than once if they were “treated like any other publisher.” Other top answers included “if the campaign mission aligned with the social influencers own values,” and, “if the brand understands the influencer’s interests and only approached them with relevant opportunities.”

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t pitch a tech reporter on a consumer story, or a security outlet on a marketing angle. Make sure you understand the social influencer and show you respect them and what they do before trying to begin a partnership.

2. Grant creative freedom

Doon shared that, to him, creative freedom is the most important step in building a relationship with a brand. And he’s not alone. From the same Crowdtap survey, the top reason social influencers would enter into a long-term partnership with brands is if they are allowed creative freedom. According to social influencers, an ideal situation would be brands giving the social influencer the context, and then getting out of the way. Influencers understand their audience far better than the brand does, so it’s important that the brand trusts the influencer to create the right message. 

Social influencers recognize that brand guidelines need to be followed at times, but it’s important for there to be room for the creators to make the content their own so they can continue to connect with their audiences in the most authentic way possible.

This is the case no matter the platform. Afhel Aziz, Absolut brand director, shared a campaign where Absolut created a virtual reality concert experience and had influencers host viewing parties in their own home. With an average viewing time of 19 minutes, this was a huge success, especially in today’s world of instant-gratification and 6-second Vines. Aziz attributed the success to the creative freedom the influencers had, noting, “Respect the creative, and give them a canvas to work on – virtual reality is just the latest canvas.”

3. Compromise is crucial to success

While the end game for brands is to promote a product, there needs to be a balance of product and narrative or the authenticity will be lost. Show that you respect the power the influencer has by compromising when it comes to the messaging, and your partnership will be much more successful. Bianca Bolouri, Assistant VP of marketing, L’Oreal Paris Haircare, said, “As a brand you need to be willing to be open and objective.” She shared a successful campaign L’Oreal ran with LA singer and social media influencer Madilyn Bailey that was initiated because L’Oreal was interested in finding a new way to tell their product story. The partnership continued on beyond the initial video agreement, as Madilyn responded to fans asking about the product, even if the feedback was negative. 

According to Bolouri, “Listening to your audience and partners will set you apart.” By allowing Madilyn to control her side of the messaging, she stayed true to the brand messaging but didn’t alienate her audience by giving up her honest point of view. This potential one-time partnership has evolved into a long-term relationship due to not only the success, but also the respect L’Oreal showed Madilyn when taking her ideas and feedback into consideration.

If you want to work with social influencers, remember to do your homework and only offer the opportunity if it’s relevant to their voice and their audience, treat content creators like professionals because they truly are business people who demand respect, and build trust at the beginning like you would with any collaborative process. If you takes these steps into consider you will earn their trust, and most importantly, earn their love.

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