Opinion

From Influencer to Ambassador: The Impact of Long-Term Relationships

What does the shift away from one-off projects to establishing long-term relationships with influencers mean for influencers and brands?

For brands working with influencers, there’s been a noticeable shift away from engaging in one-off projects to establishing more long-term relationships turning those influencers who already love a company’s product or service into brand ambassadors. Take Kellogg’s for example. Rather than focusing their efforts on one-off influencer campaigns, they now run an ambassador program in the hopes of finding people who actually love the brand to promote them in a more genuine, believable way. 

This shift doesn’t come as a surprise, but there are still brands that are only investing countless dollars into short-lived influencer campaigns rather than investing the time and effort it takes to see long-term success.

The benefits of long-term influencers

For starters, a long-term relationship with an influencer will naturally combat influencer fraud. Most fraudulent influencers are looking for a quick partnership so they can cash out and leave before you realise your negative return on investment (ROI). Additionally, long-term influencer relationships ensure they will advocate for your brand in a more authentic way. Influencers are human. As you deepen your relationship, they will grow more loyal and their content will become more personal and their fans will notice.

You may be sick of seeing the word ‘authentic’ but you can’t afford to ignore it in your influencer marketing strategy, as it has proven to be successful. For example, Nordstrom boasts that their influencer partnerships “tend to be an organic extension of an existing relationship.” And they’ve found major success in doing this, with one of its influencer collections hauling in $1 million in just one day. In another example, Revolve’s influencer marketing made up for 70% of sales in 2018. Their strategy? They don’t pay their influencers to post content but instead create experiences for them to deliver more authentic content. 

Finding the right brand ambassador

There are many aspects to consider when starting your influencer search. Start by creating a clear action plan to determine who you are trying to reach, your goals for this particular campaign, how you want the influencer to talk about your products, and how you are going to measure success.

When vetting your candidates, make sure their audience overlaps with your target audience and inspect which products they are converting into sales to see if your brand could fit in. Many brands make the mistake of only looking at an influencer’s total following, which can lead to influencer fraud. Watch out for signs that might signal fraud, such as a dramatic increase in followers, very little engagement and interactions, stock photos, or generic, meaningless comments on their posts.

It’s important to utilise a centralised system for influencer relationship management and influencer marketing measurement. For instance, tools with influencer discovery, evaluation, relationship management, campaign reporting, and program measurement will make it easier for brands to find and track the right influencers and manage a longer-term relationship. 

Measuring the impact

Once your long-term influencer campaign is in place, it is critical to be able to effectively measure and assess its impact on your brand. Unfortunately, influencer marketing does not always offer clear results. While you can easily track some conversions, others require more planning and effort. Be sure to use an end-to-end platform to measure the specific parameters you set at the start of your campaign. 

Though your KPIs will depend on your goals, a good rule of thumb is to focus on overall engagement rather than overall reach. Although a large following is seemingly great, you should pay attention to how well your influencer is engaging with their audience. After all, the entire purpose of influencer marketing is to work with influencers that want to help you spread the word of your product. If they aren’t responding to their followers’ questions or pointing them to your website, you likely won’t see any ROI.

Beyond engagement, some simple ways to measure overall value is through implementing trackable links, hashtags, and personalised promo codes. You can also find value by tracking your brand’s follower count, email subscription rate, and of course, purchases. These will show clear conversions of when someone has viewed an influencer’s promoted post and decided to take action as a result of it.

If your long-term influencer campaigns are executed successfully, you will begin to see an increase in your ROI over time. The longer and more authentic the relationship with your ambassador is, the more likely their followers will be influenced to take action. Anyone with a marketing budget and a social account can buy a following, but only time will tell who made the right investment.

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