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Opinion

How to Build Your Influencer Community During This Uncertain Time and Beyond

In times of crisis, communities and online tribes are more important than ever. Here are some key strategies for inspiring an influencer community that will champion you throughout this uncertain time and beyond. 

The influencer marketing world is changing at pace — even more so as Coronavirus disrupts how the industry does business and how audiences act. With the Coronavirus pandemic sparking marketers to change their strategies, you’ve probably already thought of some steps you can take to revamp your program. But as the influencer economy continues to grow, many marketers are also in need of a framework shift.

Right now, online communities are more important than ever. Influencers can create content to help brands instill trust in consumers, build loyalty and reach audiences on devices they are increasingly turning to as they try and stay safe. Rather than vying for transactional, one-off posts from individual bloggers, brands looking to drive sustained growth in Earned Media Value (EMV) — a metric for determining the estimated value of digital earned media — need to focus on the overall health of these communities.

Are the bloggers who talk about you genuinely invested in your brand? Will they still stand by you six months down the line? If the answer is “maybe,” here are some key strategies for inspiring an influencer family that will champion you throughout this uncertain time and beyond. 

Group influencers by brand affinity 

Consistent outreach is key to building strong influencer relationships — but keeping tabs on all your influencers at once is a near-impossible feat. For this reason, it’s helpful to segment your community into smaller groups based on the strength of their affinity to your brand. This allows you to create targeted outreach plans for each group: for example, product sends might pique the interest of potential fans, while you can spoil your time-honored brand champions with a party or getaway. By tailoring your outreach to meet the needs of each cohort, you can conserve time and resources while maximizing your impact. 

It’s important to note that these groups are dynamic. Like leads in a sales funnel, you should nurture influencer relationships such that bloggers who start as potential fans eventually become brand champions, who can recruit new potential fans. Through strategic outreach, you can foster not only increased loyalty across your influencer network but also sustainable community growth.  

Flywheel

Make retention your #1 priority

How do you know your funnel is working? The best way to measure the loyalty of your community is through retention: that is, the proportion of influencers who continue to post about you month after month. Strong retention is correlated with EMV growth, and top-performing brands tend to retain influencers at the highest rates. 

Fenty Beauty, for example, boasted a retention score of 75 over 2019, meaning that every month, on average, 75% of its influencers maintained or increased their EMV contributions from the previous month. This continued support from bloggers fueled the brand’s 41% year-over-year increase in EMV — one of the highest among 2019’s top 10 EMV-driving cosmetics brands. Since its 2017 launch, Rihanna’s brand has amassed a wide base of devotees with high-quality, inclusive products like the Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer, which has attained “hero” status among beauty gurus and continues to inspire waves of excitement around new products. 

Retention and EMV

When choosing influencers, look beyond aesthetic 

Many brands opt to work with influencers based on their image alone, but it’s important that the look and feel of a bloggers content represents your brand, and that your brand resonates with their audience. The best way to measure an influencer’s fit — how closely they align with your brand — is by looking at the engagement that posts mentioning your brand receive relative to that blogger’s other content. If these numbers match, the influencer is a good fit: your brand slides seamlessly into their personal story, and their followers are excited about it. But if branded content garners significantly less engagement than non-branded content, there’s a gap between your brand’s message and the messaging that their followers are expecting. At Tribe Dynamics, we assign fit a numerical score, where “100” indicates equal engagement across branded and non-branded content.

For example, Arctic Fox Hair Color — which increased its EMV by 88% year-over-year in 2019 — boasted a fit score of 102, meaning that, on average, influencer posts mentioning the brand received slightly more engagement than posts that didn’t mention the brand. That’s because Arctic Fox Hair Color’s most impactful bloggers, such as Charity LeBlanc, not only create content that matches the brand’s playful aesthetic but are also longtime hair color enthusiasts whom their followers look to discover high-quality products. 

Celebrate influencers on a posting streak 

Content creators that truly champion your brand don’t just shout out products once in a while — they endorse offerings they can’t get enough of month after month. In order to generate long-term buzz, you want to celebrate and encourage your most consistent supporters, whether by sending them refills of “empties” or following up after events.

You can measure the impact of this outreach by looking at what proportion of your community is on a posting streak, or how many influencers have mentioned you for two or more consecutive months. It’s also helpful to track streak length: more influencers posting for longer periods of time indicates stronger brand loyalty. 

Gymshark has excelled at inspiring consistent content creation from its influencer network — an impressive 76% of its bloggers were on a posting streak of six months or longer during 2019. The athleisure brand, which saw a 9% year-over-year growth in EMV in 2019, has built close relationships with trainers like Brittne Jackson (@brittnebabe who religiously sport Gymshark apparel in their workout videos. The brand also rewards top influencers like Whitney Simmons (@whitneyysimmons) with career advancement opportunities including collaborative collections, forging a lasting, mutually beneficial professional relationship. 

Retention and Streak Length

Of course, retention, fit, and streak are intimately related: the better fit an influencer is for a brand, the more likely they are to post continuously, and in turn, longer streaks drive up retention. Rather than focusing on a single number, the most successful brands take a holistic approach to community building, consistently investing in personal gestures that inspire authentic content creation by recognising every influencer as a valued part of a brand’s family. 

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