As the global situation continues, increased time spent at home has driven enormous spikes in social media usage. One study shows social media engagement increasing by 61% over normal usage rates, with WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram all seeing a +40% increase in usage from under 35-year-olds. With these spikes, and given the current environment for brands and advertising, influencer marketing is gaining momentum as a way for brands to continue to engage with consumers.
While many brands today have been increasing their spending on influencer marketing, many of them also readily admit that these programs have yet to reach the level of maturity that other similarly funded programs have achieved. In fact, only 10% of organisations are running truly integrated influencer programs, with 46% of marketers reporting that they’re using influencer marketing tactically, but have not integrated it across marketing.
That said, the nature of brand-influencer relationships is changing. Nearly half of marketers say they are working on long-term campaigns with influencers, and 40% of influencers say they’re in long-term partnerships. In addition, only 29% of influencers say they’re being asked for their opinion on content direction, and 55% of marketers say the content strategy is already decided before influencers come into the mix. Unfortunately, just 25% of influencers say brands are sharing key engagement goals with them.
In other words: there’s a lot of room for improvement in the influencer marketing space, and a lot of that improvement is going to hinge on influencer marketing becoming more of a genuine partnership between opinion leaders and brands. Here are some of the key advantages of deeper, long-term relationships with your best influencers.
Running influencer marketing campaigns as one-off initiatives deprives brands of many of the benefits of today’s data-driven marketing capabilities — namely, the ability to track results and then optimise campaigns and creative over time based on what works with an influencer’s given audience. Today’s marketing systems enable continuous feedback loops on performance that can help programs improve over time. By establishing longer-term relationships with influencers, brands can gain significant efficiencies within their marketing spends as well as deliver a better experience to potential customers.
Deeper resonance with audiences
Longer-term relationships with influencers let brands focus more on micro-influencers that have stronger credibility in specific categories. As many brands have discovered, initiatives that pay flat fees to celebrities with the biggest audiences often don’t resonate with audiences — especially for products with more focused target audiences.
As with any interaction, building a real relationship takes time. Brands need to get to know the audiences that they’re reaching through influencers if they want to deepen their connections. Single-shot campaigns simply don’t enable the depth of interaction that yields long-term benefits for brands.
Momentum among niche audiences
Taking an integrated, long-term approach to influencer marketing also opens the door to building momentum with micro-influencers over time. Micro-influencers, who boast lower follower counts than big-name celebrities but often enjoy much higher engagement rates, are an amazing gateway for reaching strategic niche audiences. Furthermore, these are precisely the types of influencers whose value to a brand can mushroom over time.
When brands forge authentic, long-term relationships with micro-influencers, they’re able to capitalize on relevant new customer acquisition pools as the niche audiences of these individuals grow. What’s more is that the audiences of micro-influencers can come to understand the brand as being a key supporter in the success of their favorite subject matter experts on social media, casting an invaluable sustainable halo around a company and its products.
Alignment with KPIs
Finally, taking a relationship-based approach to influencer marketing allows brands to much more closely tie activities within this channel to their broader brand goals. With long-term relationships, influencers will be more likely to succeed with performance-based or hybrid compensation models. This alignment requires a longer-term commitment and — again — the ability to test, measure and refine initiatives with influencers over time.
Influencer marketing has rapidly grown from a nascent tactic into a multi-billion-dollar marketing channel, and it’s time for brands to treat it as such. By building longer-term relationships with the right influencers for your brand, you can deliver more meaningful results — ones that improve steadily and impressively over time.