Influencers can bring your brand to new audiences through digital word-of-mouth, which is one of the most effective forms of advertising.
These types of campaigns are one of the easiest ways to dip your toes into public relations.
And there is value in opening up your brand to outside brand ambassadors.
The whole point of working with influencers is to get your product or company in front of a fresh, new audience.
And working with an influencer works so much more organically than paying for an advertisement (usually - hey, it could be a really cool ad!).
But, as with any other tactic, you need to follow a few rules to make sure you can both promote and protect your brand throughout the process.
1. Set a Budget
Setting a budget should always be your first go-to whenever you’re planning a new marketing or PR strategy.
If you don’t have a budget to pay influencers, then that’s perfectly fine (and usually where I come in).
While PR doesn’t typically delve into paid media, we tend to work with campaigns on a shoestring budget.
As long as you’re willing to provide products or services in exchange for a promotional social media post or two, there are influencers who will be interested in working with you!
If you’re not willing to do that, then influencer marketing may not be right for you. No one works for free.*
*The exception to this is if you’re a cause-related organization.
2. Know Your Target Client/Customer
Choose influencers in realms where you’ll find your ideal client.
For example, if your target client is into healthy food, there may be influencers other than foodies and health bloggers that would be a fit for your brand.
BUT (and this is a big one), make sure that anyone you want to work with fits within your brand, and what you’re envisioning fits with their brand too.
Most reputable influencers will turn down companies or products that don’t fit with their personal brand.
And that’s a good thing.
The last thing an influencer’s followers want to see is random posts promoting a health food company when they follow this particular influencer for makeup tutorials.
But there are influencers who have huge followings and will accept money for just about any brand that approaches them.
An easy way to avoid this is to do your research and scroll, scroll, scroll.
Nix anyone off your list who doesn't seem like they'd make a good brand fit.
3. Size Isn’t Everything
Number of followers is not the best metric to characterize success.
Sure, it can be tempting to want to only work with influencers that have hundreds of thousands of followers.
But in this day and age of bots and fake followers, engagement should be what you focus on when choosing with whom you want to work.
For example, if you see a lot of comments with just emojis or the same types of phrases (“Awesome!” or “This is cool!”), the influencer at hand probably has fake followers.
You also want to work with influencers that engage with their followers by responding to their comments and starting conversations.
And really, you should have a mix of influencers with large followings and smaller followings.
On that note...
4. Consider Using Micro-Influencers
Micro-influencers - those with 5,000 or fewer followers - are a great option to work with because they still have an organic following, and many will be thrilled to work with a brand.
It’s important that you, as a representative of your brand, are enthusiastic about working with them too!
No one likes copied-and-pasted form emails, so personalize each note you send when reaching out to your list of potential influencer partners
Make sure to mention why you’re interested in working with them, so that they know WHY you’re reaching out to them specifically.
A current client asked me to reach out to a therapist whom she follows on Instagram because she loves her style of engaging with her followers.
The questions that she asks of her followers echoed how my client engages with her audience and through her guided journal.
She ended up really enjoying my client’s guided journal and even asked about running a giveaway with it. How cool is that?!
5. Set Brand Guidelines (and Boundaries)
As with any representative of your brand, you need to make sure your influencer partners understand what you’d like them to include in promotional posts and more importantly, what you’d prefer they don’t do.
Keep in mind, you cannot require that your influencers only praise your product/service/company.
Nearly every influencer (especially those with blogs) will have a clause that states that while they received something from your company for free, all opinions are 100 percent their own.
This keeps influencers honest with their audiences and reinforces the trust they have with their followers.
Which is critically important if you want a genuine review of your product or service.
(And you should. #NoFakeReviewsHere)
When it comes to boundaries, if you don’t want your influencer to use certain language - for example, curse words - or images within your brand posts, that’s perfectly reasonable to ask.
However, remember that the influencer has the right to reject any requests.
I once worked with an influencer who never capitalized any of her sentences in her blog posts because it was her style.
It wasn’t an issue, but it was awkward for us to not realize that before we asked that she capitalize all of her sentences.
Face meet Palm.
6. Follow ALL FTC Guidelines
One agreement to working with your brand that you MUST make mandatory is to have all influencers follow the FTC guidelines.
Any time an influencer receives something for free, even if they didn’t get an extra fee to post about it, they are required to follow the FTC guidelines or your brand could run into a whole lot of trouble.
I.e. you could be fined. So let’s not tempt fate.
Part of the FTC guidelines, and probably the most important aspect, is that your influencer partner must include #ad or #sponsored within social media posts.
And for those of you who are sneaky, no, you can’t bury it between a mess of hashtags.
7. Better Yet - Have a Contract
Because I’m all about being proactive rather than reactive...
The best way to make sure your guidelines (and the FTC guidelines - I’m going to drill this in, guys) are followed is to create a contract for each influencer with whom you’re working.
It may seem unnecessary and like a hassle, but it can save you a lot of potential trouble should things go wrong.
A contract actually protects both sides.
It protects your brand because it keeps your influencer honest on what they are required to create (number of social posts and on which platforms) and within what frame of time.
You can also include a clause asking that any negative feedback be shared with you before it is posted, which provides you with an opportunity to address it with them directly.
And it protects influencers by not allowing the brand they’re working with to ask for more than what was requested in the beginning.
It also gives them a clear and concise document to refer to for what they aren’t allowed to include in their posts - anything along the lines of competitor brands, discriminatory language or even trademarked images.
There are a number of easy templates available online if you’re on a budget, but I’d highly recommend getting your contracts vetted by an attorney if you’re planning on working with influencers extensively.
8. Always Be Nice
Perhaps the most important rule (aside from the FTC guidelines because they don’t mess around) is to always be nice.
Obviously be nice to any influencers you partner with, but also be nice to those who say no.
Some influencers inevitably will say no to your request to work with them, and that’s ok.
You may not be a fit for their brand right now, but you could be in the future.
Thank them, and let them know that they can reach out to you into the future should they be interested.
Conversely, be nice to influencers who want to work with you but aren’t a fit for your brand right now.
Maybe you have a policy of only working with influencers who have at least 2,000 Instagram followers, or perhaps their image quality is still rough.
Whatever the case, let them down gently.
You never know what could change, and you definitely don’t want to jeopardize a future relationship because you were rude.
Now that you have all of the tips and tricks to working with influencers, get your plan together and start reaching out!
Need some help working on an influencer strategy? Book a free 30-minute consultation to get the ball rolling.