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So, we’ve bought into influencer marketing. But what about influencer relations? More and more in our work with brands, we see that building valuable relations with influencers instead of focusing on one-off collaborations is the way to go. Will influencer relations replace influencer marketing and advertising completely or will all strategies coexist side-by-side? We discussed this idea with InfluencerDB CEO and Co-founder Robert Levenhagen.

Key Expert Takeaways

  • Focus on achieving balanced relationships, where the influencer and brand are equally giving and taking
  • Choose the right mix of strategies (and don’t overemphasize one): Influencer Relations + Influencer Marketing + Influencer Advertising
  • Have patience: Influencer relations take time, and you can’t expect immediate results
  • Indirect results might be even more valuable than direct results

What is Influencer Relations?

Influencer relations is a strategic approach to developing relationships with social media influencers who have excellent fit with a brand. In this strategy, influencers are approached as partners, clients, and fans of a brand rather than simply as media platforms. To build a strong relationship with influencers, it is essential that marketers approach them on a human level instead of thinking of them as billboards.

Influencer relations and influencer advertising are located on the opposite sides of the influencer marketing spectrum.

Influencer advertising has a tactical focus, and influencers are treated as professional business partners or advertising platforms. It should function as a standard business deal: You put the money in and get the desired results, such as reach, awareness, and conversion.

With influencer relations, brands should appeal to their human, emotional side – behind every influencer channel is an actual person. This strategy is long-term and is not a measurable as influencer advertising. Influencer relations require knowing your brand inside out. What is most unique about your brand? How do your biggest fans view your brand and what do they identify with it? Influencer relations also mean getting to know an influencer well, by following them on social media and paying attention to their career. What are their interests and desires?

The 5 challenges of influencer relations

Here are the top five challenges to keep an eye out for as you delve into influencer relations.

1. Lack of immediate ROI

Oftentimes, it will feel like you put a lot of time and effort into this relationship but do not get results right away. Although this can be frustrating, keep in mind that it’s a marathon, not a sprint! Your efforts will pay off in the long run.

2. Indirect results are hard to measure

Both the values you provide for the influencer, as well as the indirect results, are hard to measure. As with any other kind of non-monetary compensation, the value is highly individual. A special event the influencer is invited to might be more valuable for one influencer than for another.

And the results you get out of a partnership might be hard to evaluate as well. The influencer might talk about your brand at an event and thus create valuable new connections for you but as with all forms of word-of-mouth, it’s hard to put a number on the value.

If your brand requires KPIs, think through the kinds of KPIs that a public relations department might work towards, and see if those can fit within your influencer relations reporting and monitoring.

3. Imbalance of values

For both parties, influencer relations can be extremely fruitful. Influencers and brands can offer and receive many different types of benefits, and what they are depend largely on the brand fit or interest of each party.

Influencer Relations exchange of values

Just keep in mind that every relationship needs a good balance. You cannot expect a great effort from the influencers’ side by sending them a few products. Input and output need to be kept in balance: optimize your output by adjusting your input accordingly.

Ask yourself: What kind of output am I looking for? What do I need to do to generate that output? You can’t be as demanding as you could be with influencer advertising. There is no strict brief and budget you approach influencers with, or an expectation of payment and delivery.

With influencer relations, you can have a goal in mind, but you can’t contract for that goal.

4. Identifying perfect-fit influencers

As with every other form if influencer marketing, the brand fit is the most important metric to focus on when identifying a collaboration partner for influencer relations. If your brand and the influencer don’t share the same values, the partnership will not result in a fruitful outcome.

Expert influencers are more open to relationship-building. They can’t be persuaded to promote a product just because you pay them to do so. They need to be convinced of a product or a brand; otherwise, there is no way they will promote it.

These experts have a reputation for being candid and they will not risk losing their authenticity by partnering with brands they are not profoundly convinced of.

Entertainment influencers, on the other hand, are less picky about their collaborations. They do not have the expertise to differentiate various products, so they will be more open to promoting products and brands, even though they might not be fully convinced. They make a living out of promoting brands and have a more entrepreneurial approach to collaborations.

To discover how brands build long-term relationships with influencers, watch our free on-demand webinar with InfluencerDB CEO, Robert Levenhagen.

5. Focusing on relations only

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, influencer relations are the new buzzword in the influencer marketing universe. Keep in mind that a holistic strategy is the most fruitful form of marketing!

influencer relations approach

Not every influencer is a great choice for influencer relations, and there are definitely situations in which influencer advertising might be more advisable than investing time and effort into a long-term relationship.

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