How To Expand Your Influencer Relationships Beyond One-Off Posts

Influencer marketing, while not a new strategy, can be an especially powerful alternative to traditional marketing. At Jive PR + Digital, we have found that incorporating influencer marketing into our social media strategies captivates audiences in a new way, through a more authentic and honest lens. This can be an effective tool when it comes to attracting and building a large following.

Influencers can range from celebrities and social media stars (like Instagram or YouTube users) with massive followings, to niche influencers with smaller audiences. A large following isn’t necessary or sufficient criteria for influencing an audience. In fact, some of the most powerful influencers are known as microinfluencers, those with smaller but more dedicated followings. They promote changes in thinking and behavior in a slightly different way than those with a large following do. In these cases, reach is not as important as the context of an influencer's niche, sales skills and credibility. 

Building these relationships of any capacity can seem tricky without a game plan, so let’s dive into a few ways you can take your influencer relationships to the next level:

Build genuine relationships first.

Because influencer marketing has to do with relatability and authenticity, building real relationships with influencers is one of the simplest ways to communicate about a product. Building a genuine relationship starts with an open conversation about the influencer's previous work and why you are interested in working with them specifically. In my experience, these straightforward conversations lead to a relationship that is collaborative in nature and that ultimately sets a platform for the long term. 

Great communication about a brand or service should stem from the fact that influencers promote products they’re passionate about, not because they feel obligated or are being paid. Influencers should partner with companies because they are interested in them and believe their offering will improve or enhance the lives of their audience. Influencers want to be recognized and in the know, and they want to provide premium content to their followers. 

That said, influencers seem to value authenticity just as much as brands do. And because of this, we're seeing more influencer relationships transitioning into brand ambassadorships. Brand ambassadors, by representing a company for an extended period of time, contribute to more organic content shares by showcasing a brand they use in their daily lives or feel positive about sharing in the public eye. Because of the genuine nature of this representation, audience members are more likely to be energized and inspired, which often translates into conversions. In fact, according to Grapevine, which conducted a study based on data from over 150 campaigns, the average conversion rate for influencer campaigns is 2.55%, which is estimated to have a +72% ROI.

Think long-term.

Influencers are able to augment campaigns with their slow but steady approach, which ultimately demonstrates both credibility and authority within the product or service space. Because of this power, the objective of an influencer campaign should shift from a quick one-off to a longer-term collaboration. 

When our brands are fully invested in an influencer and give them first access to information, it only makes sense that they will reciprocate with equal value and appreciation. We call this "digital romancing." Planning to work with trusted influencers for an extended period of time from the beginning also helps an audience associate them with the brand more readily. This can powerfully influence the audience's behavior. Approaching relationships with influencers while harnessing a long-term mindset will create the potential for the partnership to go farther into the future, and therefore benefit both parties. 

Invite influencers behind the scenes.

Influencers have front-and-center access to a brand's audience, creating a feedback loop between company and consumer. This allows brands to alter and improve their campaigns at a quicker rate than with a more traditional campaign. An exciting way to expand on your influencer relationships is to give them a behind-the-scenes look into your brand, product or service. In my experience, giving influencers exclusive access creates brand familiarity and brand loyalty by giving them an inside look at the values of your company.

For a service-based brand, this might consist of bringing the influencer in to record their experience and share that experience in a blog post, across social media or saved down the road for a larger story. Product-based brands may offer a product as a way to give an inside look at their offerings. These types of invitations will bring their audiences to your brand in a unique way. One of our agency's favorite aspects of inviting influencers behind the scenes is that it is another way to generate premium content that can be used in a variety of ways. 

When strategizing on how to take your influencer marketing campaign to the next level, consider building real, long-term relationships with your influencers and giving them insider access to your brand.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.