Influencer marketing is a new and exciting space to work in for both brands and marketers, and while the industry is still developing, so too are the best practices involved with working with influencers and running an influencer campaign. However, as more and more people start dabbling in influencer marketing, best practices are often overlooked or campaign managers are completely unaware that best practices even exist when it comes to influencer marketing, but like every strategy, there are the right, and the wrong, ways to go about a campaign.
Here are 9 influencer marketing best practices to help guide your campaigns in 2017...
When Contacting Influencers…
When contacting influencers for a campaign, always ensure you have a legitimate opportunity and you are offering something that adds value to their work and business (yes, being an influencer is a business). It’s also critical to ensure that the opportunity, angle and brand is relevant to them, their content and their audience. If it’s not, it will have a negative impact and they probably won’t reply. If it is, they will be excited by the opportunity and you’ll be organising a collaborative campaign in no time.
Another best practice in the influencer marketing space is to personalize each and every outreach email, no matter what. Bulk emailing doesn’t work so much anymore, so personalized outreach emails will not only get a reply, but will help you build a better relationship with influencers in your niche.
Finally, when contacting influencers, it is an industry best practice not to spam them with press releases, outreach attempts and mass mail outs, because sooner or later they will start ignoring or blocking you. As you can imagine, it would be very annoying to receive constant emails from a brand with nothing tangible to offer, no relevance and no opportunity to collaborate.
For some tips on reaching out to influencers the right way, check out this article from the Scrunch blog.
When Developing A Campaign…
When developing an influencer marketing campaign, it’s best practice to start with the goals of the campaign and what you want to achieve to ensure your strategy aligns with the goals. Different influencer marketing campaigns and strategies will drive a different result, so it’s important to clearly define the goal and KPI and shape the strategy around that, rather than develop a creative campaign and hope it aligns to your goal.
For campaign ideas to inspire your next influencer marketing strategy, check out the 13 Types of Influencer Marketing Campaign Ideas To Complement Your Digital Marketing Strategy on the blog.
On the same note, it’s best practice to keep the influencer front of mind when developing an influencer campaign, to sure they can work collaboratively on it. What is the benefit for them, how would their content fit into the strategy, and what value can they bring to the campaign? The campaign needs to be mutually beneficial for everyone involved, and there needs to be a substantial offering for an influencer from the beginning, so ensure this is developed alongside the campaign strategy. If there is nothing in it for them, then why would they want to be involved? If you wouldn’t do it for free, why would or should they?
When Selecting Influencers…
As mentioned above, the best practices around selecting influencers for your campaign is to focus on influencers that clearly align with your brand and your target audience. Don’t ignore micro influencers that have a smaller following, as often their engagement and reach is often more effective than top-tier influencers with millions of followers. In addition to ensuring the influencer aligns, make sure their audience does too.
When Negotiating Rates and Payment….
The best practice and my absolute top advice when negotiating rates and payment with an influencer is to be fair, transparent and ensure you truly understand the value they bring to the relationship before you start negotiating. Never ever belittle an influencers value, their experience and their unique skill set, because it will land you in hot water and very far away from a positive, working relationship.
It’s also a best practice in the influencer marketing space to pay influencers for their time, effort and creative. Many brands and marketers are still doing influencer marketing with no, or with very minimal, budget yet expect big returns. If you truly want to “do” influencer marketing, it is important to invest (you can read 9 reasons why you should invest here). How much you invest is up to you, however like any marketing initiative, the more you put in, the more you get back.
When it comes time to pay the influencer, there is no straight rule or best practice on when you should actually do it - upfront or after all of the deliverables have been received. Some people work on a 50/50 model, where the influencer receives 50% of the payment upfront to secure the collaboration and their time, and 50% on receipt of the deliverables. In saying that, some influencers request, and expect, payment up front and will not commence work until payment has been received, although, others are happy to receive full payment after the campaign period (usually within 7 days). Rather than being guided by a best practice or industry standard here, in most cases you have to be guided by the influencer.
When Briefing An Influencer…
This topic comes up so frequently that I wrote a blog post about how to brief influencers on the Scrunch blog a couple of weeks ago. It’s becoming best practice to provide briefing notes or a briefing document when working with an influencer on a paid collaboration, just as you would provide a brief for a freelance graphic designer, tradesman or consultant. You can see an example of what we include on our briefing form here, and be sure to be concise, clearly set out the objective and agree on the deliverables and commitment from both parties. It’s also best practice to include any additional information that the influencer might need, such as links to product pages, press releases and lookbooks.
When you are not paying an influencer, it is not best practice to send them a brief or get them to commit to an agreement, as it is not a working relationship. When influencers are not paid and worked with on a contra strategy, you can definitely outline what you would like to receive in exchange for the product, but ultimately they can not be expected to provide a predetermined set of deliverables.
When Managing Expectations…
This one ties into briefing influencers for a campaign and is important to ensure everyone involved is on the same page. The best practice is to discuss all expectations and deliverables before the campaign begins, so everyone's clear on their part and what they are expected to deliver in support of the campaign. Expectations should be communicated clearly, and when there is a big partnership or a high-value relationship, a contract or agreement should be signed by everyone involved. It's important to note here, that if something wasn't brought up in the initial brief and negotiations, you can't expect it to be added weeks into the partnership unless every agrees.
When Providing A Product Or Service…
When providing a complimentary product or service to an influencer, it is absolutely critical that they receive the best experience possible. If they don’t, their content will reflect that and it is ultimately a disservice to your brand and renders your campaign pointless. Influencers are engaged to highlight the best parts of the brand, so if they don’t receive that same treatment and experience, how and why should they share that. Whether it is a complimentary upgrade, additional products “just because” or the invitation to bring a friend along, whatever you can do to make their experience the best, you should.
Influencers should never have to pay for a product or service from a brand that has engaged them, and the whole experience should be effortless. The best practice is, if you can’t provide an experience that is 110% the best, then you shouldn't be engaging the influencer at all.
When following up with influencers…
This is a pet peeve and something that I have personally experienced in my time as an influencer while working for a lifestyle publication. Day in and day out, marketers and brands “follow up” influencers about an email they sent a couple of days prior, or worse, they call to follow up an email only a couple of hours after it was sent.
I know and understand that some campaigns have a very quick turnaround, however, you cannot expect an influencer, or anyone for that matter, to reply within an hour at any time of the day, and across any timezone.
Where best practices are concerned, it’s okay to follow up an email after 5-7 working days if there has been no reply and the opportunity is a legitimate, relevant one. An influencers life and business is online, so if they haven’t replied it is likely a sign they have seen it and are not interested, or they are incredibly busy and need a couple of days to get back to you. Keep in mind, top-tier influencers receive hundreds of emails each week from brands wanting to collaborate, and often, they can’t reply to them all. If the opportunity is of interest, they will, but if it is not, then they probably won’t (which ties in to our best practice on ensuring the influencer and campaign align perfectly).
When Sharing Influencer Content…
One of the most common influencer marketing best practices that many ignore, or are unaware of, is the use of influencer content after a campaign. Many brands and marketers are under the wrong assumption that if an influencer posts a picture of their product or service, then they own the image and can use it freely, however, this is a very big misconception in the industry. Influencer content is exactly that, an influencer's content. If it is used by a brand in any way commercially, it is considered a breach of copyright, which you can then be severely penalised for if the influencer wants to pursue the infringement.
The best practice is, always always always ask an influencer before using their content in any way, shape or form. It is generally okay to regram, repost, share or retweet influencer content onto your own social media channels with credit to the original content creator (the influencer), but anything beyond that must be discussed and agreed to in advance, especially if using the content commercially. The copyright of the content is always owned by the influencer, unless discussed in the agreement, and no changes or edits should be made to influencer content. In saying that, influencers are certainly open to the opportunity to sell, license, transfer or share copyright with brands for a cost, so if it is of interest, it needs to be discussed in length with everyone involved.
You can read our guide to reposting etiquette here.
These are 9 influencer marketing best practices in the industry right now, but of course, as influencer marketing develops further in 2017, we will no doubt see more best practices come into play, so watch this space. I will continue to update this article when new best practices come up, so you can stay up to date and have everything you need to work with influencers in a positive, fulfilling and ultimately successful way.