What is best when it comes to influencer relationships and collaborating?
There is no doubt that influencers have an impact on consumer behaviour and decision-making when it comes to the checkout (that's why we are all here, isn't it?!). So, how do these influencers actually influence? It all starts with an influencer collaboration, which is often facilitated by a brand or marketer and has a mutually beneficial arrangement where an influencers shares content and their (honest and authentic) opinion with their audience, and the brand receives coverage and exposure to consumers.
With the proliferation of social media platforms such as Instagram and Youtube, influencer marketing has become increasingly popular as a means to generate market awareness, improve brand discussion in the digital space and ultimately, drive sales. If you need more convincing on why your company should look into influencer marketing, check out this post which details 24 different reasons why your brand should be working with influencers. We also spoke about the step-by-step process of influencer marketing in a detailed blog post which you can use to shape your strategy and process. So here, we wanted to talk about one topic that comes up and is debated quite often when it comes to working with influencers - is it better to partner with one influencer and establish a long-term relationship, or, establish one-off engagements with a handful of influencers. Is there one arrangement that is the holy grail in an influencer marketing strategy? The answer is no.
It is likely that one arrangement is better than the other, but this differs for each brand, industry, budget, goal and KPI, so it is not as black and white as it might first appear.
To help make things a little clearer and help you decide which influencer arrangement is best for you and your business, we have highlighted both the positive and negative aspects of long-term influencer relationships and one-off engagements. Read on to find out more and discover which is the perfect fit for you.
Long-term influencer partnerships occur when there is an ongoing support for and from both parties involved over a long period of time. In long-term partnerships, both the influencer and the brand have a vested interest in the relationships success and work hard to achieve a goal collaboratively, whether that is brand awareness, market growth or sales oriented. Want to know more? Here are the pros and cons:
- The continuous support and power of repetition across platforms from an influencer is a great testament to the quality of the product/service and the influencer's genuine love for the brand and your products. Ongoing support and brand mentions look more authentic and if the audience has a lot of trust among in the influencer and their recommendations, you will see lots of conversions.
- Striking up a long-term deal with a smaller blogger who you believe has the potential to grow quite quickly is a fantastic choice for your first long-term influencer relationship. While they are growing their community, you will also grow your brand's community as new followers will see your brand name from the get-go. Plus, the investment is likely to be lower, and you get a much better value for money when working with a small but engaged community.
- Having a long-term partnership with an influencer improves the digital conversation about your brand and also increases word-of-mouth referrals. Influencers have a lot of connections and a big network, so it is not surprising to see them recommending their favourite brands, products and services to their friends, family and other connections who value their opinion.
- Affiliate marketing arrangements work really well with long-term partnerships and both parties will have the potential to receive big benefits. With affiliate marketing, influencers earn an income passively by including specific and unique links in their content that help brands attribute leads and conversions to their content and provide a commission for their efforts. When an influencer can earn money from an arrangement for sharing their genuine opinion, it is much easier for them to push the brand and integrate it naturally into their content and editorial schedule. Affiliate marketing long-term is a win-win.
- Long-term partnerships are often considered more formal and are often accompanied by a signed agreement or contract that covers things like payment, exclusivity, the term of the engagement, use of name and other conditions. This is helpful because it means you both have agreed to a set of terms and conditions that protect the relationship and collaboration.
- Long-term partnerships = long-term value. New leads generated from this relationship will likely become some of your most loyal customers, joining your tribe because they have a real affinity with your brand and vision and also the influencer you are aligned with.
- It's like having an ongoing brand ambassador who new customers can relate to. Hello celebrity ambassador of the digital age!
- The influencer is more involved in the brand and can provide valuable insights from a consumer perspective, because they know and create content for their audience on a daily basis.
- Repetition and staying front of mind with the same audience is never a bad thing. Consumers may not purchase the first time they come across your brand, but they are much more likely the third, forth and fifth time.
- There is room to test if the approach is working, so you can pivot or optimize the strategy on a regular basis.
We know what you are thinking and you're already sold on the long-term partnership, aren't you? Don't let just yet, because it is not all as fine and dandy as it may seem and there are certainly some disadvantages to a long-term influencer relationship.
- ROI is not immediate and there may be big fees involved in setting up the relationship and committing to a long-term partnership (many influencers have a large fee that is paid upfront and covers their time, effort and influence). The upfront investment can have a negative impact on your ROI as it could take months to break even and make back your original investment.
- Long-term partnership target the same audience over and over again, which is great, unless you are targeting the wrong audience, or an audience that is not growing and expanding. If the same eyeballs are landing on the influencer content and not converting, there is no point in continuing to advertise to this audience.
- It's not ideal for your first influencer marketing campaign as you haven't tested what works and what doesn't. If you are not sure whether influencer marketing is for you, it's not a great idea to test and evaluate with a long-term influencer relationship.
- Limits the number of people you can work with as resources and budget can disappear quickly with long-term influencer relationships.
- More pressure to choose the right influencer.
A one-off engagement with an influencer is when an agreement is purely a one-time thing and is finalized once influencer has completed the requested engagement. Following this, brands will seek out new and "fresh" influencers to work with to expand their reach and increase brand awareness in the digital space by engaging a wide range of influencers. A one-off collaboration could be a social media shout-out, sponsored blog post, hosted competition, video blog, social media campaign... the opportunities are endless and it really just depends on the influencer and brands involved (see 13 different types of influencer marketing campaigns here). One-off engagements are one of the most popular collaboration methods brands choose to go with when kick-starting their influencer marketing strategy, so read these the below pros and cons before you get started.
- With a changing face behind the brand every time, each influencer you opt to work with will have a new loyal and engaged audience. A different audience means a constantly changing target consumer and a higher number of new people becoming aware of your brand.
- Depending on the follower counts for your chosen influencers, you could potentially save money and exchange contra product for coverage. Middle and lowers tier influencers are generally open to receiving products to trial, review and share with their audience, so it can be a good idea to start with them. Just ensure the arrangement is mutually beneficial and you are not taking advantage of their time, effort and influence.
- Unlike long-term deals, one-offs are less time consuming for the brand and involve fewer resources, so this allows for an extremely high number of collaborations in a short period of time.
- By being able to target a large number of influencers, brands can use this to their favour to saturate the market and dramatically increase brand awareness and exposure. This is also a great way for audience members to be persuaded into thinking your products are a must-have if all their favourite influencers are talking about them.
- You can still achieve repetition with one-off engagements by targeting a select number of influencers who have similar audiences and essentially get the same message to the same people, just via different sources.
- Target influencers on a specific platform (Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube etc), most likely the one that their audience is most engaged on.
- One-off engagements are perfect for testing the target market and ensuring you are focusing on the right audience. Brands are able to target a lot of different niches to see which gets the best conversions and hits the KPIs, and then take this data to implement something more long-term.
And there are some disadvantages too....
- A one-off post on an influencers account can tend to get lost in their feed and can is often forgotten quite quickly. Rather than regular mentions, one singular mention is very easily missed especially if not posted during peak times.
- A sole mention on an influencer's account is a lot less genuine when compared to a long-term influencer partnership where the influencer is regularly posting about this new must-have product/service. Authenticity sells, especially when it comes to influencer marketing, so a one-off engagement is not favourable to switched-on audiences.
- One-off engagements are used for testing, so there is potential for low ROI until you discover the strategy that works best for you and your business. You may be sending out a large volume of product, but may be targeting the wrong market, so do things in small doses to start with until you are sure there is ROI potential.
- If you have a small niche with limited exposure through relevant digital influencers, it may actually be a better option to put your efforts into a long-term campaign with the few influencers in your niche. There are lots (and lot and lots) of influencers in fashion, beauty, travel and food, but you may not find as many in finance or trade, for example.
- There is no exclusivity, which means your product is always surrounded by your competitors and other brands.
- Leads attributed to a one-off collab may become a customer and generate a sale, but then they will move on to the next "thing" or fad, making it hard to retain customers beyond the first transaction.
So there we have it, the pros and cons of long-term partnerships and one-off engagements in an influencer marketing setting. Have you experienced success with their one of these influencer relationships, or are you still confused about which one is right for you? If I can help with anything at all, just leave a comment below!