Why You Need to Focus on Long Term Relationships with Influencers

In a recent episode of The Social Report, a monthly episode we co-produce with My Social Life around some of the most interesting social media and influencer marketing news from the last month - we discussed our belief around long-term influencer partnerships and ambassador programs.

Why Long-Term?

There are many reasons and benefits for partnering with influencers on a longer term basis rather than for a single post. The way we like to distinguish between campaigns and programs is campaigns have a start and an end date vs. programs are ongoing.

First off, if you find an influencer that aligns with the values of your brand, has an audience that fits well with the persona you’re trying to reach and is great to work with - you’re going to want to work with them for as long as you can. Finding the perfect influencer for your brand can be tough but with our platform Surf for Brands, we’ve made it easier than ever for you to identify the perfect influencer for you and your brand.

Long-term partnerships are also more authentic. If someone posts about a product once and then never mentions it again, odds are you’re not going to think that that person is a true fan of that product. On the other hand, if someone posts about a product multiple times over the course of several months or even years, you’re going to be more inclined to believe that that promotion is authentic. A creator likely wouldn’t enter into a long term partnership with a brand they don’t genuinely enjoy.

You might be wondering why authenticity is important? You’re still getting in front of a new audience. True, but influencer fatigue is a real thing. Consumers are becoming increasingly fatigued with influencer campaigns - lowering their effectiveness if done incorrectly. By creating a longer-term relationship with creators and intertwining your brand in theirs, you’re able to resonate with an audience much better than a one off post.

How YouTuber David Dobrik does this with his long-term sponsor SeatGeek is to embed them into the story of his videos.

“When my audience thinks it’s an ad, they’re going to tune out. Trust me. I’ll make SeatGeek a character in the vlogs. When my audience hears the word SeatGeek, they’ll know something amazing is about to happen.” Via Morning Brew.

It was also pointed out during The Social Report that influencer marketing objectives (beyond vanity metrics) lend themselves better to longer programs. Whether it be attributing sales, mentions of your brand and/or product, as well as follower conversion to see who is entering the top of your funnel. Surf for Brands will allow you to easily monitor the follower conversion from a campaign or program.

Benefits to the Influencer

Ongoing programs don’t just benefit the businesses either - they are also good for creators.

On a creators side, if they partner with a brand on an ongoing basis they are ensuring they have revenue coming in every single month (should it be a paid agreement). With one off campaigns, you’re only making money one time versus on an on going basis.

But even beyond money, when influencers work with a brand long term they feel more attached to the brand. They often get access to unreleased and exclusive product, more say in the type of promotion, input on the product itself and so much more.

Companies Are Shifting to Long-Term Partnerships

The example that spurred this entire conversation on The Social Report was PokerStars and its ambassador group, Team PokerStars Pro. The below is an abbreviated description of the team via PokerStars. Click here to read the full version.

“Team PokerStars Pro Online is a group of brand ambassadors who represent us.

Team Pro Online chooses its members solely from online poker professionals.

It also provides role models for aspiring players, demonstrating what's possible in online poker with sufficient talent and hard work.

Additionally, the Team provides us with valuable input to help improve our software, game offerings, and customer service.”

With over a dozen poker players on the team as of right now, it shows that PokerStars is committed to this strategy. This is an effective strategy for the online poker giant because the creators not only genuinely use and enjoy the product but they are some of the best players in the world. They can resonate with PokerStars users and show them there is a way to make this their full time living.

They are not alone either, long term ambassador programs are becoming more and more common. Companies like GymShark have their Athletes and Sephora has its #SephoraSquad to name a couple.

Some Companies Are Even Making the Influencers Employees

One example was brought up on the podcast about a company that works with influencers on a long-term basis but not in a sponsorship sense. Instead they bring their influencers in house as employees. That company is Barstool Sports. While I know not everyone is a big Barstool fan, I wanted to look at the way they leverage influencers objectively.

Instead of looking for influencers to partner with, Barstool looks for talented creators they can bring in as employees under the Barstool umbrella and use its existing infrastructure to scale up these creators and reach new audiences.

While this may be a more costly alternative to long-term partnerships, in house influencer have a number of advantages:

  • You’re creating a recognizable face with your brand. People connect with people better than they connect with faceless organizations and in house content creators give you that.
  • You can monetize the content of the creator. In Barstool’s case they are bringing in money on the ad revenue the company garners but they are also bringing in a percentage of the money its creators make on advertising.
  • You can cross pollinate audiences much easier. While follower conversion possible through influencer marketing - doing so is easier if the creators are a part of the brand. Barstool brings in likeminded creators whose audience will also resonate with Barstool’s content. That means Barstool’s audience can enter the top of funnel through one of its many creators and work through the funnel to Barstool’s own content and even to a customer of its many merch items. On top of that, when Barstool brings on new creators, they can leverage the audiences of its existing creators to get lots of exposure, fast to its new creators.

How Can You Apply In House Influencers To a Non Lifestyle Brand?

You might be thinking while that may work for Barstool Sports, how would that work for a retailer who brings in revenue primarily through selling physical products.

That was discussed on the podcast as well. The example given was Canadian Tire. How this could work for a company like CT is they could launch a separate media company from Canadian Tire that puts out content that maps to the interests of its existing customers. While its content would not be selling Canadian Tire products directly, it would be building brand with consumers, keeping Canadian Tire top of mind, and driving people back to Canadian Tire when it's time to make a purchase.

What If YouDon’t Have the Budget for an In House Media Team ?

I understand that bringing creators in house and building out an entire media company is not feasible for some companies. A way you can do this as a smaller brand is to identify micro-influencers whose audience is primarily in your city and create an ambassador program for them

Let’s flush out an actual example here and say it’s for a local restaurant.

You could create a roster of eight micro-influencers. Twice a month you’re inviting each influencer and a guest in for a free meal. In return the influencer is responsible for posting about their experience and sharing their meal on their social media (odds are their guest will too). In addition to that you can give them a discount for any extra days they decide to come in every month. From this program you’ll garner promotion of your restaurant every other day (16 times a month) to a hyper-local, targeted audience, all for the cost of 32 meals (eight influencers and their plus one twice a month). Run this program in three month intervals and cycle in new micro-influencers every three months (and/or extend the existing ones that are interested in continuing). Just like that you have an effective ambassador program for low cost.

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, longer term programs are a more authentic way to go about influencer marketing.

Whether you’re bringing influencers in house and creating a whole new arm of your business or simply partnering with local micro-influencers for an ambassador program, longer term programs, if done correctly are more authentic and effective.