THE RISE AND RISE OF THE INFLUENCER
SIX TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL BRAND COLLABORATIONS

It's no secret that brands are queing up to collaborate with bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers and over the last few years, influencer follower numbers have rocketed. 

In a similar way to the mechanics and ethos behind PR, working with influencers and well-known bloggers can have a huge effect on sales and awareness for brands, as third-party endorsement by authentic people with trusted opinions appeals to audiences and means so much more than paid-for advertising. 

Before they began to work with brands, most bloggers and social influencers enticed readers into their lives by sharing intimate moments, being true to themselves and built up a credible follower base over years. They asked for opinions, they opened up their lives - and because of this, their followers became fans.  For the first time, communication became a two-way street - so it was inevitable that these influencers would eventually attract interest from relevant brands who felt that collaborating could be beneficial for both sides.

On the flip side, many believe that the influencer bubble could burst at any moment if the balance between real life ‘warts and all’ posts and authentic snapshots are overshadowed and even overtaken by glossy brand collaborations, blatant adverts and pushy product placements that do not appeal to the reader profile.

Just recently, the hugely popular and influential Mumsnet chatroom started to buzz with a conversation around the London 'insta-mums' phenomenon, and many mamas voiced their distaste at being bombarded with “shameless” brand posts and product ads by the seemingly authentic mums that they followed on social media. Others admitted to unfollowing influencers that they had followed for years, as they felt that the endless super-beautiful images of their oh-so-perfect family lives had left them feeling inadequate rather than empowered.

With influencer relations continually treading this tightrope, it is so important to get it right when it comes to collaborations.

Here are six tips for striking the right balance: 

1.    Choose your influencers carefully - and let them choose you back

Most brands will factor influencer relations into the communications mix - in fact, some smaller brands cut out advertising budgets altogether in favour of working with a high profile Instagram or vlogger who can put their product in front of thousands in seconds.

However large or small your budget, it is unbelievably crucial to do your research. Don’t just go off a quick Google search and social media follower numbers; read the blogs, watch the videos and ensure that their values and philosophies align with yours. Make sure that their readers match your target market. Plan carefully.

When you have a target list, approach the bloggers and influencers personally. Let them know that you have read their blog, and show them how your reader profiles and values marry up. With readers being turned off by inappropriate brand partnerships and “sell-outs”, it’s hugely important for both sides to gel well together. Brands need a strategic fit, bloggers need authenticity and credibility to keep their readers engaged.

2. Approach them with ideas that add value to their channel and to their readers

These days, any blogger or vlogger worth their weight will not work for free. They won’t show off your product or print your news story for nothing. However, it can be possible to come up with creative solutions that offer more than just a simple sponsored post mechanic. Offering goods for competitions and social media giveaways where participants follow and tag friends, for example, can be excellent ways for the blogger or influencer to build their follower base and entice current users to interact with their posts.  Be creative. Most influencers will be open to ideas when it comes to working with brands and businesses.

3. Create lasting relationships that work both ways

When you have worked with a blogger or influencer, keep in touch. Developing a one on one relationship can be hugely beneficial for you both, as you many have new clients and proposals to put their way, and they may keep you abreast of future opportunities as their personal brand grows. 

From a business perspective, having a relevant blogger with an on-target follower base as a brand ambassador can work wonders for your brand, and - if you plan in a number of posts over several months - the blogger will be happy with the regular income and the chance to get to know your brand or business on a more personal level.

4. Research the best channels and platforms for your brand and industry

In order to truly understand which social platforms and channels will work best for your brand, the absolute best thing to do is to become a user yourself. Jump down the rabbit hole of social media and become immersed. Follow hashtags, devour feeds and build an authentic understanding.

Instagram images may work well for stunning ethical fashion brands, but Facebook Live may be the best place for you to show off your new Balinese Spa Hotel. Check out the competition, do your research and make sure you keep learning. There are endless social media analysis tools out there to help you to understand which platform is best for you, which will deliver results and even plan the best time of day to post to engage the majority of your followers.

5. Let them create…

Influencers and bloggers are creative people, they have a brand and they know their readers. As a business, you may be paying the influencer to try out your product and provide an honest review or a glossy product placement picture, but it’s important to take a step back and let them create unique campaigns and content. 

Don’t suppress them by demanding overtly commercial hashtags or geotags, don’t change their authentic and personable wording for corporate key messages. Anything that becomes too fake or forced will look just that. 

6. Understand that influencers are self-employed business people…

As per point two, good bloggers know their worth and won’t work for free and it's important to remember that they are self employed business people, and they have managed to turn their hobby into something that provides for them and their family.

Sure, there are occasional Instagram superstars who have made mega bucks from their blog or account, and get to travel the world in a crazy realm of super luxury, but the majority of them will be reliant on their income to live.

Find out what makes them tick. How do they work? Around the kids? Part time or every day? Chat to them and find out what their personal and professional objectives are. Understand how they work, and take on board that they are individuals who will more than likely do everything themselves. It goes without saying that they need to be treated differently to a magazine journalist or advertising exec.

How do you feel about social influencers and bloggers? Credible and authentic, or fake outlets for brand advertising?