Rethinking the influencer-brand relationship

Jan 26, 2024
Rethinking the influencer-brand relationship
Think about the last time you saw a post from an influencer that made you stop scrolling. What was it about the person and content that convinced you to pause or even inspired you to try a new product or service? Before we see these digital trendsetters on our timelines, there’s a lot of planning and strategizing going on behind the scenes. From understanding audience interests to pinpointing the right collaboration for a campaign, there are many intricacies to influencer marketing.

Let’s explore the layers of influencer-brand partnerships so you can build and nurture successful collaborations—and create content worthy of interrupting your audience’s scrolling time.

What is an influencer-brand partnership?
Influencer-brand partnerships leverage the social proof of content creators and/or influencers to promote sales and build brand awareness. They harness the creator’s following, trustworthiness and authenticity to increase credibility between a brand and their target audience.

Influencer-brand collaborations can take many different forms, but our Q3 2023 Pulse Survey of 307 social marketers in the United States reflects some interesting trends. According to the survey, companies are focused on the following influencer-brand partnerships: giveaways, product collaborations and influencer-led advertisements. You’re probably already familiar with giveaways and product collaborations, but influencer-led advertisements vary and can include sponsored posts and affiliate marketing ambassadors.

In order for these brand partnerships to flourish and maximize return on investment of influencer marketing efforts, marketers will need to consider how to collaborate with influencers with an intentional mindset.

How to collaborate with influencers in a meaningful way
Knowing how to find the right influencers is pivotal to the success of your brand partnerships. Identifying the right influencers is a top priority, but marketers also need to consider caveats like audience interest and understanding when to give influencers more agency. The magic of collaborating with influencers lies within their expertise—and brands should definitely learn from them while leveraging their social proof.

Use authenticity as a main driver
Consumers are looking for authentic content, and activating the right partners builds trust and connection with audiences. Let’s make it clear: authenticity is more important than ever—that’s why leaning into it is one of our top predictions for the future of social media. According to The 2023 Sprout Social Index™, authentic, non-promotional content is the number one type of content consumers don’t see enough of from brands on social.

Some of the most successful examples of influencer marketing campaigns center on authenticity. For example, in August 2023 Topicals hosted a fully BIPOC sponsored brand trip, featuring a group of 18 smaller creators and influencers. Several had never been on a brand trip before. The influencer trip resulted in 3 million impressions and an increase of 5,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram, according to Topicals.

Topicals maintained a similar momentum with a brand trip to Ghana in December 2023, #TopicalsGoneToGhana. The social media campaign achieved what happens when brands do influencer trips the right way.

#TopicalsGoneToGhana happened during Detty December, a month-long annual celebration featuring music festivals and other events in West Africa that has surged in popularity over the past few years. Thousands flock to Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal from across the globe to enjoy Detty December.

Topicals appealing to culture and aligning with influencers that resonate with their audience achieves a top priority for marketers: authentic messaging while building brand awareness.

If you’re looking to identify which influencers will help you shape meaningful campaigns, look to social data to inform your influencer-brand partnerships.

How social data can inform your influencer collaborations
Along with authenticity, businesses should seek out social data to inform their influencer-brand partnerships. Think of influencers as the artists that bring a song to life with their voice. Social data is the music sheet that guides their song—but instead of music notes, we’re using metrics.

The Sprout Social Index™ reveals 51% of marketers plan to use social data to inform product development or marketing strategy. With social listening tools, you can uncover relevant conversations, topics and influencers to help inform your influencer collaborations. For example, you can use social listening tools to track customer sentiment to review how your audiences feel about various conversations. You can also track other relevant metrics like reach, engagement rates, new followers and profile visits.

And with influencer marketing tools like Tagger, brands can dive even deeper and learn what their audience truly cares about, enabling marketers to identify the best influencers to tap into what their audiences want and develop content that resonates.

With Tagger by Sprout Social, you can use smart filters to view thousands of creators and influencers, analyzed by relevant audiences on social networks that are aligned with your brand. The platform also enables marketers to manage entire campaigns and measure the success of those campaigns in real-time through analytics and custom reports.

3 tips for influencer collaborations that build customer loyalty
Let’s explore three actionable takeaways you can use to build and nurture influencer partnerships.

1. Leverage influencers across the customer journey
Most people associate influencer marketing with purchase-stage content like tutorials, product reviews, try-on hauls and Live shopping, but you can use influencer- brand partnerships at each stage of the customer journey. For example, in the retention stage, marketers are aiming for repeat purchases and to increase key performance indicators (KPIs) like retention rate and customer lifetime value. You could activate influencers in exclusive memberships or customer appreciation content. For advocacy purposes, influencers can support referral programs. Influencers can give endorsements that are seen as credible by their target audience. Using referral links also makes tracking and measuring ROI easy as well. For example, Gymshark has an affiliate program and an ambassador program.

2. Nurture lasting partnerships
Instead of hosting multiple one-off influencer collaborations, focus on fostering lasting partnerships. Remember that influencers are the artists that bring the content to life, so embrace creating your band of partners. Building upon the same partnerships will further nurture trust with audiences and enable more opportunities for them to learn about those influencers. For example, for the #TopicalsGoneToGhana campaign, the brand included some influencers that also attended the Bermuda trip, allowing the brand to further activate their current brand partnerships and the personalities of those influencers.

3. Use social listening to evaluate partnerships and iterate
Remember our analogy: influencers are the artists and social data is the music sheet. Use social listening data to evaluate your existing audience’s interests and current influencers that could already be a part of your brand conversation. With Sprout Social’s Listening tools you can monitor relevant hashtags, keywords and brand mentions to help you identify audience insights. For example, you may notice an influencer who already has a genuine connection with your brand’s product or service before being paid to use it in a collaboration. Tapping into existing customers as influencers reaches another level of authentic marketing. As you consider current and future influencer-brand partnerships, make a point to analyze those collaborations. See how your audience responds and adjust your influencer strategy accordingly.

What’s next: Evaluate and improve your future influencer partnerships
To continue creating attention-grabbing campaigns, remember to lean on using data to understand your influencer-brand collaboration performance. Learning from existing partnerships will fuel future collaborations. If you haven’t already, consider using influencer marketing platforms to help you get the analytics and insights your brand needs.

Source: sproutsocial