The Truth About Social Influencers and Collaborations

“Social influencer” is a commonly heard buzzword in marketing these days – but what does it mean (and more importantly is it worth all the hype)? Let’s start with the basics, and then we will roll up our sleeves and dive deeper to learn how to successfully navigate the world of social influencer marketing and collaboration marketing!

First…what IS it?

A social influencer is a loosely used term that basically means someone who is active on social media, has a lot of followers, and has an impact when they post. Depending on your brand, target market, location, and budget, the look and feel of a social influencer will vary. For really niche markets, a social influencer might have only 2,00-3,000 followers, but for more broadly followed topics, a social influencer might need to have a much larger reach, nearing the 50,000-100,000 range. If you’re just getting started out on social media, people with even a modest social media following will still have an effect on your brand if they have a loyal and active group of followers.

Let’s be real – not all “influencers” are equal

There are two ways to become a social influencer – you can authentically engage with your followers and slowly build a real community who is interested in what you have to say and who believe in the same things you do, or you can pay to gain followers (but many of those “followers” turn out to not be real people). I’m not saying that all influencers who use apps to gain some traction don’t have authentic followers, but I am saying that someone who is lazy and simply pays for all their followers won’t be as effective to partner with than someone who engages their real followers in actual conversations on a regular basis. When considering working with an influencer, be sure to vet them! Go take a look at their profile. Look at their past posts from a few months ago, then more recently, and compare. At what point did they get their followers? How often do they post? Do they get a lot of actual comments on their posts or do they just get emojis? If someone comments on their post, do they respond with a thoughtful comment back? There are a lot of influencers out there in almost every industry so if you have doubts about someone, look for someone else! 

Is it Worth It?

YES! Social influencers can have a major impact on your brand. They can help you connect with new followers who haven’t yet heard about you. Breaking it down, genuine followers tend to trust the people they are following and are willing to take advice from the influencer or at least try something novel. Partnering with a social influencer can help you quickly reach a market who align well with your brand and messaging. But, you have to make sure you partner with the right communities in order to have the desired effect. So, you need to…

@AshPolan on Instagram is a great, local, fashion blogger influencer. She adds value to her followers and engages authentically in the comments.

Pick your Partner Well!

The most important thing is to pick wisely. Partnering with social influencers can be tricky (and sometimes costly,) so you want to invest your resources well. OK let’s get started with a collab!

First things first:

Remember who you are – know your brand inside and out. Avoid the temptation to partner with an influencer who has a ton of followers if they don’t align well with your core beliefs. Look at the Google analytics of your website and know the age range, geographic location, gender, similar likes, search terms…etc. of your site users to get a true understanding of who believes in the same things you do and the message you want to get across. What kind of people do you relate to? Think about who they are and then go find them. Search for topics that interest your followers and then find out who is leading the movement – it shouldn’t be hard.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – make a list of at least 2-3 social influencers who would be ideal, but only approach one at a time. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so start with the best possible option. If they decline the offer to collaborate with you, you already have a backup person in mind.

Fool me once… – take the extra time to get to explore the profiles (yes, find out if they are on multiple platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) and make sure they are real and believe what they say – investigate their posts, messaging, and responses to comments.

Be realistic about your budget – if you’re a nonprofit, you might be able to have a donation in kind for partnerships as long as you give credit (tag) the person online, but if you’re a regular business, you’ll likely have to at least give the influencer product, if not flat out pay for them to post. Set a budget and know your max ahead of time. (Some influencers charge expensive amounts per post or even for a temporary Instagram story mention!) Figure out what will be the most effective use of your dollar. When in negotiation with the influencer, ask them to send you the analytics and metrics. They should be able to give you the number of views and typical interaction that a post of theirs generally gets, not just the “likes.” Offer what you can up front so both your expectation and the influencer’s expectations are realistic.

Be kind and respectful – just a note about kindness: it goes a long way. Explain who you are, let them know you have done your research and give them the reasons you think a collaboration would be a benefit to the both of you, and be honest. Be honest about budget. Be honest about timeline. Be honest about how you intend to use the photos/videos. Be honest about the resources you can provide.

Right before the collaboration…

Plan, plan, plan! – Be thorough and detailed. Work with your influencer to make sure you have a shared vision. Most collaborations are either photo shoots or video shoots so you will want to figure out: location, time, hair, makeup, wardrobe, a script, transportation if necessary, photographer/videographer, and any props you might need.

Communicate and rally – set up a spreadsheet with everyone involved in the shoot with their name, number, email address, and social media handles. Make sure to keep everyone up to date with full detailed information leading up to the scheduled collaboration. (Always start with a thank you!). Keep the vibe positive and the tone professional!

# – Give those involved hashtags and tags ahead of time so if they want to, they can help hype up the coming collaboration and/or take selfies behind the scenes during the collab. (If they need to keep something secret, prep them ahead of time so they don’t spill the beans!)

During the shoot

Thank everyone – “thank you” should be the first words out of your mouth. You should greet everyone, give them a run down of the day, and make sure they also have everyone’s contact information.  Thanks early and often is the key to keeping the positivity up during the day and making sure everyone is comfortable.

Bring snacks/beverages – even short collaborations can be tiring and you will make people feel valued! People who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to give that appreciation right back (possibly with extra posts!). Bring extra blankets, towels, coats, scarves, gloves…anything that might be useful and that people might not remember to bring. You’ll be a hero to anyone that needs it!

The day is over but the work is just beginning

Right after the collaboration is a critical time for relationship building and follow-through.

@NVLWood on Instagram specializes in florals and events – she is fantastic at putting the special touches on collaborations, and she knows the importance of tagging. You can check out her profile and contact her if you need some help withy a collaboration!

Tag – you’re it! Be sure to tag everyone involved in every post you do (even if you post a throwback Thursday 6 months later!) If you see that someone has posted without tagging you, give them the benefit of the doubt and politely contact them via phone, email, or direct message to please add a tag to their photo.

Email and snail mail – A handwritten thank you note with a small gift goes a long way to making people feel great about the collaboration they just did. Start with thank you, add why the shoot is of value to you both, tell them any details about when you might get the edited photos/footage to share with them, and finish with another thank you. Be sure to send an email the day or two after the shoot to again share contact details, let people know the expectations with the messaging and tagging, and…you guessed it…to thank them!

Be a friend – Maintain the relationship and give referrals. It never hurts to follow up with those you have collaborated with. Even a short email to thank them (again) and let them know the actual impact they had on your brand (we increased by 507 followers within a week after your post!), and an offer to give a referral if they ever need one will go a long way to building a lasting, meaningful relationship with a social influencer.

Sharing is caring – If possible, give everyone involved access to the photos and videos. Just be sure to stipulate that they MUST tag you and use a hashtag you agreed upon if/when they share the photos. (You can also watermark the photos with your brand to make sure credit is given.)

Now you know the basics – so go on out and collaborate with social influencers!

P.S. Major thanks to Strange Bikinis for partnering so many times with the SPCA of Northern Nevada to help homeless pets get adopted. Also major thanks to the incredible photography of Calvin Hobson who did an amazing, professional job for the featured collaboration with Strange Bikinis and the SPCA of Northern Nevada.

Did this post answer your questions about social influencers and collaboration marketing? Leave me a comment to let me know! (And if you really loved it, hit the follow button at the bottom of the page!) Thanks for reading!

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