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How to Build Relationships With Social Media Influencers from the Ground Up

We’ve all gotten to that point where we’ve found the perfect social media influencer only to ask the ultimate question: now what?

Influencer management can be tricky because it requires relationship building. It’s not ad space you can purchase in a few clicks - it needs to feel right. With that being said, remember that influencers are people too! While there are transactions required, a relationship between a brand and an influencer should be mutually beneficial. The more natural the fit, the better the content you will build together - which ultimately means more earned customers.

Luckily with a few tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be able to confidently approach and build a relationship with a social media influencer that will last.

1. Know The Audience of Your Social Media Influencer

Make sure you do your research and seek out more about your influencer’s audience. This is not only a great way to determine if the social media influencer in question is a great fit for your brand, it also helps you learn more about who you’re approaching. Analyze who is interacting with their content, and dig deep to find out what demographics they attract. 

We know audience analysis takes a lot of work but it’s important! Skip over to our piece 9 Ways Audience Analysis Can Transform Your Marketing to learn why you shouldn’t skip this step. Or if you’re ready, find out what influencers match your brand the best here.

Once you feel confident about your research you can build a personal message that revolves around your influencer’s following. It’s important to explain what their audience will get out of the partnership as well. Keeping this at the front of your mind will make your influencer management even more effective. Always remember that influencers have their audience’s interest at heart and won’t want to participate in a partnership that doesn’t look authentic.

For example, when reaching out you can include in your message that you think a partnership would be great because their audiences have an interest in (mention topic) which is closely related to your own brand. We often use this technique when reaching out to guest writers, explaining not only how our social media audience will benefit, but how theirs will too.

Influencer management Pro Tip: Businesses of all sizes have huge opportunities to get creative. Don’t be afraid to explore different ways you can help your influencer create engaging content. Offering social media influencers free giveaway items for their fans, promo codes, trips, and more are just a few ways you can assist them in creating branded content naturally.

2. Be Clear About Expectations

Influencers have a lot going on and are approached by other brands regularly. To build a successful relationship with an influencer you need to be clear about expectations from the start. Always ask what type of relationship they are looking for, after all, it’s a two-way street. Leave the conversation open-ended, and don’t be surprised if you need to meet in the middle and compromise.

Once you’ve hammered out the general collaboration you can talk campaign details. Simply Founder, Sarah Boyd gives great advice on what to include when discussing campaign expectations:

  1. Mention the number of content pieces you expect over what period of time

  2. Outline how you plan to use their content and verify which channels

  3. Be clear on what call-to-actions you want the influencer to use in their campaigns

  4. Explain the approval process if you have one in place

  5. Define captions or campaign tagging 

  6. Set up an FTC disclosure 

3. Don’t Limit Creativity

This is a big one. Influencer management requires trust. That’s why it’s important to be selective when you start your search. You want to choose someone you can count on. To save yourself the trouble, search through their previous collaborations and benchmark their sponsored content to your own expectations.

Influencer Dan Markham from What’s Inside explained at Socialbakers Engage, that one of the most successful branded videos he made was a result of creative freedom. Markham emphasized that previous branded videos he’s created flopped when there were too many restrictions set in place. Luckily German Mercedes Benz manufacturer let him do the unthinkable and the social media world loved it. They not only let him cut open a Mercedes Benz C-Class seat but let him publish the video to his channels without any edits. The result? Over 3 million views and 30,000 likes.


To excel at influencer management, you need to remember that influencers are the authority when it comes to their social media following. They know what works and what doesn’t. Though it can be difficult to let go, you will see much better results if you let them take the content wheel. Audiences are very perceptive and can instantly sense when something feels unnatural and forced. If your influencer isn’t happy it will show in their content.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to set any guidelines at all - but if they need a bookmark to read through them it’s safe to say they’re too long.

4. Make Your Offer Stand Out

Social media Influencers only have so much space they can offer to brands without turning into a billboard. As a consequence, getting their attention can be difficult, even more so if your offer is no different from the ones they are getting sent to their inbox every day.

Before you reach out directly and ask for a transactional partnership try to build a relationship with the influencer. Interact with their social media content and tag them in posts that they might find relevant. It’s a great way to get your name recognized so when you do make the next step they are already familiar with your brand.

Here’s a great example. We reached out to digital marketing influencers Dan and Lloyd Knowlton asking them to join us at this year's Socialbakers Engage. We offered to cover their accommodation and flight and provided them with complimentary tickets to the conference. In exchange, they could cover the event in any way they saw fit. After the conference, we were tagged in a vlog they created about their experience.


5. Keep Your Influencer in the Loop

Before you start writing an influencer you need to first set goals and objectives. Clearly outline what you want to achieve with your campaign and how you plan to measure your company’s success. This will help the influencer you’re collaborating with refine their approach based on your goals. Let them know if you’re looking to partner with them to raise brand awareness, grow your social media community, or even convert sales. We have some great tips on the topic on our blog: 5 Ways to Measure Your Influencer Marketing.

Once the partnership is live, reach out to your influencer and let them know how their efforts are contributing to your success. If you’ve noticed one of the customized promos you’ve created for them are working well - share the results! This will demonstrate how their content is generating real impact on your business. On the other hand, if you find a campaign isn’t getting any traction letting them know early enough can point them in the right direction. Bottom line, don’t leave them in dark!

The Takeaway

Building a relationship with a social media influencer isn’t always easy. To manage your influencer marketing initiatives effectively you need to communicate expectations, goals, as well as progress. In turn, you will not only create authentic content, but you will also be able to reach new audiences and acquire new customers.

Not sure if you should cooperate with a macro or micro influencer? We’ve got you covered. Watch our episode of Social Media Minute to learn what’s right for your brand.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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