So, you've decided to try out some influencer marketing. That's great news! Trends in marketing continue to move toward influencer-style campaigns. Especially since, according to Ready Pulse, "Millennials, one of the largest and most influential demographic cohorts, hold authenticity above content."
But communicating with influencers requires tact and know-how. Not only can good influencer-facing communications produce a top notch campaign and build important relationships between your brand and bloggers or Instagrammers, but bad communications can get your brand blacklisted by this tightly-knit community. How, then, can you become a brand that influencers love to work with?
Having worked so closely with hundreds of bloggers over the past year, we've heard about the good and the bad. And we've realized it's basically like dating. Here's what we mean:
Texting Etiquette Applies
You just got back from a date with a person you really like. Do you: text immediately and gush your feelings? Overthink your follow-up and have all of your friends give it an OK before you push send? Wait a few days to text just to give the illusion that this person isn't on your mind all the time?
We all have our theories on best practices, but ultimately we think Aziz Ansari said it best in his book Modern Romance. After years of research about dating in a world with texting and online dating, his findings on the most successful texts were clear: be specific with your invitation, make a callback to a previous interaction, and keep your tone light.
The same logic applies to your influencer outreach campaign.
Don't send wishy-washy messages to bloggers with a cagey product pitch. Be direct about what you're asking for, like you would with a date: do you want to go to see Star Wars on Saturday at 8PM? Do you want to review our company's new line of taco seasonings as part of our Cinco de Mayo campaign?
Don't make your message generic, as if you were sending it to any old person. Dates and influencers alike want to feel like you listen to what they say. Reference an interaction and/or imply that you've done an appropriate amount of research (too much can come off as creepy, though): how was your nephew's violin recital? I loved your post about your mom's chicken pot pie.
Be friendly--better yet, be funny. People like to align themselves with other interesting people, and your emails or texts can communicate so much of your personality. Find a way to say something clever without being snarky.
Don't Be A Jerk
This one should be a no-brainer, but we've all been the person on the receiving end of a jerky message. Proving your worth to another person shouldn't include putting that person down or overstating your accomplishments. Everyone can see through "negging," right? Influencers certainly can.
People in 2016 care about authenticity above all else. Rattling off a list of your talents or accolades only comes off as condescending and phony, not impressive. Deliver your message with a straightforward, fun tone. If you have some kind of relevant achievements, share those, but in a way that's meant to inform the conversation, not impress via bragging: I just ran my first marathon last month too; maybe we can meet up for a jog this weekend? We know you're in Houston; we'll be competing as a finalist at the Texas state fair chili cook-off this weekend and hope to see you there!
Pay for Dinner
We definitely don't think of this in any kind of old-fashioned, gendered way. There are all sorts of modern norms about paying for the date, but we subscribe to the idea that the person who does the inviting should pay for dinner or drinks. Whether it's a date, coffee meeting, or meetup among friends, if you set up or requested the date, offer to cover the check. Yes, your guests will likely pull out their wallets and offer to cover their shares--there's nothing wrong with accepting that offer--but be a good date and make that initial offer.
The same goes for brands pitching influencers. There are all sorts of dated ideas that no longer apply. PR pitches to media companies used to involve the sending of a free sample with no expectations. But things have changed and influencers know when they're being asked to work for free. Just like you wouldn't ask a date out and then sit back and expect him or her to cover the bill, brands should never pitch a product and expect a favorable review for free. Not only is it impolite, it's also unethical.
Everyone's got a story about a date that we thought went well, only to never hear from our love interest. It's disappointing, humiliating, annoying and ends up feeling like a big waste of time. Brands kind of do the same thing. As a blogger myself, I've received so many emails from brands stating that they're "considering" my site for participation in a campaign. After initial excitement, I fill out a long, complicated form and submit.
And then I hear NOTHING!
Not only does this leave an unsavory flavor in my mouth, but I also kvetch to blogger friends about not hearing back. This kind of negative word-of-mouth can really hurt a brand in influencers' eyes.
Listen: we're not unreasonable people. The truth is, sometimes you're not right for a campaign, just like you're sometimes not right for a guy or gal with whom you thought you had a connection. Just, be straight up and let us know it's not you, it's me.
Take It Slow
Ready to take things to the next level? Remember to protect yourself! Once you've created a meaningful relationship with an influencer, and want to move forward with your sponsored content, think through all of the potential problems and make sure to address them upfront. Think of this part as the talk.
Make sure you have a plan for how to disclose your relationship--does your blogger have a standard FTC disclosure statement ready, and/or can you provide one? Do you have a plan in place for social media distribution? Or, what about KPIs--are you and your influencer on the same page in terms of what will mean "success" for this campaign? Manage expectations and keep communication open for a successful campaign!