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Business vs. Pleasure: Should Brands Befriend Influencers?

It’s easy to be swept away by the influencer marketing tide. It’s the “it” thing right now. All sorts of articles exist about finding influencers and vetting them (including ones I’ve written), but they may neglect a critical truth: influencers are meant to be friends.

And in a friendship, both parties benefit. It isn’t about what does you the most good, though that is important from a branding and business perspective. It’s about what does your influencers the most good and meets your interests at the same time. What’s in it for you and them? Why should you be friends?

Asking those two questions can make a world of difference when it comes to implementing a sustainable influencer marketing program. Let’s look at the questions in more detail, shall we?

What’s in it for you?

Influencer marketing can accomplish all sorts of goals. It can:

  • Build brand awareness.
  • Offer informative and fun resources, such as how-to videos.
  • Create a personalized context, provoking a “me, too” effect.
  • Establish long-term relationships, both with influencers and the audience.
  • Introduce followers to new products and/or services.
  • Convince people to take a deeper dive with your brand, i.e., fill out a lead-gen form on your website.

All those results are great, and most have a direct impact on the bottom-line. Which ones are right for you? That all depends on your business’ strategic aims. What are its goals for the year? Align influencer marketing with them to have the most effect.

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What’s in it for them?

Influencers are people, and that means they aren’t going to promote your brand “just because.” They either have to already have a relationship with you or have an extremely compelling reason to advocate on your behalf.

The reason isn’t rocket science; it’s all about understanding people’s motivations. Are they intrinsically motivated? If so, they aren’t going to be persuaded with money or pretty products. They like those things, sure, but they aren’t going to be swayed to join an influencer marketing program based on those things. They need a better “why” than that.

It’s somewhat like work perks. People may like the option of bringing their dogs to work, but it isn’t going to convince them to come or stay. More compelling reasons are flexibility and opportunities for growth.

So find out what motivates your influencers and give them those things. They’ll be in your program for the long haul.

Why should you be friends?

The next question is “why.” Why should your brand be friends with this influencer?

Approach the question like you’re seeking a new cause to support or hiring a new employee. You choose causes and employees based on alignment. They agree with your mission and values.

It’s not unlike forming a friendship. You naturally gravitate toward people who are like you, one way or another. They might not look like, dress like, or talk like you—a good thing when trying to reach new audiences via influencers—but underneath the surface realities is a deep compatibility.

When you find people like that, influencer marketing is easy. You’ve found a friend, not merely an influencer. And those are the kind of people who not only stick around but also stick up for you when the crowd criticizes and the bully gets belligerent.

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Images: Sam Saunders (Creative Commons)

About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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