Many people misunderstand the word “influencer.” This makes cultivating influencer relationships opaque for many. Nearly every month there is a story of an aspiring influencer scamming respectable business people

Naturally, this can inspire some concern. Executives who don’t know where to start with influencer relationships may be cautious. Are we talking about an aspiring “influencer” looking to score free kit? Perhaps “influencer” refers to a celebrity like Chrissy Teigen? Or, maybe this means something else? Consider these factors for your influencer campaign:

1. What is an influencer, and how should I define influencer relationships?

An influencer is a person with the power to affect purchase decisions. Factors such as their authority and knowledge create this power. Other factors might be this person’s position or relationship with a specific audience. Many people associate personalities with large online followings or celebrities with the term “influencer.” These are people who recommend products to their audience. Their recommendations have an impact on brand awareness and sales. 

However, the sphere of influence can reach audiences beyond the internet. For instance, only focusing on influencers and their online content is the wrong fit for some companies. 

For example, a health tech company might target an influencer with clinical credibility. People with influence in this area sometimes lend their credibility to the company’s product or app. This includes people like health researchers with a prominent reputation. Sometimes these researchers consult on findings in their research or scientific field. As a result, journalists seek out these opinions. These researchers’ credibility and expertise provide detail to the journalist’s coverage. Other kinds of influencers are analysts, academics or experts in healthcare who can recommend a product or app to their patients.

2. What does success with influencer relationships look like?

Once the niche and type of influencer to be engaged are clearly defined, consider a second question. If you engage with influencers, how should you map strategy to key performance indicators (KPIs)?

Start by defining the goal of building influencer relationships. For example, your team may want to drive sales or enhance credibility. Most brands aim for a combination of sales and increased awareness. 

Next, define the scope and capacity of the campaign. Consider whether you have an upper limit for the program’s budget, for instance. This budget may include the number of test products or downloads you are willing to commit to the program.

Some influencers request sponsorship consideration before engaging with a brand. Online influencers are most likely to request this. Knowing your budget will help the team screen influencers. This guide can determine which influencers to prioritize for engagement. 

3. How do you pitch an influencer engagement successfully?

Once the scope is defined, the real work begins. Convincing influencers to use your product requires careful work. The goal here is to cultivate a warm influencer relationship that produces the desired outcome. 

In order to cultivate a successful influencer relationship, begin with a respectful approach. Researching and addressing influencers properly is essential. For instance, marketing claims for a health tech product must be used carefully

Understand the influencer’s interests to determine the best approach. For example, a doctor might not be interested in a self-serve approach to a health tech process. Without clinical credibility, this concern is especially acute. As a result, the doctor will be more interested in the confirmed elements or unique insights that your team offers. A doctor has a vested interest in knowing about these insights to improve their practice or field of study. Research the doctor’s work, published articles and journals to which they contribute in order to understand their interests.

4. How do you measure the success of influencer relationships?

Once your program is underway, consider how it performs. Some online influencers tout their high number of followers and online impressions. Sometimes they inflate this number and can be reluctant to provide detailed link- or click-tracking.

Turn to the guiding principles for measurement, such as the Barcelona Principles. These mostly refer to PR campaigns. They are also an effective standard for evaluating influencers. The Barcelona Principles have four guides that explicitly mention measurement. One especially relevant example is Principle #2 which states: Measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs.

Another Principle which applies is #4: Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods. For instance, measure impressions among stakeholders, target audience, and the quality of coverage. Measure negative and neutral progress, not only positive.

In the case of influencer relationships, it is not useful to measure the number of review units or free download codes (outputs). However, you can measure outcomes. For example, consider the number of review posts or product mentions on social media. Another example is brand mentions in earned media. Evaluate the outcomes’ performance by surveying stakeholders. Other useful metrics are correlated site traffic, and the quality of the posts or brand mentions. 

Use these four factors to carefully consider a healthy influencer campaign. These will ensure you have everything needed for success. Your team will be prepared for successful influencer relationships with these factors. You will communicate the value of the program to your leadership team. Equally, you will report on outcomes and brand awareness wins with confidence.

About the Author

Maura Lafferty is an influencer relations specialist, with a particular focus on media outreach over social channels. Maura has over 14 years' experience in public relations, and relationships with media working in national, California, and Silicon Valley newsrooms.