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Strategies for Building Long-Term Influencer Relationships

Jan 26, 2024

As an influencer marketer, you’re the primary bridge builder that develops and nurtures influencer relationships for your brand. Sure, you provide briefs, organize logistics, provide content feedback, and get into other nitty gritty admin work. 

But your most powerful superpower? 

The ability to strengthen and lengthen influencer relationships by making your partners feel valued, connected, and empowered. Below I’ll share some simple but effective communication strategies for building strong, long-term influencer relationships. But first, let’s talk about why this is so important.

Why Invest in Long-Term Influencer Relationships?

In today’s creator climate, stability is paramount. While long term influencer relationships require more time, effort and investment – resources that most marketers are admittedly short on – the potential benefits make the investment worthwhile for both brands and creators in many ways:

  • Influencers benefit from long-term relationships because they are able to build financial security and stability. Ongoing partnerships also mean they’re able to incorporate the brand into their content in more authentic ways!
  • Brands benefit from long-term relationships because time builds true affinity! Influencers that they’ve built true strong relationships with are more likely to deliver aligned content, and foster a greater sense of connection between their audience and the brand/products, resulting in more value and long-term ROI.

As an influencer marketing professional, a creator’s voice and authenticity are two of your most powerful resources. Consumers, for their part, are becoming more and more discerning about the content and products that they engage with, and specifically, where their dollars go. At the end of the day they are more likely to perceive product promotions as inauthentic if they feel like the creator-brand partnership is performative. Long term influencer relationships are the antidote to this!

Tip: Getting this skill right can impact every single part of your influencer program. See how negotiations can be positively (or negatively) impacted by strong influencer relationships

Long-Term Influencer Relationship Tip #1: Get out of their inbox

Creators want to know they are more than just a number, more than the likes, and more than a source of content. It’s important to open up communication channels that allow for more transparent conversations and provide safe spaces for brand representatives to create and nurture legitimate influencer relationships. Sometimes the key to this simply lies in literally getting out of the (in)box. Some of the channels I’ve shamelessly used to communicate with influencers all over the world include:

  • WhatsApp Messaging and Calls
  • Instagram Direct Message
  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams

By encouraging communication through various mediums, it showcases yours and the brand’s flexibility to meet the creator where they are, displays accessibility, and enforces a true desire to foster a connection beyond the content. 

The reality is that most creators want to have that personal connection. But! Remember that every creator is unique — it’s important to tailor your communication plan. Asking your partner how/where they prefer to communicate can work wonders. 

Long-Term Influencer Relationship Tip #2: Be open to feedback

Creators need to feel seen and heard. Try hosting monthly “office hours” for creators to join and ask questions that may or may not be related to influencer programming, or set up individual sessions to talk through life changes and updates. During these sessions you can ask questions like:

  • What do you feel has been working really well in our partnership so far?
  • What do you feel isn’t working so well - what do we need to improve?
  • Is there anything that you feel is missing from how we work together? Or anything that you are doing/seeing other brands do that you are interested in? 
  • Do you have any questions about our brand, products, or upcoming campaigns?

This serves as a prime opportunity for you to share important context and insights from the brand’s perspective, as well as introduce them to other team members that support influencer marketing efforts. It may also allow for more personalized conversations that provide valuable insight into creator motivations, personal goals and what they’d like to see from both the brand and the partnership. 

Ultimately the goal of these conversations are to give you a first-hand opportunity to connect with creators on a deeper level so that you can develop a unique strategy with them in mind.

Long-Term Influencer Relationship Tip #3: Think creatively about how to engage them

In your current influencer program, what happens after a partner has posted branded content and fulfilled their campaign deliverables? The relationship doesn’t, and shouldn’t, end there. 

As someone with a deep understanding of the social and influencer space, I enjoy seeing brands interact with creators, even when the content isn’t about their brand. Even the simplest engagement like an encouraging comment or friendly repost signals to the influencer that the brand understands their value in the creator space. To make sure you are doing this on a regular enough basis, make sure you:

  • Develop a shortlist of the creators that you want to build new or stronger relationships and why (this adds context to the relationship and illustrates alignment when pitching them for upcoming campaigns)
  • Set up a system for “staying in the know” on their content. You could do this with a social listening tool or an influencer marketing platform like Traackr (pro tip: I've often used Traackr to search for a creator and quickly find all of their content in one place)
  • Make sure you engage with their content quickly, regularly, and meaningfully. Sure, there’s a time and place to drop 🔥🔥, but make sure you work in comments with more sentiment and personal touch

An example of a brand that did this well recently? Sephora commented on these Top Skincare Creators, Top Makeup and Cosmetics Creators, and Top Fragrance Creators lists, congratulating (and tagging) the folks in their #sephorasquad for winning a spot. It’s clear they monitor mentions of their closest ambassadors — the cool part? Seems like some of those creators found out about those lists because of Sephora’s proactive tagging. Skincare brand, Topicals, also does a great job of engaging with their #SpottieHotties – you can find them in the likes and comments of their ambassadors, even when posting about other beauty brands.

At the end of the day, it’s these kinds of proactive actions that will help you build long and fruitful influencer relationships, especially in a space that is continually expanding and becoming heavily saturated with brands (your competition!). 

So to end, I’m going to give you one last bonus tip: get started now, and prepare yourself for the long haul. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint (although the speed of our industry can often make it feel like a sprint). The biggest clue is in the name of this blog post — strong, long-term influencer relationships can take a long time and a lot of effort. Not every influencer relationship is built for the long haul, so it’s important to be able to identify the ones that are worth your time and adjust your relationship building strategies as creators’ needs change.