Influencer marketing is at its best when an influencer partnership is formed with a brand they have been organically promoting for years. Whether you’re requesting content in exchange for a product, or agreeing to pay for a social media advertisement, having an organic connection at the core of your relationship adds a huge amount of value to your influencer marketing strategy.
We’ll start with some inspiration, highlighting some of our favorite organic influencer partnerships. Then we’ll dive into some tips for building and maintaining authentic relationships with your brand advocates.
I hope you can use these examples and insights to help your team put organic partnerships at the heart of your influencer marketing program.
Organic partnerships get their value from the genuine excitement an influencer has for your brand. It’s the perfect combination of word-of-mouth, marketing, and celebrity endorsement that generates huge potential for sales. And the great part is, as long as a person has genuine influence over their audience, organic influencer marketing works with all tiers.
I’m a micro influencer with just over 6k followers on Instagram. I’m often approached to advertise in exchange for products I don’t organically use, but occasionally I'll get an amazing inquiry from a brand I love. My best experience yet has been with the ambassador program for Rent The Runway’s.
I have been a fan of the company since its inception, and have been an active user of their Unlimited subscription program since April 2016. I mentioned the brand 58 times before we partnered, and undoubtedly recommended hundreds of women to their subscription service. Finally, last August I was added to their influencer roster.
Despite having a modest following, I managed to recruit so many new subscribers in December 2019 that my membership was paid for throughout all of 2020. I did this without any heavy promotion, just a well documented passion for the brand. An organic partnership with a micro influencer that loves your brand can be incredibly powerful.
If you know who Grace Atwood is, you’re probably familiar with two things; her love of reading and her obsession with Dunkin Donuts. The only person more famous for their love of DD is fellow Massachusetts-native Ben Affleck. Over the years, Grace has actively tried to get a sponsorship from Dunkin. She mentions the coffee company often on her blog and instagram. Instead of passively waiting for them to reach out to her, she began posting outfit pictures while holding her coffee and captioning the posts “Unfortunately not a @dunkin ad.” Nearly everyday she’d post an instagram story of herself drinking their coffee and tagging the brand. After almost a year of active organic posting, Grace finally got the sponsorship of her dreams, and her followers rejoiced on her behalf.
When Jacey started her blog Damsel in Dior in 2011, a partnership with the french fashion house was likely beyond her wildest imagination. But starting in 2018, Jacey began getting invitations to private viewings and fashion shows. She also scored a spot on Dior’s coveted gifting list.
Comedian Heather McMahan is a huge fan of the cosmetics brand MegaBabe, and full disclosure-- I am a fan of both of them. Her tagline is “Thick Neck Think Ankles” and a lot of her comedy stems from her experience as a woman with a curvy physique. She has been promoting the brand’s “Thigh Rescue” anti-chafing for about a year before her #notsponsored posts became #ads on her IG story. Her love for the brand is apparent and infectious and I'm sure she’s inspired many new customers for Mega Babe’s founder and fellow influencer Katie Sturino.
Food influencer Alexa Luria is passionate about Red Hot Blues. When I met her a few years ago when working for a gourmet food company, I had the opportunity to ask her what her dream brand to work with would be. Without missing a beat, she said Garden of Eatin’, specifically, their “Red Hot Blues” chips. As early as 2018 she was promoting the brand for free to her 600k+ followers-- and finally she scored the partnership of her dreams. I was elated for her. In many other instances this would look like a random partnership, but something about a deeply organic collaboration is so much more meaningful!
If you see someone is often tagging your brand on social, don’t play hard to get, follow them and engage with their content! To find your brand’s best organic advocates, we recommend using a social listening tool. For a more advanced option, we recommend using a CRM tool to store info like their birthday and the best address to send things like congratulatory flowers!
A great way to deepen the connections you’ve built on social media with your brand advocates is to invite them to special events. Face-to-face events are the ideal way to solidify these relationships, but during COVID-19 restrictions, we would recommend throwing a virtual event. Although in-person events are preferred, virtual events do have the advantage of bypassing geographical limitations and allowing for a basically unlimited guest list.
As an influencer, there is no greater feeling than being recognized by a brand that you genuinely love. If I'm already purchasing your product, I'm absolutely going to want to partner with your brand. Not only is this an easy win for marketers, but it’s a great way to form a long-term relationship with your organic brand advocates. Not to mention it’s a waste of money and inventory to seed products that people don’t actually want.
We get it, some brand guidelines are incredibly strict. But aside from a set of important non-negotiables, keep in mind that an influencer’s audience follows them for a reason. They are inspired by them, they like their style, they admire their unique qualities. Take the time to find influencers who naturally align with your brand values and estetic, build trust and understanding, then let them be a true creative partner to your brand. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what they come up with. Side note, as an influencer, I LOVE when I’m provided with a mood board!!