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How Can Brands Find And Keep Trusted Influencers?

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Lia Haberman of LIVESTRONG.COM took the stage at SMWLA to explain how her company creates lasting partnerships with influencers—including how much to pay them.

If your company is looking to explore using influencer marketing to drive sales and brand awareness, you’re probably running into two common issues. One, how do you build a brand partnership with someone who isn’t technically an employee? And two, how do you compensate them?

Luckily, Lia Haberman, Senior Director of Social Media and Audience Growth at LIVESTRONG.COM, built the company’s influencer network that the site draws on for social media campaigns that require not just an on-brand experience, but a quick turnaround.

Haberman discussed some crucial steps brands need to take to build a lasting influencer relationship that goes beyond a transaction, while not shying away from the pressing issues of compensation and measurement.

Create an influencer pool you can draw from

When Haberman first arrived at LIVESTRONG.COM, the company had no existing relationships with influencers. Every time they wanted to conduct a new campaign, they had to start from scratch.

This was a problem, Haberman said, because some campaigns required 5-day turnarounds, and starting the search at the beginning was too time-consuming.

“We set up a coast-to-coast influencer program: We went to a diverse group of influencers across the country that we’d be able to go back to time and again to work with on different campaigns,” said Haberman.

To build that network, Haberman and her team used a few different methods, from Google searching for top fitness instructors, to returning to previous influencers they worked with, to simply asking the team who they followed and loved.

Come up with creative means of compensation

Haberman’s payment pie chart for influencers featured a few different possibilities. The biggest one, by far, was “paycheck.”

But there are other forms of payment that can be included along with dollars, such as product gifting, exposure or promotion by your brand, VIP access to exclusive events, and alignment on social missions.

That being said, “You also have to be realistic, and you have to offer equitable compensation.”

“Exposure doesn’t pay the rent,” she quipped.

When it comes down to actually paying influencers, Haberman cited a general baseline of “Approximately $10 for 1,000 [Instagram] followers.” But other factors can affect how much an influencer or campaign is worth.

Influencers with higher engagement rates—above Instagram’s typical 3.2 percent engagement—will be able to charge more. The more expensive the product you’re promoting, the pricier the campaign. And also, what are the deliverables of the campaign?

“The more you ask of someone, the more expensive the campaign is going to be,” said Haberman.

Identify, invest, support, measure

Haberman described “identify, invest, support, and measure” as “the key to what I’ve been talking about.

The first step, of course, is to identify the influencers who move the needle for your brand.

Next is investing in the effort to bring them into your network. You may have delegated the task of outreach to someone in your organization, or travel to meet with your potential influencers directly.

Then give support, “without an ask for your brand—every time you call them shouldn’t ask them to work on another campaign,” Haberman said.

And like with any campaign, you need to measure your reach and engagement, see how each influencer performed, and double down on the best-performing relationships.

Understand where your influencers are coming from

Early on, Haberman noted that the network “doesn’t always work,” and that’s where the authenticity came from.

“We’d rather work with influencers that say no to us once in awhile, because they don’t feel like whatever project we’re working on aligns with their brand… rather than say yes to every campaign,” she said.

And when she brought out some of LIVESTRONG.COM’s most trusted influencers—Sarah J. Gim, Daisha Graf, and Anna Victoria—to share their experience on the influencer side of things, it was clear that these were people with their own brands and missions, which require ample consideration from all parties.

When asked what campaigns stood out to them, Gim noted that being a part of the process helped a campaign with an appliance company resonate with her.

“Anything where you’re part of the creative process is much more interesting and fun,” said Gim. “Instead of someone saying, ‘Here’s a product, and can you just put it in the middle of a cheese board?’”

When Haberman wanted to know what some realistic expectations were, Graf was surprisingly minimalistic, but for good reason.

“One video and one post, or one or the other,” Graf said. “Once it starts being like 5 videos, 10 stories, in a certain amount of time, it’s a lot of work and real estate on your page, and for me that’s unrealistic.”

And when it came to the word influencer in general, the influencers themselves professed to not always being so comfortable with the term.

“The term influencer gets clouded by people are just posting, posting, posting… and then sometimes that term influencer sometimes isn’t as trusted,” said Victoria. “I don’t love the term, but I’m looking for suggestions on what else to call myself.”

For Haberman and her influencers, it’s clear that their relationship has gone well beyond transactional.

“[An influencer is] your trusted brand ambassador, sharing your message, with their audience. And notice I said with their audience and not to their audience because it should be a two-way conversation.” Haberman said of influencers and their followers. The same could be said of your brand and your influencers going forward.

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