If you have a business operating in the ecommerce sector, you’re already familiar with affiliate programs. Almost every business will have reached out to online influencers, paid for celebrity cameos, or marketed through affiliate partners at one time or another. In 2023, however, many businesses look beyond simple catch-all affiliate programs toward influencer management.
Influencer management involves handling, overseeing, and directing your influencer-led marketing strategies. This means playing a more active role in what your partners put out there while collaborating with you. Trust is essential to this process. This article will examine why it’s key to successful influencer management and how you can build it.
Why Trust is Key in Influencer Management
Establishing trust is an important part of any business arrangement, and this process doesn’t end after your first meeting or the signing of a contract. It’s especially important to influencer management because you’re asking your partners to give you more control over what they put out there.
For influencers, this could easily backfire on them if your requests negatively impact their brand—for example, if their audience values transparency. Still, you ask them to disseminate poorly researched claims or mistruths. Therefore, trust between both parties is vital.
Building Trust with Influencers
Influencers have the community they’ve built as proof of their considerable sway. They can probably show you a long list of the successful affiliate marketing campaigns they’ve been part of and offer up a wealth of metrics on request. Importantly, they can prove their audience trusts them—but you’re asking them to hand some of that power over to you.
That’s why you must show they can put their trust in you. There are several ways you can do this.
1. Define expectations and responsibilities
Defining what you want from a business deal is rarely easy, but when all parties work together, they can usually come to an arrangement. This must suit everyone, and you must agree on it before work gets underway. It means everyone knows what’s expected of them before committing.
However, that doesn’t mean expectations (on either side) can’t change throughout your relationship; part of building trust is clarifying that things can be tweaked if an approach isn’t working or negatively impacting either of your brands.
2. Ensure transparency in your communication
To work effectively together, there must be no danger of miscommunication. You need your influencers to know what you’re asking of them and to be happy with this arrangement—if they feel misled, your relationship will only end one way.
Work with your influencers to develop an agreement, a compensation scheme, and a timeframe that works for everyone. Set clear boundaries regarding deadlines, NDAs, and contractual obligations. You may need the help of software to keep track of everyone’s schedules, and timekeeping is important on both sides. You can use time tracking tools to help with this and track how many hours influencers are putting into promoting your products or services.
While you don’t want to be taken advantage of, you also don’t want them to feel overworked and under-compensated, as this will damage the trust between you.
3. Establish a timely compensation process
Be open and timely when it comes to compensation. Not every business will pay its influencers, but if you are, you should inform them of when, where, and how they’ll be remunerated. Remember, nothing damages trust more quickly than money that fails to materialize when it’s supposed to.
Your accounting payroll software solution should be flexible enough to accommodate multiple payments at different times. Otherwise, you’ll need a schedule that all your affiliates agree to upfront, like bi-weekly or monthly payment runs.
If there’s a commission or revenue deal involved, be open about what influencers as individuals can expect. These amounts may vary markedly depending on certain factors, so ensure everyone understands what they’re signing up for.
4. Maintain integrity in your interactions with influencers
Maintaining integrity isn’t that hard—you just need to be respectful. Try to understand the brands and personalities of the influencers you work alongside, so you don’t ask them to do anything that’s at odds with their values.
It’s a rather extreme example, but if you have a female influencer with a podcast celebrating women, don’t ask her to downplay the gender pay gap in your company if this is something you actively need to work on. To build trust, your influencers must know they’re in safe hands and that you won’t push them to promote anything they aren’t comfortable with.
If you can’t promise this, they’re unlikely to give you the degree of control over their output that you require for successful influencer management.
5. Create a personal connection with influencers
Leading on from this, try to develop a personal connection with your influencers. This means learning what’s important to them so you don’t ask them to do anything that contradicts their values, makes them uncomfortable, or might negatively impact their brand.
6. Provide growth and development opportunities for influencers
Finally, treat influencers like you would other team members, i.e., do your best to show they’re valued. You want them to feel like working with you benefits them and that they won’t find better opportunities elsewhere. This means providing platforms to help them grow and evolve so your relationship remains mutually advantageous.
Commit to sharing the benefits of your collaboration with them so they know that when you grow, you grow together. Rather than dropping them in favor of someone else as your brand expands, make it clear that if they work hard and deliver value, you’ll share that success.
How to Maintain Trust with Influencers
Building trust and maintaining it are two different things. So, once you’ve laid the foundations, here’s how to ensure your relationship stays productive.
Ensure consistent communication
Stay in touch with your influencers, and let them know what’s happening with your brand. Involve them in projects from the start, and give them some steer over the direction you take. Make it clear that the lines of communication are always open: if there’s ever something they’re unsure of or don’t feel comfortable doing, tell them to raise it with you. Everything should be up for discussion.
Follow through on promises and commitments
If you’ve told your influencers you’ll be in touch by a certain date, stick to that. If you’ve set a meeting, attend it. Likewise, if you’ve told them they’ll be paid within the fortnight, pay them. Make sure that money is in their account when it’s supposed to be. All these actions build trust and show you can be relied upon.
Respect the influencer’s time and creative freedom
Your influencers managed to build successful brands without any involvement from you. They know what they’re doing and what it takes to promote a product, so recognize and embrace this. The worst thing you can do is micromanage. After all, trust works both ways. If they know you can be counted on to listen to their input, they’ll feel much more comfortable handing some of their creative control over to you.
There are many different ways to build influencer management programs, but the key is developing a mutually beneficial relationship with trust on both sides. See this as a collaboration; above all, while you may be calling the shots, you have a partner with a wealth of expertise and a record of successful brand-building. Recognize and respect this so you too can take advantage.