Have you ever watched a reality competition? You know, one of those Survivor-style shows that puts strangers in a stressful situation to battle for a last-person-standing prize?
Don’t be ashamed if you have. I’m a pop culture snob, but still found myself transfixed by ten seasons of America’s Next Top Model. On that show, amidst the freak-outs and tantrums, I noticed one recurring line of dialogue:
“I’m not here to make friends.”
You’ll hear it on almost every reality competition. There’s always one person who alienates everyone else with that specific phrase. Usually it’s followed by, “I’m here to win.”
The funny thing is, in all the hours I wisely invested watching would-be models snipe at each other, no one who said that ever won. Not once. In fact, they tended to get kicked off earlier than anyone else.
It’s easy for marketers to feel like we’re not here to make friends. Even in influencer marketing, it’s all about that ROI. Influencer, you get me what I need, we’ll compensate you, and that’s the end of it. We’re here to win.
But just like the models and aspiring pop idols of the world, you’ll find that putting effort into building friendships pays off in the end. If you want influencers who are excited about working with you, creating work they’re excited to promote, it pays to cultivate a friendship. Not just from a, “it’s nicer to work with people when you’re nice” angle, either—it’s better for the business side, too.
Here are three ways you can cultivate friendships with your influencers.
#1 – Consider People outside of their Interaction with Your Business
This is a piece of advice I’ve given to marketers thinking about their customers, but it applies to influencers as well. Yes, you’re vetting the influencer for the size of their audience and if their audience aligns with your message. But while you’re doing that, consider what they do when they’re not answering your email.
What are they like? Do they have a good sense of humor? What are their hobbies? Do they talk about their family, their pets, their collection of vintage chainsaws? What kind of music are they into? What movies do they love? It’s worth doing a little digging to find out. And I don’t mean just social media stalking, either. These questions can start a conversation you might not have had otherwise. We all love talking about ourselves—give them a chance to share interests you might have in common.
#2 – Take – Don’t Fake – A Personal Interest
Last December, I got a greeting card in the mail. It had my name and addresses hand-written on the envelope, but no return address. Intrigued, I opened it to read: “Best holiday wishes to you and yours from your friends at [Insurance Company].” I looked at the envelope again, and this time could tell their hand-written address was just a handwriting font. Just like that, any illusion of personal interest they were trying to create was gone.
With your influencers, it’s worth taking time to express a genuine personal interest. Let your correspondence show that you have taken time to learn something about them. Send a meme that made you laugh, that you know they would love. Send them a vintage chainsaw to add to their collection. That thoughtfulness goes a long way.
Just make sure you do your homework under point #1, so you’re not faking the funk. You wouldn’t want to send chocolates to a diabetic, or a vintage chainsaw to someone who collects old Happy Meal toys. That’s just a waste of a good chainsaw.
#3 – Strive for Genuine, Enthusiastic Co-Creation
At TopRank, we try to involve influencers in the creation process as actively as possible. We make sure influencers know exactly what project we’re working on, why we would love their input, and which other influencers are already on board. We keep the enthusiasm up throughout the process with progress reports. We show them the finished project before we publish it so they can make final edits. And we always make sure to message them right before the project posts, to make it easy for them to promote it.
Compare that approach to simply saying, “Hey, can we get a quote about Happy Meal toys for a blog,” followed by…well, no follow-up at all. There’s no comparison.
How a GREAT Marketer Befriends an Influencer
Let’s face it: We are here to make friends. In marketing, as in life, friends make good things even better. So to help you cultivate lasting friendships with the influencers in your life, we created this cute-but-serious storybook with some key points to keep in mind. Read it to your kids before bed tonight…or to your significant other while you’re binge-watching America’s Next Top Model.
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