Why maintaining strong relationships with influencers is key to success

Ollie Bond – Head of Influencer Outreach (creator of @AnfieldHQ – 2 x winner of Football Blog of the Year)

In a digital age of online connection, it is not just celebrity endorsements which dominate the influencer marketing world anymore, regular people have become online ‘celebrities’ with large and powerful social media followings especially in certain market segments.

I predominantly manage influencer relationships and outreach in Sport. We hunt and choose influencers based on their audience relevance and ability to deliver, reaching out is the easy bit providing there are the necessary means to do so, the next bit is a little bit trickier. The way I see it there are two types of influencers, those who know their online value and those that don’t. Let me give you an example, Chelsea HQ was one of my first ever influencers on my books, he had just over 200,000 followers, an extremely engaged audience and he hadn’t really dipped his toe into any social media marketing before. Upon reaching out to him many years ago he told me he’d heard of Goat and would love to work with us, and that his price was £5 a post. As a social media agency hearing that is good news in itself, but to get that sort of price without any negotiating required for an account like that was networker paradise! If only every influencer was like that it would make my life a lot easier.

However, influencers in the modern day world are becoming increasingly knowledgable and professional. They know their value and have often been given high fees for their services before, or are being courted by a number of social media agencies, betting companies, or companies with a product or service to sell. Some influencers I’ve reached out to have had 40,000 – 60,000 followers, they’re suitable for the campaign but their engagement is low, with an average of 2/3 retweets a post, but they charge upwards of £50 per post. There could be a number of reasons for the lack of engagement. An ageing following, lack of social output or in some cases influencers have even purchased fake followers to enhance their numbers and attract higher fees. The balance between negotiating hard on fixed prices without damaging the relationship is a difficult one, but it’s essential.

When negotiating it’s crucial to hold firm. Some influencers will have a low following but believe their engagement is high, for example an account with 22,000 followers who gets decent engagement and wants £25 per post. Telling that influencer you don’t believe their posts provide the value their prices suggest is tricky, it’s a sensitive subject at times but one which needs addressing. The key is to hold firm because most influencers will find a middle ground and amend their demands, whether that be an influencer with a large following and engagement charging the ends of the earth, or an influencer with a low following and engagement also charging the ends of the earth!

Hunting for influencers reminds me of Pokemon….you’ll go roaming through platforms looking for boxes to be checked, you’ll catch your Pikachu’ and Snorlax’s who charge a reasonable and fair price for their services, you’ll get your Charizard’s and Bulbasaur’s who charge high prices which don’t justify their services and need to be worked with, but once in a while you’ll stumble across a Mew or a Mewtwo who have a large following, great engagement and charge a great price, but it’s a rarity! The trick is to remain calm, talk them through the frequency of the work you can offer them as well as providing them with confidence they can always approach you to ask questions. A lot of influencers these days need something more than just the promise of cold hard cash. ‘Value’ to me doesn’t only mean financial compensation, but the partnership must come with trust, confidence and a mutual value that will be the key driver of long-term influencer relationships.

When I started working at Goat, within a few weeks I had around 10-20 influencers on my books, mainly on Twitter, and it was manageable and easy-going. 12 months on and I now have over 400 different accounts, across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, and at times it can prove a real test to manage them all! One of the ongoing issues I have found is dealing with accounts who raise their prices. Social media followings will grow, they will become more engaged, more active, content will reach more people, and so influencers will see their value increase. I get that, that makes sense. However, when you have an account with say 120,000 followers, they have been involved in a fair few campaigns, for £20 a post, and they come to you one day and want to triple their price per post because Betfair approached them and said they would pay £60 per sign up for their website, it proves difficult, especially if that influencer has been a success for us and someone we have used frequently. For us, if we increased their price to £60 per post, we couldn’t use them for half as many campaigns as we would have done if they stayed on £20, so negotiating that is tough. It is important to stress the amount of work we can offer them if they stay on £20, by highlighting the work they have already done for us, and you also need to rely on the trust and confidence in the relationship you have built up with them to see you through. Most influencers will agree to remain on the price with us, we have some guys who have been with me since the start and are charging us £20 a post but charging other agencies or companies £50 a post, purely because of the relationship we have built up, combined with the fact we tell them we will supply them with regular work and we honour that commitment.

Forging and maintaining good relationships with influencers has helped us as a business, and it has also helped us attract other influencers. Word of mouth is one of the most valuable means of building trust. Influencers are much more likely to be receptive to recommendations from a person they respect and trust than corporate ads or messaging That is exactly what I have come to experience in the past few months, new influencers messaging me first asking for work, telling me Goat have been recommended because of our efficiency and commitment, and that is exactly what I strive for when managing influencers, trust, commitment, confidence, reliability and open communication, just some of the values which sum up what Goat is all about.