This story was co-written by Hannah Bursack

This story is the second in the Influencers Uncovered series, which takes a deep dive into the complex world of influencers and Instagram, and how marketers and brands can benefit from both.

Now that we’ve gone over Instagram’s ever-evolving features and how they can benefit influencers, it’s time to talk about how brands and companies can best leverage these platforms to create a successful partnership.

1. Pay (Careful) Attention to the Numbers

One of the biggest mistakes brands can make is selecting an influencer solely based on their number of followers. While Instagram has recently launched initiatives to weed out fake accounts and “bot” followers, it’s still important to pay attention to each influencer’s engagement levels and how (or how they may not) interact with their followers.

Some easy ways to spot a fake account? Watch for:

  • Influencers with sudden spikes in followers
  • influencers with a large following but only a few posts
  • Influencers who follow too many people
  • Influencers with overly-generic comments in the comments sections of their photos

Similarly, don’t just let their numbers do the talking. Instead, let each influencer tell you about their audience firsthand. It’s important to have discussions with influencers you’re considering for a campaign so that you can both identify if it’s a good fit. After all, no one knows an influencer’s audience better than the influencer themselves.

Other important selection factors to consider are page views, engagement rate (or the level of interaction on posts, such as likes, comments and shares) and cost per engagement.

2. Create a Balance Between Your Message and Their Voice

One of the main reasons brands often opt to work with influencers over celebrities is the fact that there’s often more authenticity, which resonates with their audiences. While it’s important that your brand’s message is clear in your campaign, it’s equally important not to stifle the influencer’s voice.

There’s a balance between inserting your brand’s messages and ensuring that it doesn’t come off as a tacky, out-of-touch commercial. Brands should work with each influencer to ensure their voice comes across in an organic, believable way while naturally weaving in brand messages.

For example, check out this video that health and fitness influencer FitMenCook created for our client Homewood Suites by Hilton. He showcases the brand’s amenities (i.e., free grocery delivery service and fully equipped kitchens) in an organic, visual way rather than simply regurgitating key messages. As a result, it came across as seamless and authentic.

3. Look for a Well-rounded Partnership

While many influencer partnerships live primarily on the ‘gram, there are strategic ways to maximize these relationships beyond straightforward posts.

When evaluating influencers, brands should look at this potential partner from a 360-degree standpoint. For example, can this influencer also serve as a brand spokesperson? Are they good on camera? Do they have event hosting capabilities? Would the media be interested in speaking to them?

In fact, the more robust the partnership, the more invested that partner will be. Making sure that influencers feel like they’re a part of the brand’s team will often result in added value—on Instagram and beyond.

4. Get Creative – Diversify Content Within the App

Instagram provides so many avenues to deliver creative, engaging content, and thanks to the ongoing evolution of the platform the opportunities are more diverse than in the past. When working with influencers, it’s important to first look at their content to determine their sweet spot.

For example, if the influencers produce impressive looking videos, you’ll likely want to tap into that capability for your brand so you can tell a compelling story. That said, if photography is more their thing, you may be better off going with static posts. Or you might want to consider a carousel post, so you can showcase multiple, captivating images at once.

Some influencers have built a following based on comedic, engaging stories; if that is the case, it would be more beneficial to invest in a partnership founded on Instagram Stories and Highlights rather than actual posts.

It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all model, and it takes research to determine which content will work best for each partnership.

5. Earned is Not Over

Plenty of brands shell out the big bucks for long-term, multifaceted influencer partnerships, but that doesn’t mean that brands with smaller budgets can’t also play in this space. It just requires a different approach.

A little thoughtful touch goes a long way. Consider making small investments like sending a special personalized mailer to a micro-influencer (those with 1,000 to 50,000 followers) who is looking to establish themselves in the space. Keep in mind that influencers are often looking to grow alongside like-minded brands, so be flexible and open to drafting customized agreements that meet both parties’ needs.

All in all, brands should pay close attention to influencers’ content so they can personalize their outreach and programs. Creativity, resourcefulness and collaboration can result in engaging, earned social coverage – without a major investment.

In Summary

With these five tips in mind, you can make your influencer partnerships more strategic, impactful and increase your brands’ ROI.

What are some of the most creative influencer partnerships and activations you’ve seen lately? Tell us in the comments below.