Are you more likely to buy a new product after seeing an ad directly from a company, or after seeing someone you follow on Instagram actually use it? We thought you might say the influencer … crazy world we live in, right? Today influencers are not just Hollywood celebrities, but regular individuals with large, loyal and highly engaged followings. The 2018 Influencer Marketing Report from Business Insider found that influencers on Instagram have double the user engagement rate compared to corporate brands, clocking in at whopping 5.7%.

With more marketers and influencers saturating the market every day we must be smart when working to insert our brand into their precious scrolling squares. Keep these 4 things in mind as you approach new influencer relationships: 

1.  Identify organic influencers who jive with your brand | Just as you target your media pitches, you also want to target your influencer pitches. If your brand is kid focused, you want to connect with the mommy influencers; if your brand is beverage focused, you want to connect with the foodie influencers. If the brand and the influencer do not share the same values, then your end result will reflect that disconnect. 

2.  Do your research, then outreach | An influencer is going to be more inclined to work with you if you show that you took some time to get to know them. Many influencers share personal information and experiences with their followers, making their outlet a vulnerable place for them. Respect this; learn what they care about it and craft your pitch around it. 

We regularly follow and interact with influencers on our business Instagram account so that we can get to know them better, and in a recent case, catch them enjoying our product organically. In this specific scenario, we reached out, noting that we had seem them enjoying our product already and created a partnership moving forward. 

Even if they are not currently using your product, reference a recent blog post or Insta Story in your outreach email to show them that you are paying attention and care about the content they are working to provide for their followers. 

3.  Communication and collaboration are key | Just as in any relationship, the ability to work together openly and honestly are extremely important. Your initial contact should lay out what you are looking for, why you want to work with them and that this is a collaboration, not a sales pitch. Have a direction in mind but trust the influencer’s knowledge of their own audience and allow room for conversation and brainstorming around what type of content would be best. 

Additionally, be upfront from the beginning about the benefits to both parties and if there are any payments, trade product or other benefits trading hands. You don’t want to get deep into building out the campaign and then realize the influencer was expecting financial compensation you weren’t planning to provide.   

4.  Provide an authentic experience | The reason consumers trust influencers over traditional advertising is due to the authenticity of their content. They trust that they have used and liked the product they are telling them about and are giving an unbiased review. One of the ways we have been able to give influencers an authentic experience with our product is to host VIP or exclusive events within our client’s stores. This allows influencers to interact, taste, sample, ask questions and feel appreciated for the work they are putting into the partnership. We never let them leave without a goodie bag and the opportunity to pass a similar in-store experience on to their followers in the form of a gift card giveaway – mutually beneficial for both parties. 

When done right, thoughtfully cultivated influencer outreach can pay off long after your initial campaign. Never think of it as a one-off, but as an ongoing relationship. Even if you don’t have another campaign soon, keep in touch by following them on their social networks and becoming part of the conversation. They’ll appreciate it and take notice for next time