How to Build Great Influencer Relationships: 10 No-Fluff Tactics

March 26, 2024
13 min
Rochi Zalani
Content Writer, Modash
Agita Matule
Marketing Team, Wolt Latvija
Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
Fiona Macpherson
Head of Influencer Marketing at Wild
... and
more expert contributors

Almost every article you read on influencer relationships regurgitates the same-old generic tips.

Find the right influencers. Use software to streamline workflows. Communicate well. Blah, blah.

This isn’t one of those pieces. In this article, I’ve asked pro influencer marketers how to improve influencer relationships beyond the surface level. All advice is actionable and will help you solve *real* day-to-day creator management problems.

1: Prioritize relationship building activities intentionally

Before we begin with the advice, here’s a disclaimer: there are a thousand things you could do to build top-notch influencer relationships. But the reality is, you have to prioritize what you can and can’t do.

It’s impossible to start an influencer newsletter, respond to hundreds of brand ambassador applications, comment on every creator’s post, help every influencer in their career goals, and more & more. It can get overwhelming and exhausting.

So don’t feel guilty about setting priorities. Maybe you intentionally only focus on rewarding top-performing creators due to budget constraints. Perhaps you choose to communicate with affiliates asynchronously because your team’s bandwidth is stretched thin. It’s unrealistic for you to expect to do everything for every influencer.

Don’t look at prioritizing (when done with intention and thoughtfulness) as a failure on your part. It’s part and parcel of scaling influencer relationships.

2: Get on a call with your creator partners

It’s very much possible (and easier) to do all influencer marketing communication over email or Slack. But building a relationship ‘face-to-face’ builds a bond that just isn’t possible asynchronously.

Nycole Hampton, Senior Marketing Director at GoodRx, suggests getting on a call with your influencers as much as possible — especially after the initial influencer outreach. Why? It’ll start off the relationship on the right foot and help you gauge an influencer’s true excitement about working with your brand.

Nycole Hampton
Senior Marketing Director, GoodRx
There is nothing worse than someone exaggerating their love of the brand in an email, then their content falls flat because of how surface level it feels. On a call, you can really get to know how someone feels about a brand. If they aren't interested in discussing and showing some type of excitement, chances are it's transactional and about a check.

Getting on a call is beneficial for evaluating an influencer’s eagerness to work with you, and for brainstorming ideas, and understanding each other’s goals.

Nycole has also done virtual and in person immersion events & calls to do a brand deep-dive and help their influencer partners learn from each other.

You might not need to get on a call with your long-term influencer partnerships every week or every month. But it helps a ton to kick things off on the right foot, then have occasional check-ins at whatever frequency works for both parties

Another scenario where Nycole says you might not need a call is when you’re practicing product seeding. Since an influencer is still trying on your products at this stage, it might not be necessary yet.

3: Build relationships with talent managers too

It’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping things “strictly business” when a talent manager communicates on behalf of (or in addition to) your influencers.

But guess what? Talent managers are human, too. Lee Drysdale, former influencer marketing lead at Killstar, recommends keeping the same relationship maintenance standard with talent managers as you would with influencers.

Lee Drysdale
Prev. Influencer Marketing Lead, Killstar
I put in just as much effort to personalize and build relationships when I’m writing to a talent manager. Over the years, I’ve built some really good relationships with talent managers. It always pays dividends in the long run.

You can carry talent manager relationships forward to your next role and even get recommendations for other relevant creators they’re managing. So, thank them for their work, ask how they’re doing, and offer help where you can.

4: Know where to draw the line

You’ll inevitably build friendly relationships with long-term influencer partners. You’ll likely know how their dog’s doing & what they’re up to in their career. It’s easy to excuse their minor delays and trust them to deliver. (And you can, to an extent.)

While having that type of relationship with your influencers is great, it’s also crucial to understand where to draw the line. Valeriia Chemerys, Head of Media Partnerships at Deeper Sonars, said it best:

Valeriia Chemerys
Head of Media Partnerships, Deeper
It’s easy to start justifying why the influencer didn’t post agreed content (etc.) But if it happens repeatedly, remember you need to draw the line somewhere. It’s your job to generate ROI for the brand you work with.

If an influencer’s performance is falling through the cracks repeatedly, you must have the discipline to know when the collaboration isn’t working. You might need to negotiate the rate & scope of work and have a challenging but transparent conversation with influencer partners. In the end, it’s your responsibility to improve your company’s influencer marketing ROI.

Remember: it’s not an either/or. You can have a cordial and warm relationship with your long-term creators without hampering your boundaries.

5: Ensure your workflows are a collaborative process

You need to strike a balance in your influencer briefs to give ample guidelines and creative freedom. A creator needs the innovative license to do what they think will work best with their audience. It might not align with your vision, but that doesn’t mean you can outright reject it.

Instead of shooting down influencer ideas, make your content creation process more collaborative. Be their partner, not their boss. Sarah Saffari, Founder of Influencer Nexus, explains this with a great example:

Sarah Saffari
Founder, InfluencerNexus
Set standards about what you’d like your creator partners to illuminate, but let them do the task in their own way. Instead of saying, ‘I’d like you to cover this, make sure you follow it’ say, ‘Here’s the feeling we’d like to get across, how do you think we could do that?

Generally, an influencer will need guidance on your brand’s products, target customers, and influencer marketing goals. Rugile Paleviciute, Head of Brand Partnerships at BURGA, agrees:

Rugile Paleviciute
Head of Partnerships, BURGA
Creative freedom is great, but many creators won't spend the time to thoroughly research your products. They don't know all the benefits and selling points like you do. Talk to them about their creative ideas and see if your visions align.

It might also be helpful to share examples of past influencer content that has performed well. However, how a creator chooses to deliver the message should be left up to them.

Even if a piece of influencer content doesn’t match your expectations, communicate that politely and specifically. What seems off? Why do you think it won’t work? And allow the creator to show their thinking process. Make your partnerships a collaboration, not orders-to-follow.

6: Maximize relationships with your top performers

Retaining your top-performers is critical for maintaining your influencer marketing ROI. Who qualifies as a top-performer? It depends on your influencer marketing goals. If your aim with influencer marketing is to build brand awareness, creators bringing you the most reach & website visitors are your high-performers, for instance.

And sometimes, your top-performers might just be the creators with whom you have the deepest and longest relationships with, like Nycole Hampton:

Nycole Hampton
Senior Marketing Director, GoodRx
Longer-term partners may get immersion events, monthly calls, plus up brand gifts, etc. In the past, for long term ambassador programs we would send out birthday gifts to all our partners just as a little thank you.

Sprinkle some cherry on the top of relationships with these creators:

  • Comment on their posts (and reshare with permission)
  • Involve them in other areas of business, like brand events
  • Reward their results with a bonus or brand gifts (if possible)
  • Help them meet their goals (make introductions, offer feedback, etc.)
  • Brainstorm additional collaboration ideas and partner on more projects together
  • Remember things like birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and send a special gift on that occasion

Finding a creator who’s a great fit and gives you outstanding results isn’t easy. Go the extra mile to ensure they stay as happy as you in the partnership.

7: Brainstorm ideas to improve influencer performance together

One common touchpoint in all influencer relationships is the performance discussion. In this conversation, don’t exclude the creator or come up with a conclusion in-house. Instead of saying, “This is how it’s going; we’d like you to do this next,” say, “This is what our goals are, and here’s the gap; how do you think we can improve?”

Let an influencer come in and share how the collaboration is going from their perspective. What do they think is missing from their content? What is their audience DMing them about when they post about your brand? Also allow them to share commonly overlooked data like Instagram Story link clicks or common comments/questions in their posts about your brand.

Fiona Macpherson, Head of Influencer Marketing at Wild, also emphasizes this is crucial because creators have more context on your target audience:

Fiona Macpherson
Head of Influencer Marketing, Wild
In the end, they are the ones that are “face-to-face” with customers, as well as through their daily community management they receive much more feedback about campaigns, products and their followers than any marketing will ever do.

You don’t always need to do these discussions after the deliverables are live. At Wolt, Agita Matule, shares feedback discussions happen before an influencer post goes live:

Agita Matule
Marketing Team, Wolt Latvija
We agree with our influencers that they send the content before publishing it. This is when I give them feedback — missing hashtags, text improvements, creative edits, or something as simple as suggesting which image picture to put first in an Instagram carousel etc.

Do your homework and have suggestions on how they can improve, but don’t scaffold the conversation to only your ideas. Be open to hearing their point of view and talk about how you can improve content performance as a team. Agita also suggests balancing out your feedback with appreciation:

Agita Matule
Marketing Team, Wolt Latvija
Don't be shy to give kudos to the influencer for doing a good job, putting effort into creating quality content and for delivering content in time. That way they feel inspired and appreciated for the work that they do.

Which leads me to the next point…

8: Express gratitude to your influencers for their work

In the humdrum of everyday, it’s easy to forget how hard content creation is. Copywriter & influencer marketing consultant, Emily Claire Huges says forgetting to say “thank you” is the most common mistake she sees brands make.

It sounds easy in theory, though. How do you make it a habit and not a one-off thing? Emily says it comes down to understanding the power of strong influencer relationships:

Emily Claire Hughes
Copywriter & Influencer Marketing Consultant, Emily Claire & Co.
Influencers are constantly given products from brands. So much so, that just checking in with a voice message or sending flowers and a card do wonders. It's acknowledgment of the little things, like thank you messages, asking how they feel about the terms, being clear about expectations, etc. that are the gold standard.

When an influencer asks for help or submits their deliverables, take a minute to express your gratitude. Compliment their work — share specifics about what you liked. A little pat on the back every now and then goes a long way in making your creator partners feel valued, and appreciated.

9: Train your team as you grow

If all goes well, you’ll add new influencers and influencer marketers to your team. The trouble arises when a new marketer isn’t able to maintain the same standard for maintaining influencer relationships. Maybe their communication is lousy. Perhaps they take too long to respond to creator questions. Whatever it is, it can leave a sour taste with your influencer partners and dampen the hard work you put into building those relationships.

The easiest solution here is to scale your influencer marketing efforts sustainably.

  • Don’t influx new creator partners and a new influencer marketer simultaneously. Let your new team member shadow a few calls & get CCed in a few emails to observe your influencer relationship management practices before they take the reins on their own.
  • Create onboarding documents for new team members to help them learn about your existing influencer partners and management philosophies. It can help them catch up with creators and give them a broad idea of how you approach influencer relationships.
  • Keep checking in (frequently in the beginning) to ensure the best practices you’ve set are being followed.

Nycole Hampton of GoodRx, for example, provides reference materials and guides to help new team members learn the ropes of influencer relationships in her company. And she still recommends looping yourself in the process as much as possible.

Nycole Hampton
Senior Marketing Director, GoodRx
I still stay pretty connected throughout the process approving potential budgets and influencers giving feedback along the way which helps the team continue to fine tune their skills overtime. My team also works very closely with each other to help!

In Wild’s team, Fiona Macpherson shares that each influencer has a single point of contact — an “account manager” of sorts who becomes the go-to person for the creator. She also added there are established guidelines on how & what to communicate for each team member, so all influencers receive the same message.

Fiona Macpherson
Head of Influencer Marketing, Wild
Each team member is the relationship holder of a number of people. As a team we have set out some guidelines on how we communicate with influencers — agents, to make sure that the majority of influencers will receive the same outreach and communication.

For example, you could create an in-house instruction doc that sets some ground rules for communicating with influencers — like responding within 48 hours, checking in every week, reporting on their performance every fortnight, etc.

You can’t be your influencer’s favorite client if your team doesn’t follow the same approach as you do. Consistently train and do temperature check-ins as a team to ensure you create a culture of maintaining solid influencer relationships.

10: Find ways to make the influencer’s job easier

The simplest way to please anyone is to lessen the load of their to-do list. Influencers are no different.

For example, by using an influencer tracking tool like Modash, you can automatically track every influencer creative (including Instagram Stories!) and save it to a dashboard without bugging the influencer to send you live links.

(It’s free to try, and it works for Instagram, TikTok & YouTube.)

Apart from influencer content & performance data collection, you can also save your & your creators’ time in other ways:

  • Create a landing page/Notion doc answering the FAQs about working together, payment processes, brand details, etc.
  • Streamline your influencer onboarding by templatizing influencer contracts, briefs, & brand guidelines
  • Share a weekly influencer newsletter updating creators on top-performing content, your KPIs, and other housekeeping
  • Paying influencers on time so they don’t have to keep track and follow-up for payments
  • If an influencer has been a long-term partner for you and you feel confident & comfortable, maybe you can evaluate cutting some steps of the content approval process to save both parties time (unless you’re running a new or different kind of campaign with the same creator)

The influencer will thank you for being a no-fuss client and you’ll ensure maximum efficiency in your partnerships. Think: what are some tasks your influencer partners do that you can take over, automate, or eliminate for them?

Building solid influencer relationships isn’t a one-off thing

While the above tips are helpful, remember that they have to be in motion constantly while implementing your influencer marketing strategy. Maintaining amazing relationships with your influencer partners isn’t a one-and-done deal. Sure, you can set up a few processes and guidelines to help you make the job easier, but ultimately, you have to be genuinely invested and do the work required for maintaining the bonds you’ve built regularly.

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Contributors to this article

Agita Matule
Marketing Team, Wolt Latvija
Agita is on the front lines every day marketing Wolt Latvija via influencer collaborations. Wolt is a technology company known for its delivery platform for food and merchandise.
Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
Nycole is a seasoned marketer with nearly 20 years of experience, largely focused on social media, creator and content marketing. She has built and led social media, influencer and content marketing teams and practices within global agencies and in-house.
Fiona Macpherson
Head of Influencer Marketing at Wild
After working in Charlotte Tilbury & Farfetch's influencer marketing teams, Fiona now manages a team of 20+ influencer marketers driving revenue through creators at Wild.
Emily Claire Hughes
Copywriter & Influencer Marketing Consultant, Emily Claire & Co.
After experience with in-house DTC influencer marketing, Emily now works with a range of female-founded brands to build on-brand influencer marketing programs and write persuasive copy.
Lee Drysdale
Influencer Marketing Lead at KILLSTAR
After spending time in influencer teams at Beauty Bay & Solado, Lee now leads a team of 3 influencer marketers at KILLSTAR, a gothic & alternative clothing brand.
Rugile Paleviciute
Head of Brand Partnerships & PR at BURGA
After running influencer partnerships at Europe's fastest growing companies, Rugile now leads a team of 12+ influencer marketers at BURGA.
Sarah Saffari
Founder at InfluencerNexus
Sarah is the founder of InfluencerNexus, an agency that crafts memorable stories, builds trust, and drives revenue through creator partnerships.
Valeriia Chemerys
Head of Media Partnerships, Deeper
Valeriia is responsible for all media partnerships for portable sonar brand, Deeper. She manages 200+ paid influencer partners in Deeper's key markets.

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