Is Long-Term Always Best? Long-Term vs. Short-Term Influencer Collabs

May 30, 2023
9 min
Rochi Zalani
Content Writer, Modash
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Long-term influencer partnerships are better than short-term ones. True or false?

Typically, we're told in influencer marketing that long-term is always best. Let's challenge the status quo to see if it holds up.

Aaron Helisek at Creators Entertainment Group got $160K in sales after three Instagram Story slides in the first creator collaboration.

His experience is that the most sales would come from the first influencer post if the influencer’s content creation is top-notch, and they know how to sell.

What if Aaron is onto something? Should marketers optimize for running lots of first-time collabs? Let’s explore! 👇

Our opinion (the short version)

Long-term influencer collaborations should still be your default choice. They're usually best. (Though I won't list out the benefits of long-term collabs; there's a ton of existing articles on that topic).

Short-term or one-off collabs are predominantly used for testing new creators & strategies, then converting the best into long-term partnerships.

Otherwise, there might be a few other exceptions (e.g. where unique reach is your goal, or for products which are infrequently purchased).

Let's explore.

4 reasons to consider short-term influencer collaborations

Short-term collaborations make more sense in certain scenarios than long-term influencer relationships.

Note: our definition of 'short-term' here includes either one-off partnerships with creators or hiring influencers only for a specific campaign.

1. Your product requires one-time (or few) purchases

Roadway Moving is a company helping people move — a service many people won’t need more than a few times in their lives (on average).

It makes sense for Roadway Moving to partner with many creators over repeatedly collaborating with one. After all, one creator can’t keep creating relevant content about shifting houses…when they aren’t moving. Roadway Moving partnered with many creators over time — including Naty Michele, Linda, and Belle Levy.

If your company creates similar products that don’t require a subscription or frequent repurchasing, it makes sense to allocate a higher percentage of your budget to short-term influencer collaborations.

Mau Pets is another good example. They sell a high-priced item (premium cat trees) which are bought infrequently. Most of their partnerships are short-term. They build credibility in the market by being the cat tree that every cat account/creator owns, rather than being the one that a few specific creators are promoting.

Takeaway: long-term influencer partners will eventually exhaust their audience with your product if it's a one-time purchase. You’ll need a broader influence to reach more of your target customers.

2. You’re running a seasonal or short-term campaign

Going wide rather than deep is also beneficial when you have a big announcement & you need to maximize unique reach — like a new product launch or a temporary campaign.

For example, Levi’s partnered with fashion influencers of all sizes and kinds for their Levis╳DeepikaPadukone campaign — including Sejal Kumar, Diksha Rawat, and Aashna Shroff.

Mulberry ran a similar (seasonal) campaign to launch their new capsule collection — tying it to the Lunar New Year, called the Mulberry╳Miffy campaign. They partnered with many creators to generate buzz, including Deba, Susie Lau, and Emma Winder.

Takeaway: short-term collaborations make sense when you’re running limited-time discounts (think Black Friday), seasonal campaigns (e.g. Christmas), or spreading awareness about a company event (a new product launch, for instance).

Pro tip: if you're trying to maximize unique reach, try checking influencer audience overlap. Using Modash, you can quickly check the follower overlap within a list of 2 or more creators!

3. You want to run experiments

Short-term collabs or one-offs are worth considering to run any kind of experimentation:

a) You’re new to this channel & you want to test if influencer marketing works for your company

b) You want to collaborate with a new set of creators

c) You want to deviate from your usual strategy

Let's explore each 👇.

Scenario A: let’s say you’ve just stepped into the world of influencer marketing. You’re still learning how to find relevant influencers, understanding which social media platform works best for you, and gauging metrics to vet in creator profiles.

Short-term collaborations allow you to dip your toes in slowly and learn faster. You can explore different strategies (e.g. gifting vs. sponsored posts vs. commission-only afiliates), different styles of briefing & relationship management, and more.

You can still look back at your top performers and try to convert them into long-term collabs later, based on what you learned.

However if you start a long-term partnership right off the bat, you might be stuck in an influencer contract with a creator who doesn't match your needs. They're not just a Meta ads campaign that you can turn off instantly.The risk of committing long-term is higher.

Scenario B: this is similar, but rather than testing the channel as a whole, you're testing individual creators.

Maybe you have your eyes on an influencer but aren’t 100% sure if they’d give you a positive ROI. Short-term collaborations can help you test the waters before making a long-term commitment.

Danielle Murphy, influencer manager at MUD\WTR, usually tests the partnership with each creator for a month. She evaluates how the audience responds, and if it’s a good performance, she opens up to a three-month contract. The result? All long-term influencer partnerships at MUD\WTR seem authentic and on-brand.

Take this example of Sky Cowans, who regularly partners with MUD\WTR — every paid post from her feels like she truly understands the brand and aligns with their mission.

⚠️ Note: a month might or might not be enough for your company to test creator performance, depending on how often an influencer posts about you. Whether or not 30 days is enough also depends on your product category — if you sell a luxurious item, for example, you might need to test each creator for more than a month since the price point of your product has a longer sales cycle.

Scenario C: if you’re an influencer marketing pro, you know experimentation is the name of the game — whether it’s partnering with a new creator or testing an out-of-the-box collaboration type.

When we spoke to Maia Pedro, the influencer marketing team lead at Bitpanda, he said he struggled with finding a way to tap into newer audiences. His business is in the crypto industry, so they partnered with plenty of crypto influencers — a good way to scale your influencer marketing. But soon, Maia found all his creators have a male following — leaving part of the market untapped. So he experimented and found a positive ROI by partnering with creators in the gaming and entrepreneurial spaces too.

A similar example: Anna Kai, a lifestyle content creator who primarily talks about dating, partnered with Hulu to promote a new movie on their platform, Tiny Beautiful Things. The ad was natural, astounding, and out-of-the-box — it worked.

Stevie Johnson, the managing director at Disrupt Marketing, said it best:

“When targeting a new audience or consumer demographic, brands will often need a testing phase to ensure they collaborate with influencers that can drive the most impact in an area the brand is less certain of. Short-term partnerships allow brands to trial different types of influencers and content before committing to a long-term spend.”

Takeaway: in any kind of influencer marketing experiment, it’s advisable to start short-term for the first few months to gather data and experiences — before eventually turning your most profitable creators into long-term partners.

4. You want to partner with a mega-influencer

Mega-influencers command high rates that most small businesses can’t accommodate on a recurring long-term basis. But having a spot in their feed still has its advantages — you get in front of their million(s) of followers at once, and that association can make a big splash, and be used as social proof.

This is especially relevant if you also want to:

  1. generate extra buzz for a product launch, a seasonal discount, or any other major brand announcement
  2. experiment if mega-influencers generate enough sales to warrant an increase in your influencer marketing budget
  3. reach more potential customers at once to create brand awareness about your company — especially if your product doesn’t require frequent repurchasing

For example, many brands — including Faith & Patience, Lancome, and Sloggi — did a one-off collaboration with mega-influencer Komal Pandey. Being endorsed by her is invaluable to these brands, even if they don’t make an appearance on her feed consistently.

Takeaway: short-term influencer collaborations (especially one-off partnerships) might be worth it when you want to partner with a big-name mega-influencer or celebrity, but don’t have the budget — or ROI — to partner with them on a regular basis.

The nature of your product matters

If your product is something people buy only after thoughtful consideration or only when its need arises, short-term collaborations might not work all that well for you.

Take SafetyWing — they sell insurance to digital nomads and remote workers. Insurance isn't an impulse buy, and just like with paid ads targeting, you're unlikely to get in front of people exactly at the time when you're renewing. Plus, when your pricing is already highly competitive, you can't offer discount codes to create urgency.

SafetyWing rarely do short-term collaborations. Instead, they focus on ongoing partnerships so that potential buyers will come across their product several times via creators, and therefore be likely to remain top of mind throughout the year. Relatively few conversions come from the first post(s) in SafetyWing's case.

Amanda Easter, influencer marketing manager at Kaizen, agrees:

“If a product has a high AOV (average order value) or the purchase consideration time is longer due to the nature of the product, multiple posts will help move the audience towards a purchase, therefore finding success in later posts.”

Long-term vs. short-term partnerships at a glance

Here’s a summary of how each strategy fares across factors like predictability, degrees of commitment, authenticity & more.

Parameter Short-term collabs Long-term collabs
Meaning Short-term influencer collaborations are either one-off partnerships with creators or hiring influencers only for a specific campaign. Long-term collaborations are either always-on partnerships or hiring the same creators repeatedly for different campaigns.
Stability and predictability Short-term influencer partnerships can be a bit wobbly — you have to find new creators for every campaign. It’s nearly impossible to predict the success of your brand’s post for a new influencer. Long-term influencer collaborations provide more ground to stand on — you can roughly calculate how an influencer’s post will perform based on past data. There are fewer surprises.
Experimentation capabilities Short-term creator relationships give more room for experimentation — you can try various types of posts, platforms, and creative angles. But you might never be sure whether the hit (or miss) is because of the new creator’s execution or your chosen format/post type. Long-term creator relationships have less wiggle room (unless built intentionally) once you know what works for the influencer’s audience and what they’re comfortable with. That said, long-term creator relationships can be a good place to run A/B tests on your messaging and learn what works and what doesn’t.
Commitment Short-term influencer relationships require less commitment since you aren’t signing a longer contract. Long-term influencer relationships need a substantial commitment — and you might be stuck collaborating with a creator who no longer performs well or has suffered a decline in followers.
Reaching new markets You reach a wider audience with short-term influencer collaborations because each new creator brings fresh potential customers. You might see a dip in reaching new markets with long-term influencer partners (unless they’re a fast-growing influencer) because they’re continually marketing to the same audience.
Authenticity Short-term influencer collaborations might be viewed as salesy by the audience. Since you aren’t a repeated guest in their feed, an influencer’s followers might assume a creator is partnering with your brand only for the money. Long-term influencer collaborations are perceived as much more authentic because the audience sees your product become an essential part of the influencer’s life.

Short-term influencer relationships should act as the stepping stone to long-term influencer relationships

Overall, we see success when influencer managers strike a balance between short-term and long-term collaborations. We’d recommend starting most of your influencer relationships as a short-term partnership, with the goal of converting the best influencers into long-term creator partners for your brand.

What’s the ideal short-term : long-term ratio? It depends on your product, business model, and influencer marketing budget.

  • At MUD\WTR, Danielle says they strike a balance of roughly 60:40 — 60% of their partnerships are new (aka short-term), and 40% are ambassadorships (aka long-term).
  • At Gimmersta Wallpaper, the marketing & campaign manager, Linn Larsson, told us their ratio is 70:30 on average — 70% of their collaborations are short-term because their product (a wallpaper) will be visible for a long time.
  • At Kaizen, a similar ratio persists: 30% of their influencer collaborations are long-term.  Amanda says she witnesses performance improvement with long-term partnerships because it helps receive consistent touch points with audiences.

In all cases, influencer managers start with short-term collaborations, test how the creators perform, and form long-term relationships with influencers with the best performance.

Find a similar ratio that works for your company and your product. Each circumstance is unique and you might have to adjust it as you experiment, learn, and the industry evolves. Sophie Marshall, influencer and community manager at Digital Natives, agrees:

“I encourage campaign managers, and those working in this industry to approach each campaign with their previous knowledge and past-experiences, but without preconceptions — no cookie cutter approach here! We must take into account the variables at play, such as the chosen influencer, social platform, content format, and economic climate. Understanding how these factors, both micro and macro, can impact your results sets a strong foundation for success.”

No matter whether you do a short-term or a long-term influencer partnership, what’s crucial is partnering with the right influencer. Modash helps you with just that — with an influencer database of over 250M+ creators across Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself.

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