Influencer Relationship Management – What Is It & How To Build Your IRM Strategy

As the influence of social media in our lives grows, influencer marketing is steadily replacing traditional advertising. And the numbers speak for themselves: the influencer marketing industry was slated to grow to $13.8 billion in 2021. Although this industry is full of promises, much depends on a marketer’s ability to create a successful influencer relationship management (IRM) strategy.  

Let’s see what it takes to build and manage a high-performing IRM strategy.

What is influencer relationship management?  

Influencer relationship management also called an IRM strategy is about treating influencers as your brand’s strategic partners. An influencer management program allows you to store the name and style of each of your influencers. Going a step ahead, successful influencer relationship management tracks influencer analytics.  

By utilizing a strong IRM strategy, you can leverage their partnerships to increase brand awareness, customer trust, and ultimately the ROI.  

What do influencer managers do?  

An influencer management strategy has lots of moving parts and the IRM strategy requires an experienced manager. In the US alone, there are more than 6,000 open positions for influencer marketing jobs.  

A marketing manager who manages influencers in the social media sphere is called an influencer manager. This specialist controls the execution of influencer marketing projects and contributes to their success.  

Be it working in an agency role or as a brand’s employee, the influencer manager is responsible for overseeing influencer recruitment, influencer relationship, and reporting.

Why is influencer relationship management important?  

By definition, influencers influencer the decisions of their followers. By partnering with influencers who are popular with your brand’s target audience, you hope they will speak positively about your products or services to your potential customers.  

In absence of a positive relationship with these influencers, they are unlikely to recommend your products, which means a missed opportunity to sway their follower’s decisions.  

Influencer relationship management is similar to customer relationship management (CRM), except that the focus here is influencers.  

Influencer relationship management allows you and your brand to cultivate good relationships with influencers who would be instrumental in your influencer programs. After all, long-term influencer relationships are more productive as the influencer gets to know your brand and the messaging gets better over time. 

How to manage influencers effectively?  

Although it goes without saying that influencers prefer to be compensated, cultivating relationships go beyond simply compensating them. Here are some ways to manage influencer relationships without drowning in a sea of critical IRM tasks.  

Identify the right influencers – Even before approaching an influencer for potential collaborations, ensure that their audience is the right match for your buyer persona. You will learn to identify high-performing influencers as you continue your recruitment efforts.  

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Also, with experience, you’ll begin to expand your influencer searches into new engagement styles and social media channels. From the onset, track progress and calculate engagement rates, either manually on a spreadsheet or using an influencer relationship management tool.  

Get the right engagement metrics – Talking about engagement metrics, social media networks like Instagram are helping marketers separate engagement and vanity metrics. This helps stay away from fake influencers.  

Follower counts and page/post likes can be treated as vanity metrics. These metrics can also be manufactured via deceptive means.  

By calculating the engagement metrics of the influencer, you can know the ones most likely to help your brand meet its marketing objectives. 

The formula to manually calculate an influencer’s engagement rate is:  

Number of comments and post shares/Number of followers  

Now, this might seem tedious. However, remember that identifying an influencer’s engagement rate is crucial as it leads to recruiting the right influencers for your brand.  

Building a growing team of influencers – Once you start the influencer marketing campaign, the next step is to monitor their content across channels and ongoing user-generated content.  

With this approach, you can see how each influencer is contributing to your brand’s success. Additionally, you will understand how your influencers relate to their audiences.  

With time, you might find some influencers who would do a better job of increasing your brand’s awareness while others contribute to boosting your sales directly.  

Successful influencer programs have a combination of influencers in both these categories.  

Communication – One of the biggest pet peeves of influencers is when a client doesn’t communicate clearly and then complains when the expectations aren’t met. The easiest way to avoid this is by communicating with paid content creators before, during and after the campaign. Give your influencers the creating freedom to design the campaign while ensuring that your brand is properly represented. Adequate communication ensures that everyone wins, especially when you intend to work with them again.  

Attribute results to the right influencers – When you’ve picked the right influencers, you’ll see your sales and web traffic go up. Google Analytics can identify the path a prospect took from the influencer’s post to a sale. That said, this is GA’s limitation. Proper result monitoring involves knowing where your new customers came from.  

In an ideal scenario, you would want to know how a new prospect or customer first came across your brand. You would want to know which influencers are responsible for the increased traffic.  

Brands can manually create specific links for each influencer campaign. Then, marketers can organize these links by influencers and the respective social media channels.  

Finding the right way to manage all this – When brands see great results with influencer marketing, they’d want to scale it. However, after a point, the details become too overwhelming for traditional spreadsheets.  

The right influencer relationship management software helps in tracking social media influencers, the engagement their posts receive, campaign metrics, and results.

Why do you need an influencer management agency?

Fast-growing startups to established brands are realizing that well-performing influencer marketing campaigns have dozens of steps and variables that are challenging to manage, especially without experience. They include creating, coordinating to executing a campaign, along with campaign structure to optimization, campaign briefs, contracts, and content review being vital functions. 

Although some brands have an in-house team using various tools and platforms, influencer marketing agencies equipped with rich knowledge and experience of influencers and campaigns can be critical in ensuring the success of your influencer marketing efforts. 

Mostly, the agency would have expertise in FTC regulations and brand reputation. This is one of the best ways to safeguard your brand against any campaign activities that could risk damage to your brand.

Some reasons to hire an influencer marketing agency are: 

  • Saves you time 
  • You can leverage their relationships and expertise 
  • They help find the right platforms 
  • Access to the right metrics 
  • Amplify the right content 
  • Flexibility, scalability and support

Tips to build your influencer relationships management strategy

Like every marketing strategy, an influencer campaign requires deliberate targeting and planning. You won’t find strategic success by giving out free stuff to everyone who asks for it. These tips will help you build your IRM strategy. 

#1. How to find the right influencers? 

Research is the first step. Choose one platform you’d want to focus on. Later, you can expand to other platforms, but while starting out stick to one. 

If you are unsure where to begin, use an influencer relationships management tool or social listening to identify the platforms where people are talking about your industry and brand. With this step, you can identify influential voices on each platform. 

For example, beauty and fashion brands shine on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok while the video game industry dominates on Twitch. 

Also, your budget will be determined by the type of influencers you are interested in. They could range from influencers with a massive followings, or micro-influencers with less than 2,000 followers, or macro-influencers in the range of 5-10,000 followers. 

#2. Set a management strategy 

Now that you have an idea of how to find influencers, the next step is setting a budget. Factor what you need to pay influencers as well as the time for planning, executing, and reviewing your influencer campaign. 

Unlike an automated ad strategy, running an influencer marketing campaign is not a set-it-and-go kind of strategy. Influencers and content creators are humans and frequently work on multiple partnerships, so some may fall behind in their commitments to post on time or make errors in your requested hashtags or CTAs. You will need time to be more hands-on with cultivating relationships and refine the approach based on experience on what works and what doesn’t in your niche. 

For brands who are tapping into a wider pool of influencers, having an influencer marketing agency do the research and coordination on your behalf is a good idea.

#3. Decide the goals and messaging 

Brand awareness and increase in sales are the two common reasons why brands utilize influencer marketing. That said, what’s more effective is to kick off your strategy by focussing on what your brand’s needs are. It could be wanting to build a customer base in a younger demographics. Or expanding into a new geography with a new product. In both cases, you may want to get influencers to talk about your brand values. 

Since influencers have the ability to reach specific audiences, an influencer program ensures that your potential customers read and engage with your brand’s offerings. 

Remember that your message is as important as the goals. While you don’t want to limit an influencer’s creativity, you also don’t want them to post something unrelated to your campaign. Determine the message you’d want to give with your influencer marketing strategy and communicate it in the workflow. 

#4. Sourcing reliable metrics 

Don’t fall into the trap of following the wrong metrics rather than focussing on more important ones such as engagement. 

IRM tools provide detailed analytics that allows you to find crucial data to compare influencers. Firstly, note each influencer’s engagement rate and compare them on the same social network. Engagement can vastly differ between different social platforms. Additionally, on the whole, larger influencers will have lower engagement as compared to smaller influencers on the same platform. 

#5. Establish the results of each influencer 

Once you have recruited a team of influencers, you need to monitor their content across channels. This will show you how each influencer contributes to your brand’s promotion. You would want to know the influencers contributing to creating brand awareness vs those driving sales.  

Keyhole Influencer Analytics Dashboard

Influencer relationship management comes into the picture as influencers are real people acting as advocates for your brand. This is why influencer marketing demands a higher level of attention and personalization than traditional digital advertising.

Best influencer relationship management  (IRM) tools 

Finding the right technology is the key to scaling your influencer marketing programs. Thankfully, IRM tools streamline all influencer relationship management tasks in one place, from influencer discovery to influencer analytics so that you don’t drown in a sea of spreadsheets.

The right influencer relationship management platform automatically tracks influencer analytics such as engagement rates, user-generated content, and sales attribution and ensures that no influencer management task goes off the radar. 

Some of the best influencer relationship management software worth trying are: 

Putting it together 

While the ROI of an influencer campaign is straightforward ($1 becomes $6.5 when invested in influencer marketing), the trick is managing influencer relationships as your program scales. An IRM software helps you keep a track of influencers, their engagement, content, metrics, and results. 

With the right influencer marketing relationship software, the sky is the limit in scaling your brand.

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