Someone asked me if I collaborate with influencers. They are trying to promote their shop this way and they found the results disappointing. What are my thoughts?
Here's what I replied:
I don't collaborate with anyone who calls themselves an "influencer", but I do collaborate with people I consider to be influencers.
The big thing I look at is the engagement the audience has. If someone has 400,000 followers, and less than 40 likes per artefact (post, video, picture, whatever) they put out, then I wouldn't want to work with them. Poor audience engagement could mean they bought followers or it could mean that their content is not consistent - they are trying to reach too broad an audience and consequently, aren't giving the value they could be by focusing on one or two themes.
Next, I look at how close to my brand are they. I don't want someone too close, but I do want someone in the general neighbourhood. It's difficult to say exactly what I look for here but another hand spinner wouldn't be as desirable as someone who does crochet or needle felting, or even sewing. Someone who sews a lot of linen might be a good person for me to collaborate with and promote my book.
But it also has to be someone I enjoy interacting with. I follow them for a few months, get to know them, interact with them, build up a relationship... it takes a lot of time and doesn't always work out.
But when it does, I will use them to test shipping new products. They get a free thing, I get feedback as to how the packaging held up in shipping. I don't obligate them to share the item with their following, but I do suggest that it would be a huge help if they enjoyed it, that they share it. (but I sure don't want them to share it if they don't enjoy it - because even if they lie to their following and say how great it is, the engaged followers can usually tell).
another thing to think about is the size of the following. I try not to jump too high above my own following. I seldom want to go above someone with 100,000 followers at this stage of my brand building. I find that collaborating with someone with the same or slightly smaller following than myself works best as a this for that kind of exchange - I mention them, they mention me. I always want to be on the credit side of any social interaction like this which is another reason why I like to build a relationship with potential influencers before collaborating.
Then again, the success of my Kickstarter was in part due to some very big names giving me a shout out while asking nothing in return (except the standard kickback but that's very small potato from their point of view - like a potato crumb). But I had spent years cultivating those relationships and doing behind the scenes work to help them build their following. Which to be completely frank, is where I shine - not being the influencer but helping others with vision grow their own following. So again, it's attempting to stay always on the credit side of the social relationship before asking for help.