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Partnership Matters: How Influencers View Relationships with Brands

On the surface, influencer marketing seems simple. Send product to tastemakers who then provide exposure to their massive audiences on social media.

If only influencer marketing was actually that easy.

Because it’s a relationship-based business, influencer marketing is much more complex than that. Understanding what’s important to an influencer when it comes to promotional partnerships is critical to a campaign’s success.

“I only want to work with companies that share the same values as me,” said 21-year-old social influencer Lele Pons in an interview with Forbes. “I wouldn’t say I have gotten bad pitches; just ones that I don’t feel are right for me.”

The Venezuelan-born influencer was just a teenager when she rose to prominence on Vine, becoming the first user to amass more than a billion loops on the now defunct six-second video app. Since then, she’s grown her influence on platforms like Instagram, where she currently has 21 million followers.

“Basically, brands (that) let me create fun stories and scenes around the product in a natural way,” she added while discussing what considers before working with a brand. “Being a COVERGIRL ambassador and working with Snickers were amazing opportunities. I hope to continue to work with brands like them.”

Influencers don’t look at marketing partnerships with companies as a zero-sum game. Rather, they’re thinking of how they along with the brands they work with can both benefit from a collaborative partnership. As much as brands look to get themselves in front of influencers’ engaged audiences, influencers, likewise, are hoping to reach exposure to loyal customers of major brands.

Amanda Cerny spoke of the symbiotic relationship between brand and influencer in a podcast interview with author and entrepreneur James Altucher. Cerny, who has nearly 19 million followers on Instagram, described working with brands as a collaborative experience.

“Even now, I’m doing a campaign with Guess,” said Cerny, who noted her genuine affinity for the legacy fashion brand. “Instead of starting my own athletic wear, I’m partnering with Guess and we’re launching this athletic wear campaign in February.”

Aside from creative freedom and thoughtful collaboration, thinking about their audiences is another major factor for influencers before jumping into a brand deal. After all, without their followers, they wouldn’t have influence.

What value does a product or service provide their followers? That’s a real question influencers ask themselves before locking into endorsement deals. Maintaining the integrity of their content for their followers is a factor that they take into serious consideration.

“One of the hardest things about this job is saying no to money,” said travel influencer Kiersten Rich in an interview with AFAR Magazine. “You get massive offers, usually from corporate brands, and you have to say no based on your own ethics and brand integrity. There’s always a threshold of, ‘Is it worth it for the money, just this once?’ But we say no way more than we say yes.

If I said yes to everything and I was putting, like, casino links in my blog posts, people would say, ‘This is just a spammy site.’ As soon as someone looks at you like spam or a scam, you can’t bounce back from that,” continued Rich, reaches nearly half a million followers on Instagram. “I realized this by watching other people make mistakes.”

So, if your brand is thinking about jumping into the world of influencer marketing, don’t just think about how you can benefit. Consider how an influencer can win, too. Authenticity from both sides is a key to successful campaign.

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