10 steps on how to build an influencer program [authentic influencer marketing]

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Is influencer marketing still relevant for your brand? Will it help you get your heel in the door with a new audience? As long as your strategy grows and evolves with your influencer marketing needs, the answer is yes. Instagram feeds are flooded with influencers, ads, and even influencer ads in the current digital marketing climate. So how do you pick the right influencers, grow your relationships and continue to connect with your audience?

Our very own Marisa and Chris visited Social Media Marketing World 2019 in San Diego recently and learned how to strengthen influencer and ambassador marketing and how to reframe building teams.

Our key takeaways: be intentional, be human and think long-term. Stick around at the end of the post for 10 steps on how to strategically build your team.

Reimagining Influencers


It’s important before creating your influencer marketing strategy, to take a step back and reframe the people you picture as influencers. Think beyond Instagram - think podcast hosts, fans, friends of influencers, employees, folks your audience admires and overall good, relatable, human beings. There’s no perfect formula to select influencers but people who are relatable will drive higher engagement.

Look to vocal brand advocates in your audience and show them that you’re listening by commenting on, liking and reposting their content on your channel. This will build trust with them and organically generate influencers and ambassadors from people who already love your brand. Consider every channel your brand exists across - YouTube is a platform highly sourced for trusted information. Who can you tap there? Do you have a Pinterest master who follows you closely? Consider collaboration opportunities for your next campaign. It’s important to think beyond the classic Instagram influencers with thousands of followers.

Scouting Engaging Influencers

When you’re on the hunt for influencers, look through the comments of their profiles to see if their audience is engaging and, more importantly, if the influencer is responsive to their audience. If your influencer is engaged, they will be more likely to talk shop about your products. It’s also a sign their audience is real (ie. not bots), which is something to be cautious of. As a general rule of thumb, smaller accounts are more engaged with their audience, which is why micro influencers should not be overlooked.


Make sure that the influencers and ambassadors you find truly align with the values of your brand so once you make a connection, you can create successful influencer marketing campaigns around them. Make sure you’d trust their messaging to align with yours.

Building Relationships with Influencers

Building relationships with influencers and brand ambassadors, like with a friend, is a process that takes time. Try not to cold DM/email your influencers. Follow them, comment on their posts and be a contributor to their community. Be authentic in your communications so when you do reach out, it’s a natural next step. Reach out from your personal account instead of your brand to humanize yourself. Once you’ve made the connection, get to know your influencers and always ask yourself what you can do for them. Give them the creative freedom to take your goals and run with them in a way that fits with their audience and creative style.

With time your influencers can grow into brand ambassadors, which will hold more ground with your brand. Longer relationships will be mutually beneficial for you and your ambassadors. While not all relationships will trend in this direction, you should approach your relationships with a long-term mindset.

Paid Influencers

Does your brand need paid influencers? Bringing value to your influencers and brand ambassadors is the most important factor - whether it is monetary, experiences, gear, program benefits or wide media exposure.  Look to see how you can bring value in smaller ways. Of course, each influencer and ambassador will have a different set of expectations so it is best to approach the conversation candidly. Be upfront about what you can offer and have a plan when building your ambassador team.

Now that we’ve touched on some of the bigger topics in long-term influencer marketing. Review these ten steps for success that will bolster your process from beginning to end.

Ten Steps to Create a Strategic Influencer Team

  1. Priorities and Goals

    Create priorities for the program, figure out what your goals are with creating an influencer team. Define what  success means as this will look different for every brand.

  2. Building a strong foundation

    It’s important to get everything set up before you start reaching out to people. Make sure you know how many people you want to work with, the budget, timeline, team name, etc.

  3. Don’t go alone

    Make sure you have a team working on the influencer marketing program with you and there is full support and understanding from the brand.

  4. Be selective

    Always be selective with the people you choose for the program, using a tool could be helpful. If you can  meet in person before or after you sign them on, even better. Influencer trips can become almost as important as media trips for certain brands.

  5. Play of the scenarios

    Consider the best and worst case scenarios for your influencers by acknowledging possible outcomes. Remember that you might not receive everything you ask for from an ambassador and plan to have a response plan for this.

  6. Make sure you cover everything in the initial stages

    Contracts and negotiations are important if you decide to go in that direction  and should be upfront in the conversations from the start. Transparency is key!

  7. Investing in good relationships is very important

    Avoid one off partnerships and think long term ambassadors. Use our tactics mentioned above to build authentic relationships from the beginning that will create strong partnerships.

  8. Let go of control

    Let the influencer share about the brand through their own voice and for their own audience.

  9. Breaking up is hard but is necessary.

    If you need to part ways with an influencer, make it a direct conversation and be sure to back it up and provide feedback or why the partnership didn’t work.

  10. Never stop learning

    Test, learn, iterate

To recap, remember that building your influencer team will take time, it will require legwork to nurture relationships and listening closely to your audience and influencers. Carefully selecting engaging, authentic folks will help you grow your brand and build long-term relationships that will reach beyond Instagram. If you want to cultivate true influencers and brand advocates, put in the time and be yourself.

A special shoutout to some of the awesome speakers we saw included Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing, SAP, Branden Harvey, Founder and CEO, Good Good Good, Tyler Anderson CEO / Founder, Casual Fridays, Inc. and Tyler McCall, Instagram Marketing Expert.