Tips for Working With YouTube Influencers

Working with social influencers is a growing trend in content marketing that has been proven to be an effective marketing strategy. Statistics show that working with influencers can lead to a 3­–10-time increase in conversion rates for brands.

At Pace, I’ve gotten to work with a bunch of YouTube influencers, from top tech reviewers to well-known comedic personalities. These influencers have helped our clients boost the visibility of content and drive conversions targeted to key audiences. Here’s what we’ve learned:

Ask the Right Questions

First, decide on the type of YouTube influencer you want to work with.

“Some have agents. Some live and work out of their mom’s house. Some are SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actors with lots of agents and agencies,” my colleague, associate producer Laura Ayala explains. “Know that there are pros and cons to working with each type.”

For example, a mommy vlogger who’s just starting out may not cost as much to work with but will have a smaller social following, and thus a smaller circle of influence. A comedian influencer with thousands of YouTube subscribers will have a much bigger circle of influence to promote your brand, but may have third-party agencies and binding contracts representing their interests that make it difficult to break through the red tape.

Consider the following:

  • Are there specific skills and talents you want your influencer to possess? Does he need to know how to write a script? Act? Use camera equipment? Edit video content?
  • Where is she located? If she lives on the opposite side of the country in a different time zone, this may make in-person collaboration more challenging than if she lives in the same state.
  • How big is his YouTube following? Is he influential on other social networks, and could your brand leverage that influence for promotion and content distribution?
  • What’s the max amount you can offer an influencer? If you’ve got a small budget, you’ll need to find a relatively new or less-well-known influencer. With a bigger budget, you can approach a big-name influencer like Jenna Marbles or Michelle Phan, both of whom have established reputations within YouTube and a brand of their own. Bottom line: Know what you can afford, and don’t waste your time (or the influencers’ time) going after people who are not within your budget.
  • Does your brand align with the influencer? Before initiating contact, do preliminary research so you won’t waste time on what is clearly a mismatch. If you’re representing Oscar Mayer, for example, you don’t want an influencer who is vegan.
  • In the interest of being authentic, does your influencer use or promote your competitors’ products or services? It may not be an automatic deal-breaker if he or she can also make a compelling argument for your brand, but it does have potential for a serious conflict of interest. Watch out.
  • If you’re considering multiple influencers, you might want to compile a list of possible candidates into a spreadsheet or some other organizational system to help you keep track of contact information, number of posts agreed upon and dates they will be published, et cetera.

Build the Contract

It’s critical to draw up a contract before your influencer partnership begins. Establishing the terms of the contract upfront can prevent misunderstandings later, like confusion over payment amounts or installations. Our producer Laura suggests establishing a mutual understanding that communications between the brand and influencer should occur in a timely manner (e.g., 24 hours’ response time).

If you choose to make the influencer exclusive, “Be reasonable with the amount of time you make them exclusive,” says Brian Bowen, another producer here at Pace. Making an influencer “exclusive” means that for a designated amount of time, they will not be allowed to endorse any brand competitors. Exclusivity is a good way to protect your brand interests, but since influencers earn the majority of their income through brand sponsorships, it’s unreasonable to hold them to that exclusivity forever. “At the end of the day,” Brian says, “You want to be fair to them, and keep relationships.”

Next, think through your social promotion plan and incorporate important aspects pertaining to the influencer/brand partnership into the contract. Consider how you want the content to be promoted: Do you want to have a teaser video that hypes the content and attracts more views? What links or annotations do you want your influencer to include to draw traffic to your brand’s digital presence? Where else can you leverage the content—are there other social networks the influencer can post and share (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google+)?

Finally, give your influencer a publication schedule for social posts so they’ll know exactly what and when you want them to post. Be sure to also have them send over the final links once published so you can verify that the content appears just as you want it.

The Next Steps

Once you’ve got a contract squared away, you can start digging into specifics with your individual influencer. If they’re new to your brand, advise them on the brand voice and guidelines they need to be aware of. Our team has found that it helps to have an initial call to go over the brand identity and encourage open dialogue to clear everything up. These types of meetings are great, not just for clarification purposes, but also for helping your influencers get a better sense of who you are. It helps to remind them that they’re partnering with a team of people, rather than a faceless agency or brand.

So there you have it: a few tips and lessons learned from working with influencers. Keep in mind that each influencer is different and these tips are not intended to be one-size-fits-all. The most important thing is to do what feels right for your brand, and what’s fair to your influencer. If your first partnership goes well, it could very well open the door to future collaborations, or even a full-time brand advocacy.

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