If a stranger came up to you and expected you do something for her with little or no introduction and little or no explanation, you’d probably feel put out. Unfortunately, that’s the case for most brands’ influencer engagement strategy.

Yet, as influencer marketing continues to grow, brands continue struggle to approach and engage influencers. One survey looked at the top three challenges brands faced when it comes to influencer marketing. Surprise, number two is identifying the right influencers. And, number three is once those influencers were identified, engaging with the influencers.

One way for brands overcome the challenges of connecting with influencers is to put together an influencer engagement strategy. An engagement strategy gives a brand, the tools, and techniques needed to approach and develop relationships with influencers.

What Is an Influencer Engagement Strategy?

In many ways, an influencer engagement strategy is the same as a relationship building strategy. The first step is to find influencers who seem like good partners for your brand. But you don’t want to jump right in and ask them to do something for you. That’s a faux pas and can make your brand seem too hungry. Instead, participate in a bit of back and forth with the influencer. Build a relationship and get to know each other before any offers are made.

Where the strategy comes in has to do with how you go about approaching influencers. A key part of the strategy should be taking the time to introduce your brand to an influencer. Another part of the strategy should be recognizing the talents and works of the influencer.

Timing is also a crucial part of an influencer engagement strategy. You want to connect with influencers before you’ll need them. Otherwise, you risk putting them off. Or, worse, you risk ending up without an influencer at the moment when you need one the most.

Eventually your strategy should include a way to invite the influencer to work with your brand.

Why Should Your Brand Use an Influencer Engagement Strategy?

Engaging with influencers before asking them to work with you keeps your brand from coming off as desperate or sketchy. And it’s not just celebrities who get the random asks. Even micro-influencers get random messages from “brands” or people who claim to want to work with them.

When your brand has an influencer engagement strategy in place, it’s easier for you to put the influencer first and to focus on the person’s strengths and what he or she needs rather than shouting out how a particular influencer will elevate your brand. Flattery is very effective, even when it’s obvious that someone is saying nice things to get what they want, as Scientific American notes.

Another reason why it’s important to have an influencer engagement strategy is that doing so allows you to clearly show influencers what’s in it for them. It’s a given that your brand will benefit in some way from the influencer partnership, otherwise you wouldn’t be going to all this effort. But how will the influencer benefit?

Having a clearly defined answer to that question will help you convince more influencers to work with you.

What Influencers Look for When Brands Engage Them

Part of putting together a successful influencer engagement strategy means having an understanding of what influencers want to see from brands. Econsultancy interviewed a trio of YouTubers, asking them what they look for in a partnership from a brand.

One influencer, Niomi Smart, said it was important that a brand clearly outline what its goals and why it thinks she is a good match.

Smart and another influencer, Lily Pebbles, stressed that it was also important for brands to be flexible and willing to listen to any ideas an influencer has. If a brand comes across as set in its ways when trying to engage with an influencer, that’s usually a red flag and a reason for an influencer to decline any offer.

Steps to Put Together an Influencer Engagement Strategy

If you are ready to give working with influencers a try, here are the steps you can take when putting together your influencer engagement strategy.

Define your goals.

The first step when creating an influencer engagement strategy is to determine what your brand’s goals are, both for influencer marketing in general and for working with a specific influencer. What do you hope to gain from the partnership?

Identify potential influencers.

Next, you need to get out there and find influencers who could be a good fit for your brand. You can search on various social media platforms using keywords and hashtags or you can use an influencer marketplace to find people who are actively looking for partnerships.

Get to know them.

Getting to know influencers should be a critical part of any engagement strategy. Follow them on social media, read their blogs, watch their videos, and otherwise pay attention to what they do and who they are.

Introduce your brand.

Finally, have a method for introducing yourself to the influencer. Put the focus on engaging them in a conversation rather than randomly sending a message asking them to do something for you. When you make that first move, give the influencer as much detail as possible.

You want to share what your budget is (or, more generally, if you’ll be paying them), what you’re looking for, why you think they’re a great match, and what your timeline is. It’s a good idea to stress that you’ll be open to their input and ideas throughout the process.

Keep things professional but personal.

Remember, influencers are people. They have lives, busy schedules, other things to do. When you engage with them, put them first and keep your tone professional. On the other hand, you do want to come across as a real person rather than a robot or spambot.

Finding the balance between a friendly tone and a professional one will help you maximize your influencer engagement strategy and make the most of the relationships you form with influencers.

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