Photo Credit: Levi Guzman/ Unsplash

Cultivating Relationships with Influencers for Long-term Brand Success

The role of influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) has expanded beyond the confines of social media platforms. You’ve probably seen an influencer on a billboard ad and thought, “Hmm… this person looks familiar.” So, why do brands choose to work with influencers?

Influencer marketing is an innovative way for brands to market themselves and their products. In recent years, many brands have included influencers as an integral part of their marketing campaigns. Before making an important purchase, you’ve probably watched a review on YouTube or TikTok for research purposes. The video usually features an individual sharing their thoughts on the product, and whether you buy it or not may be influenced by the review. Influencers are seen as the human voice to brands and products.

For example, Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia gifted prominent influencers exclusive Taylor Swift merch to celebrate the launch of the Eras Tour film. The influencers then posted their thoughts about the merch and managed to reach beyond subscribers of the streaming platform. Non-subscribers who are interested in Taylor Swift or follow the influencers would be aware of this enchanting, new film and may be compelled to check it out. Gifts remain a worthwhile investment because it does two things – one, start a relationship with a key figure, and allows for a brand to reach its audience in a more humanised way.

While influencer marketing has proven to be an effective strategy, many agencies and brands still struggle to master its intricacies – particularly in cultivating and nurturing warm relationships with influencers. Building genuine connections with influencers not only fosters authenticity when working together on campaigns, but paves the way for better brand outcomes. 

Getting to know influencers

Influencers are more than personified billboards who pose with the trendiest items online. They’re experts in creating content with a personal touch. Take your time to identify the types of influencers that best align with your campaign or overall brand story. Let’s take the example of Mahsuri Food collaborating with Khairul Aming, a well-loved and respected Malaysian influencer known for his simple, authentic cooking videos, usually accompanied by witty commentary. Mahsuri Food is a local cooking sauce brand that has been around since the 1990s, and the collaboration with Khairul Aming built enough awareness for it to finally emerge as a household name.

When Khairul featured one of Mahsuri Food’s cooking sauces in a video, the product quickly sold out in grocery stores across Malaysia. Of course, this loyalty and interest from his followers was not built overnight – Khairul had been creating content for years and intimately understands what works best for his audience of home cooks and homemakers. This goes to show that working with  the right influencer can help you unlock a target audience in a way that results in better engagements – comments, shares, and even conversion. 

Photo Credit: Khairul Aming/ Instagram

Do your research on influencers by combing through all their social media channels. When reaching out, be sure to personalise the message, as influencers appreciate brands and agencies who take the time to understand who they are and what they do. 

Reaching Out

Following an influencer on various social media platforms is the best way to get to know them (Photo Credit: Kate Torline/Unsplash)

Studying (*ahem* stalking) influencers is the best way to understand how to engage with them. Pay attention to their interests, favourite brands, and paid postings. Do this so you can communicate your message strategically whether through email, text, or even in person. Just take it easy, and don’t be so quick to hard-sell your brand to them. Influencers are people, too, and they may not take kindly to hard selling. Talk about mutual topics and show interest in both them and their content, not just the posts you would pay them to do. 

Another way brands can try to start a relationship with an influencer is by gifting them products – but remember that the influencer is not obligated to post about this. In return, however, the influencer may take an interest in your brand and work with you in the future. Consistent communication and trust are key here, as influencers do not want to feel like they have been forced to post something on their socials.

Influencer marketing costs

If you’ve been around long enough, you may have heard that you need a big budget to work with influencers. While that can be true, a small budget can still get you results. Working with nano-influencers(1,000 – 9,000 followers) or micro-influencers (10,000 -70,000 followers) is a growing trend, as these social media personalities can garner more engagement from their loyal followers than you might expect. But the key to success is managing expectations. Never overpromise to the client, and always lay out any pitfalls or issues that can arise in black and white. Don’t take examples like Khairul Aming and expect instant success with just anyone.

In terms of monetary compensation, most influencers are aware that agencies and brands work with budgets, so they are usually willing to negotiate a rate that satisfies all parties involved. However, if there is a case where no monetary compensation can be provided, always try to make the collaborations feel exclusive and personalised. Everyone enjoys being in on something before everyone else. Making it experiential rather than just about money could work in your favour. For example, providing early access to unreleased products or extending invites to special events can boost the chances of organic content from influencers. Taking the time to speak with them to understand their needs and future content plans can also help you understand how to create better campaigns and collaborations.

Briefing influencers

Once you’ve found the right influencers for your campaign, prepare a brief – which serves as the foundation of how your influencer campaign will run.

Depending on the influencer one might want a detailed brief and direction, while another may prefer a certain amount of creative freedom over the content so they can relate it to their personal brand. Whatever their preference, take the time to craft a proper campaign that suits them, and allow influencers to create content in their own style instead of following a rigid brief that results in a post that doesn’t feel genuine. It’s beneficial for influencers to collaborate with brands, rather than feel that they’re being told what to do.

Another rule of thumb is not to rush the campaign. Yes, tight deadlines exist, but many, if not all, influencers have prior engagements. Always discuss timelines with them up front, and try to accommodate them as best you can. Create campaigns with a healthy timeline, manage expectations, and always discuss ideas thoroughly with your potential influencers to ensure you’re aligned on deliverables. 

Building meaningful relationships with influencers goes beyond financial transactions. It’s about demonstrating genuine care, respect, and interest in the influencers as individuals and your brand partners. By nurturing these relationships with time and trust, you’ll be more likely to see a worthy ROI.

If you’re looking for expert assistance in cultivating meaningful relationships with influencers and maximising the impact of your influencer marketing campaigns, talk to us at