By Jeran Fraser, SVP of Strategy, The Social Standard
What’s it like to manage an influencer?
You’re a business coach, therapist, friend and ALWAYS on call. Some days you find yourself on yachts filming content with megastars and others driving around a group of young adults. The day never ends and the job is never done.
For most, being a manager is cut and dry, it’s transactional, it lacks emotion. What people forget is that the modern-day celebrity, currently coined the influencer/creator, is always on. So being successful as a manager in this era requires empathy and compassion.
A non-social media celebrity (actor, model etc.) for the most part lives a different lifestyle. Generally, their content has a much longer post production time frame and during that period, they are likely working on the next project. That’s not to say that some actors and models don’t live a similar lifestyle on social media but for most their business does not rely exclusively on digital engagement.
But life is different for an influencer. Their job is constant, takes place in real-time and they either choose to always be on or they effectively lose the audience.
Being a manager of influencers wasn’t something I was striving for, in fact, it sort of fell in my lap when Covid hit. I was busy running a coworking/incubator space for startups and building technology companies. I was investing in people and brands and although I was well versed in the world of digital media, I never saw myself managing talent. But like many, Covid redirected my path.
When March 2020 came around, I was working on a startup project with a young influencer. I met this particular creator several years earlier in my incubator space. She was working on a fitness startup and was by far the youngest tenant. She would often come by the space or just call for help on various projects.
As her audience grew, so did her potential. And being someone that’s often looking over contracts, she asked for guidance. That guidance not only turned into a business relationship but also a friendship. I quickly realized that managing talent in this modern era requires a level of emotion and empathy that many in the industry lacked. The Instagram algorithm, a demeaning text or just simple burn out could easily trigger a short-term social implosion and ultimately affect a creator’s reality. The majority of creators rely on two major buckets of income, ad revenue for video content or brand deals. The only way to maintain those is consistency and engaging content. Both are not easy tasks.
As unconventional as it sounds, it’s actually quite enjoyable looking at deals that aren’t necessarily focused on commission but also co-investing in projects where you can make a significant impact within a brand/service.
Here are some things I learned along the way for businesses to consider when working with influencers:
Make Sure Brand Deals are True Collaborations
Creatives hate feeling confined to a box. If you are going to win-over an influencer, brands should seek true collaboration. In addition to providing a detailed brief in your proposal that discusses goals, messaging and audience alignment, provide a contact to discuss any questions/concerns to bring the campaign home.
Know Your Talent
Every creator has a backstory, how they got where they are, what drives them, what keeps them motivated, what content ideas keep them up at night, and ultimately their mission to give back to the world. Know your talent, inside and out – some influencers post about brands without being paid because they are true ambassadors. If you are a brand, keep your head on a swivel to look for organic posts. You may want to reach out to this talent later with a campaign in mind.
Remember, influencers have an incentive to over-perform on expectations. The higher their engagements the more likely you’ll want to work with them again. An influencer you hire today may have ten times the audience size in the not-so-distant future. The best campaigns start before an influencer explodes in popularity, so start early and cast a wide net.
Seek alignment by merging the creator’s interests and a brand that shares a collective mission. If a creator loves the outdoors and is patriotic, develop a road trip/camping campaign that gives back to Veterans. Reverse engineer your success – think of a specific influencer that would love to partner with you for an activation. If you can sell your marketing idea to an influencer passionate about your cause, you will create a better end product for your audience.