Influencer Agency Guides

Influencer Relations Management: What It Is and How to Build an IRM Strategy

Dec 22, 2023 | By Chris Jacks

Along with digital marketing, influencer marketing is beginning to replace traditional advertising. According to Data Bridge Market Research, the influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $69.92 billion by 2029 at a CAGR of 32.50% from 2022 to 2029.[1]

Still, influencer marketing is not a “set it and forget it” strategy. A lot of the success relies on the brand’s ability to manage the influencer relationship. 

What Is Influencer Relations Management?

Influencer relations management, also called IRM strategy, is about treating influencers as a strategic partner to a brand. Each name and style of influencer, as well as their campaigns and results, are stored for future reference.

IRM requires an experienced influencer manager to control the execution of influencer marketing projects and contribute to their success. Working as a brand’s employee or as a consultant, an influencer manager oversees the recruitment, management, and reporting for the influencers.

The Value of Influencer Relations

Influencers have the power to persuade their followers, which is built over time with trust and credibility. When brands partner with influencers who are popular with the target audience, they have a lot of sway to promote products or services. 

Without a positive relationship with influencers, they are unlikely to recommend a brand or its products in a way that encourages a purchase. 

In this respect, influencer relations management is similar to customer relationship management, except the focus is the influencer. This allows brands to cultivate meaningful relationships with influencers who can be instrumental in campaigns. 

While one-off campaigns can be successful, long-term influencer relationships are more productive as the influencer learns the nuances of the brand and creates more targeted messaging. 

In addition, the demand for influencers keeps growing. Brands may need to compete to find, acquire, and hold onto the best influencers. Having a solid IRM strategy offers a competitive advantage to acquire and retain customers, ensuring that brands can land lucrative contracts with the ideal influencers and nurture loyalty for the brand in the long term.

How to Develop a Successful IRM Strategy

Be Selective

Finding the right influencers takes a lot of upfront time and effort. It’s better to plan ahead and take the time to vet influencers and find the right fit, rather than jumping into a collaboration. Quality is more important than quantity. 

Having a stringent selection process leads to higher sales performance and enables a brand to focus on influencers that are already a good match, creating the foundation for a long-term relationship. The goal isn’t to change the influencer, but to find influencers who are already a match.

Use Influencer Contracts

Great brand-influencer relationships can fall apart without a sustainable contract. It’s discouraging for a brand to have to undergo the recruitment process and end up with an influencer partnership that doesn’t work out.

An influencer contract is so important, especially for brands that are new to influencer marketing. The contract should have all the details of the partnership, compensation, campaign, and expectations to ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

Treat Influencers as Partners

The influencers a brand works with ultimately represent the brand. They have access to market sentiment and insights that a brand may not see, so brands should use this opportunity to get feedback and fresh ideas.

For example, a cosmetics brand may work with an influencer and discover that consumers have a lot of feedback about the ingredients, the packaging, the messaging – these insights are valuable for business strategy. This not only improves the product for customers but builds trust among the customer base and the influencer that their feedback is heard. 

Leverage Influencer Outreach

Influencers with strong reach and high engagement are the most popular. They get pitches to work with brands all the time, so they can afford to be selective. 

IRM helps with outreach strategy to ensure that the pitches are personalized, friendly, and transparent. As a result, a brand’s pitch may stand out in a crowded inbox.

Treat Influencers with Respect

Influencers deserve appreciation for their hard work and dedication. They developed themselves as a personal brand, create compelling content, edit their images and videos, and engage with their community. This is all time consuming and may take years to reach the level of the most sought after influencers.

Brands need to show respect and appreciation for this effort by offering fair compensation and a clear contract. Influencers aren’t doing brands a favor. It’s a business partnership like any other.

Nurture Influencers Like Customers

Treating influencers fairly is a must, especially in a competitive landscape. Brands need to go the extra mile to attract influencers – just like customers.

Aside from fostering a positive relationship with the influencer themselves, doing so helps a brand’s reputation and encourages other influencers to consider partnerships and collaborations. 

One of the most important aspects of nurturing influencer relationships is regular communication. Influencers also appreciate gifts – in addition to compensation – as incentive, such as free samples or exclusive access to new products and services. 

Brands that have implemented an influencer loyalty program with extensive benefits have good track records with influencers. For example, Sephora has Sephora Squad, which gives influencer members free beauty boxes with special products, early access to product launches, training, career development tools, and networking opportunities. 

Screenshot of Sephora's Sephora Squad page

Source: Sephora

Offer Creative Freedom

Influencers won’t want to work with a brand that micro-manages every aspect of the campaign. While brand guidelines and expectations are acceptable, brands that assume too much control take away the fresh perspective and unique angle that an influencer has to offer. These are highly skilled content creators with a deep understanding of their audience, but they need some freedom to do so. 

For example, Mayuko Inoue, a tech influencer that takes an empathetic and compassionate approach, has been a long-time NordVPN ambassador and used her unique appeal to promote the service. 

Screenshot of Mayuko's video promoting NordVPN

Source: YouTube

Think Long-Term Relationships

Influencers often prefer long-term collaborations to one-off campaigns. This gives them an edge in understanding a brand and speaking more authentically and in greater detail to their audiences, which is difficult to achieve with different brand promotions all the time. 

Brands that are seeking long-term relationships, rather than quick campaigns, may be more appealing to influencers. It’s a win-win, as the influencer doesn’t need to constantly seek out work and brands can save themselves the vetting process with a known collaborator. 

Track Results

A brand’s CRM strategy should include analyzing and segmenting customers based on buying habits to reward the big spenders and follow up with customers that are at risk of churn. IRM can work the same way.

Brands should prioritize the high-performing influencers based on a few factors, such as the highest ROI, the highest sales, the best media value, and more. If influencers don’t deliver as hoped, that’s important to record. Having all this information on hand helps to guide future influencer strategy and establish priorities.

Attribute Campaign Results to the Right Influencers

If web traffic and sales begin to climb, but a brand is working with multiple influencers, it can be more difficult to determine which influencer brought the results. Influencers also want credit for their work. 

Google Analytics can be helpful for identifying a digital path that a prospect took from the influencer’s post to the eventual visit or sale. This only goes so far, whoever, so a manager must monitor results and investigate where the customers originated. Typically, this is done through individual links for each influencer campaign, which can then be tracked separately across influencers and social media channels. 

Rely on a Platform

Managing an influencer program is a lot of work. Spreadsheets and other manual methods may work at first, but the details often become too overwhelming. As the influencer marketing program scales, it’s best to work with an influencer-specific software platform

The chosen influencer relations management platform should be agile enough to keep up with the dynamic social media environment and multiple influencers. Having a centralized platform streamlines the program to ensure that brands spend less time finding information and more time managing their influencer relationships successfully. 

In addition, some tools automatically track influencer analytics like user-generated content, engagement rates, sales attribution, and more, ensuring that no influencer management tasks are missed.

Influencer Marketing Success with IRM

While the ROI of an influencer campaign is fairly straightforward, putting extra effort into IRM helps brands make the most of their marketing efforts and prepare to scale. It helps brands build trust and credibility with influencers, improve reach and engagement, and create more effective campaigns. 




Chris Jacks is an influencer marketing professional with over a decade of experience in the digital marketing sphere. As the Director of Growth Strategy, Chris oversees and drives strategic initiatives to fuel business expansion. With a keen eye for market trends and opportunities, Chris develops comprehensive growth plans and aligns business objectives across cross-functional teams. With a strong focus on crafting impactful, ROI-driven influencer campaigns across multiple sectors, Chris utilizes his expertise to enhance market positioning and maximize results.

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