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How to build better relationships with influencers

Influencer marketing has evolved. What marketers need to know to shape strategy.

4 min read

MarketingSocial Media

influencer marketing graphic


The influencer marketing space has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, propelling a more meaningful relationship between influencers, brands and social audiences. Recent research provides some tips to help marketers shape their strategies. 

Influencer marketing spend is expected to reach $16.4 billion in the US this year, a  26% year-on-year rise, and 66% of marketers intend to increase their investment, according to a new report by and WARC

Aspire’s “State of Influencer Marketing 2022” report places that number slightly higher, finding that 76% of marketers will be looking to boost marketing spend  in this space. 


How the influencer role is evolving

Some 54% of influencers now define themselves as content creators, while 86% of marketers say they work with content creators, per and WARC. 

The study highlights how this shift to the content creator role is changing the relationship these creators have with brands, with many wanting more creative control over their joint work. Half of influencers say balancing brand requirements with creative freedom is challenging. 

“Let the creator be the creator and be creative and have as much freedom as you can give them with the creative concepts behind it,” advises YouTube influencer Raven Elyse in this SmartBrief article CEO David A. Yovanno notes that the increased popularity of social video and an aversion to traditional advertising has created the perfect environment for influencers, by whom consumers are more and more guided in their purchasing decisions. “This has created a shift in the brand-influencer power dynamic – for many brands, building partnerships with influencers is now a critical way to reach their target audience,” Yovanno says in a press release. 


How marketers are working with influencers

Brand awareness and engagement are the top reasons marketers work with influencers, while content creators say their top motivation for working with brands is to create authentic content. 

Both marketers and influencers say the top strengths of influencer marketing are higher levels of engagement and increased trust and authenticity. 

Some 58% of Generation Z want creativity from influencers, while 50% of millennials seek humor and 60% of baby boomers look for trustworthiness, per and WARC. 

“I think influencers can be the most authentic spokespeople for us,” says Michael Flatt, Director of Global Integrated Marketing, Xbox, in the report. “People receive information well from people who they like and trust.”

Some 92% of influencers mostly use Instagram, while 43% are mostly on TikTok, per and WARC. Aspire reports that 74% of marketers and 75% of influencers intend to invest more in TikTok this year. 

Nanoinfluencers see the highest engagement rate of 3.69%, followed by microinfluencers at 2.25%, per Aspire. Those engagement rates explain why 46% of marketers currently work with nanoinfluencers – the highest percentage – followed by 24% who work with both micro- and mid-tier influencers.


How to find the right influencer

The top way marketers are finding the right influencer partners is by browsing social media, followed by working with influencer marketing platforms or by using an agency, per and WARC. Some 40% of marketers say their social media team is responsible for influencer marketing, followed by 33% who say the digital marketing team. 

MASH Content founder Mahnoor Sheikh reviews 10 of the best influencer marketing tools in this Sprout Social article, covering influencer marketplaces, agencies and platforms that marketers can use to not only source content creators but manage their work. 

A very recent development in the space is Walmart filing a trademark for “Walmart Creator Collective” and “Walmart Creator,” pointing to the creation of an influencer marketing platform to help the brand’s third-party sellers match with the right influencers, per a Reuters report


Getting payment right

The top compensation model for influencer marketing among marketers is a flat fee, followed by a hybrid approach of a fee and payments for conversions and participation, per and WARC. Influencers prefer a flat fee or monthly contract. 

Some 64% of influencers increased their rates this year, according to Aspire, but 43% said they’d work for free products if they really loved the brand. 

SmartBrief reported earlier this year about how marketers can alleviate the problem of pay inequity within influencer marketing. Analysis by MSL and The Influencer League found a 29% pay gap between white influencers and those who are Black, indigenous and people of color, while female influencers earn 30% less than their male peers.  

“By being transparent and creating standards for how compensation works, marketers can ensure that they are treating influencers fairly and building lasting relationships that will drive results,” wrote Shameyka McCalman for SmartBrief. 


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