How to Build a Social Influencer Program

Guest Post by Jenna C Linden

Over the last few years, social influencer marketing has exploded within the marketing industry. There are social influencers for any niche you can think of… Fashion, food, outdoor rec, travel, parenthood, you name it! Many brands have taken a liking to the trend causing many other businesses to feel the need to do the same.

What is a social influencer?

First, let’s define exactly what the term “social influencer” means:

A social media influencer is an individual who has a significant influence on their social audience. In most cases, an influencer has a large social following and engages frequently with their followers. They act as an authority within their niche.

A few things to consider:

  • Over the last five years, social media influencers have become a major word-of-mouth marketing tactic to reach millennials.
  • A social media influencer is NOT someone who just takes quality photos. It’s someone who who actually INFLUENCES their audience. Their audience TRUSTS their opinion and guidance.
  • A social media influencer isn’t necessarily someone who repurposes content/photography.
  • Social influencers have become ‘new age’ traditional journalists.

“On Instagram, the amount brands are spending with influencers is over $1 billion per year.” – Mediakix

Is a social influencer program right for your business?

First, you need to determine whether building an influencer program would be valuable for your business.

  • Is your target audience using Instagram, YouTube or niche blogs?
  • Are there new specific audiences you would like to target?
  • Do you have a product or service you could use as trade or as an attraction? If not, do you have a significant budget for an influencer program?
  • Does your business have a social media presence?

What are the pros & cons of social influencers?


  • Reach brand new audiences.
  • Tap into many niches that you wouldn’t typically target.
  • Save money. You don’t always have to spend money on influencers, if you have a product/service to trade.
  • Reach millennials.
  • Grow your following.


  • It’s hard to find the RIGHT influencer.
  • Sometimes you do have to spend $$.
  • Some influencers lack authenticity, i.e. it’s apparent you paid them to speak about you.
  • Influencers could be working with competing brands/businesses.
  • It’s difficult to prove ROI.

So, who is the IDEAL INFLUENCER?

  • An authority within their niche
  • Uses appropriate voice & tone for your brand/business
  • Someone you feel comfortable representing your brand/business
  • Educated on how to track partnership results
  • Has reasonable needs and requires reasonable incentives
  • Holds themselves accountable
  • Previous experience to reference
  • A high following, and/or high engagement with their following
  • Audience is a demographic you want to target and who would be interested in your product/service

Find authentic, real Influencers

Because there are SO many “influencers” in the social media space, it’s important to learn how to identify a real influencer vs. a fake account or someone who has purchased followers or ‘bots’. The BEST way to do this is to follow the person on Instagram for a week or two. Observe whether or not they are posting on a regular basis. What is the language of their captions like? Are they posting on their Instagram story frequently? Are the speaking into the camera? Do you ever see their physical person/face in photos or stories?

Following a prospective influencer is great for other reasons too. Does this person’s influencer style appeal to you or your business? Would you trust this person to represent your business on their social media channels?

Look for influencers who are engaged with their audience

Following your prospective influencer is also a great way to observe how they ENGAGE with their audience. A good influencer will consistently be talking to their followers. If someone asks a question on their post, the influencer should be answering that question directly. If an influencer is promoting your product/service you want them to be answering questions they receive from their followers. This is huge when it comes to them representing your business.

Negotiating fees, trades and deliverables

Once you have found an influencer you like, or have decided to work with one who reached out to you, the negotiation begins. This is where it gets tricky. Because social influencing is so new, there isn’t any standard rate or agreement. One influencer may have 60K followers and charge $500 per Instagram post, while another may have 775K followers and just want to work for trade. Most influencers are simply putting a price tag on themselves and what they think their ‘services’ are worth, which can be very inconsistent. If they are charging a lot, be sure to ask about other deliverables beyond Instagram, like blog posts, YouTube videos, tweets, Facebook posts or even event activations.

Typically, working with influencers who charge a high fee are tough to work with in general, because they probably value themselves much higher than they are worth and can be very difficult. You want to make sure the influencer is honest and reasonable. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your budget, and if an influencer is asking too much, sometimes you just have to say no. It can be discouraging, but it’s crucial to remember there are reasonable influencers out there who are looking to work with a business like you.

Influencer contracts

Once you have negotiated a good price/trade it’s time to create a contract. You can work with your legal department on this if you have one. But most importantly, you want to really draw out the deliverables you are expecting to receive from the influencer (ex. a blog post, YouTube video, Instagram post). Some influencers are very entrepreneurial, while others are just looking for free products/services. That’s okay. However, often those that are not as entrepreneurial will need a bit more hand-holding on your end. Within a contract, you can be very specific in the ‘scope of work’.

Ex. Say you are a well-known ski resort and you are bringing a food influencer to enjoy skiing and on-mountain dining at your resort for a few days. You have 10+ on-mountain restaurants, but you really want the influencer to cover three specific restaurants. Make sure you specify those restaurants and HOW you want them to talk about those restaurants in the ‘scope of work’. You can ask for a specific amount of Instagram stories, a specific amount of Instagram posts, a specific amount of mentions in a blog…etc. The more straightforward you are in the contract, the happier you will be with the partnership.

ALWAYS send the contract to the influencer BEFORE sending any products or giving away any services. Make sure they read and agree to the scope of work before moving forward.

In order to preserve authenticity, let your influencer know that you want them to be authentic and honest about your product/service/offering. If they are smart, they won’t give you a bad name.

Meeting with an influencer

If you are bringing an influencer to your company or providing them a service in person (ex. hosting them on a raft trip or hosting them at your hotel), it’s great to meet them in person upon arrival. This allows you to:

  • Put a face to the name
  • Instill accountability in the influencer
  • Sign contracts in person
  • Answer any further questions
  • Give recommendations
  • Secure your relationship for future use
  • Talk to the influencer about tracking their social metrics and direct messages

Create a social influencer guide

When you meet with influencer, come prepared. It’s helpful to put together a ‘social influencer guide’ that allows them to learn more about your business and also help them best promote your business. A good ‘social influencer guide’ includes:

  • Social handles you would like them to tag
  • Background on the product/service
  • Hashtags you would like them to use
  • Any information they should know about the product/service

An influencer guide is also a good way to ensure the influencer knows how to spell or pronounce important terms, locations, names or key words.

Prove the ROI of an influencer

Because measuring ROI with social influencers is so difficult, ask them to keep track of their direct messages. This will help you understand what their audience is asking about your product/service. For example, the influencer receives a direct message from one of their followers saying, “I have been thinking about buying that jacket for a while now, you have sold me. Ordering now!”. HUGE! That right there is a conversion.

Most influencers will have a business account with Instagram that provides them with a ton of insights (tracking and metrics). Be sure to ask them to give you info on their audience demographic, interactions, link clicks, reach, and impressions.

If you have a boss or executive board that is interested in metrics and ROI, be sure to put together a report of everything that influencer has done for you. Include the insights the influencer provided. This is the best thing you can do to prove the success and value of a social influencer program.

Jenna Linden is a Colorado native who lives and breathes digital marketing. She cut her teeth marketing one of the world’s premier ski resorts. She thrives on creating results-oriented digital campaigns.

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