Blog post

Influencer marketing in 2021 and beyond: long-term influencer partnerships and influencers as customer service?

30 Mar, 2021
Influencer marketing in 2021 and beyond: long-term influencer partnerships and influencers as customer service?

The idea of influencers being used outside of the traditional marketing format is nothing new, but actually pulling the trigger on that idea is.

Discussions around influencers as long-term sales people, community advocates or even brand ambassadors have been going on for a few years now. But rarely does it feel as though those ideas have truly been followed through. And it feels like no one has really rolled that into a holistic role or approach.

It’s easy to put influencers into a box, to pay them a set fee and have them create a post about a product or service. It’s much harder - and more time-consuming - to form a long-term retained strategy, which puts influencers at the heart of marketing, but also at the heart of sales, customer service and community.

Outside of some very high profile ‘ambassador’-style relationships, between big brands and super influencers, it doesn’t feel as though you can really say that influencers have made it beyond marketing.

Until now.

The idea has rattled around long enough for it to take root and long-term influencer relationships are well and truly on the agenda for 2021.

Brands are generally working on increased budgets for influencer marketing and, in time, those budgets will go to longer, more formal, relationships with trusted influencers and more innovative ways of deploying those influencers with budgets from different departments added to the ‘influencer’ pot..

So what will we see? As influencers break out of marketing and into everything else, how can they be successful over the long-term?

Quasi customer-service

Let’s be clear, your influencers probably aren’t going to manage your Zendesk tickets. 

But in lots of niche areas there are still active forums of people looking for help and sharing their experiences.

There’s a role for expert, passionate and focused influencers here. They can turn negatives into positives through their expertise and put their marketing nous to good use by spotting positive experiences - not only turning those in to case studies or references but by virtue of the net effect, can help to transform those customers into influencers themselves, - don’t forget ‘Word of Mouth’ marketing is back....

And this won’t be limited to the domain of the forums, the ‘influencer-as-customer-service-rep’ is possibly even more relevant on a mainstream social platform where the general population resides. A positive but more independent voice in those sorts of environments works wonders. 

Retained influencers

In some previous discussions of ‘long-term relationships’ with influencers, the exact format of said long-term relationship hasn’t really been discussed.

There are several possible routes to take, but the one that feels like it will take off at some point soon is the ‘influencer retainer’.

Retainers are common parlance to marketing departments, whether they operate on the brand or agency side. Instead of figuring out costs for individual posts or campaigns, retaining an influencer or group of influencers should allow agencies flexibility and grant influencers security.

Being ‘on retainer’ moves influencers into a more comfortable place for some agencies (i.e; into a more traditional marketing relationship) and means areas other than marketing (like customer service) come into play, without losing the mainstream strength of the influencer.

Community managers

At the moment, the long-term relationships that do exist are focused on continual marketing output from the influencers involved.

For influencers in the mid-to-low tiers, successfully growing their relationships with agencies could well hinge on their ability to supplement their creative services.

At the moment an influencer posts on their desired platform about a product or service and responds to the comments they get.

But what if they also responded to others who post about the service? Across different channels and social media platforms? What if they reached out to promoters of the service to offer them further benefits, like low level rewards and further experiences, turning promoters into influencers. The same could happen with people unhappy with their first experience of the product.

The Community Manager role exists already but now it would be ‘staffed’ by someone who not only knows and loves the service, but who can turn the content around that into marketing collateral, and generate a community around both the service and their involvement with it.

Influencers everywhere

Some brands will still be reticent to follow up on the above ideas, but others will be willing to blaze a trail.

The changes are coming. 2021 will shape how long-term influencer relationships can eventually mature and how influencers end up infiltrating other departments. The budgets this year and success in previous years mean it is inevitable that influencers will start to break the mould and change how brands see their future relationship together.

Written by Alec Harden-Henry, Commercial Director, Influence Network

Influence Network is an influencer platform which identifies the most aligned micro-influencers from the entire social web, then rapidly deploy and manage campaigns at an unprecedented scale, before reporting on trackable engagement and ROI. We’re the Double-Click of influencer marketing and we’re here to solve your influencer problems. Sound interesting? Get in touch on INFO@INFLUENCE.NETWORK or 0203 918 8582


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© 2023 Influence Network.

Registered in England and Wales: 10815710

Registered Office:

20-22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU