Honest and passionate influencers—the kind that you as a marketer aspire to work with—have genuine and respectful connections to their audiences.

Unfortunately, it happens all too often that unscrupulous marketers and content creators succumb to the lure of the almighty dollar and end up engaging in the kinds of unlawful manipulations that threaten to make the entire influencer marketing industry seem untrustworthy.

Shady practices, like soliciting influencers for paid reviews, are happening all too regularly. These kinds of underhanded practices are disheartening for fans, who often wonder whom they can trust, and also for conscientious influencers who wish to be straightforward with their followers and stay within the law, because—make no mistake—it is against the law for influencers to post paid “reviews” without disclosing the fact that the post is sponsored. Not to mention seriously unethical and lacking any credibility to their coveted audiences.

Take the situation that YouTuber Lon Seidman of Lon.TV found himself in when influencer platform FameBit wanted to pay him for a positive review of a Ring.com product.

Lon politely explained to them that he does not take money for reviews. His reasons for refusing to do so are everything that any fan of his would be reassured to hear. Taking money in exchange for a mandated positive review is downright unethical. Lon’s reviews will not—for obvious reasons—be trusted by his followers if he begins taking compensation in exchange for positive reviews.

Lon wrote this article Famebit and the Seedy Underbelly of Influencer Marketing explaining what happened to him.

The original reason for his YouTube channel—to provide trustworthy opinions about products that he’s tested—is essentially rendered invalid once he takes just one payment for a (mandated) positive review.

If you find yourself in partnership with a conscientious and authentic content creator like Lon, count yourself lucky. Influencers who are passionate and authentic have the kinds of followers that make the best, most loyal customers, no matter what product or service you are offering.

Ahead we’ll tell you how to establish great working relationships with influencers—so great, in fact that sometimes no actual monetary compensation is required.

Top Tips for Great Working Relationships with Influencers

The defining principle when working with influencers is respect. Please don’t put influencers in the position that Lon Seidman found himself in with FameBit, which actually penalized him for his honesty by banning him from the platform.

We’re going to break it down a bit more specifically here, but all of the tips that follow are built upon a foundation of respecting your influencer-partners. The first thing to notice here is that they are, in fact, partners and not employees, which leads us to our first tip.

1) Don’t treat your influencer-partners like employees.

They are creators who are collaborating with you, so to treat them as such. You’ve chosen these influencers because you admire their work and know that they have solid creative contributions to make to your campaign. Trust the impulses that made you choose to partner with them, and trust them to do what you’ve hired them to do.

2) Trust, and don’t micromanage—but do review content before it’s posted.

Influencers know their audiences, and they know what kinds of content appeal to their followers the most. Give them the agency to approach their followers in the ways that they know will work best and align authentically with their own messages and personal brands.

And now a caveat—giving your partners agency does not mean that you shouldn’t give all content the once over and the green light before it is posted, just to make certain that you and your influencers are on the same page.

3) Be creative in your approach to influencers so that you stand out from other brands.

Even influencers who are still building their reputations often receive numerous solicitations for partnership so it’s a good idea to come up with unusual and creative ways to reach out with offers.

Do a little sleuthing to find out more about the influencer so that you can plan to organically bump into him at an event. If he is the kind of authentic creator that will make the best partner, he will be picky about who he works with even if he is just starting out.

You can also follow his blog or Instagram—or share his posts on Facebook and begin to interact with him that way. Another great means of approach is to get onto his mailing list and sending a thoughtful reply to the first real email outreach that you receive from him.

A meaningful outreach is a great beginning because it shows genuine interest and respect. Be sure to make your initial email personal and include why you think he’d be the perfect ambassador for your brand.

4) Be authentic and above board.

Be as real as you’d like your influencers to be. You will both benefit if your influencers are fans of your brand, or at least well enough aligned to your brand message and vibe that they are certain to become fans. For the best return on your investment—even if that investment is just time and effort—you want to work with creators who will become authentic advocates for your brand. The way to do that is to be as honest and genuine with them as you expect them to be with you, and with their audience (your future customers).

5) Come up with mutual KPIs and goals.

Your influencer brand ambassadors are your business partners so you want to be working toward mutually agreed upon goals in your partnerships with them. Get together and decide what you’d like to accomplish and what milestones will let you know that you’ve accomplished these goals. If you treat your influencers like the partners that they are, you will get much better efforts from them and a much better return on your investment overall.

Creative Ways to Work with Influencers for Free

Let’s suppose you’re a tech marketer looking for influencers and your budget is somewhat modest. You can find up-and-coming influencers that have between 5 and 10K followers on an influencer platform like SocialBook.io where you can just shoot your chosen influencers an email and invite them to join your next campaign.

Influencers who are trying to make names for themselves will often work with your brand for little to no compensation, which is especially helpful if your brand is up-and-coming too.

Here are a couple of additional approaches for finding influencers to work with if you have a limited influencer budget—or even no influencer budget at all:

Find the influencers who are already your advocates.

Search your brand on socialbook.io to find out which influencers are already talking about you. As just one example, if your brand is Samsung, a SocialBook search turns up almost 8K influencers who are already talking about and possibly advocating for your brand. From there it’s an easy next step to reach out to those influencers, thank them for their support and then invite them to join your next campaign.

Reach out to your competitors’ “haters.”

Another great approach to finding influencers for your campaign is to find influencers who do not like one or more of your competitors. Using the example of Samsung, you can try doing a search for LG and ask the influencers who are complaining the loudest about LG to check out Samsung and consider putting their energy into advocating for your brand instead of complaining about your competitors. Don’t forget to also reach out to fans of your competitors. If they are honest and passionate tech influencers and they like your product, they can often become fans of yours as well.

Do Unto Your Influencer Partners…

The best influencer partners to work with are those who have connected, authentic relationships with their audiences because those are the influencers who will give you the best bang for your influencer-campaign buck.

Influencers who have real and trusting relationships with their followers will stand the greatest chance of delivering the best possible ROI for your marketing campaign because followers who have authentic relationships with their favorite influencers are far more likely to trust those influencers to give them advice about products or services.

What your influencers are giving to their fans is what you want to give to your influencers. Treat them with respect and enjoy watching that respect and authenticity trickle down to your potential customers.

 Finding influencers who deliver results should be simple! Don’t hire influencers that have no influence, use SocialBook.