When talking about influencer management, we usually say that communication is the name of the game! From first contact to the payment for the first post in a partnership, we average 32 email exchanges with an influencer from start to finish. The bulk of this communication happens on the front end, even before we present partnership recommendations to our clients. Are you looking to vet influencers on your own? To help you streamline the process, here’s a list of questions we like to ask influencers as part of the vetting process.
10 Questions to Ask an Influencer Before You Start Working Together
1. Who is your target audience? How do you create content that aligns with what they’re looking for?
This may be surprising, but there are still quite a few influencers who can’t describe their target audience when prompted. We find this is more frequent with lifestyle influencers that generate content based on what’s “trending", exploiting what they see others gravitating to, instead of being influential and setting the trend.
If they are able to clearly define their target audience, this shows that they view their blog/social handles as a business, and not just a hobby. Influencers who want to grow, take the time to learn more about their followers by interacting with them and delivering engaging content. Also, pay attention to how they describe their audience, you are looking for adjectives and preferences, NOT just touting a high follower count.
Red flag: If an influencer tells you that they don’t have a target audience because their “content is for everyone...” RUN!
2. What type(s) of content do you produce?
Before asking this question, make sure you know what you’re looking for! Some influencers create sponsored blog content for their site or yours. Others are true recipe developers who not only draft the recipe but can also shoot accompanying imagery. Others are skilled at producing content exclusively for social media - from Instagram takeovers to TikToks.
At this point in the game, most influencers are highly capable content creators and may try to push additional, bundled, options - gotta hand it to the naturally gifted salespeople, but be wary and go in with your end goal in mind!
Brita, of Food with Feeling, is one of our trusted partners and can create all of the above. From recipe development to social media posts, here is a recent example of a video post she produced for one of our clients, Natural Delights:
3. What does the content creation timeline look like?
In other words, how long is it going to take from sharing the product focus with the influencer to do the following?
- Share content ideas for your approval/selection
- Submit a product request - the quantity of product they need and their shipping address
- Date of photoshoot
- Sending proofs (photos, blog posts, etc.) for your review, if necessary
- Content “go live” date
- Date of delivery of assets - high-resolution photos, recipe document
We recommend starting with your “go live” date and working backward to help determine the related checkpoints in the process, then making sure this aligns with your influencer's timeline. They might need more time than you have, or they could have the capacity to meet your ideal timeline.
4. What’s your most recent <insert your product here> post? Do you have experience cooking with our product?
This is specifically important if you’re looking for your influencer partners to create recipes. We’ve had the following responses:
- I can’t eat grapefruit, I’m pregnant!
- I only feature X diet (keto, paleo, vegan) and your product doesn’t align.
- I have migraines, and only cook recipes that aren’t potential “triggers,” so X product is something I’m comfortable featuring in my content.
- Do I have to feature X product or can I just focus on other vegetables that they sell?
Some will say “yes” to anything, but make sure you know their stance on your products!
5. What food trends are you seeing emerge that you recommend leveraging in the content you’re looking to generate for us?
The reasoning behind asking this question is two-fold. First, you’re looking to see if they are forward-thinking - trendsetters, not followers. And secondly, how they describe the implementation of said trends will show passion, or a lack thereof, for working with your product/brand!
6. What is a recent campaign or brand partnership that you are most proud of? How did you determine success?
Knowing that an influencer has previously worked with brands is a point of reassurance - they’ve been able to navigate featuring branded content and have a better understanding of the nuances that go into such partnerships. Additionally, get an understanding of how the partnerships performed. What were their metrics for success? Impressions for brand awareness, website traffic, and/or engagement? And how did they stack up?
I will say if an influencer hasn’t done a paid partnership before, don’t cross them off the list! We’ve found some of our favorites by taking a risk. Just make sure you’re setting clear expectations and overly communicating to ensure optimal performance.
7. Tell us a little bit about our brand. How do you think your brand aligns with ours?
Request that they explain your brand back to you, like in an employee interview! Check to see if they’ve done their research. This can be a good gauge of genuine interest in the partnership, and will show the effort they’re willing to put in.
8. Are you working, or have you worked, with our competitors?
Do your homework first! If you ask this and haven’t at least looked at the last few months of their content, this shows them that you might not be as invested in this partnership. If you expect that they have an understanding of your brand, then hold yourself to the same standard.
If they’ve worked with a competitor in the past, and are willing to disclose this, that isn’t a bad thing. To their audiences, this could undo or discredit the brand loyalty you’re hoping to build with this influencer. If you’re concerned, move on to another partner or request exclusivity in your agreement to ensure they won’t work with a competitor during your agreement together.
Red flag: If they are unwilling to disclose previous partnerships, move on!
9. How frequently do you create sponsored content?
Oftentimes, you should be able to answer this after a quick scroll through their IG feed. If it’s a Kleenex post, then a Walmart post, then a post with kids, then a Velveeta post, then a giveaway post... That might be too much! While it’s nice to partner with influencers who have experience creating sponsored content, be cautious of those whose sponsored posts are four out of five posts, this discredits the authenticity of their content, and your post will just get buried by the rest. Also, make sure the brands they create sponsored posts for align with yours!
10. What are your fees? Rights? Media kit/rate sheet?
Influencers typically start by sharing their media kit, which includes a bio and an overview of their reach. Some include pricing on this doc, others share a separate rate sheet with pricing and packaging options broken out. Others will just reply via email with their pricing for your specific ask. No matter what format, accepting that they are running a business and are seeking to be compensated for their work is a good thing.
Starting with questions not only helps clarify where each party is coming from but also makes sure you have as much information as possible on the front end to make an educated decision. Yes, the literal responses to these questions are important, but what’s equally important is their response time and how they answer the questions: thoroughly or skipping a few. Through this process, you will not only learn more about how they view their platform and influence, but also gain an understanding of what they will be like as a communicator. Influencer management is all about relationships and communication, so while you’re asking these questions to your prospective influencers, you’ll want to ask yourself one: do I like communicating with this person? Make sure the answer is “yes” before you both sign on the dotted line.
Influencers are an extension of your brand, and we love finding the perfect fit! If you're like most produce marketers, you probably don't have time to vet influencers at this level and manage the 30+ email exchanges that are likely to occur before the partnership even begins. We can do that for you. Contact us and let us help you with a plan that makes sense for your business.