Six Simple Steps to Foster Meaningful Influencer Partnerships

by JULIE LIVINGSTON, president, WantLeverage Communications

As a youth marketer, you know the value of having your product featured in the media and endorsed by a celebrity or social influencer. Online content and social conversations can initiate that “gotta have it” buzz, skyrocket website and social platform traffic, and boost sales. In fact, a recent Association of National Advertisers (ANA) survey revealed that 75 percent of marketers use influencers as a marketing tool, with many planning to increase influencer spending by 43 percent over the next 12 months.


Influencer content has a dramatically different impact than advertising, where the imagery and message are controlled by the advertiser and can actually be a turnoff, especially to kids who can see through the facade. When kid consumers see that one of their favorite influencers endorses a product, it can have the same effect as celebrity fashion looks on a Hollywood red carpet.

When looking for the right influencer partners, there are six things to consider:

1. The Right Fit

To get a feel for the influencer landscape, there are online tools that can help identify the right talent. helps you find and connect with influencers who want to work with brands. The vetting tool is free to use for up to 30 influencers per month. Look for those with at least a 4 percent engagement rate and a minimum 10,000 visitors per month. Another free influencer data reporting tool, Social Blade, will show you more analytics, including whether an influencer has a natural follower growth curve.

Look at the number of followers while recognizing that the quantity is not the only measuring stick. Is this individual relevant to your product or entertainment property? If it’s a child, how will their age resonate with your target audience? Have they promoted similar products in the past, and if so, was that successful? How well do they use a combination of conversational and descriptive language that will invite someone to buy?

2. Regular Posting Schedule

We always follow influencer candidates for a week or two to see them in action and experience their posts as a fan would. While it’s true that influencers who post regularly will have greater visibility, take note of whether or not people are consistently responding, commenting, and sharing their content. If so, that influencer is successful at maintaining momentum and creating loyalty.

3. Unique Personality and Authenticity

Does the influencer have a unique quality? Does he or she come across as more authentic or scripted? Consumers can instantly see through forced or overly polished language, which can be a turnoff. Also, does the influencer do something special? For example, the 10-year-old crocheting star Jonah, of JonahHands, has 133,000 followers.

Don’t pass up micro-influencers who have a smaller ratio of sponsored content; they tend to be construed as more genuine and credible, especially if they use personal stories and situations, as opposed to traditional product reviews, to bring a product alive.

4. Allow for Creativity

We’ve found that our most successful influencer relationships were established when the client and influencer communicated openly and there was an allowance for creativity. If the influencer and her kids have fun with your product, they will want to use it uniquely and work with you again. Check out Claire Ryann who created a mermaid song around Fin Fun’s swimmable mermaid tails. While creativity in these situations is paramount, be clear about the deliverables and what tracking measures and Key Performance Indicators an influencer can provide and deliver on before entering into an agreement. More followers doesn’t always mean better results.

5. Compensation

There are a number of ways to work with influencers, and not all require deep pockets. If your product or entertainment property is coveted, try a barter arrangement. According to the ANA survey, 35 percent of companies work on barter, providing free product in exchange for influencer coverage. One of our clients has gotten fantastic content simply by sending free product to tweens in the product’s target age group to demonstrate. Be sure to specify what you expect from them in return.

6. Sponsored Content Rules

If you’ve engaged a social influencer to work on behalf of your brand, make sure that they follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines for flagging their sponsored content with hashtags, such as #ad or #sponsored. Per FTC guidance, disclosures like #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador are insufficient. If they do not, this can make or break a campaign.

Julie Livingston is president of WantLeverage Communications, a NYC-based public relations and business development consultancy that specializes in consumer products, education/ed tech, and related industry associations. She spent six years leading marketing communications for The Toy Association. More information can be found at

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the Toy Book.