Mastering Influencer Recruitment and Retention for Small E-Commerce Brands

rachelRachel Baumann on August 24, 2023
At Acorn, we work with hundreds of small e-commerce brands and thousands of influencers. We've seen what works and what doesn't. For small e-commerce brands, collaborating with influencers can provide a cost-effective way to connect with a wider audience. In this article, we'll share our best practices for recruiting and retaining influencers for small e-commerce brands.

Incentives that Matter

One of the key factors in attracting influencers is offering appealing incentives. For smaller brands with limited resources, creative incentives can go a long way in establishing fruitful partnerships:

Feature on Social Media

Providing influencers with a spotlight on your brand's Instagram or other social media platforms can be particularly enticing, especially when working with micro-influencers who are looking to grow their following. This can be a great way to build an influencer squad around a handful of influencers who are dedicated to your brand.
@stickerguru promotes their influencer squad, actively helping their amabssadors' careers
For example, @stickerguru actively promotes their squad of influencers to their followers, asking them to gives everyone a follow to build a community of ambassadors who are invested in the brand.

Free Products

Offering influencers your products for free not only showcases your confidence in what you offer but also allows them to genuinely experience and endorse your items. If you have new product releases, sending them to influencers before they hit the market can help you build excitement and anticipation.

Commission or Affiliate Programs

For brands with more scaled-up processes, setting up commission-based partnerships can motivate influencers to actively promote your products. Although offering commission in exchange for promotion can feel more transactional rather than organic relationship building, it can be a part of your influencer strategy targeted at creating a groundswell of much smaller affiliate-style influencers. uses thousands of affiliates and commission to get influencers to post about their brand.

Strategic Recruiting

Finding the right influencers for your brand involves more than just reaching out blindly or joining commodity affiliate networks. Consider these effective tactics to identify and recruit the right influencers:

Leverage Existing Brand Advocates

Reach out to individuals who are already mentioning your brand on social media. Their genuine interest can translate into authentic promotions. Every time someone mentions your brand on social media, you can reach out to them and ask if they'd like to be a part of your influencer program. If they are a larger influencer, ask them to join your dedicated influencer squad of brand reps where they may receive free product and other perks. If they are a smaller influencer, you can direct them towards your affiliate program where they can earn commission on sales they drive using simple promo codes.

Tap into Your Customer Base

Engage with your own customers by sending personalized emails inviting them to be brand advocates. Follow up emails after they've made a purchase can be a great way to invite them to join your influencer program. They already have first-hand experience with your products, making their endorsement more credible. Plus, they are more willing to accept free products in exchange for promotion, since they have already paid for your products and find value in them.
Acorn helps you save Instagram stories that tag your brand so you can reward influencers who mention you

Application Forms

Create an application form and post it on your website and your social profile. Acorn has a built-in application form that allows influencers to apply to your program and you can then view their Instagram demographics if they connect their account. This can help you filter and select influencers based on their fit with your brand's values and target audience. Once you accept an influencer into your program, they are automatically added into Acorn's platform where you can manage their promotions and track their performance.

Collaborate with Complementary Brands

Partnering with influencers who align with your brand's values, even if they're associated with other products, can help you tap into a wider audience. For example, if you sell organic skincare products, you can collaborate with influencers who promote healthy lifestyles and wellness. This can help you reach a new audience that is likely to be interested in your products.

Effective Maintenance

For small e-commerce brands, collaborating with influencers can provide a cost-effective way to connect with a wider audience.
Recruiting influencers is just the beginning; maintaining these relationships is equally vital for long-term success. Here's how to keep your influencers engaged and motivated:

Personal Touch

Remember special occasions like birthdays and send personalized greetings. This personal touch can go a long way in building genuine relationships. It's likely that influencers will be making a lot of content around these special occasions, so it's a great time to send them a gift or a personalized note to insert into their content.

Exclusive Previews

Send your influencers new product releases before they hit the market. This gesture not only makes them feel valued but also keeps their content fresh and exciting.

Express Gratitude

Send handwritten thank-you notes or small tokens of appreciation to show your genuine gratitude for their partnership. This can help you build a strong rapport with your influencers and make them feel like they are a part of your brand's family.

Memorable Unboxing Experiences

Pay attention to your packaging and make the unboxing experience unique. Influencers and their followers will appreciate the effort and share the experience. You want them to say "OMG look at this packaging!" and share it with their followers.
@ellaz adds lots of trinkets to their box to create an unboxing experience that can be shared
For example, @ellaz adds trinkets and sticker to their packages to create an unboxing experience that can be readily shared.


In the realm of small e-commerce brands, influencer collaborations can make a significant impact on brand awareness and growth. By offering enticing incentives, strategically recruiting influencers, and nurturing these partnerships, small brands can create enduring relationships that yield mutual benefits. The key lies in authenticity, personalization, and a commitment to delivering value both to the influencers and their dedicated audience.