From being dismissed as a mere trend riding the wave of the dynamic world of social media, influencer marketing is increasingly being included as a core part of forward-thinking B2C marketing strategies.
For example, research from Mediakix says that in 2017, marketers spent $800 million on influencer marketing on Instagram alone. This rose to $1.3bn in 2018 and is forecasted to continue to grow to as much as $2.3bn in 2020.
Online communities are making it easier for brands to actively search, discover and connect directly with influencers to promote their products, services and events.
What is a social media influencer?
A social media influencer is an individual who is regarded as a subject matter expert in a niche area and who tends to express their opinions on a range of digital platforms. They usually have engaged audiences who listen to them and trust their opinions and they have a high potential to influence the purchasing decisions of their audience.
Influencer marketing has matured in the last decade. From solely relying on big name celebrities, brands are increasingly keen to filter their messaging through regular people - micro influencers - with smaller but often highly engaged audiences on a variety of social media platforms.
Driving engagement through content which offers value is the key to unlocking the potential of influencer marketing. Influencers, through creative content, can reach audiences in ways that traditional advertising can sometimes struggle to achieve.
A major goal for brands adopting influencer marketing as a strategy is to attract and retain relevant audiences and - ultimately - to drive some form of conversion through audience action.
5 tips to guide businesses when working with influencers
The world of influencer marketing can sometimes feel like a game of lucky dip - presenting both brands and influencers with an overwhelming range of options to choose from, often accompanied by a dose of skepticism at the claims made by both sides.
Brands are wise to question the credibility of influencers who present large social media follower numbers and the promise of wide reach. Reach does not always mean engagement. Influencers, on the other hand, worry about being seen as ‘sellouts’ by their followers for pushing brand messaging which clearly doesn’t fit with their traditional tone or voice.
So how can brands ensure they are choosing the right influencers to work with and that their relationship with the influencer is mutually beneficial? Below we present a few suggestions that may help guide the decision making process.
#1: Establish brand fit
It might be tempting to rush into a relationship with an influencer. However, brands must consider how representative the influencer is of their brand values:
- Is the influencer getting verifiable engagement on branded as well as organic content?
- Is their social media choking with content from other brands?
- Would the influencer be doing the brand a disservice by agreeing to tell a brand story which the influencers lack the credibility to tell?
Savvy and time constrained online audiences are looking for authenticity and relevance and will quickly tune out messaging that doesn’t match these attributes. Experienced social media influencers who have gained the trust of their followers are careful not to squander that trust.
Platforms like getchr.com, which provide basic information to help both the brand and the influencer assess each other’s suitability, are increasingly relevant to this process.
#2: Be clear about objectives
Influencers often get approached by a large number of brands, some of whom may have clear ideas about what they expect to achieve from the relationship. However, there are many others whose objectives may not always be immediately clear or achievable.
The influencer typically knows their audience and their subject matter and so this places them in a position where they can lead the conversation towards a more realistic set of objectives based on their knowledge and experience of the target market.
Brands should be open to challenges from influencers about their campaign objectives with a view to achieving clarity and potentially modifying their budgets to make them more fit-for- purpose.
#3 Agree deliverables
Critical to the success of the influencer-brand relationship is having a clear understanding of the deliverables expected from the engagement. These should always be agreed upfront with the influencer.
Examples of deliverables include:
- Type of content to be developed e.g. written content, video, photography
- Key messages to be highlighted in the content
- Hashtags to be used
- Frequency and number of posts
- Content delivery schedule
- Progress reports and performance statistics
While respecting the unique creative voice of the influencer, brands should expect to provide a basic set of guidelines to the influencer as well as a reasonable level of review and approval before deliverables go live.
#4: Get a contract in place
Formalizing the relationship through a written contract seems like common sense but in the rush to execute the marketing project, some brands and influencers often overlook this.
Apart from the obvious discussion on pricing, other questions that need to be asked include:
- Do they want creative control over the deliverables?
- Do they need
- Is there room for the influencer to renegotiate the terms and conditions if the brand reneges on the initial agreement and vice versa?
- Is there agreement on how to comply with advertising industry standards for declaring sponsored/paid content?
#5: Expect the influencer to provide insights
Depending on the nature, complexity and duration of the project, influencers should be asked to provide insights into the performance of campaigns.
For example, knowing why a piece of content is showing high engagement can help to identify ways in which that content can be enhanced or leveraged. On the other hand, poorly performing content (typically one showing low engagement) presents a learning opportunity for future campaigns, allowing both parties to adjust their strategies and expectations accordingly.
Brands and influencers should discuss and agree which metrics are important for marketing objectives. Examples include:
- Brand velocity across social channels
- Engagement: comments/likes/shares
During the courtship process, brands should ask influencers for examples of how they have used insights from their data (e.g. from native social media analytics tools) to influence their approach in past campaigns.
Finally, focus on the long term
Like in any other type of relationship, for influencer marketing to work, brands need to think long term.
A one-off blog post, video or product review might look great in the short term but its impact could be further enhanced when the content is situated within a long-term ecosystem.
This ecosystem includes incentives to keep gained audiences engaged (e.g. using timed giveaways), opportunities to repurpose the content (e.g. on the anniversary of a product launch) and ongoing reiteration of the content by the brand. Influencers need to position themselves as partners with the brand to support this longer term relationship.
Influencer marketing will continue to evolve, however, both parties stand to get the most benefit if the focus is on establishing relationships.