How To Approach Influencer Marketing
"Influencer; a person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others: The influencer is the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative."
- Cambridge English Dictionary
Let's jump into the ever-evolving world of influencer marketing, like most digital strategies, the concept of influencer marketing is shifting on us Every.Single.Day!
Online Influencers: One of the most recent shifts in the influencer world, is that influencers are not always considered bloggers now (unlike when I started in consumer PR a few years ago!) or celebrities, they’ve become multi-hyphenated, ‘blogger-youtuber-podcast host-model’ or, some don’t create traditional blogs at all, they use only social media to promote themselves ‘instagrammers’ There are still bloggers, who create interactive articles on their sites using words, videos and images. Some of the newer influencers coming up now might use only Instagram or Youtube to distribute their content and communicate with their following (for example reality TV stars from Love Island etc) and focus less on long-form written content. Below we'll talk a little more about who they appeal to, and where they communicate and whether they're a good fit for your marketing strategy - but first let's talk about trust and honesty in the influencer industry.
Calling out bad practice: Anonymous watchdogs of sorts are popping up online in the form of Instagram pages, to call out influencers for shady, and sometimes illegal practices. There are pros and cons to these accounts, (Bloggers Unveiled, B*lsh*tcaller Outer etc) on one hand, they can generate unnecessary hate and vitriol in the comments section, but on the other, because the nature of the influencer marketing business is so new, some influencers take advantage of their status and distort the truth – which can negatively impact impressionable followers who trust their recommendations, as well as SME’s who decide to spend money marketing with them, and risk falling victim to disingenuous behaviour.
You’ve got influencers who promote detox drinks, citing them as the sole reason for their (photoshopped) figures or promoting low quality clothing or jewellery that they’ve been paid to wear but wouldn't genuinely purchase IRL had it not been a business partnership, or - buying followers to appear more popular. All of which skews their reviews, unless they’re being genuine and the collaboration is clearly marked as a paid partnership #ad (or, check the Instagram header)
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland [ASAI] is cracking down on misleading online advertisements, according to their code of standards for marketing in Ireland, influencers much like advertisers need to adhere to codes which state;
“A marketing communication should not mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise. Advertisers should not exploit the credulity, inexperience or lack of knowledge of consumers.”
Brands – Business to Business: How to decide if influencer marketing is right for you? And who to work with/trust? My advice, don’t focus on the follower count (it’s not a strong enough indicator of quality – as we’re seeing lately, many of these followers can be bought using apps that offer empty 'bot' accounts to bump up the follower number) research their content, how does it read/look? What is the frequency of their posts, how do they communicate, what is their engagement like (comments under content) and most importantly for me, try to assess their values and beliefs.
Real talk: When I worked in the toy industry, I searched for parent bloggers that shared our values rather than looking at stats alone, and in turn, the ‘micro’ bloggers had the best return on sales, because the smaller, engaged following they had, trusted their reviews; and rightly so!
Paid or organic? Also, don’t assume that providing free product is always enough. Some of these people rely on blogging as their full-time income, if they create several pieces of work for you – think about compensating them if you can, and on the flip-side, don’t be afraid to negotiate or question terms. Unless it’s mutually beneficial for them to receive your product, which sometimes it is – many bloggers like to champion young brands to help them out if they believe in them.
The benefit of a paid partnership (if it’s genuinely a good fit on both sides) is that you can ask for/discuss what you would like to be included (e.g. an Instagram post in-feed, as well as a story, and a link to your store at the end of a written blog post) If you can’t afford it, think about using a discount code and providing the blogger with a small commission on sales redirected from them. Or, gift them some additional product. It’s not about over-spending on your part as an SME, it’s about appreciating another person’s time and effort to help generate awareness for your biz.
Where is influencer marketing going next? It’s anyone’s guess!
My predictions would be that the bloggers that are truly working on honing their skills and crafts, producing good, multi-faceted content (vlogs, podcasts, written pieces, quality partnerships) will go the distance, and the more contrived, vapid influencers who merely post doctored images of themselves, and a discount code for a trendy shake or watch – will soon evaporate. Why? Because, the generation of younger audiences coming up behind us, are digital natives through and through, armed with their smartphones 24/7 – and will start to seek more, and more diverse content – the bloggers who evolve to meet the needs of their following, and use innovation in terms of tech and skill to their advantage, will thrive, as people trust them, and will ‘opt-in’ to consume what they’ve got to offer.
The influencers who rely alone on looks and heavily filtered images, will lose traction since they’re not offering enough content to develop long-term trust, or to differentiate themselves in a sea of skinny teas; they may need to up-skill or it’ll be downhill…!
Benchmarks in terms of trustworthy trailblazers that I look to; Tarmarz, Jacey Duprie, In the Frow, Giovanna Fletcher, Emma Gannon, Eimear Varian Barry, Kellie Kearney, Yaz O' Connor – I could go on, and on but these lifestyle influencers are intelligent, creative, communicative and genuine content creators. They don’t put all of their eggs in one basket, either. And brands love working with them. Top tip, follow my main man Gary Vaynerchuk for great advice on tapping into influencer marketing, too.
If you're getting started with influencer marketing, trust your gut, and communicate clearly – much like any other form of marketing, try to make sure it will reach and grow your brand’s target market, and that you can measure the success. There's a lot of mistrust out there, but please try not to be too cynical about it all, despite the recent bad press; most bloggers that I have worked with (90%) delivered amazing work and became huge advocates for the brand(s) long after the collaberation, the return on investment was brilliant! Give it a try!
Need help/advice on how to start your influencer marketing campaign?
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