Influencer Marketing on the Rise
What’s the power of an influencer? Well, where did you first hear about that lipstick shade you are wearing, or how did you choose those shoes on your feet? Chances are it either came from a trusted source, like a friend, family member, or a connection on Facebook.
For millennials, this is even more accurate. 93 percent of millennials have made a purchase based on a recommendation from friends and family, and 89 percent of millennials trust these recommendations more than they do the claims of the brand itself, according to Collective Bias. Regardless of a consumer’s age, they’re less likely to trust a brand’s message over that of a friend or trusted source.
So, what does that mean to us marketers? We are relying more on influencers to tell our brand story today than ever before. We can’t simply tell our audience what we want them to think about our product anymore. Today, we must develop and present our brand to the public and allow our brand advocates to help tell our story.
People are Going to Talk About You
First things first, it’s important to make your brand likable. Put more work into your brand, make it clear what you stand for, be transparent about your product, and then let your brand fly free. If you put the work in, chances are you will be safe when people start to talk.
We understand it’s hard for companies to turn their brand over to influencers and give up control of their message. However, that is the reality brands face today. Not only do influencers have the power to influence their followers, but the general public can damage your brand in an instant with a social media rant.
Visit any review site or social media channel and you will find people talking about you, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Use this as an opportunity to hear what your consumers are saying, join the conversation, and find those influencers who are speaking positively about you and leverage them!
A huge benefit of having brand influencers is they can become an extension of your brand. Odds are if they interact with you and have a positive experience, they will continue to promote your brand and spread goodwill.
Finding Your Influencer
Finding the right influencer for your brand is of the utmost importance for the campaign to be successful. If the influencer isn’t 100 percent perfect for your brand, it’s not worth your time and effort, or theirs for that matter.
“For me it is really important to work with brands that are “on brand” with my blog,” blogger Vanessa from Plaid & Paleo, said. “As a paleo blog, I am committed to a gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle. It is so hard to say no to big brands, but if it means being inauthentic to my blog then I have to pass.”
“You have to stay true to yourself as a blogger, if the product isn’t me, I always say no,” Chloe, influencer from Nothing to Wear Blog, said. “It’s easy to say yes to everyone but that’s not what helps brand you as an influencer. You have to find your style and stick with it!”
When it comes to finding an influencer, you should think about what type of person would be most helpful for getting the word out. For example, if you’re a nonprofit, you may want to partner with someone who is a known activist, or if you’re a tourism company, you may want someone who travels often.
Stacey DeBroff, CEO and founder of Influence Central, notes important questions to consider when choosing your influencer. “The first step we recommend when working with influencers is to zero-in on your goals for the program,” DeBroff said. “Do you want influencers solely to create content that your brand can then repurpose and use? Do you want them to drive to a certain retail or online destination? Do you want to use them to better explain the product’s value proposition or usage occasion?”
DeBroff states that once those questions are answered you will be able to determine both the type of influencer that makes sense for your brand, as well as the platform that makes the most sense for the content to appear. “For example, tutorials can play out well on YouTube and blogs with social extensions on Pinterest, visual products play well on Instagram,” DeBroff said. “With these things narrowed down, you can ensure your influencer program will work harder for you.”
Influencer Outreach Etiquette
Influencer marketing hasn’t been around as long as more traditional marketing tactics, so some etiquette aspects are still a little blurry. Therefore, many brands are anxious about the process in general and the return on investment. We all have heard of influencer marketing campaigns going dreadfully wrong. But, if you are smart in your strategy, influencer marketing can pay off. Below are some things to consider and understand before starting a campaign.
Make a Clear Ask
There isn’t a perfected way to approach your dream influencer; it will be different based on who they are and who you are. Relax though; it’s just a human to human interaction. When reaching out to an influencer, the clearer you can be from the get-go, the better. Be sure to address exactly what you are asking for and be upfront about their payment in return.
Many bloggers appreciate emails to start the conversation, “I prefer email to begin with,” Ally Noriega, blogger from Allyson in Wonderland said, “but sometimes, depending upon the project, a phone call can be much more beneficial when pitching ideas.”
Also, it’s never a good idea to over ask. Chloe says not to email over and over again with the same message if the influencer has already said they aren’t interested.
Don’t forget to discuss the channels; are you asking them to promote your product on Facebook, Instagram, their blog, or all three? The more specific you can be, the happier both you and the influencer will be.
Do the Research
Many influencers are contacted every single day by multiple brands. It’s easy for your inquiry to be overlooked and deleted before the influencer even reads it. Adequately show you looked into their brand and understand them. If it’s clear you spent time and energy learning about them, the odds of them spending the energy on you will increase.
Annie, blogger for Take a Bite Blog, shares that she doesn’t appreciate receiving mass emails from brands. “It’s a turn off when there is no personalization to the email or any remark that this is because they solely want to work with me and Take A Bite,” Annie said.
That being said, do your research! Don’t blindly choose the influencer or choose them based on their follower count. Find the influencer who has an engaged audience, which shows that any product they push will be noted by their audience and not just ignored or blindly liked.
If the influencer seems to do a lot of sponsored posts, you can reach out to a company who has worked with them prior and see how it went. Ask if the influencer was easy to work with and if they fulfilled what they promised.
Define What’s In It for Them
Make it clear what the influencer is getting from this partnership. The more invested and intrigued they are in your brand, the better their content will be.
When it comes to the price tag, a lot of things come into play. For instance, how many social channels are they on, how many unique page views do they get, what is their traffic each month, and more. Many bloggers range drastically in what they charge brands for a sponsored post. Before you approach an influencer, you should know the price range you can offer, but be willing to negotiate.
“I have a media kit with set prices, but I am willing to negotiate to a point,” Vanessa said. “I will almost never decrease my price, but I will throw in extras such as a giveaway or additional social shares.”
Vanessa similarly shares that it’s borderline insulting when brands ask for a recognized blogger to create content for them to only potentially get a shout out on their social media channels. “When I first started, I did a few recipe posts in exchange for product, but as my blog has grown I have had to value my work. It is a hard line to draw, but I think it is important for brands to realize it too.”
However other bloggers may be more open and appreciate the experience working with a brand offers them. “I have a rough amount that I propose for sponsored posts, but since I am still trying to create credibility for my blog I do a lot of sponsored posts for free in exchange for free product or experience,” Annie said.
Be Kind and Helpful
It’s important to understand that bloggers and influencers have a say in the content they produce and how they interact with your brand. It’s a good idea for you to be as kind and helpful as possible. The odds of them writing a good piece if you were hard to work with are small.
Different Types of Influencer Content
As addressed prior, you have to lose control of the message and let the influencer do what they do best – create authentic content. No micromanagers, please! However, if you are a little anxious the first go around, you can have more control over the content dependent on the type of content you ask the influencer to create. For instance, a giveaway is a lot more uninformed than an openly sponsored post.
Popular influencer content types:
• Unboxing videos
• Recipe development
• Sending products
• Sponsored posts
• Social media posts
• Discount codes
The reason influencers have authority with their audience is based on their authenticity. If you take that away, you are cheapening them and not getting the most out of the content. Give the influencers all the resources they need to create and then walk away and watch the magic happen.
“My absolute favorite is sponsored posts,” Vanessa said. “For me, these feel the most natural because I get to share how to use the product/brand in a real recipe. I love coming up with creative ways to showcase the brand in a new recipe with my original photography!”
In our opinion, the more freedom you give the influencer, the better. If you believe in your product, as you should, and are reaching out to the right influencer, it should be a perfect match.
Measuring the Return on Investment with Influencer Marketing
Companies are often hesitant to experiment with influencer marketing because they don’t know if it will work or not. Therefore, it’s important to know how you will measure the results to determine if it was a successful campaign before you get started.
When you’re starting to work with the influencer, be sure and ask for a media kit or screenshots of their analytics. Find out how much traffic they get to their site each month, roughly how many page views their posts get, how much engagement on their social media channels, and whatever else is important to your brand. Remember, you aren’t looking for a huge following, but how engaged their audience is with their content.
Given this information, you can estimate traffic beforehand. After the campaign ends, analyze your results and ask the influencer how successful it was on their end. You can then measure these results to repeat or adjust your future strategies.
Using an influencer marketing platform can also help when it comes to measuring results. “In addition to efficiency and accuracy, a platform makes tracking the program and analyzing results much simpler because the data is pulled directly from the platform,” Ted Murphy, IZEA’s chairman and CEO, said.
Influencer Marketing Platforms
While some agencies and brands choose to do influencer outreach by themselves, dependent on your company size, an influencer marketing platform might be a good idea. A tool can not only help you with outreach but also provide history on influencers to make sure you aren’t wasting your time on a more challenging influencer.
“We actively curate through our influencer base to remove hard to work with influencers and influencers who do not follow rules or who are unprofessional,” BrandBacker founder and data scientist Sumeet Patel, said.
IZEA, another useful influencer marketing platform, makes the process super simple from beginning to end. “Our technology creates a seamless workflow for finding and engaging with creators and influencers, onboarding them, managing campaigns, reviewing content, and compensating creators along with detailed analytics reporting on campaign results and ROI,” Murphy said.
Influencer Marketing Legal Considerations
There are some legal considerations when it comes to working with influencers. For awhile this was an uncharted territory and influencers and brands could go wild. However, this is not the case any longer and shouldn’t be overlooked. Big fines aren’t fun for anyone.
Earlier this year, the FTC sent out reminder letters to influencers and marketers about the need to disclose their relationship to the public. One example the FTC mentioned in their letter was in regard to Instagram. The FTC orders the influencer to put the connection in the beginning of their Instagram post before the “more” button because the FTC asserts the general public may not click the “more” button.
Influence Central takes the FTC very seriously and makes sure to keep both the brand and influencer safe. “After extensive research in this arena, we feel the safest way to comply with FTC regulations is to post a disclosure at the beginning of a blog post clearly stating that the influencer was compensated for the post,” DeBroff said. “For social posts, the proper hashtag of #ad should be included. If working with an influencer directly, we would recommend sending them the disclosure language you expect them to use, as well as detailing where it should appear in the post.”
One common question for bloggers is when they must disclose and when they are covered. For example, if the blogger is paid to mention a product, it must be disclosed. However, if the bloggers receive a free product with the expectation that they will discuss the product, it doesn’t have to be. Bloggers also are covered if they are a part of a network marketing program where they have signed up to receive samples in exchange for writing about the said product.
IZEA’s platform takes it a step further and eliminates the risk of violating these policies by automating disclosure on the creator’s post. “The disclosure language is variable depending on the type of content, but all posts are compliant with regulatory commissions,” said Murphy. “We’re continuously adapting to ensure our clients and creators are protected.”
Although this type of marketing may be new to you, it’s worth seeing how an influencer campaign will work for your brand. Other good news? You can learn from each campaign and tweak it until you get the results you want.
Want to hear more about brands successfully using influencer marketing? Watch the presentation on how influencers helped this popular brand.