Influencer Marketing: rules of the road to ensure that your campaign doesn't fall flat
You would be hard pressed to find a marketer these days that (hopefully) isn’t preaching about the importance of influencer marketing. And, as a marketer myself, I can’t blame them. After years of advertisers speaking to consumers about the features and benefits of their product, we’ve finally hit our tipping point. No matter how big the ad budget, consumers simply don’t have to listen anymore. Dollars spent is no correlation to attention. It’s a frightening shift, but one that was in the works for quite some time. Marketers have to try harder. Without great content and contextual relevance, you might as well be placing ads in the Yellow Pages (RIP).
On the surface, influencer marketing is an incredibly simple concept founded on the insight that people believe people, more than any form of advertising. Every year, Nielsen releases their Global Trust in Advertising Report which measures…you guessed it: consumers trust in various forms of advertising. At the top of the list sits “Recommendations from People I Know”. This data shouldn’t surprise you, but we as marketers aren’t really paying enough attention to it.
It’s often amazing how many marketers don’t start with the WHY. Since influencer marketing is here, and gaining strong traction, here are some considerations.
Start your search by finding influencers who have aligned interests with your brand / campaign. I can’t stress this one enough. You are talking about an influencer’s personal brand. If the content that you’re asking them to create doesn’t make sense for their followers, there is no point in moving forward.
Do your homework. A large following doesn’t necessarily equal significant engagement or a true audience. One of the most common mistakes made in influencer marketing is to go after the biggest fish you can find. This doesn’t work because there are people out there that buy followers to on the surface look much larger, and this can easily mislead marketers. Start by looking at the follower to following ratio, then dig into the engagement numbers. Just having 100,000 followers doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a strong audience.
Ask not what they can do for you, but what you and your brand can do for them. If you just want to write a huge paycheck, feel free to ignore this one. Influencers make a living creating content. The value proposition from working with a brand shouldn’t just be about income, but how an influencer can leverage the power of a brand and the access this brand might have that enables that influencer to create better content. Elevate their brand with your brand. Give them access. Give them clout. Give them something, and not just money.
Define your objectives before you start and share them with the influencer. Whether it’s about awareness, engagement, direct sales, or all of the above, make sure you know what you’re looking to get out of the relationship. Influencers can ideate and strategize with you, so don’t leave them out of the conversation and just expect them to act on your directive. It’s in the influencer’s best interest to ensure you meet your goals. Well, that’s if they want to do work with your brand again.
No matter how small the engagement, do yourself a favor and enter into a contract. It is worth the consultation from your legal team to ensure that influencer obligations are bounded by contract, not just word.
Don’t ignore the FTC standards on Native Advertising. There are serious implications for brand and influencers that don’t disclose agreed endorsements. There may be no intent to deceive, but it’s important to pay attention to how the laws are written and enforced. Things will inevitably change when the laws catch up to reality, but for now, always include #Ad, #Sponsored, or a similar hashtag that your legal team has approved.
Don’t just provide the influencer with free reign. You have the right to review and should be making edits to proposed content pieces.
On the flip side, don’t be too prescriptive. The influencer has spent some serious time building their audience from the ground up. It’s their brand – they know what works and what doesn’t. Make sure to provide input to ensure the content accomplishes your goals and expectations, but give them the ability to do what they do best.
Don’t limit the reach and success of your campaign by not applying paid media. We all know by now that social is a pay-to-play game. A little paid media can go a long way to ensure this content reaches the right audience.
Don’t treat influencer engagements as one-offs. Far too many brands manage these relationships like transactions. If things are working out, why not consider a long term engagement with an influencer? At the end of the day, we know that people believe people, and a brand needs to have multiple, credible voices telling their story.