As consumers are increasingly bombarded with content, communication and information from every angle, every minute, everyday, they are increasingly turning to sources they trust for recommendations on which brands to buy in to – and this is where influencers come into the picture. Simply put, an influencer is someone who has the power to impact purchase decision because of their knowledge, expertise and status – for example, fashion bloggers like Chiara Ferragni or millennial celebrities like Kylie Jenner.
Data from the influencer-marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or celebrating endorsement – this number shows that consumers are increasingly expected brands to entertain and inform them in a genuine way, rather than simply hard-sell their products through commercials and other traditional forms of advertising.
For brands that are looking to make big impact with their customers in an authentic way, influencer is the way to go. It enables brands to connect with their customers in a more relevant, organic and direct manner, while also ensuring that the outreach is highly targeted to the brand’s ideal customers – when you work with an influencer, you not only have access to their audience, but their audience’s social network and influence as well. Better yet, this audience is already engaged and interested and therefore, is more likely to pay attention.
With influencer marketing, brands can harness the power of word-of-mouth in a very big way, through influencers that their customers already love, respect and connect with. And of course, one can’t deny that the way influencers present brands and products is far more appealing – visually, rationally and emotionally. For example, you’re more likely to believe that Fit Tea works when you see Khloe Kardashian talking about it on Instagram, rather than the brand blowing its own trumpet in a television commercial.
Brands are starting to realise and reap the benefits of influencer marketing strategies too – according to Bloomberg, $255 million is spent on influencer marketing every month and this number will only increase in the time to come.
So, what should you keep in mind when working with influencers?
First and foremost, remember that influencers differ for different brands and that it’s important to work with influencers who are a contextual fit for your brand. It’s not just about working with a big name or a famous celebrity. You have to ask yourself: does this person – their personal brand, their philosophy and ethos, their audience, their content style – make sense for my brand? If the answer isn’t a definitive yes, you should probably rethink your choice.
Once you have established a contextual fit, it’s important to ascertain an influencer’s power to accelerate your brand. Take a look at their reach, or how many followers they have – the more, the better, so that they can carry the message of your brand to larger audiences. Having said that, it’s important to keep an eye on their engagement as well – simply having a huge number of followers but having low engagement on social channels is not a good sign.
Observe the geographies that the influencer is popular in and ensure that these are in line with the markets your brand is present in or wants to grow in. Without this alignment, the partnership doesn’t make much sense. Also, think about the age group that the influencer is connecting with. Is that in tune with the age group your brand is looking to target as well? Again, it’s a small point but often overlooked – and factors like this will determine the success of your influencer marketing outreach.
Every influencer has one or two key channels that they are noticeably more active on than others. Do these channels make sense for your brand? For example, you might find that an influencer you want to work with is most active on Twitter, but what your brand needs is some compelling visual storytelling on a platform like Instagram – if you choose to go ahead anyway, you may not get the best value out of your partnership. Don’t cut corners.
Finally, take stock of the quality of content that the influencer produces and shares. In seeking the very best associations for your brand, it’s important to ensure that your brand is featured in content that is nothing less than top-notch. Anything else might have a negative effect on the image of your brand and that’s something you definitely don’t want.
Keep in mind that for many bloggers, blogging is their fulltime job. They’re passionate about creating content and delivering the best quality to their followers, which is why they take the time to perfect every detail of their website and maintain solid engagement with their followers on social media. In doing so, these bloggers have their own expenses, fixed costs and variable costs that they need to cover – discuss and negotiate with them with respect and mindfulness. Bartering is one way to think about the terms of your partnership, but constantly seeking barter with bloggers might drive the quality of your brand down because, as the saying goes, you only get what you pay for.
As you build relationships with influencers, take out the time to engage with them and understand their motivations and passions – they spend a lot of time, effort and energy in building their networks of followers and keeping them interested, and they expect the same from the brands they work with.
It’s also important to trust their judgement and give them a certain amount of creative freedom, in order to do what they do best. Have faith in the fact that they have been doing this for a while and know how to make their content work for your brand in the best way. It’s alright to give them loose guidelines to work within, but brands that try to control or restrict the process too much will not only end up with poor results, but also, poor relationships with the influencer community. Not a good place to be in!
In the years to come, collaborations between brands and influencers are only going to become more prominent and more important, for the success of both parties involved. When it is implemented correctly, influencer marketing drives real, tangible value for brands that other methods of advertising and outreach simply can’t match up to.