Want to reach out to an influencer but not sure where to start? Still trying to figure out what your ‘ask’ is and how to approach them? Not sure what it costs, if anything at all?
Whether you’re a small business owner looking to build your brand; a marketer trying to reach new customers; or managing social media accounts and working on engagement; it’s likely that your ‘to do’ list includes influencer marketing. Devising an influencer strategy, no matter how big or small, can be the key to success but as it’s still a relatively new element of the Marketing Mix, there’s no set formula for doing it right. This means the playing field is wide open but also makes it a complete minefield… one that I hope I can guide you through with some simple steps.
Over 10 years of working with influencers and I have seen it grow from ‘hobbyist bloggers’ to a very lucrative career. A recent study by PR Week and Vuelio valued the influencer industry at $5.5bn, with this expected to increase to $20bn in the next four years. This kind of growth, which doesn’t even take into account the digital acceleration that we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic, explains why it’s a must-do for many brands but also a confusing landscape for anyone who hasn’t been there before.
There’s no doubting the value that influencers can bring to your products or services; working with the right people means that you can tap into ready-made communities and align your brand with a specific set of values. I’ll come on to this in a moment, but this is why research is integral to your strategy. One of the benefits of working with influencers is that they’re creative content makers; they spend their days engaging (mostly) strangers online and get them to buy into a lifestyle. This is absolutely something that you want to tap into.
Michael Gagliano, Head of Platform Revenue at #Paid, puts it perfectly: Influencers “give brands a window into organic communities.”
Covid-19 has been tough on influencers, like us all, but they’ve seen revenue streams disappear overnight with no real guarantee of when – or even if – they’ll return. Around 55% of UK marketers have delayed launches and press trips, and events have faded into the distance, so pivoting what they do and how they do it has been crucial to their survival. However, increased screen time has, without a doubt, seen the value of influencers increase as they’ve leaned into their own content and created a real connection with their followers. One success story is Caroline Daur(2.4m followers) who started posting her #DaurPower home workouts and saw one post get 70,000 likes and over 800 comments, which was double the amount of a fashion post – what she was previously best known for – that she put up on the same day. There’s also Halley Elefante (583k followers) who did a collab with swimsuit brand Vitamin A and drove 500,000 impressions across their channels with the full edit that she’d created. Halley’s post created an increase in week-by-week sales of the swimsuits featured by 400% and even two days after her post, produced a 30% spike in daily web traffic. Talk about ROI!
Covid-19, whilst a challenge for the influencer world, has seen a host of opportunities for both the creators themselves and the brands they work with. From increased behind-the-scenes content to a new style of ‘edutainment’, and this rise in community engagement will last way beyond lockdown.
So, how do you work with influencers and get the best possible results? I’ve outlined a few of the key areas that I’ve found to be most beneficial and spoke to two of my absolute fave babes on Instagram – Charl Pearce (@gingergirlsays) and Amelia Goodhead (xAmeliax) – to give you their advice on getting it right!
Research, research, research
In marketing, research is everything, but for some reason people still think that working with influencer is a quick fix for success… that you can just send a lot of DMs and get amazing results. It doesn’t work like that; you need research the influencers that are authentic to your brand, who have followers that are likely going to become your customers. Charl puts it perfectly: “Contacting a chronically single gal who talks openly about swiping on Tinder and the horror of dating about promoting your new bridal range, isn’t going to work. But contacting her about a new dating app, singles’ night or a place to brunch with the girls means your content is going to look organic and not forced. It won’t scream ‘AD, AD, AD’.”
The way that you approach influencers will show them whether you’ve bothered to do your research or not: “I appreciate it when brands and PRs address me personally in an email and give a reason as to why they are interested in working with me. This industry, and our brands as creators, are very personal – that’s why it works. So, it’s nice to be treated like a person not a human billboard,” Amelia told me. So instead of the blanket “we’re looking for lifestyle creators, are you interested?” email, make it more personal to them and what you like about their content.
Set your objectives
In my opinion, the authenticity of the content is crucial to your influencer activity being a success. Consumers aren’t stupid and whilst they know that your content has been arranged – as the influencer will declare it in line with the ASA guidelines – there’s way too much digital fatigue to just throw branded content out there.
When you first approach an influencer, make sure you have in mind what you want to achieve. They’re not miracle workers or mind-readers, so you need to set your own objectives; whether it’s more followers on your social pages, website clicks or product sales, set your intentions from the outset. Charl agrees with me and says: “Whether it’s a tagline, hashtag or certain keywords, including this just means less toing and froing when it comes to delivery.”
To pay or not to pay?
Outlining your objectives is also really key when it comes to budget-setting… one of the biggest hurdles people face when planning their influencer strategy. If you’re running a traditional PR campaign, you’re working on the assumption that it’s free editorial (not in all cases, but most) and if you’re delivering an advertising strategy, you know that you need a budget set aside. Influencers sit somewhere in the middle with only around 30% being paid, but this is increasing by the day. “Compensation” is a buzzword in the influencer industry but know that this could mean financial gain but could also apply to gifts, trips and experiences too. Knowing what you have to offer and what you expect of the influencer(s) is key.
Amelia agrees that there’s no real set process yet and sometimes a press trip abroad might be in return for one grid post versus a meal for two expecting a blog post and several stories. However, she says: “If things are laid out from the beginning, then it’s easier to come back with a more informed response. So if a brand outlines what they want but it’s more than I’d do for that fee, I can at least go back and say “For the above content package, I would usually charge £XX, however, for your budget of £X we could do XYZ instead.”” It’s a much better way to build a relationship and also makes evaluating success easier too.
Charl also puts it perfectly when she says: “The promise of being reshared to your Instagram or a £5 lipstick isn’t going to pay my bills… be prepared to pay them a fair rate for our work.”
Let go and trust them
As someone who’s worked in PR for 13 years, I know too well the challenge that we face trying to get marketers and business owners to “let go”. Much like hiring an agency, by working with an influencer you have to remember that you’re bringing in a professional. Whether you’re paying them or gifting products and services, they are the experts so you have to trust that they know what they’re talking about and what will work best for their audience.
You should be outlining your objectives in your initial brief and whilst you might have an idea of what will work best, “Trust that they know the best way to market your product and brand in order to make it sell,” Charl says. She and Amelia said they struggle with brands insisting on grid posts but actually stories are often more impactful: “The Instagram algorithm can be a tough beast to tame and a lot of the time stories hit more of that person audience than a static post; it means we can add swipe ups to specific links and more often than not, engagement is way higher,” Charl adds.
Amelia also makes a great point that: “Everyone’s audiences are different (another reason why creator marketing is lucrative for brands) and they consume content from us in different ways. It’s helpful to be open to new ideas on how to present your brand with creators as it’s not a one size fits all approach.”
Make sure you have your ducks in a row
Now, one thing that I find many brands forget is to actually look at themselves and their own channels when they plan influencer activity. Are you actually ready for an influx in engagement? Do your social channels represent the brand and appeal to the influencers’ audience? Are the products or services you’re promoting live on the website? Have you set aside time to re-post the influencer and reply to enquiries?
I see so many people get it wrong and completely forget that the success of a campaign also relies on their own planning too.
Evaluate the success
Of course, a really important thing to do is not just finish the activity and never look back. If you’ve set out KPIs from the outset, it should be easy to measure the success that you’ve had. Did you get new followers? Did you see an increase in website clicks and product sales? You have to know if this was a success otherwise how can you measure the ROI?
Also feed this back to the influencer, especially if they did a great job! Thank them and look at how you might work together in the future. Yes, one off activity can work, but sustained relationships will get much better engagement from their followers in the long run. Likewise, if it didn’t quite achieve what you expected, let them know but be nice about it. This is their livelihood, after all, and they want to do the best possible job, so helping them improve content or their approach will help everyone in the long run.
So, I hope this helps you navigate your way around an influencer strategy; it’s something that can absolutely make your brand! If you need any other advice, slide on into my DMs or drop me a line to see how we might be able to help you take your business to the next level and really tap into those influencer communities.