Influence. What does it really mean today? When you think of influence, do you conjure the powers of persuasion, do you relate it to a person, or do you picture a bunch of bullshitters who get paid to say stuff?
It may sound harsh, but since the term influence became less of a verb and more of a noun, there has been a great deal of testing, learning, success, failure and scepticism that has grown alongside the influencer marketing offering.
You’d be forgiven for any scepticism too since, until now, the very attributes influencer marketing thrives on in being authentic and transparent have blurred – confusing the average consumer and breaking trust. Once that trust is broken, the relationship is too, rendering the influence non-existent.
As the lead of RocketMill’s influencer marketing services, I explore the dos and don’ts brands must consider to successfully conduct influencer relations. Questioning if influencer marketing is for you? Or what return it can give you and how to measure it? This read will hit the spot.
Let us first look at the grey areas and how we can overcome them.
Why influencer marketing lacks trust and credibility
Previous fake sponsorships, termed ‘sponcon’, saw influencers falsely imply that brands were sponsoring them in the content they created, in a bid to spell credibility. Content was clearly being written by marketing agencies, not the influencer themselves on their own social feeds, and being called out by consumers as misleading. Meanwhile, the declaration of gifts, sponsorship, partnerships and genuine purchases was unclear. Consumers felt duped, declaring influencers were ‘selling out’ to brands they wouldn’t normally try or buy, just because they were paid to say they liked it. No wonder influencer marketing has come under scrutiny. Thankfully, industry improvements have made influencer marketing more credible, reliable and trackable than ever.
How influencer marketing works
When influencers feature and recommend brands that aren’t necessarily in line with what they believe, consumers see through this quickly. Consumers are savvy and they choose to follow influencers because they relate to them, are inspired by them and they trust them. Break this, whether you’re an influencer or a brand, and influence will not occur.
To quote Keynote Speaker, Andrew Davis: “Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” By pinpointing leaders and driving your message through them, results and consumer trust can be achieved.
How ASA guidelines have improved influencer marketing
In September 2018, ASA released their new guidelines, An Influencer’s Guide to making clear that ads are ads. Essentially, influencers must remain transparent and honest by declaring partnerships, relationships, collaborations, payment and payment in kind with brands.
In my opinion, however, this is just as much the brand or agency’s responsibility as it is the influencer’s. We need to work together to remain authentic, from the moment that relationship is formed, though to co-creating the content, building the campaign and measuring the results. No relationship, working or otherwise, should be one-sided. To get the best out of it, trust and honesty need to reign. So, too, will the influence.
Five tips for influencer marketing success
In order to clarify if influencer marketing will fulfil your objectives and to successfully conduct it in line with those, follow my five tips or get in touch to discuss how we can best support you.
1. Consider why you want to work with influencers
Take a step back and consider your objectives for working with influencers. Is it for the way they curate content in their tone and style? Is it to get an objective, unbiased view of your brand that everyday people will relate to? Are you looking for an influencer who is skilled at creating videos to demonstrate your product from a consumer perspective? Or is it to reach the specific people who follow them?
If the answer to the last question is yes, paid advertising may be a more cost-effective choice, since you can target those people directly.
Our definition of influencer marketing is people-powered marketing to drive action not just awareness. We choose the influencers for their way of influencing, which is exactly as it should be. We then integrate the other services we offer for the most effective ROI.
As an example, we will co-create content with an influencer and amplify that through paid media, cross promoting the assets on other strategically matched media, using data as a metric and strategy as a starting point to shape the entire output. Only by integrating influencer marketing with other services will you effectively leverage, and measure, the power of influence.
2. Identify the right influencers
The influencer’s reach and size of following isn’t the fundamental priority for your business, is it? Surely a brand-fit is more important, so your product or service is relevant and aligned to the interests, values and morals of the influencer? This match is what will keep the relationship, and therefore the messaging, authentic – connecting with people successfully – whatever that translates to for your business. This is the end goal after all, isn’t it?
- Engagement: having an engaged audience is more powerful than a follower count. Look for engaged followers who receive the influencer’s messages well and trust them.
- Authority: the right influencers should demonstrate relevance and resonance around the topics aligned with your brand, or your message could fall on deaf ears.
- Audience: in a similar vein, your influencer target list should consist of individuals who each have a following existing of your target market(s).
- Micro or macro:Consider what tier you are aiming for. Micro influencers (with followings between 1,000-20,000) are rapidly becoming more effective, with an engagement rate soaring above 25% – more than any other tier. Consumers find them more relatable and, in their own micro way, more inspiring and influential, since they feel much closer to them. Micro influencers are coming to the fore this year, with people turning to them as peers for recommendations and reviews before purchasing.
- Brand affinity: is the influencer already using, talking about or have authority in your brand-related topics? They should be – otherwise a misfit can occur and the collaboration seems false.
- Content: does the influencer produce content that is in alignment with the company’s voice? If, for instance, they swear and have outwardly controversial views, would this be the best type of content and tone of voice for your brand? Do you need a video asset but they specialise mostly in curated Instagram feeds with still images? Assess and reassess before you approach them.
In order to leverage the effectiveness in getting in front of your target market with influencers, choosing the right ones is key. Consider these main areas for successful implementation:
There are tools, such as Buzzsumo, Ahrefs and Klear that have specific software to help you find influencers based on the above preferences and filters. You can drill down even further and select the location, age range and gender if needed. They do, however, come with a price.
3. Use a blend of tools to help you identify influencers
Conducting social listening and human analysis to identify influencers is another option and, in our opinion, will always be necessary. Audit the brand’s social channels, discover what topics people engage with the most and follow the trail. Assess tags, links and what those third parties discuss to reveal relevant topics and potential partnerships and core groups. Revisit your objectives and keep the previous areas of consideration front of mind.
With trust as the foundation of any successful relationship, focus on building that. Never cast the net wide and hope for the best, approach influencers before you need them so your relationship is exactly that; a relationship, rather than just a one-sided exchange or expectation. You’re looking to create a partnership not a dictation.
4. Build a relationship with influencers before you need them
Approach influencers individually and consider why you want to work with them specifically. Do your research and show that you know what they stand for and what they post about. After all, why should they bother showing an interest in what you have to say if you don’t show an interest in them?
5. Keep your approach and output authentic and transparent
For further reading, Sally Bunkham’s article on The Talented Ladies Club shares real life experiences from small businesses and influencers on the pros and cons. If you’re an influencer reading this, then Vix Meldrew’s guide to declaring brand collaborations is for you.
Refer to the ASA guidelines to ensure influencer activity legally adheres and consumers don’t feel misled.
If you want to see the impact influencer marketing can have on your business, contact us now.
At RocketMill, we offer end-to-end management for full service influencer marketing and campaign management. We also offer workshops to upskill your internal teams to conduct influencer marketing themselves. Alternatively, since you’ve seen how crucial relationship building and strategically identifying the right influencers is, we also offer influencer identification as a single service.