Love them or hate, the power of influencers can’t be ignored. Everywhere you go, every campaign you see, every YouTube video you watch, they're there! 10 years ago, you'd be seen as a forward thinker to suggest making them a core part of your campaign. 5 years ago, they were an afterthought. Now, they are the topic of discussion at all your meetings and every marketing department wants a piece of them.
As this influencer marketing continues to grow and become more complex, how do you set the right strategy? Is it long term or short term? Do you want reach or engagement? Or is it more important to convert their followers into customers? A common mistake marketers make is jump straight into the ‘engagement’ part as soon as extra resource or budget is available. The truth is if you don't have a strategy in place, you might be wasting money getting vanity reach and engagement . The perception of impressive vanity stats often blinds marketers from getting a real return on investment or building meaningful authentic relationships. And here's why:
1. Super bloggers/vloggers/social influencers don't automatically get you a ROI
It makes sense to assume that the most popular influencers will get you most reach. But what does that actually mean? Are their followers your potential customers? Does a million impressions convert to sales? When you’ve spent thousands of pounds, weeks of negotiations, expenses and free products, what are you left with? This is not to say that super influencers aren't effective or impactful. Just not for all your campaigns. While prioritising relationships with them, you're missing out on building valuable relationships with others. Influencers that are up and coming could get you higher conversions if their smaller audiences resonate better than the Top 10’ list
2. The era of the 'gifting incentive' is over
The realisation is hard, but one we must accept. 'Gifting' influencers with a decent blog/social following is no longer a good enough incentive . Marketers must understand that they get hundreds of these emails every day, barely having time to go through them all. You’re not offering them anything different to your competitors. Unless a product/service is exclusive, innovative or has a premium price tag, this tactic is not sustainable. If there's no budget to pay them, the alternative needs to be exclusive, personalised and unique. What story will they want to share with their followers? Standalone gifting is seen as a lazy by influencers so if that’s your key strategy, it’s on its last legs
3. Your department doesn't own Influencers
Isn’t it funny that 5 years ago, interns or assistants would be assigned to managing influencers? Now, everyone wants a piece of the pie! PR, social media, content, SEO, affiliate and brand departments all work with influencers regularly. And with that comes politics. Who owns what relationship? Who gets first dibs on the top influencers? Who gets last dibs? How is it split? Who Cares!
Why is this still going on? How much easier would it be to agree on working with influencers in a holistic way? PR get coverage, the social media team get a cool Instagram campaign, content get a video or exclusive guest post, SEO gets a link and affiliate get an affiliate link. Simple. Surely a 360 campaign is better as everyone wins. Work together
4. You're not budgeting right
Let’s face it. The working with influencers on a shoe string budget days are gone. Long gone. If there's no budget to commercially incentivise, budget is still needed to incentivise in other ways. Whether it’s hosting an event or co-creating unique content, money is needed in the pot. Set aside influencer marketing budgets for the year with clear objectives and targets. Work with other teams and join forces to increase available spend, and create better campaigns.
5. You don't care about influencers ….enough
It’s fair to say that resource is a topic of discussion when it comes to working with influencers; researching content and stats, collating information, outreach itself and the follow up. With time being an issue, quality control becomes a problem. Having worked with influencers for many years, I know their biggest pet peeves are; the BCC email, getting the wrong name, the Dear blogger or Dear webmaster intros, (yes, this still happens), or just being approached by brands who are totally unsuitable (e.g. a gaming company approaching a beauty blogger? Unless, by chance, they have a hidden love for gaming.). Are you working with influencers in the right way? Is your team? Do you know best practice? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you don’t care enough. Quality will always over power quantity
6. You're following the crowd
If you’re doing everything competitors are doing (or worse following them), you're playing it safe. Influencers are part of a powerful community and they talk (or Tweet). If you decide to approach or work with them, let it be a campaign or project they won’t forget. Or forget to tell their influential friends about
7. You’re not being a good talent scout
While your competitors all rush to work the latest celeblogger, scout your own talent. Stats aren’t everything. If an influencer creates top class content, has a unique voice and resonates with an audience, the stats will naturally grow. If they fit with your brand, be part of making them the next big thing. They won’t forget it. The editor of Vogue started as an intern and YouTube stars started with one video upload. If you have the skill to scout natural talent, use it to handpick influencers right for your brand.
And finally, if influencer marketing is such a huge complex beast, what is the right approach? A good start is to devise a strategy for all levels; the super blogger, the micro blogger, the established Instagrammer or the up and coming You Tuber. One size does not fit all.
Isa Lavahun, UK Blog Awards 2017 Fashion and Beauty Judge and Director, Relations LDN