I just bought a couch from a company I’ve never heard of – without seeing or sitting on it.
In this case, I follow a popular DIY couple on Instagram with the handle Chris Loves Julia, and listen to their podcast every so often. By developing a long-term, win-win relationship with an influencer, the custom furniture retailer, Interior Define, reached me in-app and sold me a couch. That’s it. This isn’t an unusual scenario: Influencer marketing has proven its ROI again and again over the last 10 years, with some reports showing 11x the ROI of traditional marketing. The recent Facebook algorithm changes announced on January 11th, de-prioritizing brands’ organic posts in favor of creating meaningful connections, will make influencers even more influential within the platform, particularly when targeting millennials.
Some Dos and Don’ts we live by at Rodgers Townsend:
Define goals and KPIs
As with any initiative, brands need to define and set expectations for the overall program, and then specifically with each influencer engage in a contract. Clarity is critical, be clear about what the brand should expect in way of outputs, posts, and measures of success. KPIs may include earned impressions, video views, view rate, engagements (comments, likes and shares), even conversions or sales.
Define a process for finding and vetting influencers within your organization
There is no one-size approach to identifying the right influencer. At RT we work differently with different clients based on objectives and investment levels.
Audience size is important, but it would be a mistake to judge an influencer solely on their stats. Beware of profiles that show a large audience, but a low engagement rate. This can suggest the audience is not real or not really engaging in a meaningful way. Contextually, the influencer should be well-aligned with the brand and product or service. Likewise, a good influencer will be selective about the partnerships they form to maintain the integrity of their own community.
Established networks or platforms such as BrandBacker, AspireIQ or Hello Society can be used for identifying and outreach. Alternatively, free services like Social Blade provide multichannel rankings, engagement rates and growth trends.
Consider whether long-term or short-term relationships are best
Influencers and brands are beginning to seek longer term relationships, which many believe seem more authentic and drive deeper engagement with target audiences. For example, Band Aid built a relationship with Joy Cho of Oh Joy! by incorporating her own playful, colorful designs into their products. It resulted in a delightful product design and fun, engaging content for her followers.
However, short-term relationships may make more sense for brands just entering the market, or as a means to test various approaches, personalities or forums.
Try to control everything
At its best, influencer marketing is all about authenticity. The more a brand exerts control and standards into the content creation, the less authentic it will feel within the influencer’s native environment. Of course, critical guidelines need to be established during contracting and initial phases, but outside of that, let it go. If the influencers were properly vetted, they will know what will resonate best with their audience. This is where micro and macro influencers really shine. We see a lot of clients struggle with this, especially those that are heavily regulated. This may be a bit of heavy-lifting with the legal team, but determining a workflow that doesn’t stifle creativity will benefit everyone.
Ignore FTC guidelines
We watched last spring as 90 letters were sent out to 45 celebrities and their respective agents and brands with the intention of reminding them to be transparent about endorsements. The FTC will continue to increase enforcement of this in social media, but it’s up to the brand AND the influencer to responsibly indicate if a post is #sponsored. Pro tip: This one is considered a shared responsibility of the brand and influencer, so get clear on this up front and follow through to make sure the influencers are checking the box.
Assume you can pay in product alone
Don’t assume that every influencer only wants a boatload of product. Brands may need to also negotiate a payment depending on how popular they are, the depth and breadth of the content, or how time-intensive creation will be. Payment could also include a value-add experience that lets the influencer see/taste/feel/experience the brand in a totally unique way.
As consumer trust weakens, Influencer Marketing will continue to grow and become an important part of every brand’s digital strategy. With research and planning, brands and agencies can architect successful programs to reach the elusive millennial audience in a contextually relevant way. And maybe if you’re like me, find the perfect couch while you’re at it.