Influencer marketing is more than just a buzzword these days. It’s a job almost every teenager wants, and a strategy brands would pay top money for. Before it became a trend however, businesses were skeptical about its effectiveness. After all, why shell out cash for a non-celebrity to post pictures of your product to his or her Instagram followers? What’s the point of getting a famous YouTuber to create a quick, promotional video with your logo on it?
Today, it could mean anything from a few thousand – to millions of dollars’ worth of ROI for participating businesses. But is it really worth all the hype? Should small businesses take advantage of it, too? Is there a downside to it?
When taking influencer marketing strategies into account, approach with caution and an open mind. Here’s how businesses, whether large or small, can benefit from it.
Influencer Marketing: Part of the Puzzle
Influencer marketing is basically teaming-up with online personalities to expand your brand’s reach and relevance.
The scope can include a brand ambassador program, branded entertainment like video content, or campaigns on Twitter or Instagram. It’s NOT the be-all and end-all of marketing. However, it’s an important piece of the puzzle. That’s because influencer content is often unique and entertaining, which is great for gaining interaction on social media. On the other hand, proper disclosures should be observed so that audiences are not misled.
Luxury car division, Buick, for instance, has gained a lot of attention through their ‘Pinterest to Dashboard’ contest in 2013. They asked Influencers on popular content discovery platform, Pinterest, to set-up personal boards that speak about their personal styles and passions. The winner’s board was then turned into a real theme for the design of a Buick.
Although the cars were not put on sale, it generated huge buzz for the brand. People also saw Buick in a new, fun light – which was what the brand was going for the in the first place.
But it’s not just sustainability and amazing content that makes brands openly embrace this marketing technique. ROI also plays a huge factor. According to Social PR Chat, influencer marketing campaigns:
- earn brands an average of $6.85 for every $1 they spend
- help gain customer trust and engagement
- aid in creating meaningful connections with customers over time
A great example of successful influencer marketing is Gap’s website, Styld-by.com. Containing exciting content from influential fashion bloggers and publications, it aims to be a go-to destination not only for Gap fans, but also by aficionados looking for some style inspiration. Featuring works from famous Instagrammers like Mélodie Monrose (58,000 followers) and Isabel Tan (177,000 followers).
The site has been shared more than 23,000 times.
Gap’s Styld.by website was originally created in 2012, but is still as popular today. Participating bloggers continue to feature it on their platforms, and the site itself is being talked about by other online publications.
Influencer Marketing: the Darker Side
If not implemented correctly, influencer marketing campaigns will not only fail, but leave a bad impression for your customers in the long run.
A good example would be the recent mishap of TV personality Scott Disick. He was tasked to promote health and weight loss company Bootea to his millions of Instagram followers – but ended with an embarrassing faux pas. Disick accidentally posted the brand’s marketing email onto the caption of the content. This shows that businesses should carefully select the influencers they choose to work with.
Another dark tale in the world of influencer marketing is Essena O’Neill. A famous influencer from Australia, she made headlines when she suddenly quit social media and exposed how she was being paid to put up stunningly beautiful content. Despite the controversy behind her decision, she hopes people will continue to follow brands they love and trust. She also cautions about sponsored content meant to deceive young consumers.
Influencer Marketing: the Business Approach
With the basics in mind, HOW should businesses approach influencer marketing this 2016? There are three main points to consider:
Align your business goals and mission with the influencer. It’s easy to pick someone just because they have hundreds to thousands of followers. Or even because the CEO of your company likes a certain individual. But that’s not going to help make your brand become well-liked. Remember: most influencer marketing campaigns need thousands of dollars to set up. If you’re spending that much money, make sure the results are going to be worth it – and in it, for the long haul.
Snapchat artist Shaun McBride for example, collaborates only with brands whose values he also shares. One of his first clients was Disney. They hired him to do a couple of Snaps for ‘Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’ in 2014, and his career soared soon after that.
(Image credits to Shonduras.com)
Plenty of brands now want to get their hands on creative platforms like Snapchat. But if your business’ mission or objectives doesn’t align with the influencer’s, better try another medium.
Co-create content with your influencer. Even if the individual has a huge following and provides amazing work on social media, brands still need to collaborate before and during the campaign. This is to ensure that the content is in line with the business’ goals, as well as the influencer’s values. Pitch an idea then ask for the person’s input. Give a day or so before finalizing a decision.
Two heads are better than one, after all. Just take a look at Downy’s #SoftSide campaign. Aside from working with digital marketing agency 360i, the brand also collaborated with various influencers from popular social media platforms. This helped make their projects a success – both on- and offline.
(Image credits to 360i.com)
Businesses need to be transparent with customers and influencers. When taking advantage of influencer marketing, be fully aware of the rules. Use the appropriate tags and captions to ensure audiences understand that even with the entertaining content, it’s a sponsored post. Even if some customers personally don’t mind a little advertising on their favorite blogger’s site, ruling bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) may not be so lenient.
Cookie brand Oreo experienced this in 2014, when some of its sponsored content was taken down due to ASA ruling that the videos didn’t make it clear enough that it was advertising. Do check with local and national laws before paying influencers for marketing content.
As influencer marketing looks like it’s going to be here for quite a while, it’s vital that businesses approach it with care and guidance.
For those without a dedicated marketing team, reach out to trusted agencies before jumping the gun. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Profile the people you’d be working with. Remember: it only takes seconds to ruin a reputation you’ve built in years. So tread lightly. If you succeed though, the prize is going to be well worth the wait.