Over the past ten years, the pull of bloggers and online influencers has skyrocketed. The sheer reach many influencers now have online and the “captive” qualities of their audiences mean that it’s no secret that brands can benefit hugely from forging partnerships here.
- Don’t jump into influencer marketing without fully researching the space and each target influencer that you’re considering working with
- Put a process in place from the start to the end of the journey covering everything from influencer selection and deal negotiation to publishing and payment arrangements
- Allow influencers the freedom to lead with genuine content – don’t let your brand or creative dominate too heavily to ensure genuine content
The burgeoning ecosystem of bloggers, vloggers and online superstars can represent a fantastic opportunity to speak directly to your core consumer in a truly authentic way and in their everyday lives. This is a particularly important plus in an age when more and more consumers look to their friends and online connections for recommendations, advice and affirmations, rather than to traditional media.
However, as with any marketing channel, influencer engagement can actually be damaging to your business or brand, if not undertaken with full awareness of the landscape and the pitfalls to avoid. Here are some tips I’ve picked up from working with influencers over the years that will guide you through this ever evolving landscape and help you to ensure your campaigns speak to consumers successfully.
Before kicking off any influencer engagement activity, it’s important to research and define what qualities you want your core influencers to possess. Know which influencers your target consumer follows on social media and which voices resonate the most strongly.
Once you have decided on the core group of influencers that you’re keen to target, ensure that you then research every aspect of their online activity and the history of their posts. It’s also worth evaluating their followers and not taking follower numbers at face value; are their followers all “real” or does it appear that there may be “fake” or bought followers in the mix? This is usually easy to spot – lots of “egg” profile pics on twitter profiles or jumbled names on instagram is often an indicator.
Other things to look out for here are whether the influencer has promoted any of your competitors in the past. If they have posted recently regarding the benefits of a competitor product, then any post that you work with them on may appear insincere to their followers and therefore have much lower impact.
As well as core channels, investigate all of an influencers social real estate – whilst they may be a perfect candidate to work with on instagram, their behaviour on Twitter could be completely off brand. The last thing you want is to work with someone who may end up gaining attention for all the wrong reasons.
2. Don’t run before you can walk
Don’t try and work with the number one Youtube star from the offset – it’s much more sensible to test out your strategy and execution with micro-influencers first. Test your content and the effect it has on traffic and then start scaling up once you’re happy that everything is working as it should.
No matter who you’re working with, micro-influencer or Zoella – treat them with respect and as you would any brand spokesperson, celebrity endorsee or member of the press. I find the most fruitful relationships with influencers are created when they feel part of your team, they have lots of information about your business and how the campaign fits into the wider business vision and have the freedom to do their best work.
3. Let influencers be authentic
The idea at the very heart of influencer engagement is that these individuals have been successful in engaging a certain audience online through great content. Therefore, it’s key to allow the influencer to guide you in terms of what content their followers will respond to.
Time and time again I’ve worked with clients or brands who are prescriptive in terms of the creative or campaign copy that they want influencers to post. 90% of the time this results in content which looks awkward on an influencers social feed, sounds inauthentic and therefore doesn’t have the desired effect amongst the end consumer. It also makes for a bad working relationship with the influencer in question and frustration on all sides. It’s best avoided.
4. Mix and match
To gain the traction and reach that you’re after, consider mixing and matching a group of influencers, rather than simply ploughing your budget into one online “A-lister”. Go for a blend of influential individuals who all compliment your brand and campaign message – e.g if you’re a fashion brand speaking to a creative, style led audience consider influencers from a range of worlds who resonate with this group e.g music, fashion, art etc.
A rich mix of influencers who all speak to your brand’s core message and core consumer individually as well as collectively can be powerful in creating a really meaningful message.
5. Process & KPIs
A robust process across the entire influencer relationship from engagement to payment will enable you to scale more efficiently and effectively.
Be clear from the outset on the number of posts you expect, rough content/ message of posts and the cadence of posting. Although it’s important to allow influencers creative freedom, it’s also important that they understand expectations and can align messaging to your brand sentiment.
Influencer engagement can be a hugely impactful, cost effective and genuine way of communicating your brand’s core values to target consumers. It’s a tool that will only become more prevalent with the rise of social media platforms globally – best to start experimenting with it now and grow along with it.
About the Author
This article was written by Nic Forster of the Path Forward. The Path Forward was developed by Forward Partners, a VC platform that invests in the best ideas and brilliant people. Forward Partners devised The Path Forward to help their founders validate their ideas, build a product, achieve traction, hire a team and raise follow on funding all in the space of 12 months. The Path Forward is a fantastic startup framework for you to utilise as an early stage founder or operator. The framework clearly defines startup creation as being comprised of three steps. The first step of this framework involves understanding customer’s needs.Nic is Head of PR & communications at Forward Partners. Over the course of a 10 year career in communications, he has working with global brands including Orange, Warner Bros., BBC, and amazon.co.uk.