By Jorie Mark, Senior Director of Content Strategy
It’s difficult to scroll through Instagram without seeing dozens of #sponsored posts, usually by photogenic influencers cleverly posing with the products they represent. Yogurt, lipstick, mobile phone chargers, baby wipes, tooth-whitening trays–they make it all look glamorous. Considering that 75% of marketers report having worked with influencers in 2018, and 84% of those influencers specifically are Instagram creators, it’s not surprising that our feeds are overtaken with #instafamous content, woven in between pictures of our friends’ #whatiatetoday and boomerangs of their cats.
With so many brands jumping on the influencer marketing bandwagon, it is important to understand the right way to work with people who, when you think about it, have the ability to make or break a company’s reputation quite literally in the palm of their hand. Influencer marketing is one of the most cost-efficient ways for a brand to build awareness, drive sampling and ultimately convert new customers–but not all types of influencer marketing are created equal. And some, ultimately, can backfire; today’s customer is savvy and can spot an inauthentic endorsement a mile away.
Here are five myths about influencer marketing we’re here to debunk:
Myth #1: Bigger is Better
Often when we work with a company that’s new to influencer marketing and recommend a specific collaboration, the first question we get is, “How many followers does she have?” This is indeed a very important question, but it’s not the most important question to ask; a better question is how much engagement the influencer has with his or her fans. Because it’s actually not a popularity contest; it’s a contest for who the customer truly trusts the most.
The surprising fact is that influencers who have followings in the tens of thousands are NOT always as impactful as influencers with a four-digit social media influencer audience. Thanks to bots and the ability to buy followers, the follower count held by an individual social media account could be a wasteland of “never-going-to-buy” social profiles; even those with authentically enormous numbers don’t necessarily have the power to inspire purchases as much as they do the power to elicit what’s essentially gawking. Casting a wide net through influencer marketing can be expensive and yield a minimal return on investment.
For brands considering an influencer marketing campaign, the objective should be to reach an appropriate audience through carefully-researched targeting. Enter the concept of micro-influencers. Individuals who have a “smaller” following, typically 1,000 to 50,000 depending on the social media platform, can entice as much attention and curiosity for a brand as a Hollywood star, but with the added power of a personal connection on par with the old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendation you are seeking when you ask your neighbor who mows her (enviably fabulous) lawn. These people can interact with their followers with a personal tone, because — get this — they actually know their fan base. Crazy, huh?
So how do you find these micro-influencers? A good place to start is your most enthusiastic customers who are already engaging with you on social media; send gift cards or swag to fans who check in at your location or take selfies with your products, and incentivize user-generated content with contests. Your social media community manager or listening analyst can help facilitate these person-to-person connections, focusing on the most passionate advocates and those with larger followings.
This process, however, can be time-consuming. For companies who want to identify influencers at scale, partnering with influencer experts is going to be a better use of time and resources. An agency that has established long-standing, personal relationships with influencers can recruit a community of influencers whose audiences, tones and values are the best fit for a company’s business objective.
Myth #2: You Can Buy Love
Does this expert-level brand/influencer “matchmaking” sound overblown, in an industry where people accept cash or free product willingly in exchange for their endorsement? It is true that you can pay for influencers to speak your praises. However, if their content isn’t based in an authentic connection with your brand, it won’t have the same resonance with the influencers’ fans. Stick to your core values as a content compass.
A great example of this is the now-legendary Tyson Foods partnership with an agency who enlisted a group of mom bloggers during the Christmas season to help solve Tyson’s problem of an excessive chicken nugget inventory. The agency had the influencers share pictures of decorated Tyson Chicken Nuggets as Christmas trees, reindeer and more with the message, “Why should cookies have all the fun?”
The pictures earned a collective 8.8 million impressions across various social media networks, and the company reported that their entire chicken nugget inventory was cleared out in a matter of weeks.
Alternatively, when influencer marketing goes wrong, things can go downhill in a hurry. This was the case when EA Games made the mistake of approaching the wrong influencer to promote Star Wars Battlefront. Benjamin Burnley of the band Breaking Benjamin posted a picture of a broken game disc with a few NSFW words expressing his displeasure. His 140,000+ fans got an ear and eye full of opinions, and the company faced a backlash of negative PR.
Steer clear of the dark side. Collaborate with an influencer who is also a customer (or a likely one), and whose content rings true with your target audience. But keep in mind that “ringing true” does not mean pretending like they’re not being compensated for their content, which brings us to our third myth…
Myth #3: Sponsored Content is a Turn Off
Some brands try to eschew FCC regulations and ask that their influencers avoid disclaimer hashtags in content, but recent studies show that the use of disclaimers doesn’t weaken the appeal of influencer content. A series of surveys from eMarketer explains that consumers appreciate the transparency and honesty from influencers who comply and use the hashtags. Fans understand that influencers often earn their living from sponsorship, and may even have more esteem for an influencer because she has the cache of collaboration with your brand.
The key is bringing on an influencer who has already promoted a similar product or has organic content that is related to the brand. Send eyeliner to beauty bloggers and tires to automotive experts. This strategy creates a natural flow in themes and doesn’t give off the “paid for” vibe for the audience.
Myth #4: Influencer Content = Instagram
While Instagram is full of influencers who make the case for brands by incorporating products into their lifestyle, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn each have their tribes. Influencers distribute relevant content to their audiences. It’s the relevancy that allows for successful influencer marketing campaigns.
Let’s break it down:
- Pinterest is the social media channel that consumers are most likely to visit when they have purchase intent, and it’s the ideal destination for all things crafty, beautiful, DIY, and design-related. Pinners like Bonnie Tsang guide shoppers to Kate Spade, The Gap, and other brands that jive with her “pinsperational” style. Wedding planners, foodies, fitness experts, interior designers, and travel influencers all live in this space and will happily create blogs that speak to your company’s virtues, which they will then memorialize by pinning them.
- Facebook offers multiple ways for influencers to espouse their love for your brand–via a static post, within a group, in a video, by going live, or even by integrating products within their series on the Facebook Watch. One innovator to watch is Foodie Crush, who has given props to food brands she’s worked with while doing live cooking demos–talk about multi-tasking!
- YouTube is both social media and search, and consumers who want to know “how to use eyeliner to make a cat eye” or “what is the best natural deodorant” head to the world’s second-largest search engine, where vloggers weigh in on their favorites. For companies selling consumer packaged goods in particular, liaisons with YouTube creators are key, but the channel is also a good fit for services that can be discussed in a video review.
- Twitter can be an ideal fit for a micro-niche business. Searchable hashtags will help with geolocation, unique products, and potential fans that fall into a bevy of demographic categories. Influencer Rick Griffin, who reached Twitter fame through his quirky travel tweets, now cruises around in a sponsored Toyota vehicle he drives to tailgates, while taking pictures with his Verizon-sponsored Samsung Galaxy.
Myth #5: Influencer Content Needs to Be Pretty
Brands who are used to working with graphic designers and copywriters as freelancers often expect influencer photography that matches their own aesthetic, and get concerned when a blog has a typo or an image is messy or grainy. But perfection isn’t the name of the game with influencer marketing–or marketing in general, these days. Note that brands like Modcloth don’t even use models anymore for their product advertising; it’s real people, all the time!
Consumers crave “real” people, experiences, and content. They want to be able to identify with people representing the brands they love. In an era where #nofilter and #iwokeuplikethis are trending hashtags, what makes influencer marketing so relevant is that there is a connection between a real, live human being, and her followers. Having this virtual one-on-one relationship with a community and its members allows room for imperfections, and perhaps even celebrates them. Does that mean you should ask influencers to not use spellcheck? No. But, be concerned most with their engagement, relevance, and authenticity, and if that’s all on point, a typo or two is like cake crumbs next to a fork: expected and a sign that what you’re experiencing is the real story.
Are you ready to enlist an army of influencers to rally up excitement for your brand? Contact us today for a FREE assessment of your company’s potential influencer community.