Anyone who still doesn't think Influencer marketing is a worthwhile investment needs to take a look around. Go scroll through Instagram and keep an eye out for branded products clearly in focus, shaker bottles framed nicely and in the corner, t-shirts tugged tight to show the logo, and even comedic skits that subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) weave a brand into the narrative.
Want an example? Here's Insta-famous Liane V and her counterpart, King Sam Jones III baking a cake to the tune of 50 Cent's "Candy Shop." Brands galore.
Combined, they have a reach of close to 4.5M on Instagram alone.
If you are a brand contemplating spending money on Influencer marketing, you have to think about it as hyper-targeted television. People follow people they like, they watch, and who hold their attention. So if you want their attention, you can't expect them to look away from something more entertaining than you (let's face it, Instagram models and comedians are more entertaining). You have to weave your narrative into theirs, in a way that (hopefully) isn't intrusive or compromising to the influencer.
I have been particularly fascinated by influencer marketing because I've watched the industry grow first-hand over the past five years. I remember when I first started hearing about influencers on Vine earning six-figure incomes by being content creators for big brands. I was floored. I started to realize that influencers were solving two major issues for companies.
First, they were providing targeted exposure.
But second, they were acting as new-age creative directors. These young, Millennial influencers understood what people wanted to watch on social media, and created content that was resonating with millions of viewers.
Old school commercials just don't cut it anymore.
On the topic of how to actually run an effective influencer marketing campaign, I was chatting withJoel Contartese, who has managed over $10M in ad spends with influencers. If there's anyone who knows how to make a campaign successful (and avoid embarrassing mistakes), it's him.
Here's what you need to know:
1. Look for influencers that align with the brand on a genuine level.
"The first thing I look at when I'm selecting influencers for a branded campaign is how they align with the brand's already established narrative," said Contartese. "Can I picture this person using this particular product in their daily lives? Influence isn't just about numbers. It's about emotion. The brand has to resonate with the person."
You would be surprised how many brands overlook this first, and extremely crucial step. They look purely at Followers and engagement, almost entirely disregarding the person, their personality, and how they might uniquely represent the brand.
Don't make the mistake of spending money on someone with a big audience, yet clearly doesn't mesh with what your brand is all about.
2. Understand whether the influencer has a presence across multiple platforms.
"Another thing you need to look at is their cross-platform presence. This will give you an idea of how loyal their fan base is. Some influencers have massive reach across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and some are stars on just one platform," said Contartese.
Both cases have their pros and cons. Sometimes, you (as a brand) aren't looking for the big celebrity influencers. Smaller, niche-specific influencers can be equally as impactful. And furthermore, some campaigns are designed to thrive on, say, Instagram only.
It's important to be aware of what metrics you're tracking, and making decisions accordingly.
3. Let the influencer lead the content creation part of the campaign.
This, right here, is the biggest mistake most brands make when working with influencers: they don't give the influencers creative freedom.
"Influencers are experts at connecting with their audiences. You should let them play to that strength. I think it's always important to provide direction based on your brand goals, but you should give them creative freedom to do what they do best. After the first campaign is launched, then you should always reconnect with them and discuss results, so they also understand performance and will keep that in mind when building the next one. After a few runs, the influencer starts to understand not only what resonates best with their audience, but how that piece of content is going to affect the performance of the entire campaign," said Contartese.
4. Know the difference between celebrity influencers and home-grown influencers.
Are you looking for Kendall Jenner exposure and PR? Or are you looking to target die-hard, niche consumers in a particular industry?
"It really depends on the goal," said Contartese. "Celebrity influencers are great for driving traffic and creating content, which can be repurposed for PR/marketing efforts. Since it takes repetition to really associate the genuine interest of an influencer to a brand, a celebrity may not be cost effective for you and your company. Home-grown influencers are the complete opposite. They won't drive massive traffic or revenue, but they will create a more genuine experience for the viewers and often times grow with the brand in a more organic and less 'forced' way. I think both types of influencers have their role, but you need to understand the purpose of your campaign so that you can choose the right partners and set realistic expectations."
5. Always bring the individual message back to the overall story.
Influencer marketing goes wrong when the people running the campaigns put more emphasis on the word "marketing" than they do "influence."
"Storytelling is most definitely an art, and there are not many influencers out there who actually do this at a high level. It's not so much about the story but how you tell it. It's about your ability to genuine connect with your users in a way where it makes you feel that this is a normal day-to-day moment, and not something overly planned or structured," said Contartese.
So, before you go spending money on Influencers, take a moment to consider what story you're actually telling. Don't just treat the Influencers you're working with as modern-day billboards.