Influencer marketing (IM) is an exercise in product endorsement, brand promotion, public relations and community management… to name a few. Set apart from its marketing counterparts on account of its focus on people rather than markets, this strategy boosts brand awareness, customer loyalty and acquisition and positive word-of-mouth exposure.
A Quick Zoom into IM’s Boom
The boom of the influencer marketing industry is best illustrated by a 2105 Mediakix report of projected global ad spend for 2020 that was later updated in 2018 with higher projections than originally forecasted. In their words, ‘since then, much has changed in the influencer marketing ecosystem serving to reshape, disrupt, and grow the industry’ (Mediakix, 2018) . This market, then-predicted to reach $5-$10 billion by 2020, was re-estimated to garner up to $15 billion of ad spend from brands alone by 2022. And today? In the throes of 2020’s defining COVID-19 chaos, the IM industry has come out even stronger according to MarketsandMarkets (2020).
Welcome to the second chapter of our limited edition Picos article series Social Media Marketing for Dummies. Following on from our first article ‘Quick Tips to Build and Maintain a Strong Online Community’, we’re going to explore the hot marketing strategy that has taken the post-lockdown economy by storm: influencer marketing.
Answers to the Questions you felt too Awkward to Ask
Finding influencers and creating contra offers can seem like a strange way to gain social capital in the evolving online landscape. As a small business owner working with a constrained post-COVID-19 budget, the exchange of free goods or services for the promise of increased brand exposure can be hard to reconcile. Especially without a visible ROI or guarantee of profit. Yet, unsurprisingly, the IM industry has grown heartily since lockdowns around the world increased content consumption and the circulation of user generated content by significant margins. Whether you’re for or against this once-niche marketing strategy, your online presence will suffer in its absence. For this reason, we’re going to address the questions you felt too awkward to ask about IM, because in reality, we all had to ask them at some point.
1. But what even is an influencer?
Glad you asked. In the most general sense, an influencer is a person who is in a unique position to dictate demand, influence trends and affect purchasing decisions due to the scope of their online audiences. As you can imagine, the larger the following on social media, the greater the influence. This is particularly powerful for businesses looking to expand their customer base or promote a new product range. Even more so if influencers use their platform to affect positive change.
2. Can’t anybody just buy followers to be an influencer?
You raise a good point. There certainly are influencers out there who have bought their fame, but believe it or not, online users can spot a fraud from a mile away. As their name suggests, influencers need to establish a relationship with real people in order to have any sway. This involves ongoing community management, self promotion and, to some degree, censorship – because you just can’t buy popularity. By the same token, their lifestyle, politics, appearance and personality need to be favourable under the intense scrutiny of the public eye. So, to answer your question, it takes a community to build an influencer.
3. What is User Generated Content and why is it important?
Good question. User Generated Content, or UGC, is used in marketing and academic circles to refer to photos, videos or statuses created and uploaded by independent online users instead of brands or big companies. Shared by real people instead of models or ambassadors, this material is more easily received by wider audiences on account of its perceived authenticity. Not to mention, it affects 90% of consumers that seek out online reviews or recommendations posted by peers, instead of flashing ads or promotional emails sent by brands. Put bluntly, UGC is the currency by which influencers maintain their relevance and popularity.
4. So how does an exchange normally work?
Collaborating with an influencer is pretty easy. The first thing you should do is determine what you’re prepared to offer and what you want in exchange for it. Established influencers already know their going rate for a set number of posts or stories and the conversation would go a little something like this:
You: “Hey ____. Love your profile and what you’re about. We’d love to collab with you in exchange for X posts, a couple of stories and a Google review. This would be in return for a free _____ for yourself plus a friend. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, we’d love to hear from you!”
Influencer: “Hey ____, thank you so much for reaching out. I love your brand and would be delighted to come in with a friend and take your _____ for a spin in exchange for a post, story and review. Let me know which date works best for you and I’ll pencil it into my diary!”
5. What if the influencer doesn’t agree with my terms?
If an influencer wants to revise the conditions of your agreement, you can do one of two things. Firstly, if their conditions are agreeable to you, or you really want to work with them, you can make an exception and create a new agreement. Alternatively, if you don’t agree with their terms, you might need to walk away. Both arrangements are quite common in the world of influencer marketing. This conversation would go a little something like this:
Influencer: “Hey _______! Thanks for reaching out. I would love to collaborate with you but am only prepared to post a story and leave a review. Let me know if this works for you.”
You: “Hey _______ .Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, our marketing budget only caters for an exchange that involves all of the previously mentioned conditions. We hope you can understand! If you happen to be in town and change your mind, we’d love to work with you in the future.”
“You: “Hey _______ .Thanks for getting in touch. Sure, that works for us! When would you like to come in?”
6. What can I do if the influencer leaves a bad review?
That’s a tricky one. If an influencer you’ve collaborated with leaves you a bad review, the best thing you can do is make them feel valued and heard. Not only is this important for maintaining customer loyalty, but it’s critical for your brand’s reputation. Your potential and existing customers may very well be watching this dialogue unfold, so you need to appear sincere, diligent and understanding. Get back to any negative reviews as soon as possible to de-escalate tension and reassure customers of your support. As with the fundamentals of public relations, always express empathy and responsibility. Avoid deflecting blame at all costs.
7. What do I do if I fulfil my end of the deal and the influence hasn’t?
Unfortunately, not a lot. In reality, contra collaborations work on the premise of trust and, sometimes, you can get the odd ball that neglects their end of the bargain. If you have already reached out to no avail, the best thing you can do is avoid working with them in the future and cutting your losses there. Mitigating risk really comes down to ensuring that the offer you’ve established won’t hurt your business if something falls through. CAUTION: do not name and shame or use your social media account as a platform to publicly pursue them. This will be a disaster for your brand’s reputation. When trying to resolve disputes, make sure that your communications are professional. One screenshot is all it takes!
8. Which platform is best used for influencer marketing?
Well, this depends on your brand’s identity and where your target audience spend most of their time online. Generally, Instagram is the most popular platform for influencer marketing due to its explicitly visual nature. Influencers post pictures, videos and stories that can be viewed by their followers, or if they’re profile is public, then anybody. They also tag your brand in the image and its accompanying caption, allowing you to repost it on your feed and engage with their community in the comments section. This makes for brilliant engagement, brand awareness and increased traffic to your profile.