How to win influencers (and not alienate your customers)

Influencer marketing is huge. But you don’t need us to tell you that. 

92% consumers trust influencers more than an advert or traditional celebrity endorsement, with 40% Twitter users admitting that they’ve bought a product as a direct result of a social personality recommendation. As a result, brands have been taking it on in their drones, with 94% of those using it believing it effective and 48% planning on increasing their spend during 2017. However with great growth comes great responsibility, and a huge explosion of new influencers (and the number of companies using them) combined with the advent of automated ways of bidding, leaves the fresh favourite of many at risk of reaching a saturation point. 

With more competition to work with the best influencers and a huge number of competing messages even when you do, how can you ensure your 2017 influencer strategy cuts above the noise and gets itself heard? 

It’s all in the target

There’s a reason you’ll often be competing with others for certain names and, shock horror, it’s usually not based on a huge following alone. The most coveted influencers have an extremely personal and close relationship with their audience; concentrating on topics relevant to them and creating authentic, interesting content as a result. It’s not the number of followers that matter, it’s the number of engaged followers – and it’s sometimes those with less that have the power to get a message heard. Considering the Twitter engagement rate for those with 1,000 followers is around 5 times higher than those with 100,000, it’s not surprising that 2016 quickly became dubbed the year of the ‘micro-influencer’ – social personalities with less fans (often between 1,000 – 10,000), but a particular focus that gives them gravitas in certain topics.  
It’s all about keeping the focus on what audience you want and who is the best person to reach them – only a very small percentage of Kim Kardashian’s followers would be interested in professional sportswear for example, but a huge amount of fans for a local sports star with far less followers would be. 

Don’t bend the rules

Between July 2015 and July 2016, the number of sponsored posts (tagged #sp or #sponsored) on Instagram tripled. With more competition on major channels, it can be tempting to feign authenticity through not declaring a paid-for post, or asking influencers to masquerade a gift as a genuine buy. However, it’s something the authorities are getting hotter on, with FTC guidelines tightened regularly and greater penalties (and public displays of the penalties) for those who disobey. 
It’s a worrying fact that according to one SheSpeaks survey, 25% influencers had been asked by a brand to not disclose that something they were paid to post was an advert. However, it’s these brands that are missing the wood for the trees in their activity; if you’ve chosen your influencer well enough, the content will be well-fitting regardless of whether it’s paid or not. Not only are you running the risk of huge penalties and public humiliation for not declaring paid posts, you’re also at risk of breaking trust with your consumers – something that can’t be bought back. 

Invest in measuring your return

How do you measure a metric like influence? It’s never going to be an easy checklist exercise directly linking website visits or sales to one day of activity, however the way we consider our data and relate it back to campaigns is crucial in ensuring the best influencer strategies. If you’re not seeing results linked to your KPIs, you need to ask yourself why: is it because you haven’t targeted your campaign well enough, or is it because you’re creating unrealistic expectations?
Remember, your influencer campaign is part of a wider strategy and just one touch point on a customer’s journey. To get the best ROI out of any campaign, you need to think of the bigger picture and where your consumer is at that particular moment in time – what constitutes success at that stage; is it a follow on social media, increased awareness of your brand, or simply just the opportunity to broadcast yourself to a captive and large audience? 

Importance of relationships

All of the above links back to one over-arching concept; the importance of relationships. With more companies competing for the biggest names, it’s the brands who focus on the long-term association (not expensive bribes) that ultimately succeed.  
Any successful influencer campaign needs to be a two-way street, mutually beneficial for both parties; like journalists in newspapers, influencers need relevant content to keep their audience engaged and interested. Any brands working with an influencer need to ensure they are thinking of their feed too – will the content fit with their usual offering and, if not, is it definitely the right channel to go down? 
We’re constantly competing with changes to algorithms on social channels that favour quality over quantity and the moment a piece of content jars, it’s less likely to be shown to as large an audience let alone be engaged with. 

When it comes to influencer relationships, the only way you’re ever going to win is by using the mantra authenticity over automation. There’s no clear cut way to achieve success and your strategy will always be unique to you. Influencers are more than just a sales board or sales channel; they are a human representation of where a brand wants to be seen and who they believe will be interested in what they offer. If you’re not creating the relationship with them, you won’t be creating it with your customers either. 

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