Influencers are a key part of many marketing campaigns these days, so we asked experts for their top tips for creating campaigns that deliver the best results.
1. Do your research
Gordon Glenister, founder of BCMA Influence, association for influencer marketing agencies and platforms: “Do your research before contacting an influencer, making sure they align with your goals, they haven’t worked with a close competitor, are responsive to their audience, have quality content and use the proper advertising disclosures. And when you do reach out to them, make sure that you’ve already engaged with them before, maybe with likes and comments. It shows them that you are interested in them and not just wanting to promote stuff.”
2. Start early
Gordon Glenister: “The best campaigns are based on true collaboration, so if you can bring influencers and content creators earlier into an intended project that works well. They will often help you create content that inspires and engages your audiences in a way you have not considered.”
3. Give a creative brief
Natasha Lawless, senior account executive at agency Aduro Communications: “The more creative the brief, the more empowered influencers are to take control of their own creative content and to produce something entirely original and different from the rest of their feed. It gives them the capacity to think outside the box and to feel totally connected to the brand they are producing the content for. It shows them that you trust their ability to create content that is engaging as they know what works well for their audience.
“Something we’ve done recently is send influencers props such as confetti canons and balloons (obviously this was a particularly fun and joyful campaign) which they could use in their own unique styles for authenticity whilst still maintaining some level of brand consistency.
“Adding this creative sprinkling into the brief showed our influencers what we were looking for without actually telling them, which is a powerful tool in building influencer relations.”
4. Don’t be fooled
Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental: “Influencer marketing isn't new. There have been influencers from the beginning of time and likely to be for quite some time to come. It's a new buzzword for an age-old approach. If you don't get this and see it as a new area to conquer, you’re likely to make errors. The environment is saturated with everyone wanting to be the next big creator or influencer. Even with established influencers, many things are not what they seem. Much is evolving, as it should, but to think influencer marketing is a brand new shiny thing isn't healthy. Trust your gut, reinforcing this with data and science will increase success, reduce failure (and that's not a bad thing) and enable a safer environment to explore managed risk. Not all activity or campaigns have to include influencer marketing just because it's the newest trend to jump on!”
5. Focus on the outcome
Tim Gibbon: “Counting fans, followers, likes, reach and not the outcomes is perilous. Forget the following and even engagement to a degree. Instead, look to the outcome of the activity and campaigns. What are you trying to achieve? Whats's the objective? Many macro-influencers may have an impressive follower count, but when they are everything to everyone, fatigue is your enemy and their content is unlikely to cut through. Review all influencers and the impact their content has on audiences and who else they may work with.”
6. Lawyer up
Tim Gibbon: “Temper the excitement that you're going to be managing influencer marketing activity or a campaign with the practical commercial things you need to do as a business. Get governance and legal involved from the outset and have watertight service legal agreements (SLAs) which work for all parties. You don't want to stifle creativity and the great content influencers can create and enhance but you also don't want to unnecessarily expose the brand to negativity and a range of unhealthy attention.”
7. Metrics matter
Jenny Tsai, CEO and founder of influencer marketing platform Wearisma: “PRs must avoid the temptation to focus solely on vanity metrics and ensure influencer marketing is authentic and transparent. We are seeing a new wave of savvy brands and communications professionals moving away from a focus on purely traditional influencers to a wider pool of consumer advocates - follower counts may be smaller, but their influence is no less powerful. Community engagement is at the heart of influencer engagement these days.
“Metrics matter - not just likes and follows, but also understanding what influencers, whether micro or macro, can really deliver results. It’s important for PRs to understand how they can both identify the right people to work with and also measure and benchmark the results of campaigns.”
8. Put the audience first
Sophie Bannister, head of creative development at communications agency M&C Saatchi Talk: “Regularly, we see brands fall at the final hurdle by publishing content that is very obviously an #ad, because they have micromanaged the influencers they have worked with. Audiences are more accepting of sponsored content than ever before with only one caveat - it must be interesting.
“However, influencers are experts in understanding what their audience will respond well to, so don’t just lean on them for the data, but also for the creative excellence that you recognised them for.
“We see the strongest results when we think audience-first rather than trying to control the message. By building partnerships with influencers, allowing them to take the creative lead, you will see far better results. Take the ‘brand’ hat off and replace it with a consumer one. Step back and assess - would you like, comment on, or share this piece of content? If the answer is no, then why would anyone else?”
9. Avoid cheap promotion
Amelia Neate, senior manager at speaker agency Champions UK: “Select an influencer with the right audience. Brands gain from mutual association only when influencer, product and audience cohere. The campaign is essentially void if one of these is mismatched.”
10. Cast your net wide
Adnan Bashir, senior manager for global corporate communications at Hansen Technologies: “Whether it’s promoting a new product, a campaign or a cause, do not put all your eggs in one basket. Broaden your horizons and understand the value of casting a wider net into the influencer pool, beyond just your perceived core niche. By pursuing the same influencers for every product plug or launch event on a recurring basis, you inherently limit opportunities for your client’s brand. Apart from the fact that even your loyal contacts may get annoyed at being harried for every brand announcement, the payoff from engaging with a different set of influencers can be immense, such as reaching a previously untapped demographic, speaking to a larger number of people and, if you’re lucky, possibly winning over a new influencer as a brand evangelist."
11. Bigger isn’t always better
Jade Margiotta, group social media manager at communications consultancy Social: “Don’t under-estimate the power of micro influencers. Bigger isn’t always better -whilst traditional influencers are almost perceived as “celebrities” nowadays, micro-influencers with between 1-10k followers are infinitely more relatable and very influential in their own right. These smaller, niche experts almost always connect on a deeper level with their audiences and can generate brilliant engagement.”
12. Know who you are working with
Florence Love, digital marketing specialist at camping specialist OLPRO: “When you're working with influencers, it’s really important to establish whether they are a hobby blogger or whether they use their platform as their full-time job. This will really determine what kind of work they will do for you.
“The positives of them being a hobby blogger is that they will usually give you more back in terms of content. They also tend to be more relaxed with contracts and prices.
“The positives of working with a full-time blogger is that they will usually have a much larger following and therefore your product will usually get a larger reach.”
13. Think about ROI
Jade Margiotta: “Don’t throw huge sums of money at a name, purely because of “the name”. Think about your ROI - often, that budget can be better utilised by spending less on a micro influencer and using the remaining budget to amplify via paid media - the tracking and targeting available through branded content ads means reduced waste which will help ensure that target ROI is met.”
14. Brand alignment is key
Eileen Pegg, content specialist at agency Tank PR: “Brand alignment is key. By now, customers understand that lots of the product posts they see on their feed will be part of a partnership - the Advertising Standards Agency made this transparency essential in 2018, introducing #ad for paid posts. Pushing for a collaboration that isn’t a natural match for an influencer or their audience just won’t work - they’ll keep scrolling, disengage and your brand’s reputation will suffer. People don’t like things being forced on them, especially in such a personal and curated space.
“Keep this in mind when contacting influencers too. Spend time drafting a thought-out message or email, explaining why you’d like to work together. Commenting on a post ‘asking for a collab’ doesn’t make them feel special. It gives the impression that you’re sending the same blanket outreach to lots of accounts, regardless of how relevant they are.
“If you’re doing this, you need to rethink your strategy. Instead, build up a natural relationship and work with influencers that are genuine brand ambassadors, and be open about your budget and expectations from the start. Sometimes these might be micro influencers, rather than those with the biggest following. You’ll soon see real engagement from just the right customers, and can enjoy a long-lasting relationship that supports both parties.”
15. Make it personal
Stacey Kedwards, PR and social media manager at integrated agency ilk: “Whether you’re working with a talent’s management agency or dealing directly with the influencer in question, adding that all-important personal touch can make a world of difference.”
16. End on a high
Stacey Kedwards: “Take the time to thank the influencer for working together, and for the content produced, it will leave them with a positive experience and thus increasing your chances of working together in the future.”
You can find recent influencer research here
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