by Jessica McCarthy, Op-Ed Contributor, November 3, 2016
It’s understandable why some people feel influencer marketing is a “sneaky” form of marketing — especially with major brand blunders frequently rearing their heads. The Bootea blunder featuring Scott Disick (a self-proclaimed Lord and part of the Kardashian crew) from earlier this year is an example of this. Disick infamously published instructions from a brand rep on the details of the Instagram post instead of the intended caption. To make matters worse, this was a photo for a controversial weight-loss brand with no sponsorship disclosure.
Blunders like this are not reflective of the true power that influencer marketing holds. The likes of these posts have a rapidly approaching expiry date. In the UK and the U.S. there are now clear guidelines set out by the ASA and FTC, respectively, for brands working with influencers, which requires clear partnership disclosure. In addition to this, consumers are calling out obvious or forced partnerships and have an expectation of transparency.
For as long as advertising has existed, industry folk have claimed that word of mouth (WOM) and PR are two of the strongest channels for winning brand love. Social media has created platforms where PR and WOM can be amplified like never before. Influencers are the perfect opportunity for brands to build brand advocacy to their target audiences, by partnering with the right influencer.
According to a 2015 Tomoson research report, influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel, beating organic search, paid search and email marketing. In addition, when asked 51% of marketers believe they acquired better-quality customers through influencer marketing compared to other channels. This indicates that the influencers’ WOM technique is effective in securing sales as well as brand awareness.
The term “influencer” will lead many to think Kardashians, Geordie Shore, TOWIE and other celebrities with a large following. While all those people do have influence over their fans, there are talented people who have a dedicated following: from up-and-coming chefs, foodies, performers, sports people, photographers, designers and more. If you can think of an interesting or obscure talent, then I bet there is someone out there with a social media profile with thousands of followers showing off what they do. And if not, then you might want to jump on that niche quickly! These talented and driven people are able to express themselves, share their skills and inspire others through social media. Their fans are engaged and devoted. When a brand is aligned to them, they create meaningful, authentic and rewarding partnerships because they have true influence over their fans.
In order to ensure success in influencer marketing campaigns, there are three crucial steps to consider:
- Be transparent – with the influencer, your fans and the influencers’ fans.
- Have a purpose – ensure that your content is more than someone smiling and holding the product. Challenge the influencers to move and create. Think how what they do best can work hand in hand with your brand or what your product does best.
- Nurture relationships – long-term relationships will prove to have more cut through as social media and influencers become more brand saturated. In a long-term partnership, influencers will take on a brand ambassador role and you’ll also find they put more effort into the relationship than in a one off transaction.
Influencer marketing will continue to be a transformative industry, for both brands and influencers who are committed to creating smarter, more collaborative and open relationships. That’s the best way to co-create great content that builds advocacy authentically and the key to an excellent ROI on your next campaign.