The New Rules of Influencer Marketing
Working with influencers has become an integral part of many brands’ growth strategies, but this whole “influencer marketing” concept is still so new that there is plenty of room for error. We’ve seen firsthand how megastars like the Kardashian/Jenner clan can shift the buying cycle and have items they promote sell out in minutes, but not everyone can afford these high-end celebrities. Instead, brands are left with millions of influencers on a multitude of platforms who have their own demands and pricing strategies, without proof that their content will actually promote sales. But the rules are changing, influencer marketing has become less and less about selling a “sponsored” one-off product but more about how your brand can resonate with a certain audience — a brand is essentially trying to create a relationship with a consumer, they need to think of new ways to start conversations and generate value for social audiences versus just sell, sell, sell. It’s hard to differentiate behind this “new” way of thinking since it’s been engrained in minds that influencers marketing goes hand in hand with a promoted post, but there’s more to it, and the rules of influencer marketing are changing, here’s how:
Influencers Don’t Influence Without A Purpose
When looking at what kind of influencers to partner with, a brand needs to understand how their product or service can fit seamlessly into the influencers personal life. A perfect example of this is a fitness blogger - if a fitness blogger constantly records their workouts, talks about what vitamins and protein powders they use, and gives fitness tips to their followers, a perfect brand to partner with them would be someone in that fitness niche. Brands make the mistake of just seeing a certain number of followers or engagement on an influencer’s page and automatically wanting to give them a product for a one-off post. But why would a fitness bloggers’ audience care about a blanket he or she uses? Or what watch they are wearing? This not only discredits the product itself because it’s so clear that the fitness blogger was paid to write this highly-advertised message but it also discredits the fitness blogger because his audience knows that he has no real recommendation about this product. It makes them question all the other recommendations that were given.
As a consumer, I only buy products from influencers who are an expert at what they are promoting — if I sense a fake promotion, I start to deviate away from the influencer and find a more trustable one. At the end of the day, I’m giving my money away so I want to make sure the product or service fulfills my need.
Influence Is Earned, Not Purchased
We’ve all seen people with Instagram accounts with 30K+ followers with only a few hundred likes and barely any comments on their photos….makes you question, did they purchase their followers? While purchasing followers can help build up social credibility, it’s actually hurts one’s ability to influence anyone. Real influencers are people who have actively engaged their audience by delivering incredible value, and through that value, they are able to make incredible recommendations. So if you’re a brand, I’d look for the engagement score of an influencer when partnering with them and if you’re an influencer, then I would organically build up your profile.
Increased Reliance of Peer Reviews
The power of peer-to-peer review has grown immensely in the last couple of years, from restaurants visited to products/services tried, people want to hear the experience of things that they haven’t yet tried. We’ve all done this first-hand on Amazon when buying a product but when we move to a platform like social media, comments are key. Recently, I saw this ad for a hair curler popping up everywhere on my feed, it looked magical and the ladies promoting it made it seem effortless and the curls came out beautiful. After some digging through the comments, I found out that the hair curling company was a scam company in China that was reselling used hair curlers. This just goes to show that even if you have a great influencer to promote your product, the quality is very important or the comments will kill your brand.
Promotions Graduate to Partnerships
Instead of relying on a one-off transaction model, brands are looking to tap into the influence these macro/micro-influencers have for long-term collaborations. A company who does this really well is the clothing brand, Revolve. Revolve turns mega-influencers into a fashion mogul — Aimee Song has been a Revolve girl for 10 years now and has raised them over $500 million in sales because of her Instagram influence. Recently, Revolve takes it a step further with Song and launches her own collection. So, why are brands looking for a long term collaboration with influencers? Influencers bring a different skill set to the table - they have the social media game down, they know their audience, curating content is a breeze, and brands are moving away from traditional media to storytelling. Brand’s are literally breeding influencers to turn into big fashion labels, it’s mind-blowing.
“Woke” Conversations Are A Must
With everything happening in the world, whether it’s questioning the presidency or opinions about the most recent abortion laws, it can be risky to post about your social and political thoughts when collaborating with a brand….but, influencers have the power to make a change. People follow influencers that they respect so if you’re an influencer, you should stand up for what you believe in so people can resonate with you on this level. This will hopefully encourage brands to take a riskier stance on political issues - young consumers increasingly back their shopping habits with their beliefs. Having an influencer that has these “woke” conversations can help tap into the influencer’s audience better.
Influencer marketing has grown over the years, I’m a huge supporter of it as long as you can spot the fakes and really find people who are passionate about the product or service and can help share their excitement with their audience. This does take more effort that just using followers numbers or pumping money into Facebook ads, but if you get it right, the results are worth it. The way I think about it, influencer marketing is a fancy way of making a great recommendation — I want to buy something that someone says will be useful to me and falls in my category of things I’m interested in. I’m excited to see where influencer marketing goes next, it’s always been a topic of interest for me, I’ll be exploring more marketing strategies in future posts.