Ah influencers. For years they’ve been the holy grail for brands, PRs and marketers alike, a phenomenon that has changed the way we work, and the media landscape as a whole. They’re the brand ambassadors, the direct line to the consumer, the new age celebrity. But are they worth the hype?
I heard an interesting argument the other day where someone boldly stated that ‘influencers are a waste of time and money’. Needless to say, I disagree, but it was fascinating hearing that person’s ‘why’. It made me realise that everything we think we know about influencers is changing faster than the Instagram algorithm.
In this day and age where our phones are glued to our hands, influencer marketing is still one of the strongest performers when it comes to building brand awareness. However, it will never be a strong performer if you’re just not doing it right. So how can we really tap in to the influence of influencers?
BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
Brands get excited about the idea of working with a mega influencer, without really thinking about whether that’s the right fit for their brand. A great example of this is when I worked with an iconic swimsuit brand who were caught up on the idea of working with a mega influencer who mainly posted bikini shots. Sure, she was perfect on paper – Her huge following, high engagement rate, combined with the fact that she would look great in their bikinis, and it had her practically ‘sold’ in the brands mind. However, when I delved into her audience, the majority of them were men. Men were clearly not the target audience or the people who would be considering buying the brand’s swimsuits. The lesson here is that don’t get caught up on the idea that bigger is better. Analyse the influencer to ensure you’re understanding everything about them because looks can be deceiving.
FORGET ENGAGEMENT, GO FOR REACH
As we’ve navigated our way through understanding what’s important when it comes to the ROI, it seems we’ve all gotten caught up on one result – engagement. We used to believe that beyond a high following, a high engagement rate was all that mattered. Well, I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as it used to. Why? Because our social media habits have changed. With the introduction of things like Instagram Stories, our scrolling habits now mean that we are now more likely look at a post and ‘like’ it, but not physically tap on that photo. So, when an influencer shows up with a low engagement rate, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t seeing and liking their posts. Forget about engagement and ask to see an influencer’s reach. The reach refers to the number of eyeballs on a photo, or the total number of unique accounts that have seen the post or the story. That’s what really matters now.
BE WARY OF GUNS FOR HIRE
A ‘gun for hire’ is an influencer who likely has a large following, but they are posting regularly about a lot of different brands. This usually means their followers have clued onto this fact and are less likely to believe what they’re saying. Sure, they might still get the likes and engagement you’re after, but if their followers aren’t going to buy the product, then you really do need to re-look at your objectives. If it’s sales you’re after, be wary. A great example is beauty influencers. We all know the ones that have huge followings but post about 10 different products each day, and sometimes even competing products in the same week. It’s pretty clear they’re being paid as a gun for hire, and it doesn’t make much sense to throw your beauty brand into the mix. The costs for these influencers is usually high and you do need to decide whether it will it really get the traction you’re after and deliver on ROI. Guns for hire do serve a purpose sometimes because there are still many out there that wield incredible power, just be sure to do your research first.
DON’T DISCOUNT THE VALUE OF CONTENT
Followers, likes, engagement, reach… These are typically the things we’re looking at when deciding on the value of an influencer, but don’t discount the power of really great content. Most influencers have large followings because they create premium content so make sure you factor that in when deciding who to work with. If they don’t have the kind of following or reach you’re after, consider the value of the content they’re creating and what it can do for your brand.
TAP INTO THE POWER OF NANO AND MICRO INFLUENCERS
Nano influencers area new breed ofinfluencerwho will typically have less than 1,000 followers, whereas a Micro influencer will have less than 10,000. Now before you start saying that they’re not an ‘influencer’, hear me out. These ‘influencers’ are simply normal, everyday people. They don’t have a large following, but what they do have is a genuine following. Their followers are likely people they know, have met somewhere or are friends of friends. They have stronger relationships than a typical influencer and will often get an average of two-to-five times more organic engagementper Instagram post, compared to those with more hundreds of thousands of followers. The thing that makes them more credible is that their audience trusts them, which is more uncommon when it comes to larger influencers or those guns for hire who regularly work with brands. Now before you build your entire influencer strategy around nano and micro influencers, remember that they are regularly people (meaning they are not professionals and may not do the job the way you like). Because they don’t regularly work with brands and aren’t treating influencing as a full-time profession, they might need a bit (or a lot) of hand holding. This can mean implementation is a lot more time consuming and the outcome might not be as desired.
CHOOSE INFLUENCERS WITH MEDIA INTEREST
Remember that many influencers are essentially today’s celebrity, so use this to your advantage. Brands usually think about this as an afterthought but in fact it should be one of the key things you consider before signing on the dotted line. If you can build a whole campaign with an influencer that involves content, social reach and PR, then you’re on the right track. Media outlets are caring more and more about what influencers are doing, so build out a strategy with this in mind. Just make sure that the influencer already has media interest or a great story to tell, otherwise it can be a harder sell to journalists.