Influencer marketing seems to be one of the hottest ‘debates’ on social media at the moment. Yet not long ago, influencer marketing was becoming increasingly unpopular. This was due to the lack of consumer trust for reasons such as: breaches in GDPR, Instagram declarations of ad sponsorship, and rise of youtubers, just to name a few. These regulations and large investments did not attain its anticipated returns therefore brands had to re-think their influencer marketing strategies; subsequently, consumers became well aware of the ‘pay to play’ and in turn, trust in social media was visibly depreciated among the target audience. To add to that, 61% of consumers having unfollowed an influencer because “they work with inappropriate brands” or “endorse too many products,” while 43% felt influencers themselves are “often inauthentic” and “work with brands they don’t believe in”.
However, influencer marketing as a strategy was never the issue. It was how influencer marketing was used within a campaign that had to go beyond just a mere product placement or endorsement. Often brands become so caught up in their respective campaigns and launches that they can only envisage the process of consumer engagement as being directly correlating to an influencer’s fan following and subsequent monetary value. Yet, the potential lies much deeper. It is essentially about a meaningful relationship between an influencer and the brand they are in association with; here’s how we believe influencer marketing can still make a positive difference to campaigns today:
Remember that ultimately your end audience is the consumer. For the influencer to have mass appeal they must meaningfully be engaged with the content they are making. If the content itself is not impactful, then their reach becomes worthless. The key is to figure out what the influencer is passionate about and whether it resonates with the long-term brand vision for a guaranteed creation of engaging content.
In order to maximise results and create authenticity, invest in long term relationships which will eventually convert influencers into brand ambassadors. This will ensure regular content and the opportunity to engage audiences in the art of effective storytelling. A prime example of this sort of brand strategy has been recently adopted by Sephora who went on the hunt for Instagram influencers to form part of its new #SephoraSquad influencer program, comprising of 24 influencers who will have an ongoing relationship with the brand through the year to create sponsored content. Each influencer was bought on onboard with meaning, purpose and long-term haul.
Influencers are innately creative people with defined styles, and it is these styles that have attracted their audiences. They also know their audience better than any brand. Go beyond direct product launches and campaigns. A brand should ensure they allow sufficient time to personally (or through the influencer) engage with the community affiliated to the influencer. Respect this style when working with influencers and allow them creative freedom. A relationship built on mutual trust is one that will succeed.
Through the above, if there is one common takeaway, it simply is that influencer marketing is more about meaningful ‘influencer engagement’ than anything else. Global brands must not lose their confidence to influencers. Some brands are merely hiring influencers as ‘brand ambassadors’, using them as a platform rather than a medium to their consumers. That is a key point from which the problems stem from – not enough time invested in ‘effective’ influencer engagement.
The relationship between a brand and influencer should be mutually beneficial; and not limited to a paid relationship. Influencer engagement is actually about identifying intersections between both the brand and the influencer’s objectives and optimising this mutually crossed path. The latter could range from creating relevance to a particular audience, building credibility around a theme or issue, to simply increasing awareness of its proposition (volume). All while remembering that Influencers (‘professional’ or otherwise) have their own, distinct agendas.
In essence, influencer marketing in the past has walked the hall of shame purely because brands have carried out their strategies of not investing in meaningful relationships at the heart of their vision. In actuality, engaging influencers with thought and consideration is what provides longevity and meaning to one’s campaign. It is vital for brands to understand both influencer marketing and engagement as compliment and that the key to a successful PR/Marketing strategy, if there is an interim, it boils down to ‘consideration’.