Once upon a time, influencer marketing looked like this: brands threw money at big names with big followings and prayed that the resulting #ad would have some sort of effect. Not anymore. Consumers, brands and influencers are all getting savvier, and there are more and better ways than ever to develop smart, strategic collaborations that pay off for everyone.
Trust is the engine that powers influencer marketing. Influencers are more like friends than celebrities, which is why their endorsements can be so powerful. But consumers can spot when they’re being sold to, and trust is a fickle commodity. An inauthentic influencer-brand collaboration wastes time, money, and has a better chance of alienating betrayed followers than attracting prospective buyers.
“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever”
Keith Weed, former Unilever CMO on the state of the influencer marketing industry
The answer? Partner with true brand ambassadors – ideally influencers who are already using and mentioning your brand, and at least someone whose own brand has a natural affinity with yours. An authentic partnership with a true fan makes for a trusting relationship. And that means more creative freedom, better quality content, and the right audience for your message.
Don’t default to chasing down influencers with the biggest followings. Instead, take a step back and figure out what you want to get out of your influencer campaign. Ask yourself whether you’re after…
Reach: Even when your main aim is to get the word out about your brand, follower-count is not the be-all-and-end-all. Enlisting the biggest names takes time and money, a lot of which could end up wasted on the wrong audience. Make sure your reach is relevant, and don’t discount micro-influencers. They might have fewer followers, but chosen wisely, they can provide better reach by igniting a word-of-mouth ripple effect through strong engagement with the right audience.
Engagement: Don’t stop at likes; grab your smartphone, get comfy, and dive into a full-on scroll session. It won’t take long for you to get a feel for the quality of an influencer’s interactions with their audience. Look for the ones who are having conversations, answering questions, and reciprocating engagement on followers’ content.
Specificity: If you’re targeting a niche audience – whether that’s a youth sub-culture or the in-office gatekeepers to cloud storage solutions – influencer partnerships can be a great way of getting your foot in the door. Teaming up with someone who’s firmly entrenched in your niche can fast-track your brand building with the right audience. You may find that working with micro-influencers works well: their follower bases, usually of around 10,000 people, are highly engaged and relevant. And look outside the world of social media stars. If your niche is hi-tech outdoor clothing, for example, your most effective influencer might be found at the mountain face, rather than the Instagram interface, vlogging about a recent climb.
Positive sentiment: Think about the sort of brand story you’re telling, and who will be able to tell that story best. Some influencers are all about inspiring their audience, others offer expert advice, and others function as relatable but trusted peers. Which one’s right for you is all down to what you’re hoping to achieve.
Build it and they will come
And the best way to attract all these engaged, talented, knowledgeable influencers? Be a brand worth connecting with. The stronger and more compelling your story, the easier it will be to enlist the influencers you want to work with. Even then, trawling the internet to find and get to know the most relevant talent can be time-consuming and therefore costly.
We built The Influence Room with the intention of saving brands a considerable amount of that talent finding time. Brands simply post an opportunity and wait for relevant, interested influencers to engage. It takes time to grow a trusted brand, of course, but we aim to fast-forward that process for you.