It's 2018. What's your marketing strategy for the year?
Depending on the size of your business you may have a go with the flow approach or you may have a strategic game plan for each month. I advise the latter no matter your size, but regardless influencer marketing should be included in your budget and plan.
Influencer marketing can be intimidating if you don't know the best practices. I've worked with influencers as a brand manager and marketing director for three different companies now. Yesterday I shared a post on influencer marketing 101. It gives you some insight on why this tactic is so powerful so check it out here first and then come back to read this. Tonight I'm sharing a few tips for brands and companies who want to work with influencers or already are.
Before I can give you tips on working with influencers, you need to know what your brand is which may require some soul searching within your company. You should know your target audiences, your brand story, your brand persona, and your marketing goals. You should also have a marketing budget.
Ready for the tips on working with inlfuencers? Here they are:
Finding an influencer
To find influencers within your niche that align with your mission and will add value to your brand takes some research. Do NOT go in blindly and work with anyone and everyone. There are multiple services to find influencers such as Fohr Card and Style Collective, but you can also find them on your own using hashtags or key words. Once you find one, you can usually go to their "following" list and see what other influencers they follow. If you're a local business, work with local influencers to start because, more than likely, a good chunk of their followers will be within your geographic area.
Engagement and authenticity matter. Just because an influencer has 50K followers does not mean that all of those followers are real. To determine authenticity: Look at their following number then look at engagement on photos. If they have 50K followers and have under 1000 likes on a photo, those ratios are not great. Are the comments only from other bloggers? Do the comments just say "nice," "good shot," "great"? These are all possible indications of unauthentic engagement. You can also take a look at who follows the influencer. Are these followers your target audience?
Ask the influencer for a case study. You will find several of these below, but there is no harm in asking for examples of previous work they've done that might be similar to what you are asking. You can also ask for details on sales driven from a campaign or analytics on web traffic from a campaign.
Finding the best influencers for your brand does take some trial and error so make sure to do your research on all their platforms before making an agreement. Wondering about affiliate programs versus direct partnerships? Keep reading.
Working with Influencers - Consistency is key
I've discovered that consistent partnerships work best especially for micro-influencers (in my opinion these are influencers with under 20K). In other words, bi-monthly or monthly partnerships should be considered. These consistent partnerships also help build brand loyalty. This article is does a really good job at explaining the benefits of working with mircroinfluencers.
One Instagram post is not enough. Unless you are working with an influencer that has insane engagement and probably over 50K followers, one Instagram post is not enough for your brand. Work with the influencer to determine the best amount of posts for both of you, but remember that the influencer cannot post the same shirt in 6 posts in a month.
Working with Influencers -All about the content
Be clear and concise in what you are looking for, but don't be limiting. Don't tell the influencer how to write a caption or a blog post. You are hiring them because you trust them to speak on behalf of your brand. As a marketing director for Sweet Olive, here's what I ask for:
Upon receiving the item, do an opening session on IG story and tag @shopsweetolive as well as #ShopSweetOlive
The item must be posted on IG, FB, and Pinterest within 7-10 days of receiving and Sweet Olive must be tagged.
We ask that you share a second IG story of the item in some way.
Share your personal code in your posts. Code will be 15% off for your followers.
Know the difference between a dedicated post and an integrated post. A dedicated post should be social posts and/or a blog post 100% about your brand and the influencer's experience with it. An integrated post will highlight your brand, but might be a post about another topic. Here's an example of an integrated post in case you are curious.
Ask the influencer what kind of content performs well for them. For me the content that performs highest is: anything about my hair/beauty, travel posts, how to style X, influencer marketing posts and life posts. This is something to take into consideration when determining content.
Remember that it's not all about Instagram. Any influencer will tell you how frustrated they are with the algorithm and while Instagram is important, it's not the end all be all. For example, Pinterest does so well for me because I have strategy behind it. I just started this strategy over the summer and have gained 1500 followers 100% organically. I have pins that get upwards of 1K saves plus it drives about 20% of my blog traffic. I've attached a glimpse of my analytics below (this is a screenshot from today, Jan 22).
To wrap this section up, you need to be thinking about content as a whole. Not just one platform. It goes back to the integrated marketing communication approach that I discussed in yesterday's post.
Working with Influencers -Payment and Pricing
Don't tell an influencer you don't have a budget. Literally every business has a marketing budget or marketing tactics and if you don't, you should really look at your business practices. I understand not wanting to pay an influencer because it feels like a risk and it is, but so are all marketing tactics. But, can you imagine if someone came into your business and said, "Well I really just want to try this body scrub (or lipstick or shirt or whatever you sell) for free first to make sure I like it." You would be like "HECK NO" and you wouldn't have a business if you gave everyone something for free.
That being said, not every influencer should be paid and some definitely overcharge. Unfortunately there is no equation to tell you exactly what to pay, but there is a tool called Social Bluebook. This indicates an influencer's worth based on one social post. Here's a screenshot of mine for Instagram.
So when I establish an agreement with a company I factor in what all I will need to do to generate the content because time is money. If I am going to write a full blog post, professionally shoot the product, do at least 2 Instagram story promotions, and post to all my social channels, this will obviously cost more than just one Instagram post shot on my iPhone.
Pricing should be determined by you and the influencer and most of the time, influencers are willing to negotiate. I usually ask for a budget and tell them what I can do at that price point. As an influencer, I've learned that building long-term relationships are best so I'm willing to work with companies on pricing to an extent.
Product exchange is great, but for an influencer who is trying to make a living off entrepreneurship, free product doesn't pay the bills. However, it might be a good starting point for influencers with a following under 2K. That's when I started to charge for posts because I knew my work was making a difference.
Working with Influencers - Affiliate Program VS. Partnership
Many brands, especially sunglasses and jewelry it seems, have some sort of affiliate or brand rep program. These programs can be structured in different ways: an influencer buys product at 50% off, product is sent to the influencer and they blog about it, the influencer talks about the company to drive traffic to the company site and if someone buys something, the influencer makes a commission. I'm going to be honest here, the only program I am a part of like this is rewardStyle and for me it hasn't been all that rewarding, but I do know that has to do with my smaller following and demographic. By the way, rewardStyle is Liketoknow.it.
Whenever a jewelry company reaches out and tells me to check out their profile because they want to collaborate, I pretty much roll my eyes. You want me to actually buy a product from you that doesn't even align with my brand and then talk about it? Wait, what? Absolutely not.
So when is an affiliate program or brand rep program appropriate? It's great for real people who just genuinely love your brand like your loyal customers. For one of the companies I worked for, I created a brand rep program with the main goal of generating local buzz. Reps received a discount on purchases and in return, talked about us on their personal social media. It was a bit more detailed, but that's the base. Let me be clear, these people were not "influencers" but they did have an influence on their audience.
Partnerships are geared toward influencers, people with multiple platforms and some idea of content creation strategy. I also prefer a partnership because I can build a relationship with the brand and although I've been paid for the post, at least I'm not being slimey in just trying to sell product to make commission. I know the brand and my values align with theirs.
Working with Influencers - Case Studies
Okay, I've given you all these tips, but how do I know these actually work? I've seen them work firsthand and have the details behind them.
Olivia Rink x RaeLynn's
When I was working at RaeLynn's, we partnered with Olivia Rink. Now, Olivia is a bit of an anomaly in this industry because she was a cheerleader at UK. I can say this because I was once a cheerleader, but those girls (and guys, too) are hard core fans of the best and Olivia falls in the "best" category. She had a decent following when she started this journey.
Anyway, RaeLynn's partnered with her several times gaining followers and new customers each time. The second time the company partnered with her, she had between 40-50K followers. That content generated around 60 sales, numerous new followers, and great web traffic.
Product matters. RaeLynn's partnered with Olivia Rink last February and the product wasn't something everyone would want to wear. It was a specific item for a specific customer.
Olivia was more expensive based on her engagement and following, but in my opinion she was worth the investment.
Trendy in Indy x Eva Maison
Last January is when I decided to actually pour my heart and soul into Trendy in Indy. One of my first partnerships was with Eva Maison. I had around 1500 followers at the time so this was product exchange only, but I was gifted around $150+ in product.
I did two blog posts and probably 8 or more social posts for the company. I was also provided a discount code to share with my followers. From the end of January to the middle of March, my discount code was used 15 times that I know of.
I was in the Broad Ripple store once in February, hair in a messy bun, no makeup, and sweats when a customer who was checking out asked the sales associate if she could use Trendy in Indy's code. That was probably one of the coolest moments. This customer had no idea I was in the store at the time, but that proved to me that I was making a difference for these businesses.
Consistency was key here. Although 15 sales may not sound like a lot, that was 15 people I know of who probably tried something new and purchased because of my content.
Mel and Del x Sweet Olive
Mel and Del are two of my sorority sisters from college. They just launched their closet-sharing blog concept in October I believe. Sweet Olive partnered with them in November when they had around 300 or 400 followers.
Their discount code was used 3 times from their blog post and social posts. Again, 3 may not seem like a ton, but this is a prime example of how product exchange can work successfully even with a small amount of followers. Mel and Del's followers are extremely engaged and love their content.
So what does a bad partnership look like?
RaeLynn's partnered with a blogger who had 30K Instagram followers at the time. Paid her $300 and sent product. Her code did not generate a single sale. Her site drove about 10 people to the website and I don't even think the followers gained were worth it.
That partnership was a lack of me doing my research and my lack of knowledge on the behind the scenes of how people gain followers.
Working with Influencers -Recap
Okay, if you're still reading this major props to you. I probably should have created a guide or something. Here's a brief recap for you:
Find influencers in your niche that align with your brand.
Do your research before making an agreement.
Content is critical so make sure expectations are clear on both sides.
Consistency is key to a successful partnership.
Don't tell an influencer you don't have a marketing budget, because really you mean to tell me you spend $0 on marketing efforts all year? Determine pricing based on analyitcs and facts.
Affiliate or brand rep programs work well for your loyal customer base or just normal humans.
Instagram is not the end all, be all. Use that tip even just for your business marketing strategy.
As always, feel free to reach out with questions and seriously thank you for reading all of that.