By: Courtney Fogle (@courtnxyfogle)
When most people think about a social media influencer, they think of the pretty girls that go on extravagant vacations and post about their experience. They have millions of followers, look perfect all the time, and post sponsored content as a way to make money. However, that’s not all there is to it.
To be an influencer, you have to stage yourself as an expert in your industry. Ultimately, any individual or brand can become an influencer when they’re highly esteemed in their space, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard work when making it your career.
Finding the Best Fit
When looking for the right influencer for your brand, you need to make sure that one, their audience fits your target market, and two, you know whether you want to work with an “influencer” or a “converter” based on your objectives.
Each campaign must be treated individually. A contract shouldn’t be sent out without asking the influencer what works for their audience, especially since the biggest mistake brands make is providing too many restrictions. Why initiate a campaign that won’t get positive results? When an influencer turns you down, it’s because they’re doing it right. If they don’t think your audience matches their audience, or that what you’re asking for will work long-term, they clearly understand how the process works. For those that take their job seriously, the short-term check doesn’t matter as much as the relationship and long-term value they can provide by being consistent with their content.
Emily Richett from Happy PR shared her experience working with brands to find the best fit for an influencer campaign. She reminds brands to consider their budget, content, skill sets, and desired CTA. For example, if a company needs more video content, they should look for an influencer that posts videos on their feed. If they lack in the area of written content, they should look for a blogger. An influencer might be a good photographer and post beautiful photos, or be able to connect a brand with the TV and radio market. Emily says brands need to make sure they’re ready for more eyes so they can determine what end result they’re looking for. Do they want awareness or conversion?
Getting that Conversion
Jill Gleason started her journey by sharing photos of the clothes she loves. Now, she makes money on commision with GOOD LIFE, a Style Blog. She has creative freedom, considering herself a converter. Jill says that she’s able to take her influence and convert is to a sale, which is how she monitizes her own brand. She isn’t paid for everything she posts and tags, but she continues to do so because her audience wants to know where she gets the products. She tags the brands because it’s helpful and she’s able to solve a need.
It’s easy to track a conversion when influencers work with a brand that’s “highly visible.” Jil gave the example of a hair salon. Since they provide a service, they can bring a customer in and use a coupon code to track where they found out about the company. With this information, they’ll then determine if the person who came into the salon on a certain day worked with their campaign. This can also be done with online retail by providing a specific link or code for each tactic.
Remember, It’s Not Just Instagram
Yes, Instagram is huge; but even though consumers love IG, influencers often have a bigger market elsewhere. It’s easy to get sucked into what we see on Instagram and think that it’s the best end result, but there are other ways to work with an influencer to meet your campaign goals. Take Liz Della Croce for example; she created The Lemon Bowl ten years ago and continuously posts new content. Her blog and Pinterest repeatedly go viral for content she’s posted years ago, bringing new awareness all the time. Her following on other sites is larger than her Instagram following and performs well month after month.
That’s why she’s built a long-term, valuable relationship with Sabra Hummus in the past six years. Sabra can’t tell how much she’s sold, but that’s how it works with bigger brands. Someone could have seen her recipe and decided to buy the product, but there is no direct link to conversion. Instead, the relationship she’s built with the company has been purely brand influence. She operates her business by not doing click throughs and getting paid upfront.
Understanding Follower Count
There are different levels of influencers and their reach. Some might have millions of followers and not receive much conversion, while others have a niche market that is reliable and engaging. So, does follower count matter? It’s important for influencers to be authentic with their following, not fudging numbers to make themselves look more powerful.
Transparency & Regulations
With the rising number of influencers promoting brands, regulations are kicking in strong. As a brand, you’ll need to make sure you set the standard for authenticity. You can’t necessarily trust that an influencer will say their content is sponsored. Long-term value is more important than a short-term check, so both influencers and brands need to abide by the rules and make sure they’re being transparent about their content.
Fyre Festival has been a hot topic with the recent documentaries on Hulu and Netflix, so members of the audience asked what can be learned from that experience. The ladies agreed that the actual execution of the campaign was flawless – aside from the fact that they didn’t abide by FTC rules. This is a clear example of why contracts need to be finalized and that influencers need to know what they’re selling, not just the call to action. The Fyre Festival shows why regulations need to be in place and why brands and influencers alike must be transparent with their audiences.
Courtney Fogle is a senior studying Advertising and Public Relations at Grand Valley State University. She’s an active member of GV PRSSA and hosts their podcast, PR Hangover. In her spare time you can find her prepping for her future career in entertainment PR as the Public Relations Intern at River City Studios.