Keep believing the hype, fellow brand marketers. Influencer marketing campaigns can bolster our brands’ credibility, extend our message, lower our barrier to amazing content and impact our bottom line. We’re seeing the results from influencer campaigns, and in fact, a Forrester study found that 65% of brand marketers plan to increase the amount they spend on influencer marketing this next year.
Brand investment in influencer partnerships isn’t the only thing changing. The relationship between brand and influencer, between influencer and social platforms and influencer and consumer continues to evolve.
Here at Sprout Social, we recently hosted Liz Adams, owner of Hello Adams Family blog, Cristina Roti, Marketing Manager for Social Media Partnerships at CB2 and Jaime Endick, Senior Manager Content and Social Strategy at The Narrative Group to talk through influencer marketing from a brand, agency and influencer perspective. In this article, we’ll recap what we discovered and what that means for 2020.
Great influencer marketing campaigns are built on trust
In order for a brand and influencer partnership to work well, there has to be a level of trust between them. A brand needs to trust the influencer to bring its vision to life and find that perfect expression of its values in a way that’s unique to the individual . This is one of the biggest challenges for brands when it comes to influencer marketing—it can feel like a risk to give up total control of your brand vision and standards. A lot of brands will default to trying to manipulate an influencer’s work to match their vision exactly, but this can defeat the purpose of working with an influencer. You’re partnering with them because you liked their brand—why try to change that now? Liz has some experience here that she shared with us:
“I have had many times where a brand has reached out and said they love my voice and want to partner with me. Then I’ll send my idea and they change everything. This is the type of relationship I don’t want—when the brand tries to manipulate the content I’m putting out there.” – Liz Adams, owner of Hello Adams Family Blog
Jamie from The Narrative Group emphasized that point as well. She and her team take the lead on identifying influencers who align with their clients’ brands, and they’re looking for influencers who come to the relationship with creative ideas.
“It’s scary when we as an agency pick an influencer because they’re interesting and creative…and then they say, ‘tell me what to post.’ That’s scary. That’s your forte, go forth and create!” – Jamie Endick, Senior Manager Content and Social Strategy, The Narrative Group
Brands interested in the reach, personality and authority that an influencer partnership can provide need to be open to an influencer’s ideas—and in turn, influencers need to come to the table with creative takes that build upon the brand’s vision and goals. An ideal agency operates at the center of this relationship, conducting influencer research and communicating the objectives of the campaign to ensure both sides are successful.
Start your campaign by setting expectations
So how do you build the kind of trust that sets an influencer campaign up for success? An influencer brief from the brand/agency can go a long way in setting the correct expectations. A well written brief will include:
- An overview of the campaign: What is the idea around the product or service you’re asking them to promote? Why are you reaching out to them specifically?
- How you’ll measure success: This is crucial—knowing the goal and primary metrics or KPIs can help give the influencer direction on how they should communicate your message.
- Participation requirements: outlines those who are acceptable participants for this opportunity. You should have checked most of these boxes in your influencer search, but always good to double check and have the influencers verify that they meet these requirements.
- Creative direction/style guide: This gives the influencer an understanding of the brand’s aesthetic requirements and helps to set parameters for the influencer to work within. This is crucial to ensure they can produce social content that reflects the brand’s look and feel while incorporating their own individual flair.
- Post mandatories: This section includes guidance like ways the product should and should not be portrayed, required hashtags and any language restrictions from the brand’s legal team. Similar to the creative direction, this should be discussed prior to the influencer creating content to help cut down on brand feedback later on.
Build relationships for the long-term
Just as influencers cultivate relationships with their followers over time, influencers and brands are increasingly shifting away from transactional interactions with each other and into longer term relationships. This makes a lot of sense when you consider all the work that goes into identifying an influencer, creating content and forming a relationship. Imagine having to start that process over each time you need to launch a new product or communicate a message to your audience. Whew!
Our three panelists echoed this sentiment. Liz stated that because her followers have a lot of trust in her, she is focused on partnering with brands she genuinely loves and that want an ongoing relationship with her. This type of long-term relationship can help the partnership feel more authentic as well as provide more opportunities for innovative collaboration over time.
That’s not to say these relationships are always going to be exclusive, or that they’ll last forever. Christina highlighted a recent partnership with an influencer that CB2 just concluded. After working with this influencer for four months, the influencer created an exclusive product for a competitor.
“Some people might have seen that and felt, ‘how can he do this?’ Well he can, and we don’t have exclusivity. We chose to comment and congratulate him. There is no harm in celebrating your partners’ successes with a competitor.” – Cristina Roti, Marketing Manager for Social Media Partnerships, CB2
She went on to explain that this tactic can actually work in your favor by extending the reach of your brand and the credibility of that influencer you worked with.
Social platforms and meaningful metrics are always evolving
Brands and influencers themselves aren’t the only factors in determining what a brand/influencer relationship looks like. The social media environment and individual platforms play a large role in this as well. Platforms and algorithms are constantly changing, and brands and influencers need to stay on top of these changes to make sure the content they’re creating is impactful.
Let’s take a recent update, for example: Some of you may have heard Instagram will be hiding likes on the network. What will this mean for influencer partnerships? In addition to the overall consensus that this was a positive change to the platform, reporting was a focus for our panel for this update:
“We started our program by focusing on Likes, but we’ve evolved to focusing on saves, comments, shares…what other engagements we got and where it led people. We’re getting smarter on tracking that and using that to influence content.
I’m excited for the change and welcome it. I’ve been prepping our team that this might be coming. I let them know that this is a cyclical thing—today is not tomorrow. KPIs are always subject to change. We need to be flexible.” – Cristina Roti, Marketing Manager for Social Media Partnerships, CB2
We also heard from our panelists that their interest in Pinterest for influencer marketing campaigns is continuing to increase, since Pinterest is another image-based platform where people come to get inspired and try new things. Its ability to track website visits is also key in reporting on the impact an influencer’s content has on a brand’s bottom line.
This relationship has continued to evolve since its creation and it’s no surprise that it will continue to do so as we head into 2020, but one thing is certain: influencer marketing is here to stay. Interested in getting started, or revisiting the fundamentals of an influencer marketing campaign? Learn more here!