Scaling tips: Influencer marketing

As social media use has continued to increase so has the number of brands using influencer marketing —it’s now estimated to be a $2bn industry and something that several of our portfolio companies and entrepreneurs in our network are trying to successfully navigate.

On 10/07/2018 we hosted a dinner with Pandora Sykes, influencer, journalist, and co-host of podcast The High Low. Pandora spoke about her own experiences of working with brands and took questions from the group. It was a lively discussion, here are the main points:

Who are you trying to influence?

- An influencer can help unlock the door to a wider audience, but you need to have a clear strategy and set of objectives. It’s a commercial endeavour and like any other, takes a lot of planning

- Know your audience. You can better plan influencer activity if you really understand who is buying your product and who your target audience is — your own database will hold a lot of the answers here

- Consider rewarding star customers by giving them access to new products sooner (a tactic that beauty brand Glossier uses successfully) or encourage them to sign up to referral marketing schemes to drive awareness amongst their friends and family

- ‘BFF marketing’ is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal

- When it comes to influencers, it’s not only about how many followers someone has. It’s about how engaged their audience is and how closely that audience correlates with your brand — if you are using influencer marketing to sell a sophisticated product at a higher price point don’t target a younger influencer whose followers are unlikely to have much purchasing power…

“Influencers are not all born the same”

- Each influencer is different, not recognising that is the single biggest mistake that brands make. Tailor a strategy and a budget to every single influencer you work with…. what might work with one may not work with another

- Do your research! And employ people on your team who know about social media and what works for your brand

- Watch out for fakes — it’s recently been reported that fake Instagram influencers could be costing advertisers millions. Unilever is the latest brand cracking down on influencers who buy fake followers and use bots to “increase integrity and transparency in the influencer space” and smaller brands should think carefully about how to verify information provided by influencers

- Male influencers can be trickier to find and to work with, as there are fewer of them. Take a different approach to the one you would take with female influencers

“Gifting is not always a gift”

- Gifting can and does work but more often than not it’s wasted. Like any other marketing activity there needs be a plan

- Often brands send gifts to people when there is no relationship and they’ve expressed no interest in the brand or product. This means influencers are having to send products back or give things away to charity — it’s an easy way for brands to burn marketing budget

- Money doesn’t always have to change hands; some brands thoughtfully build relationships with influencers solely with product or by carefully curating experiences. For instance, Net-A-Porter frequently takes groups of influencers away together, encouraging them to post with #theNETSET

- But don’t be afraid to talk about money. By being clear about budget and expectations it can save time and endless back and forth — which damages the relationship. This article goes into more detail about the ROI of influencer marketing

- Make sure the influencers you work with let their followers know when it is a paid partnership or advertising, it shows integrity and builds better relationships with customers in the long run

- Some brands might also see more traction with micro influencers (those with fewer than 100,000 followers), but it comes down to your customers and what they respond to best

- If you are trying to increase engagement on a campaign, think about what’s going on around you whether you can link to a bigger event your audience cares about e.g. World Cup or to something seasonal like the weather!

“Have you got an instagrammable brand?”

- You can’t always buy your way in. In the world of influencer marketing traditional big brands don’t necessarily get to work with the best influencers or drive the most engagement

- Influencers may prefer to work with smaller niche brands with a great product that fits with their personal aesthetic, smaller brands may also have the flexibility to be more creative with their campaigns

- Some brands have a better natural fit with social media and influencers than others, and these aren’t always luxury brands. More and more independent mono-brands are gaining traction with influencers and customers alike because of their accessibility and unique propositions

- Brand consultants might be worthwhile and canny use of budget if you are trying to change perception about your brand, an influencer may not be able to solve all your problems

Nothing new…

- Celebrities have endorsed products for years. The online landscape might have changed and the cult of celebrity has grown, but how brands use influencers is no different to how they did print advertising years ago. The concept is the same, find a spokesperson or celebrity that appeals to your target audience and can raise awareness of your brand

- People know that certain celebrities and influencers sell product better than others, e.g. Chaira Ferragni who has 13.2 million followers on Instagram. When she does a collaboration with a brand and posts about it everything goes into meltdown — but attracting an influencer like this can be difficult and often expensive

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