12 Things Brands Need to Know About Influencer Marketing
By Lauren Parker
Influencer marketing is growing at tremendous speed, with micro and macro-sized influencers gaining traction for their super-engaged following. Micro influencer are defined as having 10,000 to 100,000 followers, while macro influencers have 100,000 plus. Both tend to have incredibly involved followers, making them more desirable, not to mention less expensive, than the more celebrity influencers who have 1 million-plus followers. The Accessories Council recently assembled a group of three powerful influencers to see how they operate and what brands should know before hiring them. The panel was led by Krupp Group’s VP of Digital Shirin Dhuper, and included Gabriela Fernandez, Senior Talent Manager at Socialyte and influencers Krystal Bick from ThisTimeTomorrow (@krystal_bick, 132K followers); Emily Luciano from LovelyLuciano (@emily_luciano, 397K followers); and Joey Zauzig (@JoeyZauzig, 110K followers).
Some things for brands to know and understand:
It’s not ALL about Instagram!
Influencers want to be in control of their content but they’ve come to realize that the overlords at Big Media can’t always have everyone’s interests in mind. Without warning, Instagram might change its algorithm and the number of followers who see an influencer’s post might plummet. That’s why many influencers are working extra hard at maintaining their own blog where they can aggregate original post content and link to third-party social media, and push out content as they see fit, on their own terms. It gives them 100% control. “It’s really up to Instagram on how many impressions something will get, which is why it’s important to have another platform,” stresses Joey Zauzig. “You’ll learn and see what works, what blows up and what doesn’t.”
Social media platforms have very different audiences
Just because an influencer is on various platforms, doesn’t mean he or she is speaking to the same consumer. As a brand, “it’s super important to know who that influencer is targeting, and where on social media an influencer’s demographic lives,” says Gabriele Fernandez. “If it’s someone planning a wedding or a baby shower, they’re going to want content on Pinterest.”
Video is a key part of the strategy
YouTube is really big now, and people want Day in the Life videos. The public wants to see more than influencers just posing in a cool outfit. They want to see and hear why the influencers love the brands.
Engagement is more important than growth
With 1 billion active users on Instagram, and half of them logging in every day—consuming and sharing content—growth will get harder, statistically. The key for influencers is to create content that the brand loves, and that feels organic to them. Be proud of the work you do and the numbers will grow. “You have to keep the number in perspective,” says Krystal Bick. “I’m not focusing on the number at the top of my platform. Yes I want to grow, but I have to make sure there’s a meaningful engagement with my followers and I want the number to feel healthy. It’s not about just getting 1,000 more followers if they don’t care about the content I’m providing.”
Zauzig agrees. “People really engage with me so I try to engage back. I try to post questions that will help other people, and I always have an open line of communication.”
Don’t go the one-and-done route
Brands should look for influencers whom they can build a relationship with. “When I looked back in 2018, I had moved away from the one Instagram post and one Instagram Story and then we don’t work together the rest of the year,” says Bick. “I’d much rather bring a brand on board for a longer partnership, and then the readers care more to see how the brand is incorporated into your lifestyle.” Plus, when influencers are looped in longer, brands can see the launch and the KPIs, plus the influencer is more invested to brainstorm future ideas.
“I have sell-through rates, swipe links, etc. but I feel like a lot of brands think they can have one post and they’ll kill it and we’ll sell out,” says Zauzig. “I think we all have longer term contracts with brands that will convert and be more successful. I worked with Uniqlo through rewardStyle and we know as a brand and influencers that I convert things through my audience right away. The first day, it took a bit more time, and then you start seeing the conversion rates. Followers can see you drinking up the style, different products, etc.”
Collaborate, but don’t micromanage
It’s okay to work together with an influencer, but know when you’re overstepping. “Brands really want to control, then they want a mood board, then written specifications of where you’ll be and each story and each frame, and I feel like I can’t do my job,” says Emily Luciano. “If you’re going to hire me, I’m going to put out what I feel is creative.”
The best content creators that really care will go the extra mile and over deliver because they feel trusted and respected. Which is why talent manager and brand strategist Gabriele Fernandez will also do a kick off call with the brand and the influencer. “I understand that the brand wants their KPIs, and it’s ok to request that, but it’s not ok to direct the whole thing to the point that it seems too transactional and dilutes the creativity.”
Let the influencers do their job
Brands have to trust influencers and let them be their best, which is why you hired them in the first place. In addition, influencers know better than brands what their followers want to see. “If a brand tells me to write something that isn’t organic, I won’t do it,” says Zauzig. “People are savvy to pick up on that. We have to give consumers more credit.”
Have realistic expectations
The most successful brand partnerships, long and short term, are those that are really open to a collaboration. “Having the voice of a brand is so important, but let them be creative, let them be tastemakers,” says Fernandez. “You have to trust the influencers and let them do them. Influencers are human, so be realistic in what they can deliver. Tell them the reach you’re looking for, but let them run their business. The most successful brands are the ones that let their creators create.”
Know what an influencer’s audience will spend
Don’t pitch a product to an influencer that their followers won’t buy. “My audience will spend about $100 – $350/$400,” says Zauzig. “I have a 6-month contract with a watch brand, but if it were $2,000 watches, I know it wouldn’t work. It’s a waste. You have to track it and know your audience.”
Some conversions happen after the fact
Of course it’s important to monitor the conversions, but not everything happens in real time. For certain products, particularly more expensive ones, consumers who follow influencers might take longer to buy. “Accessories and beauty can sell immediately,” says Luciano, but higher-end shoes or bags or a coat will take longer.”
A save on Instagram is worth more than a like
And a post save on Instagram is worth a lot more than a post like. It all falls under brand awareness, not just straight up sales. “I keep track of the conversations, and I have intent analytics to present to the brand,” says Bick. “It might be a DM from a reader, or someone telling me that I promoted something and weeks later they bought it. Are they actually swiping up right then and there and buying it? An important number is how many people saved the post because something about that image made them want to go back and visit later.”
Zauzig agrees. “I post often but sometimes people then come back to me later to ask what it was about. It’s a nice follow up. It shows that people are engaged every day.”
Collaborations must be organic and true to the brand
Consumers have become savvier, and they can see through an influencer arrangement that feels fake. “If a brand is considering a long-term ambassadorship or a collaboration with an influencer, they need to decide if they love the influencer for who he/she is, or if they love the influencer for this particular collaboration,” says Fernandez.