The word influencer often has negative connotations. One quick check of the Daily Mail’s side bar of shame, which I have to add that I only ever look at to monitor for client coverage, shows countless stories criticising so-called influencers for anything and everything.
Headlines blaming them for bragging about their holidays and exploiting grey areas when the country is in lockdown, dominate the tabloids. But, the reality stars that Priti Patel loves to criticise only form a tiny proportion of influencers.
It’s important to define what an influencer is and what they could do for your brand. When speaking to clients about how influencers can fit into their comms programme, we highlight that they are respected 3rd parties that can speak on behalf of your brand, providing that much needed external credibility. They can be journalists, analysts, politicians, academics, partners, customers and even employees.
So, how do you find the right people to work with? The traditional way has been to focus solely on reach, but this is not enough on its own. Focusing purely on the number of followers someone has – and potential reach is pretty much meaningless if you think about it – it’s simply the number of people who clicked follow on a profile. Consumers and businesses are also aware that brands pay influencers to promote products - and therefore are increasingly aware of people buying followers to gain ‘influencer’ status. And finally, if reach was your core KPI, using 3rd party advocates is expensive when looking at CPM. You’re better off just buying Facebook ads.
When searching for the right influencers to work with, reach needs be combined with a number of other principles. You need to ask yourself the following questions. Does this person have authority to be speaking on the topic? Are they authentic? Are they relevant to the brand and the message? Ensuring the answers to these questions meet your business and comms objectives, will help you decide which people will be the best suited advocates for your brand.
Once the right influencers have been identified, you need to ensure you are working with them in the right way. The key thing is to build relationships with the right people so brand storytelling comes through authentically. We’re not against product images – keeping the product front of mind, but the creative narrative needs to be informed by the influencer’s own social presence for it to resonate. To drive deeper engagement, it’s essential to listen and collaborate with influencers, taking into consideration stats and data only relevant to them and their audience.
Influencer marketing should not be an afterthought. Instead, it should form an important part of an overall comms strategy. After all, respected 3rd parties will have much more credibility than one of your sales team. Getting them to discuss industry challenges that you can solve or wax lyrical about the services you offer will ultimately drive product awareness and sales. There’s much more to influencers than the Daily Mail wants you to believe.