Navigating the polarizing world of influencer marketing

by | Sep 28, 2016 | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media

Influencer marketing, while a pivotal extension of many brands’ strategies, has become a controversial topic over recent months with outlets like Digiday and Gawker suggesting the tactic lacks true staying power.

Time will tell, but this fact remains: consumers from Gen Z to Boomers would rather hear from a friend or someone they respect than directly from a brand.

Countless full-service influencer partners boast similar claims: leading resource; largest content network; audience of [impressive number] of publishers; pool of [impressive number] of content creators.

Here’s how we navigate the overwhelming landscape to identify the right influencer marketing agency partners for our clients.

Get prescriptive

The first step in the process is determining the type of influencers you want to engage. Where is your target audience? We wanted to reach ours on YouTube, so that helped us identify agencies with that capability.

The next step is articulating your goal—that’s the first question you’ll be asked when vetting partners. Are you after awareness? Engagement? Sales? Get buy-in from all necessary parties because your content will be designed to meet that very specific objective, and once it’s created, there’s no going back.

Visualize success

After a few introductory calls, it becomes obvious that saying you want to team up with a handful of family-friendly video influencers is not enough. You have to have a solid idea of what you want the influencers to do.

This point of view is important for two reasons. First, it becomes a great jumping off point for the account teams to tell you what’s possible and to enhance your initial concept based on what’s worked for previous campaigns. Second, having an idea of what you’d like to ask your influencer partners to do can also help identify necessary criteria. In our case, after thinking through must-haves for the brief, we realized a critical element of the program: our influencers had to be from very specific cities.

Knowing what your client will deem a successful piece of influencer content will help the agencies you’re comparing identify partners who can get you there.

Stack the deck

With your goals in place, an idea of what you want the influencers to accomplish, and criteria established, the agencies you’re vetting will come back with recommended influencer partners.

Besides the talent, budget and impressions they’ll deliver, how do you differentiate one partner from the next? Here are some things to consider.

  • Quality vs. Quantity. Take a look at the talent they present and ask yourself what’s more important for your client: a small group of recognizable influencers with higher followings, or spreading more content across more platforms by leveraging micro-influencers.
  • Forecast the Finished Product. Confirm the specific output your influencers will ultimately deliver. In our case, we were after videos, and had to decide how long we wanted them to be. Some influencers specialize in short-form videos, while others’ videos are 15-20 minutes long. You know your target better than anyone. What are they most likely to engage with?
  • A Word on Branding. Ask when your client’s branding will be incorporated into the content, especially when it comes to video. If you’re going to receive long-form videos with branding incorporated three-quarters of the way through, you’ll want to ensure your client’s comfort with that in advance.
  • Promotional Considerations. Speak with your potential agency partners about licensing fees early, as this is a big point of differentiation. These costs can quickly accrue if you’re planning to share your influencer’s content on your client’s owned spaces. Find out if the fees are included, and if they are, for how long. You’ll also need to know if that cost includes licensing for social media platforms because if it doesn’t, you’ll likely want to budget for it upfront.
  • Making Contact. If your brief is straightforward, this is likely a non-issue, but most vendors manage all contact with influencers. If your criteria are complicated, you may want an opportunity to walk your creators through the program’s nuances. Some partners will make it happen, while others are adamant about their liaison role.
  • The Final Say. Think through how many clients are involved in the project and how long they typically require for approvals, and have that timing in mind when you ask about the approval process. Most vendors let you bless the content before it’s final, but the time you have to share that feedback varies a lot. One vendor allowed half of a business day; another allowed two weeks.

Are influencers the key to unlocking Gen Z, the fastest-growing and most cost effective channel for customer acquisition, or a misleading con?

Regardless of where you stand, for the foreseeable future, influencer marketing is here to stay.

Capably and strategically initiating the best partnership possible is the first step in developing meaningful content.

Guest writer Ginny Brocker is a PR and Social Media Account Manager at Hiebing.

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