Social Influencers are Back and Brands are Benefitting

Influencers have evolved significantly since they first entered our radar. Remember the early days when mommy bloggers led the way, sharing their content on tweet chats and starting the conversation on content monetization? That was more than a decade ago. Since that time, influencers have gone in and out of favor. Just a few years ago, trust in online influencers was at an all-time low, as many were exposed for padding their follower counts with bots. This led to an initial backlash and some brands distanced themselves from influencer marketing.

But seemingly overnight, we encountered a surge in popularity again with the emergence of micro-influencers. These authentic influencers not only have highly engaged followers, but they’re also less expensive than their celebrity counterparts and their content can be easily and effectively used as social media ads.

Here are a few strategies and tactics we use to ensure our clients are getting the most out of social influencer relationships.

Always augment with paid. Influencer follower counts aren’t important. It’s much more important that their content and values align with your brand because you easily can utilize paid media to augment their reach. And social media platforms have ad units that allow you to seamlessly use influencer content as ads. You can use behavioral, geographic and demographic targeting to ensure the influencer’s content is reaching your exact audience. For instance, a Europe-based client of ours felt that a specific European influencer would create meaningful content that would help educate and inspire our U.S.-based target audience. Even though the European influencer had virtually no followers in the U.S., we worked with them and used paid to ensure the content reached our American audience. To this end, it’s also critical to ensure that paid usage is included in your contract with the influencer.

Focus on content quality. Since you can use paid to increase the reach of your content, it’s even more important that the influencer is creating high-quality, engaging content. Look at the interactions the influencer is receiving. Ensure that they can create content that will inspire your audience to take action. While TikTok and vertical video are enticing content types, don’t write off static images, which often outperform when the goal is to drive web traffic.

To maximize authenticity, it’s important to choose influencers you trust. Work with influencers to ensure content follows their aesthetic, yet still meets client objectives. There’s a risk of over-branding content, thereby losing what makes the content real and effective.

Pitch your influencer content. At first, this might sound like a wild concept: Media will cover content you’ve paid an influencer to create? But it can work! When we’ve partnered with influencers to create innovative recipes for clients, we’ve successfully pitched the recipes to media and generated meaningful earned hits in top-tier national lifestyle publications.

Think about other platforms. Sometimes we’ve seen clients get stuck relying on tried-and-true ways to reach their audiences. Consumer program? Instagram. B2B program? LinkedIn. This approach can cause you to miss out on emerging platforms. For instance, TikTok has a very active niche group of Excel tips and tricks influencers, which fits well with an accounting software company we were working with. Previously, that team had partnered only with LinkedIn influencers.

Develop an iron-clad influencer brief. Your influencer brief is the most important document you will create. It provides your influencers with key messaging—for them to put their own spin on!—brand guidelines, timelines and guidance for the type of content you’re seeking. Ensure you include guidelines for proper disclosure, including branded content tags, hashtags and verbiage. Schedule a meeting to walk them through the brief. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page before the influencer gets to work creating content.

Reuse and repurpose. Ensure that you post influencer content from your organization’s social media channels. This further aligns the influencers with your brand and extends the reach to your own following and beyond. We find that influencer content is often the highest-performing organic content that our clients post.

Test and learn. Look at what types of influencer content are performing best and utilize this to inform your programs moving forward. Consider which styles and messages excelled in the program and leverage this data to consistently measure and improve.

With these guidelines, your next social influencer program will not only be more effective, but it will be more financially efficient—a win-win.

This article previously appeared in the May 2023 issue of O’Dwyer’s.

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