Ad blocking technology and a general attitude shift by millennials and Gen Z toward traditional marketing mean that brands have become much more creative in getting their product or service in front of the audiences that matter. Enter influencer marketing.
In addition to Luckie’s own content and creative teams, we work in partnership with media agency The Watauga Group on many of our influencer marketing campaigns. We sat down recently with Watauga Media Supervisor Cyndy Murrieta to discuss the power of influencer marketing and the most important things brands should know if they wish to dip their toes in the water.
According to Cyndy, if brands want to influence a millennial/Gen Z audience, influencer marketing is a particularly good avenue. “Not only does it cut through ad blocking technology,” she said, “but it also offers the authenticity they demand.”
For marketers trying to decide whether an influencer marketing program is right for them, Luckie and The Watauga Group offer this list of five key things to know:
- Celebrities are great, but “power middle” and niche influencers can be better.
Social media celebrities are likely what someone thinks of when they think of influencers, but several types of influencers are out there. “We have found for our clients – unless you are a huge brand – that it is less important to have celebrities or premium bloggers with a huge number of followers,” said Cyndy. “A larger scope across the right kind of influencer is more important. Using mid-tier influencers with 15,000 to 100,000 followers is usually what we find works best. Celebrities do have a huge audience base, but the impact of micro influencers is growing. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘power middle,’ and we often find they have better conversions and more engagement with their followers because they have a more intimate connection.”
- Influencers should be picky about brand partners and vice versa.
Both influencers and brands should be choosy when it comes to the type of work they do for one another, as well as the partnerships they make. “You have to be judicious about what audience you want to approach and make sure you find the right influencers in that community to engage with,” Cyndy said. “But that being said, a long-term partnership with the right influencers will likely boost the brand’s influence more with that audience. The influencers are your advocates and should be treated well in the long term so they will continue to feel good about the brand.”
- Marketers should get comfortable with creative freedom.
“We’ve seen brands try and be too specific about wording or specific phrasing, and so they proof and rewrite the posts,” said Cyndy. “Influencer marketing will only work if it’s allowed to be organic and in the true voice of the influencer. Their followers can smell a sales pitch from a mile away. They want to be filled in on the latest and recommended new things by the person they follow. But they don’t want to be sold to. So advertisers need to step back and allow the influencers to be themselves.”
Overly controlling content has real-world implications as well. In a recent influencer survey, the company CLEVER stated that “this ‘policing’ of content was cited by 80% of survey participants as a deterrent to working with particular brands.”
- Influencer marketing is considered paid media.
Since 2013, the Federal Trade Commission has required bloggers and influencers to be very clear that they have a compensatory relationship with the brand or product they are promoting. Generally, they will use hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored, but beyond that, they need to be clear that the brand has provided them a product and asked them to endorse it.
“Earned media falls into the category of traditional PR, which influencer marketing isn’t,” Cyndy said. “Not only is it paid media, but it has to be clear to the consumer that it’s paid media.”
However, once a piece of content is created by the influencer, brands can use that content on owned channels, and influencers can promote that content through their own social media channels. The lines of paid/earned/owned media can be crossed at times, but in terms of developing the content, influencer marketing will always fall under the paid umbrella.
- When it comes to ROI, think social.
Before beginning any type of marketing activity, goals and KPIs need to be put in place and agreed upon by both brands and influencers. That said, it is still difficult, if not impossible, to trace influencer activity to real-world sales or results.
“One KPI that some clients might focus on for their influencer strategy is growth in their social platforms,” said Cyndy. “They might look at the increase in the number of followers to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels before, during and after the campaign.”
And while the world of influencer marketing is constantly in flux, the most important thing to remember is it’s about getting closer to these influencers so you can get closer to your customers.