“Influencer marketing” has been a bit of a buzzword in the marketing and PR world for the past few years.
Ranging anywhere from sending free products to a local Instagrammer with 500 followers in hopes that they post a photo, to executing elaborate campaigns worth tens of thousands of dollars with detailed negotiated contracts – the whole industry can seem like a bit of a wild west.
“Influencer marketing emerged as a way around earned media and traditional media,” said Toronto-based PR Consultant Jeff Blay from Enterprise Canada.
It was a way to get more eyes on your product or message and – hopefully – influence your target market’s purchasing decisions.
As influencer marketing gained momentum, fraudulent influencers began to spring up – those who bought their followers and misrepresented the audience they could provide.
Businesses who spent big money on these types were left with a sour taste when their investments didn’t turn around any sales or long-term benefit.
As influencers started realizing the business potential, they hired agents to find work and negotiate contracts. Soon, the cost and effort became the same as purchasing a traditional media ad, which tends to have more reliable returns.
“They view this as the safe way to go,” said Blay.
Bray has his own influencer horror stories: one was paid to be at a liquor brand’s party with clear, written instructions not to post photos of drinking from a glass or bottle; it’s against alcohol advertising rules. Of course, that’s exactly what was posted and then quickly had to be taken down, leading to an awkward conversation.
The unfortunate effect of business owners viewing influencers as entitled and difficult to work with is they can miss out on opportunities to reach their target market and build long-term relationships with brand ambassadors who might actually be the right fit.
That’s why it makes sense for business owners to work with a PR company or consultant who can advocate for them, track coverage and conversions, and act as the middleman in contract negotiations.
When looking for the right influencer, a lot of the same rules for PR and traditional advertising still apply: does the person have any real credibility in the field? For clothing brands, have they gone to fashion school? Do they contribute to any reputable magazines? Reading through past blog posts and even Instagram captions can give a good sense of the depth of their knowledge and interest.
Now that rules have changed and influencers have to disclose when and by whom they’re being paid for a post, it’s easy for their followers to see right through the sponsored messaging. The best bet for maximizing potential of working with influencers is to seek out those who would genuinely be your clients and customers and whose following matches that profile.
After all, 10 real new customers are worth much more than hundreds of likes and comments from fake accounts.
When working with influencers, the proof is in the pudding – and if you’re not seeing tangible benefits, it’s time to change your strategy.
Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]