The end of year predictions are in and one thing is clear: influencer marketing and the social media channels where it happens continue to be on the rise. From the Augere study earlier this year that showed 84 percent of marketers would use influencer marketing in the next year to marketing gurus like Jay Baer calling for an expansion in social video for all brands (even for B2B), the field is simply growing exponentially. With that growth, brands need to be conscious of potential pitfalls that can come up as you scale influencer marketing. Here are three key ones that are easy to avoid.
1) Working only with the biggest influencers
Brands love working with the PewDiePies of the world because their social reach is huge. In a space where tracking metrics can be tough, it is easier to show the enormous potential and the expectedly large numbers.
What this strategy misses is the potential to get far more real value from a cross-section of influencers that have more deeply engaged audiences. When working with influencers in what ION has defined as tiers of 3 and 4 (100 thousand to 5 thousand and 5 to 1 thousand, respectively), you have creators that have more direct relationships with their audiences because they aren’t in the millions. As a result, there is a trust and a connection you may not see in Tier 1 influencers (over 750 thousand) that have to appeal to a wider audience to maintain those massive numbers.
Working with a company like ION, brands can help identify not just a single influencer with a large audience but a scalable list of influencers with targeted reach and sometimes much deeper engagement. By engaging many different influencers, brands can even gain a more varied audience, like Microsoft recently did with their Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 campaign. Using a variety of influencers across Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and more, they reached audiences with different interests via creators that lined up with their Do Great Things message. The common thread was how a YouTube pianist, an interior designer popular on Pinterest and a photographer with a big footprint on Instagram could all use the products to be more creative and productive. Collectively, their reach is significant and more targeted than if Microsoft had just worked with a single creator with a large audience. Of course, some campaigns may call for going to the big voices out there. The key is to not think that one size fits all.
2) Not Taking Influencers Seriously
Some brands think influencers should just be given free products and that’s enough to motivate them to promote a product heavily since they are just amateurs. Like any paid media channel, there are rates for the creative work influencers do and the opportunity for a product to get exposed to the audiences that the creator has amassed so they need to be paid for their work.
Social media creators can command the prices they quote because they know their medium (e.g., Vine, YouTube, Snapchat) and how to make content for it. They have built a relationship with their viewers and they can face bitter responses and loss of their audience if they come across as a ‘sellout’ or ‘shill’, which is a huge issue for most creators. This is why it’s so important to identify the ideal Brand SoulMates for your brand. If your products are a natural fit for the kind of content the creator normally produces, it won’t disturb their creation process and it’s more likely to generate the positive reaction you are both seeking.
3) Using Influencer Marketing Like a Regular Ad Buy
Just paying a social media creator to show your product on their channel can work, sure. You might get some level of engagement but most audiences reject that kind of promotion.
Instead, when you forge a strong relationship with an influencer and let them lead on the creative, you can collaborate on authentic content that will wow audiences. A great recent example is the “A Different Every Day” travel series that YouTuber Rachel Talbott is currently running with sponsorship from JW Marriott. By working with Rachel and ION on the creative vision for the series, the videos were developed based on what she knew would appeal to her fans (like travel prep and planning tips that add value) and yet they stayed true to the brand pillars that Marriott wanted to showcase as Rachel explored their resorts. The third of five videos is now out and they’re gaining tens of thousands of views and heavily positive response.
Some say that social video via Snapchat, Periscope, Kanvas, and other platforms are the ‘new TV.” For Millennials and Gen-Z, they’re right. Yet, if brands treat social video just like a broadcast television buy, they will lose out on many opportunities, including the ability to more effectively target audiences, build a working relationship with creators that can add long-term value to your brand and generate content that is uniquely designed to work for the platform and audience you’re seeking.