“Influencer” – Mention this word in the Press room and you instantly split the room in two.
One half looks on with disgust with the view that influencers are nothing more than people who have somehow convinced brands that they have a following of consumers. They are nothing more than an extension arm of the marketing efforts by companies to shove more products down our throats by polluting our social media timeline.
The other half can not believe their ears. They hold the view that influencers are not only much better at representing a product but they do it in such a way that makes their audience actually appreciate an honest opinion and not some marketing gumf. Not only do influencers costs brands much less than traditional marketing, but it shows much better results.
So which one is it ? Do influencer really play a role or is it a fad that will die and eventually they will get a “real job” ?
What every single Influencer should know
Having attended South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas, and having spoken to marketing executives of some of the largest corporates in the US, I can attest that influencer marketing is not seen as a fad. In fact, influencers are an integral part of the marketing mix and are tightly integrated into it.
However, as with everything, one needs to separate the good from the bad and naturally those who do it well will rise to the top. How do you rise to the top? The following are bits of advice that all influencers should know direct from the people who have been-there-done-that:
With influencers you are able to get customers excited, therefore partnering with influencer works is the advice from Florence Drakton who runs Social Media for Toyota. Toyota understands that different influencers will offer reach to their communities and therefore Toyota partners with everyone fro Rock Star celebs to those are are starting up with niche audience and everyone in between.
Florence makes the point that influencers are able to reach the right audience in an authentic voice and even in multiple languages.
When it comes to creating content, Toyota and their influencers co-produce the content so that its authentic and shows Toyota brand values.
Nick Fairbairn, VP Marketing at Dollar Shave Club, focuses on “authenticity and no bull”. Nick states that consumers are able to very quickly detect if the influencer is telling a story that is not true and this causes more damage than good to the brand. Dollar Shave Club wants to reach audiences and this is one reason they spent millions on the Super bowl ad. They recognise that working with influencers they are able to solve their problem of reaching an audience that does not watch TV, read newspapers or listens to the radio. Nick advises that just sending an influencer their product is “pointless, we need the influencer to get excited about the brand and about the message”. Those influencers that do, do a phenomenal job in bringing that message to their audience.
While Nick wants to the influencer to be authentic and produce the “content in their own way”, he does caution that too much freedom can be a bad thing too and therefore advices working with “guard rails – allowing the influencer to work but within a framework”. Nick’s is also a fan of looking for the up-and-coming stars as they are usually hungry for the work and over deliver. When asked about the important of matrix and what they look for, Nick said that for them its less about the impressive numbers but more about engagement. For Dollar Shave Club, its not about being everywhere but about being where they can not get to and this is why influencers are critical.
Authentic Content is King and Key
The message from Toyota and Dollar Shave Club is clear: Influencer need to be authentic and deliver the brand message with some guidelines and yet deliver it in their own voice. If the message is too scripted, its an advert and we all know where those land up…
Practical Influencer Tips
The bar to creating content is now so low that anyone with a smartphone can do it and therefore its harder to climb out of the clutter. So as an influencer, what do you need to do in order to get these deals? Here are some tips from the pros who have not only been there and done it but they have also made the T-Shirt. Literally.
Taryn Southern, YouTube star on TarynTV (456k subscribers and 53 million views) warns that you need to find a way to hold onto your audience. As there are many platforms such as Vine, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., audience might shift from one to another. Therefore building a mailing list is important as “regardless of where the audience goes, the one thing we all do is check our email. This is the connection to the audience.”
Taryn warns that not all platforms are the same and should not be treated as such. YouTube can become a massive production requiring full teams of actors, cameramen, sound and editing compared to Snapchat which is low quality but instant. One is not better than the other – they are just different.
“Don’t try be on everything. Experiment with different platforms and if your audience doesn’t respond, get off platform”. This is a good tip as too many creators are worried about being left behind and therefore are fragmenting their audience by trying to be everywhere. Taryn advises to rather focus on your niche and cater for the audience.
Kendall Ostrow, DIGITAL AGENT, United Talent Agency, says that the days where a celeb hold out a bottle of shampoo in a commercial endorsements are over for the new consumer. They know this is a commercial and in no way authentic. Influencer who really believes in the product will naturally translate that into their work and connect with their audience. “Todays fans are the casting directors they tell agencies who the want to see and be featured.”
“Celeb are in it for the movie and talent deal whereas influencers are in it to create business” this is the advice that Kate Albrecht aka Mr Kate (412k subscriber and 33million views) and her husband Joey give when it comes to building an influencer business. “Separate from the pack. What make you unique and bring value”
Mr Kate suggest that the big money in influencer is in making big brand deals. This allows the influencer to be focused on delivering good authentic content with the pay-day for the effort.
To grow your audience, align with other creators. This can be done by interviewing popular people who already have a large audience. “It also gives you the benefit of using their name in the title for your video which helps in SEO” says Joey.
When it comes to the question of dealing with an MCN (Multi-Channel Network), both Joey and Kate warn to go in with your eyes wide open. Initially an MCN that is focused on growth would help the influencer however need to be aware of the lock-in clauses and what guarantees that MCN will bring to the table. These are also open for negotiation !
Mr Kate has a great merchandise business too. Initially this started with an on-demand facility where products were created based on orders. As the business grows the manufacturing can be up-scaled or taken independently to a specialist. Kate also says that “Having this line of income also helps during the time where there are no brand deals on the table.”
So what is next and what is hot ?
There are two technologies that emerged as the new hot thing – VR and Live Streaming.
virtual Reality is in is infancy and so is live Streaming with the ability to monetise still far off however, as with previous platforms, monetisation will come and work itself out. Influencers should be focusing on how to tell their stories now and let the techies work out how to make this simpler for the mass consumers. As soon as they do, the influencers who got on board early will have the advantage.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so…
*headline image from Shutterstock.com