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Why should your business care about influencers and why should it form part of your business marketing strategy?

You don’t need us to tell you that there’s been a big shift towards digital marketing – everyone now spends most of their time behind screens.

TV ads, billboards and newspaper advertorials are slowly slipping from our attention radar in favour of YouTube, livestreaming, Netflix and Instagram.

According to the most recent surveys conducted by digital information companies 84% of millennials stated they don’t like traditional marketing and don’t trust it. What they like are digital personalities, and these are now a firm part of a larger marketing strategy known as influencer marketing.

Influencer led marketing is now firmly viewed as a viable means of connecting with your target audience when used appropriately. Millennials accept and trust this type of marketing and they are willing to view sponsored content from a brand if it is entertaining and useful. Just look at Mrs Hinch and her cleaning tips AND the sales figures of the cleaning products she promotes!

Mrs Hinch is just one example of a ‘macro influencer’ – a digital personality who now enjoys an audience of over 100k followers. The other types can be broadly classified as:

  • Micro – up to 100k followers
  • And celebrity – people who are famous for something other than being an influencer

Why are influencers important?

People want to see companies working with a wider mix of people who look like them and reflect their personal values, and influencers are an efficient way brands can reach out to their target audience. By working with an influencer with a fan base relevant to a product launch or campaign, businesses both large and small have access to new customers who are more receptive to hearing about new things from a personality they trust and relate to.

Identifying the right influencer for your business

Finding the right influencer to work with is incredibly important, and our main criteria would be:

  • Who are their audience?
  • Are they relevant to my product/campaign?
  • What are their values?
  • Where are they based/their audience based?
  • How authentic is their digital reputation?

It’s sometimes easier to almost approach this process as if you were taking on an employee, because like an employee they have the power to either grow your business reputation or to damage it. Taking the time to do your digital research is essential, from checking if their followers are fake or authentic to how engaged their audience actually is. There are several digital tools available to help with this from HypeAuditor to Klout, Tweetdeck and Buzzsumo which all provide different information to help you find who to work with. This will take time but can’t be missed, as just because someone has more than 100k followers they may not give your campaign the best return on investment. Often it’s influencers with between 10k and 100k who have the best ROI because they have more quality followers, less fake accounts and their followers are more relevant to what they’re talking about.

How to reach out to influencers

If you’ve taken the time to do your research and selected the influencers you think are most relevant to your product launch or campaign, hopefully you’ll already have an insight into their personality – their likes and dislikes, their tone of voice, their main interests and their pet peeves. All this information will help you to personalise your approach to them.

How you contact them varies, from messaging them directly via Instagram to an email. Some influencers will tell you how they prefer to be contacted and even direct you to a page which explains the kind of companies they’re willing to work with.

The main thing is don’t simply send out a blanket message, make it personal to them, make it friendly, be upfront about what you want from your partnership, and provide enough detail about your campaign/product so they can make an informed decision about whether you’re both a good fit.

The legal stuff

Tighter guidelines are now in force to provide clarity around sponsored and non-sponsored content following some high-profile cases where influencers have been publicly penalised. In 2018 Louise Thompson of Made in Chelsea was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for failing to disclose that one of her Instagram posts was sponsored by a brand.

Working alongside the ASA to regulate this area of marketing is the Competition and Markets Authority who enforce the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 through the courts. Influencer marketing falls into these regulations because any form of payment or incentive in return for social media posts makes them fall into the category of an advert – even without editorial control.

Because of this, best practice is that all bloggers, vloggers, celebrities and social media personalities must clearly state when a brand or product they feature has been incentivised in any way for an endorsement or a review. This must be done prominently and in a way which doesn’t require people to click for more information. On Instagram a popular method for doing this is via their ‘Paid Partnership’ tool in addition to hashtags such as #Ad or #Advert.

If your influencer fails to do this, the brand/your business is held responsible as well as the influencer, which is why it’s worth creating a contract between you so there are no grey areas. This should cover things such as how many posts you expect, how much control you want over the content, when you expect the posts to be published, what results/statistics you expect them to pass on to you and how any post-campaign imagery can be used.

Despite this stepping up of control and rumours that these measures will affect the effectiveness and value of influencer marketing, figures suggest it’s a form of marketing that’s here to stay. A recent study from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), found that 65% of multinational brands have plans to increase their influencer investment, with 100% saying they already run campaigns on Instagram.

And finally…

The leads you generate and convert are what ultimately count towards your business growth and using influencers effectively in marketing your products and services can lead to an increase in sales. The degree of success is dependent on several factors of course, such as the length of the campaign, type of influencer and more. However, there’s little doubt this is a marketing tool which can’t be ignored if you want to give your business that extra push, raise brand awareness and grow support for your brand.

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