May 17, 2019

Unhooked Part 3: Navigating the World of Influencers

This is the final post in a three-part series from our Unhooked event in New York.

Like many conversations these days about influencers, initial reactions to the mention of influencers vary from nervous laughter to genuine intrigue to clear confusion, and everything in between. It is undeniable that influencers have totally changed the advertising game and impacted how agencies and brands build concepts, refine strategies and execute productions. While influencers can reap huge rewards, they also bring new hurdles, and the occasional pitfall, if brands don’t do their due diligence beforehand.

 

Unhooked NY Panel

 

How has the rise of influencers impacted advertising?

Influencers have given brands the opportunity to expand their reach and communicate with customers in a more authentic and trustworthy way. Stephanie Ambroise, Senior Business Affairs Manager at TBWA, found that her clients are tapping into influencers because it enables them to connect with new demographics – particularly younger millennials – as well as create new content based on their brand’s own voice, look and feel. And because the influencers have cultivated a niche following of loyal, highly-engaged fans, their message is likely to come across as more original and trustworthy.

Influencers are talent. And they should be treated as such: a talent partner. Agencies should  provide specific parameters to ensure the content that the influencer will create is in line with and supports the brand’s core message and values – of course, the art of balance comes into play here. Brands shouldn’t make parameters so stringent that they are stifling the creativity and individuality of the influencer, otherwise their followers may resist or reject the effort. They know their audience the best – what creative and messaging resonate best with their followers, and which types of posts will get likes, clicks and comments. After all, that’s why you’re engaging them in the first place, right?

Ambroise recommended: “If you’re going to procure an influencer for a project, do it on a one-on-one basis. It’s a lot easier to manage what the content is going to be and to negotiate the budget to what you need.” This direct line of communication with an influencer enables agencies to set clear expectations and better control what is ultimately created and shared, minimizing the risk of potential missteps throughout the process. Here are some other best practices to keep in mind when engaging an influencer:

  • DO select influencers with a following similar to your target audience. This will ensure that your message reaches those who are aligned with what your brand is selling. Beyond the influencer’s personality and voice, consider the look and feel of their content to avoid posts feeling off-brand.
  • DO cultivate a partnership with the influencer. When you develop a relationship with the influencer, vs losing contact once the post or campaign is completed, you will gain better and more authentic content. The influencer will also be more willing to work with you again in the future, allowing for a longstanding relationship with their audience.
  • DO set clear guidelines. Your brand is entering into an agreement with the influencer, so take care to set expectations like how often, when and where you want your brand promoted. That being said, make sure that you’re not limiting their creativity as it may impact the authenticity of the message – influencers will know how to incorporate your message in a way that resonates best with their followers. The use of relevant hashtags is an equally important decision in any influencer strategy, especially when it comes to disclosure and FTC guidelines. At the end of the day, it’s the brand’s responsibility to stay compliant without diminishing the influencer’s personality or creativity.
  • DO consider working with micro-influencers. It’s easy to want to pick an influencer because of their 1M+ fanbase, but they may not always be the best fit for your brand. Micro-influencers, who usually have between 5-10K followers, are often more effective than macro-influencers as they tell personal stories that not only connect better to a limited number of followers, but also receive higher engagement rates.

What are some of the pitfalls of the influencer trend?

First and foremost, take steps to ensure the influencer of choice aligns with your brand’s values. This can be as simple as perusing their feeds on different channels or researching what other brands they have worked with. If both the brand and the influencer are aligned, they will gain credibility, vs losing it if their partnership seems disjointed. Ambroise also noted that brands have to be realistic when their clients ask for influencers, particularly when evaluating whether the influencer is going to add value to the project or not: “They may be able to get the message out, but just because they have 750K followers doesn’t mean they’re going to harness the essence of your brand and what you’re selling.” When working with influencers, it’s clear that quality is definitely more important than quantity – despite those tempting, jaw-dropping follower counts.

Analisa Goodin of Catch&Release brought up Fyre Festival and how their use of influencers technically worked in terms of getting the word out, but, in reality, was a total failure that instead unveiled the brand’s true identity as what it always was: fraudulent. “I think there’s a certain responsibility on behalf of the brand to be in control of what they’re trying to influence. Fyre Festival was problematic because they tried to use the medium of the influencer to influence something that didn’t actually exist in the first place,” stated Goodin. In this case, the brand got caught up in the moment playing pretend with elite influencers, abandoning its promise to festival attendees, investors and the now infamous influencers, alike.

We close out this blog series with a nod to the future. Goodin summed it up best: “We have to look beyond just the face value of whatever we’re working with right now, for this specific project; zoom out and look at the context it’s in. Because that’s all we’re really doing: taking something out of its context and putting it into a new context.” Will this obsession with influencers last? Or will it just take on a new meaning in a different context – a different social media channel, perhaps? Will Sourced Content become the new normal? It seems to be heading that way. We are experiencing a rapid evolution of our industry, driven by technology that enables advertisers to connect with consumers in ways that feel real, engaging and human. One “trend” that will remain a constant in years to come? Authenticity.

  

Want to learn more about influencer trends?  Download our full report.