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Podcast: Influencer Marketing - The Importance of Building Authentic Connections

Insights / 08.24.2018

Red Door

Under the right circumstances, influencer marketing can be an effective avenue for brands to interact and connect with their consumers. While a variety of components make for a successful influencer campaign strategy  – solid "brand alignment" between brands and influencers, authentic and meaningful engagement, and so on –  some marketers are now taking a more transactional approach to influencers. This mindset has given rise to influencer-focused agencies that center their services around drafting deals, producing content, and ensuring basic compliance with the law. However, what's lost in this business-driven (and somewhat impersonal) approach are the foundational values from which a brand's relationship with influencers should be built upon. 

In this episode of The Marketing Remix, Mia Mendola, Sr. Social Media Specialist, and Lindsey Weintraub, Associate Strategic Planner, discuss all things influencer: who they are, what they do, and how to build relationships that maximize their effect.

What constitutes an “influencer”? Is there a difference between an influencer and a collaborator? 

By nature, an influencer and a collaborator are different in how they serve a brand. A brand would likely tap an influencer to talk specifically about that brand, while a collaborator would work to build the brand and provide their input on the brand.  

"What is an influencer?" is really a loaded question as an influencer can really be any person that influences another person. With this in mind though, we can really start to scale what an influencer relationship truly looks like. From celebrity influencers to micro-influencers, an influencer can be defined as anyone that has a connection with a community with the ability to positively affect that community’s psyche.

How do brands then find those people? 

It really goes back to really understanding your audience and understanding the micro community in which you're trying to influence. Huge influencer agencies have these very transactional deals with a set influencer network they work with. They have the ability to type in key words to find influencers who talk about that specific keyword, but they lack qualitative analysis. 

It’s important to also consider who this influencer is, who's talking on their channels, what sort of people they follow on their channels, and who the ideal consumer is. Because of this, there's so much personal thoughtfulness that should be accounted for. At the end of the day, if this person does not intimately connect with your brand and can't intimately connect with other people, then it's almost a worthless relationship.

How are we finding these people and how does it matter that it's different than some of these pay for play network styles? 

Beyond knowing who your audience is, you should also know what your brand is, what your brand stands for, and what your brand's values are. In order for this influencer connection to be authentic, it has to be a kind of three-way integration. Your brand itself has to be authentic so there is a value alignment between the influencer, the brand, and the audience. If there is a significant gap in one of these three aspects, the effectiveness of the influencer program really varies. 

Should a brand use Influencers exclusively?

Influencer marketing alone is not your silver bullet or the only way to relate to your consumer. Many brands today approach influencer marketing so transactionally and seem to isolate this tactic from their other marketing strategies. 

Programs low in influencer volume, but high in impact are created from close, personal connections, allowing flexibility in the kind of relationship that the influencer would like to have. Establishing this personal connection ultimately opens the door for the vast amount of ways you can work with influencers; it advances your PR strategy, helps you establish your on-the-ground-event activation strategy, and allows you to really integrate that person into your marketing strategy.

How is the impact of influencers measured? Is there are way to track or determine ROI?

There are so many different variables, especially considering offline connections that are impossible to track. With an influencer program, there are some elements that can be quantified but there are some that can't. This can sometimes bleed into a type of faith-based initiative, as brands realize that chasing down a quantifiable metric for every aspect of the program might be more work than it's worth. 

No one would contest the fact that Michael Jordan has had a huge impact on Nike. At the same time, no one is trying to literally quantify every single piece of data around what that impact is. Not everyone has the liberty of being Nike or Michael Jordan and saying, "Yeah, we know it worked," but that doesn't mean that there isn't value. 

Word of mouth is also a huge way to add value to the program, though it is not necessarily measurable. Providing people with a sense of community creates an environment in which people start naturally about products and brands that have helped them. In this way, adding value can be through giving people community, giving people a sense of belonging, helping them to be inspired, or motivating them to do something new. There are so many ways that you can add value to people's lives and enhance their experiences.

What are the pros and cons of utilizing an influencer-focused agency?

So many influencer relationships are paid, whether it's authentic or not, so you have to understand that payment is becoming so common. It's rare that you're going to have a partnership or influencer relationship that doesn't have some sort of transaction between the two of you. Large brands with an established history and clear understanding of who they are generally run large influencer marketing programs. Having done all the research, these type of brands know exactly what markets they want to hit, so they tend to benefit from an influencer focused agency.

If you're a much smaller brand trying to break into a new space, you need to lay down the foundation and focus on creating authentic relationships to then create a community. 

What content should influencers promote?

There are really so many different ways to work with influencers. And in some ways, we can think of it almost like a tool box. So influencers provide an additional tool box of different ways that you can use them, and work with them, and create value with them. Sometimes this looks like a post on Instagram and other times this could just be an influencer showing up to an event and bringing like-minded people together. 

Giving influencers some room for creativity to really help them develop the kind of program that they would want to create is so important. If there is someone who just would seamlessly integrate into your brand, we typically recommend that they be involved in content creation.

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