Traditional brand marketing is increasingly shifting towards innovative, influencer-led campaigns – and it’s far from a passing fad, with brands looking for new and effective ways to grow their audiences and convert new customers.
Two women who know the power of influencer marketing are Renee Bertolus, Senior Content Manager at Bupa, and Gretta van Riel, Founder of Hey Influencers, a platform that connects brands with the top social media influencers around the world. They say it all comes down to trust. “It’s the fact that influencers don’t only have an audience’s attention, but also their trust, that makes influencer marketing so appealing from an engagement point of view,” Greta explains. Here, Gretta and Renee share some of the key benefits of influencer marketing, as well as some insights about the current best practice.
Finding the right influencer to work with
As Renee and Gretta explain, there are a few things you should bear in mind when you are looking for an influencer to work with:
“Having someone who aligns well with your brand values is really important,” Renee says – and researching what the influencer’s values and interests are will help you determine if they are the right fit. “For example, if you were a vitamin brand, you would be looking for influencers who are interested and actively posting on health and wellbeing – they might be authorities in the space or they may just live an aspirational, healthy lifestyle,” Gretta says.
Knowing who not to engage as a brand advocate is also key. “Bupa is a health and care company, so we look for really credible, scientific positions on health matters,” Renee explains. “We would try to steer away from influencers who might be into fad diets, because it’s not a good fit for us as a brand,” she says.
It’s also essential to consider whether the influencer’s audience is the one you should be targeting. “Ultimately, the most important factor when finding influencers to collaborate with is audience affinity, or how similar an influencer’s audience is to your desired customers,” Gretta says. “The best way to do this is to work backward from your ideal customer, starting with some basic questions. For example, are they male or female? How old are they? Where are they located?”
To access this demographic data, Gretta recommends going straight to the source. “On Instagram for example, you can ask the influencer to send you a screenshot of the ‘Audience’ tab under their ‘Insights’, which shows the gender breakdown, age range and top locations of their followers by city and country,” she says.
Taking the time to research an influencer’s background as much as you can before reaching out to them could save your brand a lot of pain in the long run, explains Renee. “Look carefully at their online history to make sure that they haven’t spent time criticising your industry somewhere along the line,” she suggests. There are also steps you can take to ensure that the person is a genuine influencer. “There are verification tools that you can use to help you make sure that the audience of the influencer you want to work with is authentic, and that it’s not a bunch of bots [aka paid-for, fake followers],” Renee says.
Gretta recommends looking at a combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ metrics to evaluate the influencer’s likely level of influence over the course of a campaign. “Hard metrics are quantitative metrics such as the influencer’s reach (how many followers they have) and engagement (how much the followers engage with their posts),” she explains. Engagement can be measured by actions and interaction such as likes, comments, shares and saves, depending on the platform. “Soft metrics are more qualitative and could include things like the influencer’s tone of voice and their emotional connection with their audience,” Gretta says.
Macro vs micro
There has been significant debate on the value of influencers with larger audiences, vs influencers with smaller audiences, but Renee and Gretta argue both have benefits. “At Bupa, we look for a range of different influencers,” Renee says. “If we’ve got a campaign that we want eyeballs on, big numbers work well – but what I’m looking for more than anything else is the engagement of the audience.” This is where micro influencers often win out, as they tend to have small, dedicated followings that are highly engaged.
Working with influencers
Once you have established a connection with an influencer, you will need to consider elements such as payment, as well as how to work collaboratively with them to create a successful campaign.
Payment vs ‘product-for-post’
As a general rule, paying an influencer should give you more control over the messaging they put out – something many brands consider essential. “Being in a highly regulated industry like health, it’s really important that messages are checked off and legally compliant,” Renee says of Bupa’s particular requirements. In her experience, entering into a more formal agreement with the influencer – one that affords both creative freedom for the influencer as well as review rights for the brand – is an effective compromise.
For smaller brands, offering micro influencers product instead of payment can be an effective alternative strategy. “If you’re a smaller brand or just starting out, a ‘product-for-post’ campaign will help keep budget spend to a minimum while you get used to things like reaching out, creating an influencer brief and running a campaign,” she says. “Doing this at scale can be a really low cost, effective way of creating buzz and branded content at scale.”
Whatever the campaign or key messaging, Renee says it’s important that the influencer is able to communicate in a way that is authentic for them. “Otherwise, it’s just going to feel like an ad and their audience isn’t going to buy into it,” Renee says. “By providing the influencer with key messages up front, and then having them respond with some ideas around how they would bring them to life, you can ensure that your messages are in there, but that the influencer is also comfortable with the way they’re being delivered,” she says.
Gretta couldn’t agree more. “It’s really important to give influencers as much creative freedom when posting as possible,” she says. “This is because an influencer knows their audience and how to communicate with them best.”