Four golden rules for influencer marketing in retail

Influencer marketing has come under fire recently, with some brands publicly moving away from the influencer market and other major companies, like Unilever, calling for more transparency across the board and P&G actively investigating. The fraud risk from fake followers (as much as 78% for the Ritz-Carlton hotel group influencers, one study from Points North Group found this year) is not to be underestimated.

But it’s hard to ignore a $2bn industry (and that’s just on Instagram). With one billion users on an average social platform, it’s still a growing discipline, and one that marketers need to prepare a very clear and informed strategy for.
Most commonly used by multinational brands in highly competitive industries, smaller brands are also starting to embrace and benefit from the trend. After all, it’s a measurable marketing channel with a wide reach of key consumer markets. Here are four ways to ensure you get maximum influencer marketing for your buck:

1) Don’t influence the influencer

A golden rule: don’t try to push your own brand guidelines onto influencers. This isn’t an advertising platform. Many influencers spend years instilling trust and building a loyal following; they are mini brands in themselves and have their own tone of voice, imagery, methods and lines they won’t cross.

It can also be problematic for your brand. If their follower base feel the tone and content of the piece doesn’t fit or, worse, “feels like an advert” (remember the recent Listerine debacle?) beware the backlash effect on your own KPIs.

2) Micro-influencers or macro-influencers?

Should you choose to work with micro influencers (with around 10,000 – 100,000 followers)  or macro influencers; celebrities with over 100,000 followers?

Aligning your brand with an Insta-celebrity can help augment credibility and status, if done correctly (as referenced in my intro). The trade off is that engagement levels are a lot lower and costs can be prohibitive. This is more akin to advertising – higher cost, lower return and harder to track results.

Meanwhile, a micro influencer could be a better route – particularly for smaller brands, and also could act as more of a direct response channel. In a recent study, 28% of brand marketers recently named influencers their fastest growing online sales channel (PMYB 2017). Whereas a macro push will drive awareness.

3) Set and agree clear KPIs and objectives

Always develop marketing campaign objectives, goals and deliverables. Agree what success looks like up-front and ensure everyone is aware of roles and responsibilities.
Cover off the following:

  • Brand affinity (target market appeal)
  • Campaign brief
  • Clear KPIs  
  • Deliverables (video, blog, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.)
  • Timescales
  • Budget

Ensure you always draw up and agree a contract before anything gets posted.

4) Always look beyond the stats

The key number for a micro influencer is 10,000 engaged followers and so for them, it’s often about working hard to reach that fanbase.

But to build a solid, loyal following on social media can be difficult and time consuming, and not all but some can turn to bots and companies offering to augment their metrics. On top of follower and engagement ‘bots’, Instagram groups and pods also exist and can be joined to boost engagement.

Brands are becoming more and more aware of this – earlier this year Unilever’s Keith Weed joined the push for “greater transparency” in influencer marketing. Even if you go through a professional network or agents, selecting the best influencer for your campaign requires a good deal of research and analysis. Don’t just rely on the up-front statistics as they can be deceptive – look at content as well.

Some areas to consider:

  • What’s their profile like – are you sure the pictures are genuine?
  • Check engagement levels and their comments – how realistic do they look?
  • Do they work across a range of social channels? What’s their presence and content like overall?

There are a number of important watch-outs for brands. However, if done correctly, influencer marketing offers a brilliant opportunity for brands of all sizes to develop one-offs and also ongoing campaigns, which will amplify their presence and generate sales in the longer term.

James Foote is the SEO strategy director at Infinity Nation

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