Why Influencers Can Do What Brands Can’t
InPRocess is a bi-monthly PR blog series. Do you need guidance with a PR challenge you’re facing? Connect with our PR Director Scott to learn more about all of EPIC’s PR services, including media + community relations, crisis management, and influencer marketing.
Effectively Engaging With Influencers
Imagine you’re in the market to buy a new snowblower. If you’re a modern consumer, you’re probably going to look online for reviews, tips, or any insight you can get on what the right snowblower is for you. Sure, you look on company websites, but of course they’re going to talk about how great the snowblower is … they’re the ones selling it! So you end up finding a channel on YouTube of a professional snow contractor who has used all different kinds of snowblowers over the years. He’s relatable, informative, and he’s even kind of funny. Now you’ve got the input you need to make a purchase decision.
Consulting with the opinions of “influencers” is the purchase path that more and more consumers are taking. Influencers are often professionals in their field, but sometimes they’re just average people with a passion for a certain niche, which is why their voices are so powerful.
That power can be harnessed by brands, but it’s a delicate process to maintain brand integrity while also building healthy relationships with influencers in your field.
Here are a few ways to effectively add influencers to your marketing efforts.
Let Them Use Their Own Voice
The public can spot a phony relationship or a contrived marketing strategy in an instant. Consumers want authenticity, and good influencers provide it. Yes, many of them work with sponsors, but only ones that don’t sacrifice the integrity of their expertise and their message.
When you work with influencers, be sure to let them speak to the audience in their own voice. That can be scary, because their voice might not be your brand’s voice, and you may not get to control every word, but that’s the point … it’s a good thing. These are professional public figures, and they have built their audience on their own unique voice. Even if you’re paying the influencer, by letting them give their honest input on the product or use it in their environment, you’re removing the heavy layers of advertising and consumer cynicism. That’s where their authenticity works for you. If you want to make a sales video, do it on your own website. When it comes to influencers, you can be involved but, in the end, just let them do their thing.
Set Clear Expectations
Influencer relationships are just that: relationships. When you begin working with someone, you figure out what their style is, how they communicate, and what success looks like to them. It’s the same with influencers. Do your homework and get to know their platform, but you should also spend time just getting to know them as people. When we begin working with influencers at EPIC, we get on a call and just get to know each other.
When the formal professional relationship evolves out of that “get to know you” phase, it’s important to set expectations. Sometimes that can look like a contract where you are requiring certain deliverables from them, or that you’d prefer that they do—or not do—certain things when talking about your brand. Other times it’s just a discussion of what outcomes would make everyone happy. As in any relationship, unspoken and unmet expectations lead to resentment. So it’s best to have those conversations sooner rather than later.
Get Creative With Compensation
There’s no doubt that with professional influencers, when you talk about expectations, compensation or some kind of transaction will come up. For some influencers, it’s a simple a la carte “purchase,” like a blog post for $1,000, and that can provide a lot of value. However, try your best to think outside the box when it comes to compensation. Sometimes, if you’re paying an influencer to post 3 times per month about your brand, it’s human nature to procrastinate, and then it becomes a chore rather than a partnership.
Instead, think about ways to make them feel like a part of the team. Here are a few non-monetary ways to compensate influencers:
A unique URL that they share with fans so that they earn discounts or free product with each referral sale they make.
Exclusive access to new products, tours of your office or factory, or invites to special events.
Priority service to get new parts, troubleshooting, or software updates.
Involvement in professional product or brand photography, making them the face of your brand!
Money is a great motivator, but if it’s a valued, long-term relationship, access and insight is just as important. It also makes them a part of the process, instead of a tool you’re using.
Track Your Results
Relationships can be abstract, but not when it comes to results. If it’s a professional relationship, the influencer will need to make sure they’re keeping up their end of the bargain. In that “setting expectations” phase, you’ll likely want to set benchmarks for what success looks like for both parties. Then, you need to track the results to see the effectiveness of the partnership. Many times, it can be as simple as monitoring your influencer’s social media feeds or website. Or, ask them to send you reports on the metrics you’re measuring. If you’re using an official contract, spell out these expectations in writing.
Don’t overlook the “long game” of influencer marketing. Many influencers show their value in building brand affinity and a strong reputation.
For many brands, it comes down to sales. If you have a way to track referral sales, that’s great. But don’t overlook the “long game” of influencer marketing. Many influencers show their value in building brand affinity and a strong reputation. That may not always neatly connect to sales numbers, but it’s worth the investment. Plus, if your influencers are on YouTube, their videos may be viewed for years and years to come.
EPIC Creative has spent years cultivating relationships with influencers across many industries, and we’d be happy to talk to you more about how we navigate this nuanced field to achieve success for our clients!