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Cutting through the crap of influencer marketing

There’s a lot of crap talked about Influencer Marketing, a whole lot of hype and a severe lack of understanding from a lot of people.

Let’s take a sensible look at influence, influencers, and what they actually mean for your marketing.

What is influence?

Pick up a dictionary and it will tell you that ‘influence’ is, “The capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour of someone or something, to the effect itself.”

In the marketing sense, it’s the idea of partnering with someone who has a massive social media following who’s prepared to tell their fans to buy whatever it is you’re selling, on your behalf.

Influence is a great word for this type of activity.  It’s just as opaque as the influencers themselves.  It clearly comes without any sort of guarantees and there’s a clear and unequivocal lump of ‘well, I tried for you’ about any posts that are made on your behalf.  You’re buying a slice of someone’s social media stream in the hope that their followers will engage with you.  You’re buying it in the hope that the followers of that account sufficiently believe in your influencer and that they’ll also believe in your product:  that they’ll believe enough to buy, based on a recommendation.

Do you need it?

No, you don’t.  Not really.  Because what is influence?  It’s a quiet persuasion and if you need a shot in the arm saleswise, influencers are not really the way forward.  Similarly, if you’re selling something that’s not particularly socially friendly, then Influencer Marketing will not be the best route for you.

A few Instagrammers aren’t going to boost your 6mm washer sales.

Likewise, if you don’t know entirely who your customers are and what they want, then influencer marketing carries an enormous risk.  Choose the wrong influencers and your investment is going to go up the wall.

If you have a small social presence, then influencers aren’t going to deliver for you.  Not unless you have a really exciting start-up story to tell.  If you start reaching out to 10k plus social media influencers, but you’re currently only being followed by your Mum and your other half, all you’re offering is disappointment.  Build a base organically before you reach out to influencers.

Not all channels are going to work for you either, so choose the most effective first.  Are you marketing accountancy software?  Then Instagram isn’t going to do much for your bottom-line or your overall reach, but Facebook may well be a completely different beast.  If you’re going to look for influencers look at the channel that’s likely to have most influence for you.

Lots of numbers are thrown about when it comes to Influencer Marketing – £17 returned for every £1 spent, 110% ROI on a ‘typical’ campaign (whatever ‘typical’ is) and more besides, but none of it means anything.  They’re just the numbers that people are happy to share.  For all of the “you need to get on this” messaging that’s thrown around, let’s not forget the high-profile failures like Fyre Festival that provide a reminder that these campaigns can go spectacularly wrong.

As much as we love them and as good as the results we’ve seen from them are, influencers are perhaps one of the most opaque and hard to measure things that you will ever wrap your head around.  You need to be selfish, you need to put your own needs ahead of those of the influencers themselves and you need to be clear about what you expect to achieve before you start splashing the cash.

How do you do it?

We don’t typically run influencer campaigns – but that’s largely because of how we work, not what we can do.  We’ll monitor our clients’ social landscapes and engage with influencers when we come across good ones.  For our clients, that’s more effective in the medium to long term than just throwing out a £25k budget and hoping for a massive boost.

We do apply a few rules to influencer outreach that help us to get the best from the investment and keep the risk as low as possible.

Know your audience. This is the most important thing and if you look at your customers and you’re in any doubt about who they are and what they’re after, then go back and find out.  An influencer has to carry influence for you over the kind of people who’d buy from you.  Make sure you can complete this equation at the very start.

Know your outcome.  That might sound simple, but it helps to know what success looks like before you start.  If it’s a new FMCG product you’re launching then you’re going to want to get that in front of as many people as possible – so you need influencers with high follower numbers, while sales are better driven by influencers with lower numbers and higher engagement.

Check their numbers.  We typically don’t work with influencers who have fewer followers than our client – unless they have high authority in a very niche corner of the market.  We have to triple-check an influencer’s numbers and make sure that they’re consistent over time before reaching out to them.

Check their heritage.  Who have your influencers worked with in the past?  Do they have any performance numbers they can share?  Don’t be afraid of asking an influencer to prove their worth.

Plan your activity.  Influencer marketing is no different to other channels – it’s not a one-time deal.  You should be working with influencers over a period of weeks rather than just a post or two.

Manage your budget.  Know what a post from an influencer is worth and don’t pay over the odds.  We don’t pay influencers who have under 2,500 followers, rather work with them on a product sharing or bartered basis.  2,500 – 10,000 and we’ll pay from £10 to maybe £200/250 per post.  10k to 25k will take things up and then 50k and higher again.  If you’re thinking you need Kim Kardashian, then you’re chucking mega-bucks at it.

Then, when you know all of that, it’s just a matter of sending a message and asking nicely.

Of course, you could give us a call and we can do it for you.

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