It's safe to say Influencer Marketing, in one form or another, is here to stay. And whilst we've been successfully pairing brands with Influencers for years, we felt there was more to know than can be learned through experience alone. So we undertook some qualitative and quantitative research with Influencers and their audiences to help us understand the discipline from their perspective. The report, Under the Influence, was launched at an event with Chris Dodson (Head of YouTube marketing, Google), Emma Barnes (Director, Click Management), and Frank Bethel (Founder, Forward Scout).
Drawing on their collective experience working with Influencers ranging from Casey Neistat and Troye Sivan to up-and-coming Insta stars, Chris, Emma, and Frank shared a number of powerful insights. Here are their key tips for working with Influencers:
Treat them as a brand...
"It's more than sticking a face on a business. An Influencer campaign is the alignment of two brands," Barnes said at the event. The panel was quick to debunk the myth that young social stars are willing to do anything for a bit of cash. These days, Influencers know their worth and are actually looking to minimise the amount of brand work they do, as their audiences won't buy just anything they put in front of them.
"Working with too many brands is risky. The work they do has to be effective and help accelerate their careers. They're going to be strategic and selective. After all, the most important brand they work with is their own." Barnes reinforced the idea that, above all, Influencers are creators, and as such it's important to bring them into your creative process. She said her clients are too often tacked onto the end of campaigns and wrongly used as distribution channels.
...But don't assume they operate like one
For many social stars, their craft is their career, meaning they skipped traditional corporate upbringings. Barnes called them "self-taught," noting that Influencers often aren't familiar with approval processes, marketing strategies, crisis management, legal terms, etc. The entire panel emphasised the importance of patience, respect and reciprocation in these relationships, with Dodson adding, "You need to pay attention to details that may not seem important to you. Watch their content and get to know their audience before you meet with them, but still trust that they know it better than anyone. Treat their upload schedules as law." For instance, if an Influencer insists on posting on a certain day and time, it's not to make your life difficult or misalign with your brand launch, it's simply what they know works for them and, in turn, what will work for the content.
Write specific briefs for activations…
The panel was in overwhelming agreement on the importance of specific briefs. They said a good brief would ideally include information about the brand mission, values, personality, and explain how those are intended to be manifested in this particular campaign. It's also important to include very specific details such as number of posts, necessary hashtags, things to avoid, the addition of #ad, etc. so Influencers can be held accountable on deliverables. Telling them to simply "cover the event on social" or "do a couple posts about the brand" is not nearly specific enough, nor is it capitalising on their creative potential.
...But always think long term
We've found contracts are key to working with Influencers in any capacity, but the best partnerships are lasting partnerships that don't hinge on one-off executions. Samsung's relationship with Casey Neistat was regarded as a best-in-class example of how brands can establish these ongoing collaborations and make Influencers brand advocates. Unlike celebrity endorsers, Influencers have the power to become the face of a brand authentically through shared experiences.