The festive season is almost upon us, and now’s the time for online retailers to be promoting their Christmas bestsellers, if they aren’t already. Christmas is such a critical time of the business year, and as James Murphy, chief executive of ad agency Adam & Eve DDB, put it in an interview with The Guardian ,“if Christmas goes well, the year goes well.”
While Christmas ads and creative will have most likely have been signed off months ago, online retailers should really be thinking about how they can seek the support of a few well-chosen social influencers to reach the digital-native generations particularly. With the bulk of Christmas shopping being done online, and increasingly on our mobile phone, campaigns have moved from macro (i.e. TV and billboards) to micro (i.e. in our pockets) channels. Also the peer-to-peer world in which we now live demands that businesses are engaging in meaningful conversation with their online communities, and creating interesting and well-tailored content.
There’s the perception that influencer marketing is solely for brands with deep pockets, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Increasingly, there’s a growing trend towards brands collaborating with non-traditional and micro influencers, who don’t demand nearly the same price tag as well-established digital talent. This means that businesses working with smaller budgets can still go after a piece of the influencer marketing [mince] pie! However, this can all seem a bit daunting to a business new to influencer marketing, so here are five top tips to help get you started…
- Undertake in-depth audience research
Identifying the right influencers to work with can be a tricky and laborious task. While it can help to ask your audience who they respect and listen to, this won’t always return the best results, and likewise personal recommendations from industry peers are unlikely to aid the discovery of newly emerging talent. If budget allows, the most sensible way to go about finding an influencer who resonates with your brand, and who shares the same core values, is to invest in an influencer research tool. Nowadays there’s plenty of choice, with differing price tags, and if the cost is prohibitive there are free tools available too. For smaller businesses, focus on finding an expert within your product field, who is passionate about what you produce. Maybe they are a loyal advocate of your brand already.
- Think beyond gifting
Up until very recently, gifting was the primary way for businesses to reach out to online influencers, who they hoped to gain the attention of. They would pop a free product in the post, often without an agreed brief in place, and pretty much hope for the best. Unsurprisingly, it was an ineffective approach and led to a backlash in influencer marketing, with the younger generation particularly questioning the authenticity of many collaborations. But the industry has matured, and nowadays businesses are focused on building a meaningful collaboration and campaign. Businesses would be advised to focus on quality over quantity, and work with maybe just a handful of well-chosen influencers, where it won’t seem overly commercial or sponsored.
So instead of ramming a product down the throats of followers, be more creative and think about how you might tap into the influencer’s knowledge, talent and expertise. You could get them to speak about a cause that you share mutual passion for, or get them involved in a creative challenge. If they’re a Parkour expert, DJ, tap dancer, trumpet player, etc, think about utilising what they are good at, and build that into your campaign idea.
- Be truly collaborative
Influencers know their audience better than anyone, and should have a good grasp of the sort of content that they respond best to. For this reason, try not to be too prescribed in your approach. Be open to ideas, and involve the influencer as early on in the creative process as possible. Allow the relationship to be a two-way partnership, and the influencer will respect you more for that, as well as the campaign being more successful and impactful.
- Build loyalty
Nowadays we see a lot of ‘one post’ deals, where a top model, for example, is paid thousands of pounds for a single Instagram image. But for smaller businesses, and those with more limited funds, it can help to focus on evolving a longer term partnership with an influencer who’s a perfect fit for your brand. If they are at the beginning of their social media career, they will really appreciate your investment in them, and this is likely to deliver better results in the long-term. Your online audience will also be more likely to trust a relationship which they believe is genuine.
- Attach solid business metrics
Be clear about what your influencer collaboration needs to achieve for your business. If it’s sales, be sure that you are able to track those sales, and if it’s an alternative call to action you need to be able to distinguish the impact an individual influencer is having, from other marketing activity. Instagram has recently rolled out new features which allow businesses to include links within influencer content, as well as a way for influencers to tag a brand as the sponsor for their post, meaning that the post will include a “Paid partnership with” notification at the very top. This also means that you will automatically get access to the same data as the influencer around a post’s reach and engagement, and that data will show up in your Facebook dashboard. Businesses can also think about including trackable links within influencer content.
- Stick to the rules!
Finally, it makes sense to not break the rules surrounding influencer marketing. Influencers are expected to signpost any paid-for content as “sponsored”, and businesses need to ensure this is happening properly. Last year, ISBA launched a contract for advertisers to use when working with digital talent, which may be a helpful resource. More information is also available on the ASA website.