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How To Build a Successful Brand x Influencer Relationship

Earlier this year, Olapic brought to life its Visual Marketing World Tour, our first customer roadshow, across Europe and the U.S. We kicked off the EMEA roadshow in London, Stockholm and Paris inviting our clients to attend a thought-provoking day of insights, expert keynotes, panel discussions, and networking. At our first stop in London, one of the hottest topics of the day was influencer marketing.

With 86% of marketers having used this type of marketing in 2016 it’s not surprising that our Instagram influencer panel took centre stage. After the discussion, we took the opportunity to interview our three guests to better understand best practices, what makes them tick, and how brands can best leverage one of the most popular, yet intricate, marketing tactics of the past decade.

SETTING THE STAGE: WHAT MAKES A “GOOD” INFLUENCER?

Influencer marketing has been “having a moment,” for a while in our industry, but as the discipline is reaching full maturity, marketers are realizing how nuanced this practice can be. For example, while influencers were in their nascency there was a misconception that those with the highest followers, were the best in the business. Marketers have recently learned, that there is more criteria than just reach when choosing the best influencer marketing strategy for their brand.  

There is a complexity to the art of persuasion and the psychology of sharing that comes into play when trying to reach modern consumers. When it comes to influencers, consumers prefer to see content from people with whom they can identify — not those who represent an unrealistic ideal. As a result, influencers and micro-influencers have a wider playground when it comes to promoting their services to brands. According to our guests, high-performing influencers should be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Consistency of their personality, image, creative signature, and individuality
  • Capacity to understand, listen, and adapt to their audience, which allows them to create high-performing content based on observation and insight
  • A creative flair that allows them to tell interesting and aspirational stories through visual and written content, whether photos, videos, collages, or even captions
  • An ability to sustainably juggle all of the above, managing their own brand as well as the brand they wish to promote

KEY ELEMENTS TO SUCCESSFUL BRAND x INFLUENCER RELATIONSHIP

According to Linqia’s 2017 State of Influencer Marketing report, nearly two-thirds of marketers (64%) used a managed or “turn-key” service provider to handle their influencer needs, while only 25% of marketers handled their influencer programmes in-house. As a result, finding the right influencer marketing platform was set to be a challenge for brands in 2017. Whether you’ve decided to run your own programme or leverage an external partner, here are a few guidelines to help brands get started:

  • Ensure compatibility between brand and influencer: One the key selling points for influencer marketing platforms is the ability to find the right “match” for your brand. While it’s important to lean on a technology that can use insights and data to find the correct influencer for you, it’s also important that your brand researches and states its expectations clearly. By providing a distinct brief with expected messaging, aesthetic, and tone, it will be easier to find an influencer whose creative signature, personality, and values have a natural fit to your guidelines, which will inherently make the content they create more authentic.  
  • Be specific: What are your campaign goals? What do you want to achieve? What metrics or KPIs will you use to analyse success? The more prescriptive you are, the more your collaboration is likely to be fruitful.
  • Set expectations: Before signing on with an influencer, clearly discuss expectations with all parties involved. What do you want from a creative standpoint? What is your expected turnaround time for assets? How to you intend to interact and/or collaborate with the influencer?  Being as crystal clear as possible will help you build trust, optimise results, and strengthen your campaign efforts. (Your influencers and your influencer marketing platform will thank you for that too!)

INSIDE THE MIND OF THE INFLUENCER:  DOS AND DON’TS FOR BRANDS

An optimal brand x influencer relationship occurs when the influencer demonstrates a highly positive affinity for the brand they are collaborating with, while also being offered the creative freedom they aspire to along with clearly defined compensation mechanics. Sometimes the brand value is even a sufficient enough driver to warrant pro-bono collaboration, but still with the expectation that the influencer could have creative freedom.

Even when and if creativity and compensation are respected, but the brand affinity is low or non-existent, the risk of a poor campaign result significantly increases.  That said, it is important to constantly ask these questions:  Is the influencer’s audience the right fit for the product or service being offered? Is the product or its messaging in line with the consistency or creative style showcased by the influencer? How authentic does the collaboration feel from both an internal and external point of view? As aforementioned, the more natural the brand x influencer relationship is, the more authentic and meaningful the content created will be.

On the other hand, where brand affinity and compensation are high but creative freedom is low, brands are at risk of antagonism or friction from the influencer. Beyond the sole act of being the conveyor of a #sponsor #ad, influencers identify themselves as creators in their own right, with their own signature style, personality, and feed consistency. As we also mentioned above, giving existing visual assets for influencers to post on their feed, copywriting captions for them, or being overly prescriptive in the creation process is generally to be avoided unless explicitly agreed upon in the conditions of collaboration.

BONUS: EXAMPLES OF JOINT INFLUENCER AND UGC ACTIVATIONS

If you’re part of the 86% of marketers who have used influencer marketing in the last year, then you know how successful and empowering these collaborations can be whether you’re using it to promote product launches or seasonal trends. With all this in mind, I’d like to end this article by sharing a few examples of how brands can further leverage these campaigns by expanding them to a more customer-centric programme using earned content (UGC).

If a brand has a  robust hashtag campaign strategy, leveraging influencer content can help achieve an initial reach on a global scale, or more localised basis, while also setting the tone of the type of content a brand wants their  own customers to create. As the content creation and brand encouragement of UGC advances, the more customers will feel inclined to post branded content similar to those they are seeing from influencers. This inherently will create a cycle that can help build a library of authentic user-generated brand assets and move the needle forward on engagement for a campaign.

Influencer marketing as a stand alone approach is a great way to get your brand message across, but also represents a fantastic opportunity for brands to encourage their own consumers to follow a trend and take part in the content creation process. British fashion brand AllSaints leveraged their influencer network to kick start their highly successful seasonal UGC campaign, #itsuptoyou. And, The Body Shop also saw success through their partnership with influencer Naomi Smart for their #daretomask campaign and competition.

Special thanks to our three guest influencers: Andrea Cheong (@fleurandrea), Shelley Morecroft (@shelleyannem), and Mia Soarez (@miasoarez). [Listed left to right]

Ultimately, influencer marketing is still a tactic to include in your brand’s promotion strategy and arsenal. The influencer industry, as it matures, will be an ever-evolving space. If marketers are to find success implementing a strong influencer strategy it’s exceedingly important that they understand the nuances of a brand x influencer relationship. From setting clear expectations, understanding the metrics that matter, and working on a strong collaborative relationship with your influencer – details matter.   Finding ways to build a solid and highly collaborative influencer x brand relationship will help you further capitalise on your investment, by leveraging your campaigns to seed more calls to action, encourage the creation of UGC, and ultimately, convert more customers.

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