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Straight Talk: 5 Surprising Insights from Influencers

Last week during Outdoor Retailer, North America’s largest tradeshow in the outdoor industry, Olapic hosted an event focused on the role of influencer marketing in building share of voice for brands. The event included a panel with four local creators in the outdoor/lifestyle space who each provided their unique perspective on everything from the term “influencer” to Fyre festival to what makes a useful creative brief.

Our creators included:

We kicked off the evening by discussing the shifting landscape of influencer marketing, the role of consumer trust and how influencers, or creators, can play a role in driving brand awareness and building loyal audiences.

Driven by passion, not paychecks

When one thinks of influencer marketing, they often immediately think of expensive campaigns with macro influencers with the goal of making a big splash. However, influencers that drive high engagement tend to be those with an authentic passion for the product or brand they’re representing.

What drives your passion to create?

“A passion for art. I’ve always loved photography and wanted to make it my work. I enjoy being able to create something and do good.” – Ty Newcomb

“In the beginning [of my time working as an influencer] I worked with brands that were great, but not always necessarily brands I was already using and supporting. Now, I get to work with brands I look up to and that already fit into my life, like Copper Mountain and Pura Vida bracelets. I get to build connections with brands and I already love and support.” – Courtney Steeves

“I’m grateful that I get to work for myself and be on my own schedule. I started out by trying to take more and more entertaining photos of my dog Loki but I was able to quit my job and now I’m driven by the motivation of the long-term.” – Kelly Lund

Creators or consultants – not influencers

As influencer marketing evolves, the term “influencer” has been met with some resistance.

What do you consider yourself?

“It’s not just posting a photo and hoping I move the needle for a brand. It’s something that I’m wearing and using on a day-to-day basis. I introduce the brands I work with to new influencers. I like to consider myself a consultant and content creator.” – Eric Hinman

“I feel like the term ‘influencer’ has become derogatory. I like to be considered an artist. It’s more complicated than that.” – Ty Newcomb

The goal is to provide inspiration

At Olapic, we recently conducted a research study amongst 5,000 global social media users, and nearly a third of respondents said they follow influencers because they provide inspiration. The group of creators echoed this sentiment in agreement.

What is your goal as a creator?

“I hope to make the outdoors accessible to anybody and everybody. I’m not an extreme mountain biker and I don’t compete in Iron Mans, but I enjoy the outdoors in my own way, even if I’m just camping down the road. I like to encourage people to get outdoors in whatever way works for them.” – Courtney Steeves

“My brand is built around inspiration. I want to inspire the world to chase perfect days. I feel most valuable when I’m exposing my audience to a newer brand or product. I feel less valuable when I’m just a billboard for a company everyone knows.” – Eric Hinman

“At its simplest, my goal is to inspire people to live a better life with their pet.” – Kelly Lund

Carve a niche while building a community

As more people find their way into influencer marketing, brands have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of creators in the same category, whether it be fashion, beauty or lifestyle. Surprisingly, all of the creators on the panel said they don’t feel threatened by others in the same category, and instead even look to partnering with similar creators to share audiences, build connections and so on.

How do you ensure that you stand out within your own niche?

“You have to do something different. There’s always going to be someone who’s doing something similar to you. A lot of people who use [Facebook or Instagram] stories post in the same way, so finding a way to differentiate your content and make it stand out is important.” – Ty Newcomb

“I’ve started going on a lot brand trips. So I travel with other creators who are doing similar things and we get to share each other’s audiences. I know brands choose me because of a particular ‘vibe’ of content I create, so they’re looking for a variety of aesthetics by bringing multiple creators on a trip together.” – Courtney Steeves

“There’s the ‘what the hell’ factor? when I’m setting up a concept for a post, I think through the background or what I’m wearing so there’s an element of surprise.” – Eric Hinman

They crave creative freedom but appreciate guidelines

As a brand engaging an influencer, you likely have an aesthetic, or even a concept in mind before you write the creative brief. While creators expect to have artistic license, that doesn’t mean that you should leave the creative brief open.

What helps you do a good job?

“Some of the worst campaigns I’ve worked on are when a brand has a particular image in their mind that they’d like me to create, but they don’t communicate it specifically. Moodboards are the best. Even if you use another brand’s imagery, it’s super helpful to see a collection of imagery that represents what you’re looking for. If you provide us with a moodboard and we still deliver something that isn’t what you were looking for, then it’s our fault.” – Ty Newcomb

“We love specific feedback. On our end, it can be like the wild west.” – Kelly Lund

“For us, it’s a lot easier to create story content than feed content, so knowing what the shots will be used for is incredibly useful.” – Eric Hinman

The event provided helpful insights and takeaways for brands from local influencers. The main sentiment was that the foundation of a fruitful relationship with an influencer is a strong line of communication between brand and content creator.