Influencers abound on social media, and brands are vying for their fandom for good reason: When done well, influencer marketing builds trust and credibility, not to mention the cachet of exclusivity. Influencers are paid directly or in kind to become oral and visual storytellers, inviting their audiences to grab sneak peaks alongside them. And it’s working so well that 67 percent of marketing pros see it as a positive must-have to improve profits and generate buzz, according to research from Activate.
But what many businesses aren’t doing is courting influencers early enough or correctly. Truly, a fantastic time to snag the right influencer is pre-launch, as Summer Fridays’ founders did. The entrepreneurial duo, who themselves were influencers with substantial followings, teased Summer Fridays’ impending product line for months. As a result, within two weeks of the Jet Lag Mask product launch, it was a Sephora bestseller.
Still, amassing and monitoring a team of influencers isn’t a straightforward process. Plenty can — and does — go wrong for marketers.
How to Improve Influencer-Brand Fit
Unfortunately, too many organizations fixate on influencer follower numbers and don’t bother to dig deeper. Ultimately, this has bred skepticism around content that seems dishonest or inauthentic.
A study titled “The Truth About Influencer Marketing” revealed that brands squander almost 25 percent of influencer marketing dollars by creating inauthentic content that consumers simply don’t trust. Indeed, 35 percent of female respondents assumed the influencers they saw were being untruthful about sponsored content. At the same time, influencers didn’t seem to care about the disconnect; a full 15 percent of them didn’t care for the brands they promoted, implying more than bad fit.
To avoid friction between brands, influencers, and consumers, marketing teams must take the time to vet and prep their target influencer candidates. Otherwise, companies won’t be able to successfully or confidently leverage a massive influencer marketing campaign before a product unveiling.
Before your organization reaches out to any influencers, take these specific steps:
1. Prepare for a long-term commitment.
Don’t expect to work with your influencer for merely a few weeks or months. Establish a more supportive one-on-one connection that includes real give and take. As with any relationship, influencer marketing takes time, commitment, sincerity, organization, and effort. The stronger your rapport, the less likely you’ll have a sudden fallout or surprise. Plus, your influencers will see how they fit into the company, rather than feeling like mere marketing drones.
Unconvinced this type of commitment is necessary? Vero’s experience says otherwise. Although its influencer marketing started off with a bang, bringing in millions of new downloads a month after influencers eagerly showcased its possibilities, its heady days were short-lived. Not only did the brand’s servers collapse under the weight of so many users, but its commitment to consumer privacy also appeared to be a deception. Influencers who felt little to no loyalty jumped ship and didn’t look back, leaving a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.
2. Vet influencers’ past content and actions.
When the right influencer and brand come together, the result is magic. Case in point: At disruptive e-retailer Revolve, influencer marketing isn’t just a part of the advertising strategy; it’s the impetus for about 7 out of every 10 sales. But the wrong influencer can harm a brand just as much.
PewDiePie, a top influencer, got the heave-ho from Disney after making inappropriate jokes that conflicted with the brand’s values. Similarly, Logan Paul lost his status with Walmart and Dunkin’ Donuts, thanks to a tasteless video he aired. And Laura Lee, a popular beauty influencer, took a huge loss because of prejudiced comments she’d made in the past.
These fiascos point to the need for your marketing team to assess all influencer candidates’ online remarks, images, videos, and reputations. Look for everything from lawsuits to controversies, and be sure you’re not jumping into the fire. Again, even if your influencer partners have millions of followers, your brand will feel the effects of bad press around them.
As you create your marketing campaign for that next big service or innovative piece of merchandise, add a line item for influencers. With a bit of planning, you can get a nice brand boost, thanks to authentic social momentum and excitement.