Dare to Grow or How not to Give in to the Mirages of Influencer Marketing

With 2020 forecasts seeing double in terms of allocated budgets,* Influencer Marketing is not about to be left behind by marketing teams. However, Influencer Marketing remains largely under-appreciated. It is still far too often treated as a subject of lesser importance in many companies. Influencer Marketing still remains far from the core business concerns, confined to first-level KPIs. Rather than listing the trends of the year, here are some insights into how to improve Influencer Marketing strategies, and the benefits that can make this subject an important lever of a marketing strategy.

1- Do not Confuse Technology and Strategy.

Influencer agencies are often the way for brands and influencers to meet due to the agency’s pools of ready-to-respond profiles, dedicated social listening tools, and automated platforms (specialized players that tend to transform into influencer marketplaces). The temptation is enormous for brands, who see the possibility of exerting their influence in virtual autonomy. It is necessary that the teams devote themselves to relationship management which is critical if we want to lay the foundations for a long-term relationship and get the most out of a “made-to-order” mode of exchange.

Agencies give brands the ability to have: influencers who are already candidates (or even applicants), access to metrics, and the possibility of tracking performance in real time. However, we can never do without a human analysis of these accounts, which no amount of AI for the moment can provide. The quantity is accessible, but quality remains for the moment the criteria that only a human can quantify. Brands should always have their choice of an influencer based on their specific needs and image perception. The # 1 error is relying solely on metrics and statistics. Influencers are not only measured in numbers but in attitude, in clear impressions, and in emotional feeling.

For the moment, computer generated programs often show obvious profiles, loved by all comers who are neither niche nor authentic and which will be of little qualitative interest for the precise scope of the brand. This is not to say we should shy away from these tools, however, these tools should be an integral part of executing influence strategy, but should not override it.

There are two clear advantages to this approach. Upstreaming, to confirm or deny the scope of the profiles carefully selected beforehand (in other words, check the reach and the engagement rate). Down-streaming, to monitor and measure performance in real-time. These tools help rationalize choices, not define them.

Relationship management is critical if we want to lay the foundations for a long-term relationship and get out of a “made-to-order” mode of exchange.

2- One for all! All for one! Diversity Creates Identity.

Influencer Marketing campaigns should be thought of as targeting different pools of influencers. At WITH, we believe that having a wide variety of influencers is more interesting because each one will be able to activate a facet of the brand which, put together, will project the purpose of the brand as a whole. Each influencer can embody a different perspective of the brand, and wear a specific product – or product segment – to address a specific consumer segment as well.

We really like the image of Damien Viel, Managing Director of Twitter France, in which he describes influencers: “Influencer Marketing is like a barrier reef.” At WITH, we think that influencers should be viewed as brand allies. Applied to the brand as a company, the influencers indeed acts as a shield protecting the brand from the full force of comments sent, but it aims above all to create a positive – and constant (if possible!) – message – around the brand. We strongly believe in this idea of approaching influencer campaigns. We help our clients to formulate them, to construct them, to make them grow, but also to define the common principles that will come to encompass this pool of social friends.

3- Influencer Marketing in the Service of Content Strategy.

The brand / influencer relationship framework often boils down to a brand exchanging the influencer a gift or a monetary value in return for a piece of content (a post, video, etc). These posts will be uploaded onto the influencer’s social networks and, sometimes, will be reposted on the brand’s own social media accounts.

We have been noticing since 2020, that there have been many articles that have been published in regards to the re-use of influencer content within brand campaigns. Finally! For too long have brands been denying themselves of this important tool? For almost two years now, we have been educating our clients on the fabulous expertise that influencers hold as content producers. We often hear that influencers are expensive for a single post. But, very quickly the cost of influencer collaborations comes into perspective if we also delegate to them the work traditionally entrusted to the advertising agency or production company.

Why don’t we take advantage of their expertise in order to publish their content onto the brand’s media campaigns? The influencers gain visibility that is rarely achieved – so much so that one wonders if they are not the ones offering themselves a unique media plan, but what a fabulous trade-off for them! This is a bit like celebrating influencers by offering them a media campaign. It is precisely this that creates engaged audiences with authenticity and to increase the power of conviction.

It is this exact courage that one of our luxury customers demonstrated last year during a Travel  & Retail activation that we operated in Dubai for one of the most iconic of their skincare brands. Collaboration – what am I saying! This close co-creation with a Chinese Fashion & Beauty KOL at each stage of its journey, has made it possible to achieve results well beyond the usual standards. Rich lessons that will allow us to repeat this success.

Finally, brands are using influencer content within brand campaigns. Why were you depriving yourselves of this tool for so long?

4- To Exist in Order to Exist: What a Waste of Time!

If we were to give an example, what if a brand has no social media account or very very followers on their pages? What are the next steps in order to create an Influencer Marketing strategy?

Does a brand need to wait until they have an Instagram account to start influencing? Not necessarily. Influencer campaigns also have the right to be nimble. Of course, having a solid social media ecosystem will make it possible to act as a board to promote influencer collaborations, or – before that – to give them a first view of the brand universe with which we aim to introduce them too.

However – and we have experienced this with one of our clients – you don’t need an Instagram account to exist in the eyes of influencers. On the contrary, influencers appreciate the trust placed in them and the autonomy vis-à-vis an account that does not yet exist. The feeling of them participating in a collective adventure from day one will add a strong emotional dimension to the relationship with the brand.

In truth, the real question that has to be asked is if the brand does not operate an Instagram account, where can we redirect audiences that we have successfully engaged with via the influencers’ posts? It would not be wise to publish posts with no way for consumers to engage with. Imagine a banner without a call-to-action! That is, without the possibility for the consumer to know more. Why do you think Instagram has incorporated a ton of directly clickable e-commerce features into their posts?

Does a brand have to wait until they have an Instagram account to start influencing? Not necessarily. Influencer campaigns also have the right to be nimble.

5- Influencer Marketing Must be Thought of in terms of Experimentation.

Each collaboration should be seen as somewhat an opportunity to convert into sales or as a gateway into the clients purchasing journey. We work with our clients frequently to better this journey. And above all, provide clients the means to measure your influencing actions beyond the frontline metrics of ‘likes’ or ‘engagement’ on a “dry” post

Let’s not be afraid to correlate influencer and business impact!The good news is that this impact is totally measurable as well as comparable. In other words, let’s look at the performance of influencers among themselves. This is the only way to identify the real contribution of an influencer in achieving the brand’s business goals.

The goal? Learn from past collaborations to make each piece of news better than the last (= a better ROI). We are leaving the idea of ​​a one-shot collaboration to enter a new era: taking advantage of tests & learning to create a real end-to-end influencer business model.

Influencer marketing and mix-marketing

But how do you create a lasting relationship between influencers and businesses? To do this, we must stop seeing influencers as a separate component. It would be a shame to think of them as a simple sum of parallel actions, or “as a bonus.” We invite our clients to understand – and above all to assess – the contribution of influencer campaigns within the overall marketing mix.

Influencer campaigns can be used in other aspects of marketing, starting with media strategy. We can consider “influencer” content less as a means of creating image or notoriety, but as an intelligent “trap” to engage audiences, and in that nurture the brand’s data & precision media strategy. This operates as a paradigm shift vis-à-vis influencer campaigns: abandon the negotiation of this good old package of posts – whose existence is limited to the Facebook / Instagram ecosystem – in favor of “a collaborative and de-compartmentalized content strategy.”

Again, let’s not be afraid to assess the impact of influencer campaigns on the entire marketing chain. Let’s test, measure, iterate, adjust and optimize if it shows positive effects.

We invite our clients to understand – and above all to assess – the contribution of influencers within the overall marketing mix.

 

AT WITH…

Either way, there is not ONE pattern of influencer campaigns that is applicable or true for all brands. This is what makes this field of marketing so exciting.

Like any new business, influencer strategies must be sequenced, and they must be structured to match the overall marketing vision of a brand/company.

Test first! Start small (learn from your actions) and aim bigger (unleashing potential and connecting it to the brand ecosystem). Any first action is good – no matter how small – as long as we give ourselves the means to measure its real – and therefore quantifiable – impact on the entire marketing chain.

At WITH, we design tailor-made influencer plans, in line with the brand’s standing in its market, the size of the business, the sector, and lastly, timing.

The WITH teams act as an extension of the customer team in charge, to establish and maintain the link with influencers, without ever losing sight of the overall marketing road map.

These tailor-made campaigns are part of a WITH framework that we have thought of in two ways: Mapping the centers of interest of the targets and identifying the brand’s base. And second, selecting influencers corresponding to the needs of the brands.

Additionally, we free our clients of this – often time consuming – work of identifying, evaluating and selecting the necessary experts. We brief them, then orchestrate their operations on an on-going basis.

We often remind our clients that Influencer Marketing is about patience. Certainly, product placement will be visible immediately, but it is not that kind of quantifiable campaign that we are looking for. We support our clients in not giving in to the mirages of influencer campaigns because these actions are considered to be tactical. Our aim is to co-construct, with a well-chosen pool of influencers, a model that will allow us to create long-term value.

The 4 major challenges of Influencer Marketing:

1- What is the right balance between technology tools and human perspective?
A good balance between automation and intuition.

2- What is the right team of influencers?
Crescendo management and horizontal relationship with the brand.

3- What other tools can we use to improve the levers of a marketing strategy?
Building bridges to de-compartmentalize the impact of influencer campaigns.

4- What is the right combination of partners?
Selection, definition of roles, and continuous orchestration.

And, what if influencers were part of the populations close to your core-business? Well, talking to you about advocacy strategies would have to be the subject of another article … But who is to say that structuring one’s influencer strategy cannot be compatible with the brand’s core allies?

This is an area that we have already started to initiate with many of our clients. This is what unleashing the full potential of Influencer Marketing at WITH is: taking a holistic view.

* AdAge.com, January 2020.