Brand-Influencer Outreach & Selection Techniques


This post is an excerpt from our Authentic Marketing Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for brands and influencers to openly discuss tactics for authentically building a strong following. 

What statistics are there to support influencer marketing?

There are some really interesting studies. Nielsen does a study every two years, look for the “Trust in Advertising” study if you need research to back up influencer marketing. It talks about what people trust. And what people trust is expert content at a rate of 63%. But when the content is shared by a friend or an influencer, then the trust in that content jumps to 83%. It is legitimately the highest amount of trust that you can generate as a brand when you are trying to connect to consumers. So, influencer marketing is very much on the rise. Every media outlet and every publication in our space are talking about it, so this is a great topic for our discussion. –Serena Ehrlich, Business Wire

Is there a best way for an influencer to work with a brand? Should they establish a goal before you've met them, or afterward, or is there a difference?

Instagram is more about creating awareness for the brand and creating imagery for the brand. –Nikole Powers

I think when I am talking to a brand, it is most important for them to know exactly what my Google analytics are based on my website. I don’t think a lot of my sales turnover on Instagram, I think Instagram, for what I do, especially being in Travel and Lifestyle, is more about creating awareness for the brand and creating imagery for the brand. That is my focus for Instagram. As far as sales go, that is more based on my website. –Nikole Powers, Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger

The key is to understand that when you select an influencer you must know what their metrics are and what the results are. Just because, we’re not driving the inbound traffic and solidifying that sale with that message, it’s the awareness of that, the visibility of what you are sharing and how you are telling the story of that brand, that is the point. –Serena Ehrlich, Business Wire

I like to use the expression, “I am selling you 100,000 pairs of eyeballs. I’m not selling you 100,000 sales.” I have 100,000 followers, that does not mean I am selling 100,000 pieces of your product. That means I am getting your product in front of this many people. I don’t even like saying how many followers I have, because these days, I think there is a lot of behind the scenes in regards to the buying of followers. I don’t think it’s even what brands should be looking at when they are picking an influencer. It should be about picking an influencer that has a lot of comments and has a lot of likes. You can tell if their engagement is high or not… You can have a million followers but if you’re only getting a hundred likes, technically you can only sell a hundred likes. That is what your worth really is. –Nikole Powers, Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger

What are some red flags when assessing influencers?

That is one metric that is obviously a red flag, the lack of engagement. –Serena Ehrlich

Honestly, I think the biggest one is lack of engagement. High follower count, with a lack of engagement. You can go to Followerwonk and put that in and it will tell you how many are fake followers. I have the twitter handle “Serena”, so I actually have a certain number of fake followers because people think I’m Serena Williams. So, I get a lot of bots set up on that. That is one metric that is obviously a red flag, the lack of engagement. –Serena Ehrlich, Business Wire

What do brands need to look out for from influencers? Are there any red flags that brands should be aware of?

It’s a problem if you’re a brand and you’re hitting the 50 to 100 influencers everyone else is hitting. –Alex Taub

A trend I’ve been seeing from some brands is that a lot of the specific influencer tools literally just have a group of the same 50 to 100 influencers for each category and every brand is hitting up all those same people. So what’s happening is, it’s becoming a lot less authentic. Because all these people want to make money to monetize their audience. I find that a big trend for these brands, is a sort of thinking “All right if we pay someone X amount of dollars and they have 500,000 followers or a million followers, could we go to 100 people on a bigger campaign, that have between 10,000 and 50,000, or 100,000 followers?” And, that starts a bunch of different conversations that are positive. You are seeing that it probably costs less, and while it might not be as easy to manage as one person, it is more impactful. It’s not necessarily a red flag like you ask, but I think it’s a problem if you’re a brand and you’re hitting the 50 to 100 people everyone else is hitting, you are just phoning it in a little bit. –Alex Taub, SocialRank

It’s frustrating for a blogger to see that a brand consistently works with the same 15 bloggers all the time. –Candice Nikiea, Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle Influencer

If brands work with the same influencers over and over again, they end up reaching the same audiences. –Serena Ehrlich, Business Wire

It’s also a red flag when an influencer doesn’t want to sign a contract. –Alex Taub, SocialRank

What’s the best way for a brand to reach out to an influencer? It sounds like a lot of outreaches you get are vague and not quite targeted. What would be your ideal outreach from a brand?

Send me an e-mail. I find that if the brand comes to me and tells me that they want me to create a mood board, they want me to tell them what the campaign is going to look like, then that’s one thing but I really like it even more so when the brand comes to me with a mood board and tells me the lighting that the photos need to be taken in because this is what our current campaign is done in and if they are just super knowledgeable in everything that they do then that way I can produce the best product for them. –Nickole Powers, Fashion and Lifestyle Blogger

Send a link to your website so the influencer can see if their work fits your brand and aesthetic. –Candice Nikiea

I like when brands e-mail me and not direct message me on Instagram because I feel it is too casual and informal. Brands need to speak to us like we are professionals and e-mail is a very good way to tell the influencer what you expect from them and what you like about them and why you think you are a good fit for their brand. Also, send a link to your website so the influencer can see if their work fits your brand and aesthetic as well. That creates room for a dialog to begin. Treat me like I’m part of your team and not someone that’s just passing through. I like to talk on the phone and Skype too! It’s nice for someone to see your face and know what you are about. –Candice Nikiea, Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle Influencer

What has helped with your growth on Instagram?

Have a clear image, an idea of who you are, and what you represent. That is very attractive to brands. –Michele Ngo

One thing I’ve noticed that’s helped me with my Instagram growth is my consistency on my feed. So, I have a certain aesthetic and feel in how I like my pictures posted and what goes into the production. I like being in charge of taking and producing my own photos and posting them. I like being behind the process 100%. I realize that brands look for a certain aesthetic, and if your feed is consistent, it makes them want to work with you more because you're not someone who is all over the place and scattered. You have a clear image, an idea of who you are and what you represent and I think that is very attractive to brands. –Michele Ngo, Fashion Influencer

What about influencers and what's going on with the FTC. Should it be a red flag for a brand if they are identifying influencers who are obviously talking about content but are not utilizing the hashtag ad? We hear all the time that that's what you are supposed to do, but is that what people are actually doing?

It's a gray area. Because if you think about it, let’s say, if Live Nation or some promoter gives someone tickets to a concert and they don't specify, “You need to post”, they just want you to be there and you do post, because you’re going to a cool concert, do you have to actually say that this is a collaboration if it’s, not really? I think when there's a contract, you probably have to do something but also now I think for Facebook and Instagram, I think both of them, have the ability to tag a partner in your posts. I don't know if it's fully rolled out yet but I saw it a few places where you don't actually need to say anything but it's part of the post. So, that sort of complies with the laws. It’s definitely a gray area. If there's no actual, “You must do this and this is what it needs to look like”, if it’s like, you get a little bit of freedom, and then if follows there's not really a rule around it yet and it’s very gray. –Alex Taub, SocialRank

What should brands know about working with agencies that handle multiple pieces of talent? The way agencies work with brands, is it more structured, or less back and forth?

Outreach starts with an e-mail. –Nick Kinports

The first thing we do is provide strategy. From a creative perspective, from a technology perspective, from a number of different ways depending on what our client needs. If the influencer thing is a part of that, then the first thing we do is get the influencer into the room with our client, physically. And it doesn't matter where they live in the world, we want them to come to our client’s office, see the brand, experience it and actually meet the marketers that are making the decisions about it. From there, we go through the selection process, we bring 15 people into that room and then I, and some folks from my agency, get up on a screen and we introduce what the opportunity is and the concept and how and why the people in the room can help or participate in it. I think it solves itself after that. Maybe five of those people that are in that room are just not interested or we don't feel the vibe, right? It's emotional, a little bit too. And then, when you get a group that's great, you move forward with them in a really productive way. So, the outreach starts with an e-mail, and moves quickly to, “Let’s meet.” –Nick Kinports, Notice