This post is an excerpt from our Digital Growth Summit event in Los Angeles.
Here are the digital marketing experts who contributed to this blog:
Here are some key takeaways from the Influencer Marketing Campaign Best Practices panel:
- Focus on building natural brand-influencer relationships
- Understand your influencer and their audience
- Leverage different levels of influencers
Be friendly and casual with your influencer outreach. Influencers are attracted to working with brands that allow them to create campaigns in their own voice and style. Ask influencers you have had success working with in the past to refer you to more influencers.
Be really clear about which influencers in your niche align with your brand and what level of influencer you need for your campaign. If you really understand their brand as an influencer then you can feel more at ease giving them freedom to create content for your brand.
Engagement is everything and there is value in smaller influencers. Look to tap an influencer who has an engaged audience, regardless of size.
What are the best practices that you are seeing in the influencer-marketing space for brands?
Influencer marketing is using that influencer’s audience and engaging with them in an authentic way. —Adam Hendle
Understand what influencer marketing is. What it is not is a paid commercial. This has gone down over the past year, but a lot of the brands that we worked with in the past were basically viewing these influencers as actors in commercials delivering talking points in the brand’s voice, and according to the brand’s style. That is not influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is using that influencer’s audience and who the audience knows that influencer to be, to engage with them in an authentic way. —Adam Hendle
For brands, it is really important to understand the target market. Be really clear about who those influencers are that you are interested in and what level of influencer you are interested in. —Laurel Mintz
I think the most important thing is to really understand your influencer, get to know them and what their personal brand is, what they represent as an influencer and how you use what their brand is to benefit you. You build a relationship with an influencer and take everything that is making them successful and transition that back into your brand. That is the way that you build a meaningful piece of content that is going to feel organic and not like an ad. The last thing you want is to make a video and have the top comment be “sellout.” —Jay Boice
For brands who are then thinking about their message and how to get it out there, what do you think influencer marketing best solves for them?
Leveraging influencers is a way to generate content that you know is going to be engaging and authentic. —Sae Cho
Getting connected to their core audience. You have to reach your audience where they are, one of the best things influencers can do for a brand is raise the bar and create great content exactly where their end user is. —Laurel Mintz
A lot of brands have a challenging time producing content because it can be time intensive, resource heavy, and you might not have a videographer on staff. Leveraging influencers is a way to generate content that you know is going to be engaging and authentic and perfect for these social channels. —Sae Cho
There are different levels of influencers. There are meta-influencers who are social celebrities in their own right, and then there are micro-influencers who may have fewer than 10,000 followers on any given channel but have an incredibly engaged audience. How do you leverage all of those different levels of influence?
When someone with 500,000 followers endorses a product, it gives that product a level of credibility. —Jay Boice
There is a lot of value that is being overlooked in these small and mid-size influencers. When I say small, I am talking about 5,000 subscribers on YouTube up to 250,000. There is a lot of really good value because those people have very tight engagement with their audience. They are like friends. When you get over a certain mark, you are not a friend anymore—you are a celebrity, and that relationship is a little bit different. When you are friends with somebody, the trust is higher. It can be easier for a friend to sell your product than a celebrity. —Adam Hendle
And the reverse as well. When you do have someone with 500,000 YouTube followers and they endorse a product, it gives that product a level of credibility that you can’t get out of the smaller influencer. That also creates shareability, which might end up putting CutiePie’s video on Reddit. That also lends that brand credibility to see it across other shared platforms. —Jay Boice
I think the smaller influencers try harder. They are still building their brand, so they think that you are bringing as much value to them as they are to you, and it is a much more mutually beneficial relationship. —Laurel Mintz
Coming from a media mindset, you are often held to certain KPIs like CPM, CPE, etc. In terms of KPI, when it comes to influencers, what do you think is the number-one thing we should be measuring?
Engagement is more important than numbers. —Laurel Mintz
I would say engagement. It’s just like any great social platform—you can have an influencer with a million followers, but if those followers are not talking and engaging with a campaign, the brand or the influencer themselves, then it is a totally worthless marketing campaign in my mind. Engagement is more important than numbers. —Laurel Mintz
How do you prove the value of what we are doing in influencer marketing when it is hard to measure the ROI of these influencer marketing campaigns?
Encourage user-generated content. -Peyton Dougherty
We do a lot of live events, and so when we do an influencer campaign, there is a direct ROI there. We are able to measure that in a way that is inclusive of the online impressions and engagements, so for us there is a real return that our clients can see on the day of the event. —Laurel Mintz
Outside of tracking links and descriptions, we have also seen coupon codes work really well. A lot of times viewers watch the piece of content and think it’s cool, so they go open up another tab and Google that. But the coupon code incentivizes them to take action, and then that is also trackable. So make sure for every influencer you have a different coupon code so you can see who is driving the most sales. —Adam Hendle
Encourage user-generated content. Hold contests. Really get people pumped up, because some of the things that get our top influencers’ fans the most excited is having the opportunity to be featured on an influencer’s twitter feed, for example. —Peyton Dougherty
Looking at it from a multi-channel platform, this all started with bloggers. What do you think about the future for bloggers and influencers going multi-channel?
Facebook is exponentially growing, and influencers are going back to it. —Adam Hendle
It is very important that influencers can transition from one platform to multi-platform because it allows multiple channels to acquire users and go where the best ROI is at the time. That’s better for brands as well. Blogging has become a gateway to vlogging, and vlogging has become one of the most influential ways to do influencer marketing, because it is directly speaking about the brand in everyday life to people and fans. —Jay Boice
Live-streaming platforms are very interesting, especially on Periscope and now Facebook. It is the most raw way that influencers can interact with their audience. Facebook is exponentially growing, and influencers are going back to it. —Adam Hendle
Any best practices for brands using live streams? It can be pretty scary for a brand to say “Stream yourself live” because there is no opportunity to preview content or know what is going to come out of someone’s mouth. Is there any way for a brand to prepare the influencer without stepping on creativity?
Capture live content but really keep in mind what you are doing to create a more curated story. -Peyton Dougherty
It comes down to making sure that the live stream isn’t your first platform with that influencer. Make sure you have a relationship with that influencer, that you have done other things and had success. If they have shown that they understand your brand, then you can feel more at ease with allowing an influencer to live stream. —Adam Hendle
We always develop cross-marketing documents for influencers and the brands so that we all know best practices as well as do’s and don’ts, so we are clear. We also do audits of the influencers from time to time to make sure that they really understand the brand. —Laurel Mintz
Do a kick-off call. Don’t be afraid to ask to get the campaign manager, the influencer, and yourself on a call to make sure that everybody is on the same page. Everybody knows what needs to happen. Most influencers are not going to be opposed to that whatsoever—they want to know, too. —Jay Boice
I would try to capture live content but really keep in mind what you are doing to create a more curated story that you can edit together so you really get the best of both worlds in the end. —Peyton Dougherty
How do you know that you’re getting the fair market value?
Take into account the influencer component and the production needs. —Laurel Mintz
For us, we get handed a chunk of budget and have to determine what that looks like for the influencers. We have to take into account the influencer component and the production needs. For us, we know what our margins need to be, and then we peel out the pieces for the influencers accordingly. —Laurel Mintz
We come at it from a bit of a different approach because we are an open marketplace. When you launch your influencer marketing campaign, you will receive upwards of 100 different proposals see, “Here is what their average views are per video, here is what their audience looks like, here is what their price is, here is what they are promising me for the campaign.” It is really up to you as the brand to weigh options and pick what you think is the best value. —Adam Hendle
There are people who are obviously creating sponsored content that they have received compensation for, but there are few guidelines or enforceable laws about how to disclose that relationship between an influencer and a brand. From video to live activations, how do you incorporate that disclosure in a natural way that is not going to be awkward for fans?
When it is a good fit with an influencer, they are excited about it. —Laurel Mintz
The bottom line is that you have to be clear. If you hide it in there, it is just going to come back and bite you. If the influencers have taken it and they are proud of it, you can see it. If the influencers are excited about the sponsorship, there should be no reason to hide it, so it must be positively disclosed in all video and descriptive content. As long as the influencer really believes in the product and the brand, it shouldn’t come across as something that is slimy. —Adam Hendle
It is about transparency. When it is a good fit with an influencer, they are excited about it. When we do brand takeovers, it is obvious—they are on the brand platform and saying who they are and what they are doing. And people know that it is pay-to-play now, so it makes it a lot easier. —Laurel Mintz
What would be one or two tools you would recommend for somebody who is just getting their feet wet in influencer marketing?
Collect bloggers and influencers that you like and add them to a list. —Josh Ochs
I really think our platform is great for any brand to get started because you can post a campaign for free. You only pay when you get proposals from influencers and when you hire them. Even at that point, you take that money and put it in escrow, and we don’t release that money until you are happy with the content. You can test an interesting campaign and different video types to see what will work for you for a few hundred bucks. We see a lot of brands do that on our platform and then ramp it up. The next round is a few thousand dollars, and then after that we are actually managing their campaign. If you are looking to dabble and get your feet wet, I think we are a good platform for that. —Adam Hendle
If you are doing this for the first time, hire an agency or consultant who knows this space really well and can walk you through it at least the first time so that you understand. It will help you ramp up your campaigns that much faster. —Laurel Mintz
As far as testing things, I would try to keep it above a super-minimum budget because it is hard to gauge the success of an influencer marketing campaign below a certain threshold. —Peyton Dougherty
At MediaLeaders we bought a blogger network last year. I have a tactical tool we use that helps. When we are looking for bloggers to add to our parenting blogger network, which has about 3,500 bloggers now, they are not the neoreach people. Neoreach has people in the millions, and they do an amazing job, but we are focused more on the little campaigns and use a tool called Ninja Outreach. It is free for the first few searches and helps you look at bloggers when you do not have the budget to hire an agency or consultant to help you out. It lets you collect bloggers and influencers that you like and add them to a list—because this is really an organization game at the end of the day in order to find people who fit your brand and its core message now. —Josh Ochs
How can brands woo talent over?
With any sort of outreach, you don’t have to be stiff about it. -Jay Boice
When I was talent, I was really just interested in finding brands that wanted to work with me and would allow me to do what I wanted to do in my voice, in my style. What’s really cool are influencer experiences that we have seen brands start to experiment with. For example, sending someone to a movie premiere is a really engaging and enticing way to attract an influencer by using something that they cannot go out and buy on their own. It also creates great content in the process. —Adam Hendle
So much of it is about building that relationship with the influencer from the beginning. With any sort of outreach, you don’t have to be stiff about it. You can be friendly and casual and really try to speak to and understand them as an influencer. They will respond to that much better than sending a business-style email saying, “We want to pay you.” —Jay Boice
The best information we get on influencers comes from other influencers. If there is someone you are working with who you think is doing an awesome job, ask them or see who they are working with, collaborating with, and tagging. —Peyton Dougherty,
What were specific tactics that you used to woo the moms?
One thing you can do for people is give them something for free that they already know and trust. -Josh Ochs
One of the nicest things you can do for people is to give them something for free that they already know and trust. So one of the mom techniques that we have is teach them something for free. For our moms, we found out what their biggest annoyances were. Often it was how to protect the kids, trying to find out if Snapchat is safe, if Instagram is safe, what the Whisper app is, etc. So we got really good at SEO and made a lot of videos on these topics. We have 28 free app guides for our kids’ zone and give all of this data away 100% free. We are not really influencers, but that is how we win over moms. We give them what they are already looking for and ask very little if anything in return. —Josh Ochs
Do you observe a certain lifespan for an influencer? How do you know if they have reached their peak?
What we have seen is that influencers just shift their focus as they get older. Someone who was an influencer in the fashion space may have gotten married and had kids and now she wants to be a mommy blogger. So you follow them along their life cycle. I don’t think they really die; they evolve, unless they stop being as active on the platforms. —Laurel Mintz
The only other way that I’ve seen influencers die is by doing way too much branded and sponsored content—things that aren’t authentic for their channel. They are reaching for a quick buck instead of looking at their channel long-term. —Adam Hendle
Any horror stories?
Create copy and film ahead. Even on Snapchat. —Peyton Dougherty
Influencers cursing on channels. That is a really good one. —Laurel Mintz
We had a few times where an influencer will make the video, never get the approval and throw it up on their channel. The brand will freak out and say, “That’s not how we wanted this to look,” so we have to get them to take it down. That is usually a bad situation. —Jay Boice
For us, the problem is that you can have everything arranged, and then on the set day, they will say “I have this other thing…” So to avoid that, create copy and film ahead. Even on Snapchat. Review editing. There has to be a process. —Peyton Dougherty