Top Tips for Working with Influencers
05 Feb 2019
Conversations around influencer fraud and authenticity in influencer marketing are rife, leaving marketers unsure whether to continue to invest in this until now meteoric marketing platform and if doing so, unclear on how to best to avoid the pitfalls.
Recent research from Social Chain indicates that as many as 25% of influencers engage in the fraudulent practice of buying followers and engagements, knowing that brand partnerships come from high follower and engagement numbers. Meanwhile, brands are becoming more concerned, now our that our feeds are cluttered with #ads, that consumers are starting to feel influencer fatigue and that these endorsements are seeming less authentic the more they multiply in number.
Despite these worrying headlines, the reality is that influencer marketing, when using influencers in the right way, can lead to incredible results. Some of the research and results speak for themselves such as this stat from Popsugar “94% of millennial women say influencers are the most influential resource when deciding which beauty or personal care products to purchase”
With all the advantages and pitfalls involved, the DMA Social Media Council has compiled a list of top tips to help you on your way, read on for your guide to navigating the influencer marketing waters…
DEFINING YOUR GOALS AND KPIs
First things first, it’s time to reflect on what your goals are and how you will be measuring your success. Without defining these, you will be left wondering whether your activity delivered a ROI. Some key questions you should be asking yourself are: what do you want your influencer marketing activity to achieve? Is it a shift in perception; do you want more awareness of your product/brand or is your main objective to increase your sales? What metrics will you be defining your success by; reach, engagement rate, sentiment or sales uplift?
Having a laser focus when it comes to defining these is also really important so don’t say ‘all of the above’ or you’ll end up with a campaign that will not shift the dial on any one objective.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT INFLUENCER
The next, arguably most important step, is choosing your influencer(s). As part of this exercise think of the following:
Your target audience – Size isn’t everything. If you’re a cruise company and your chosen influencer’s audience is mostly 16 year olds with no purchase power, the content may be seen and engaged with by many, but will it help your brand’s bottom line? Ask the influencer or agency you’re working with to provide you with their media kit or channel statistics to make sure they have a strong audience match with your own or the one you are hoping to reach.
Brand match – As important as the audience match is your brand match. Are the influencers’ political/ethical beliefs in line with your company’s? They are representing your company, so you need make sure this is a positive and likeminded association. A good look at the types of content they are posting, as well as any previous brand partnerships, is a good place to start.
The ad generators – Be wary that some influencers don’t know when to say no. They agree to pretty much every opportunity, but doing so dilutes the content featuring your brand (it could get lost in a sea of irrelevant content). If the influencer looks like an opportunist rather than a subject expert this will impact their credibility and also the value of what they’re saying about you.
THE BEST INFLUENCER APPROACH FOR YOU
With everything from micro influencers, to mid-tier influencers, to celebrities and even nano influencers, it can be difficult to decide what the right approach is for your brand. The first thing to consider is your budget, as this can immediately determine the scale of your activity. The next thing is the longevity of your campaign; if this is a new product launch then you might want as many influencers as possible to build buzz at a specific time. If, however, the goal is to build brand affinity within a certain target group over time, then having a long-term influencer relationship approach could be key to achieving this.
Do you have the resources and capabilities to find, brief and negotiate with the influencers yourself or do you have an agency partner? If so, are they able to give you a full strategy, not only on the influencer marketing activity, but on maximising all the earned media content on social? Do they have the right technology to retarget or create lookalikes? What data and insights are they able to collect? If you are running the campaign yourself, make sure you have a signed contract in place or a schedule of work to ensure all deliverables and payments are agreed upfront. This will save you from any difficult conversations later down the line!
Influencers are not an ad buy so don’t treat them as such. The reason influencer marketing is so successful is their ability to connect with their audience in a way brands can’t, so tap into this. Consider giving the influencer more artistic control over the content to make it more authentic and engaging for their audience. The great thing about influencer content is that you have the time and space to storytell, more so than in traditional advertising, so make sure you’re using this to deliver all your product/brand messaging in an engaging way.
AN INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN
Where possible, try to integrate your influencer marketing campaign into your overall strategy. Whether it’s using your influencer content in other channels such as above the line, or ensuring your influencer campaign messages reflect those of your latest TVC, this will allow the consumer to have a more integrated consumer journey. TOP TIP: when writing your schedule of work/contract, make sure you’ve considered where else you might want to use their content as this can often come with a price tag, particularly if you’re planning on using it in ATL activity.
KEEPING IT LEGAL
We can’t talk about influencer marketing without mentioning the legal requirements involved, so buckle up and swat up with advice from our legal minds...
Influencer content will often be classed as your ad
If you are paying an influencer or giving them a freebie, and you have control over the content that they create (including just final approval), the influencer's content will be deemed as your brand's ad. This means it will become subject to the UK advertising code (the "CAP Code"), which is upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA").
If you are rewarding an influencer with a payment, free gift, or other perk, but do not have control over the content, the content will still likely be subject to consumer protection laws to do with transparency of incentives/commissions/commercial relationships. These laws are enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA").
Both the ASA and the CMA are likely to clamp down against the brand in the event of non-compliance, so you need to ensure that your influencer does things properly and legally.
Do you need to use a #ad (or similar) disclosure?
The ASA has adjudicated against numerous social media posts made by celebrities who have endorsed products in return for payment, but who have failed to make the commercial relationship clear. The basic principle to keep in mind is that all advertising must be obviously identifiable as advertising. This means that influencer content produced for your brand needs to be clearly labelled as ad content if a viewer wouldn't be able to easily distinguish it from the influencer's usual content. Think about the tone of the ad and where it is being distributed; any posts on an influencer's social media channel which look like they could be the influencer's own opinion will be at risk. More often than not, the safest option is to include a clear label such as "Ad" which is clearly visible on or around the content.
If you incentivise an influencer, but you don't dictate the content of what the influencer should say about your product or service, the influencer's content may not be subject to advertising rules. However the CMA still requires the influencer to disclose the existence of the incentive, freebie or commission, and suggests the use of labels such as 'advertisement promotion'.
When to use your #ad disclosure
Previous ASA adjudications have suggested that these labels need to be displayed before the user engages with the ad content, where possible. As such, having #ad below or after the content might not be sufficient. Try to make the disclosures as early as possible, such as at the start of the post rather than at the end of a long caption beneath the post. On platforms such as on YouTube where the content is given a title, consider including ‘Ad’ into the title of the video itself. Where social media platforms have built-in tools to mark a post as ad content, make sure these are used to ensure as much transparency as possible, but don’t necessarily rely on them being sufficient on their own - you should still use your own labels in and around the post.
Consider other legal issues
There has been a lot of focus on making it clear whether a post is an ad. However, you should not forget to comply with all aspects of the CAP Code. Just because a post is being made by an influencer doesn't mean you can get away with it being misleading, offensive or an infringement of a third party's intellectual property. Review the influencer's content in the same way that you would review all other ads, in order to ensure that it complies with all applicable aspects of the CAP Code and all other laws and regulations that would usually apply to your own advertising.
Impose contractual requirements
The best way to ensure that an influencer's content remains compliant with all relevant laws and advertising rules is to make this a contractual requirement. As the CMA and ASA will usually come after the brand rather than the influencer, you should ensure that the influencer is contractually obliged to represent your brand in a compliant manner. Consider making it a term of the contract that all ad content needs to be labelled in a mutually agreed manner, and that the posts will remain accurate, non-offensive and otherwise compliant with advertising rules. You should consider whether you want a right to review all content before it goes live. If nothing else, including these contractual provisions should make the influencer think twice about doing things in the right way.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM TWO INFLUENCER AGENCIES
Nick Taylor, product marketing manager for Brandwatch Audiences product
Influencer marketing continues to grow as a channel for brands looking to amplify their messages, especially on social. Its popularity has led to some drawbacks however:
- Consumers are starting to trust obviously paid influencers less and less
- The top influencers have often already worked with several competitors making their endorsements sound inauthentic
- Or worse, they've bought most of their followers to appear more influential than they are
Taking an 'audience first' approach is the best way to discover the right influencers for you. The number of followers they have can be deceptive, and often irrelevant. The key is understanding who is following and, more importantly, engaging with them. You can tell a lot simply by looking through a prospective influencer's timeline to see if people actually respond to and share their posts. Are the people engaging with them the kind of people you ultimately want to reach? Are they popular because of their interesting content and opinions or do they get most of their engagement around self-promotion or hashtags like #followfriday?
At Brandwatch we've developed our own 'Influence Score' which looks specifically at how much engagement an author generates and, at the same time, how influential the people engaging with them are. This helps marketers quickly assess the real potential impact and reach of an influencer. Brandwatch can also identify who's had the biggest impact on a specific topic of conversation or detect the influencers that any specific target audience is engaging with the most. This is particularly useful for measuring the potential of 'micro-influencers' who may not have large followings but are well respected within the communities they're active in.
Solberg Audunsson, CEO and Co-Founder of Takumi
An influencer is authentic if they care deeply about their audience. When you work with them, they will explain to you how they engage with their audience, and they will have firm boundaries around their messaging. They will go to great lengths to ensure the content they share resonates with their audience whether it is paid or organic. They will respect their audience’s need to understand on what terms posts are being shared, whether a partnership is paid or not, for example. To ensure authenticity you need to find these influencers and skip the others, who may have gamed systems to get to certain engagement numbers. You want the influencer to explain these things in their own words, and you will want to collaborate intimately to ensure that your brands’ needs are being met within the boundaries of fan communication of every respective influencer.
We hope this has been a useful read, but if you’re eager for more insights, we are hosting an action-packed event on Tuesday 26 of February, with some brilliant speakers, to delve into the topic further ahead of adding an influencer addendum into our Best Practice Guide. Book here.
We’ll see you there!
Published with special thanks for the contributions of DMA Council members Milly Bellotti, Collider Limited; James Ainsworth, Prophecy Unlimited; Ben Dunham, Osborne Clarke; Nick Joy, LV=; Victoria Jenkins, agency:2