Influencers. Some scoff at the phrase, some lap them up and send out products almost daily. With our continued existence in #lockdownlife, we’ve established in previous posts that social media is the way to keep your business afloat (and hopefully thriving as much as possible!) during these times. And influencers play a leading role in the theatrics of social media. In a nutshell: yes, you should engage them.
But who? How? When? And how do I gauge effectiveness?
Firstly, let’s correct a prevalent misconception that I’ve observed - influencers are not your salesmen. They are your storytellers, ambassadors, advocates and hype squad. In order to get the most out of your investment with them, you not only need to have them experience your brand (by gifting them products, for example), you also need them to understand your brand.
Oftentimes, brands send something out to influencers and ask them to tag and hashtag. That won’t get you far in today’s world where audiences are savvy and looking for substance.
Approach influencer engagement in this way: they are your spokesperson; helping spread key messages about your brand and product offerings. Do you make the best banana bread in town? Is it because of the types of bananas you use? The flour combination? That you sneak in some miso for a slightly salty and earthy flavour? This is the kind of information the influencer needs to be armed with, so they can think of how to translate this message onto their audience in their own voice and in their own aesthetics.
But even before I delve further into the engagement methodology, let’s take a step back and define the different types of influencers:
And the two main things you need to consider when assessing which type(s) of influencer(s) to engage:
I know it can be overwhelming. Now that we’ve pointed out that influencer categories range from nano to mega, essentially everyone with social media has the potential to be an influencer. Yes and no.
Once you determine which category/categories you’re after, searching for them is the arduous task:
These should be a good start and will lead you to making more connections.
Slide into their DMs! Regardless of the category of influencer, everyone checks their inbox - even the requested messages. And if they are influencers for a living, it’s also something they’ll do habitually as it’s part of their job.
Don’t forget to start off your message with a hello, and make sure your message is personalized. The more it looks like a copy-paste, the higher the chance of being ignored.
Your message can start off as a conversation to gauge their interest. Introduce yourself, your role, your brand and offerings, and why you think they’d be a good fit for your brand. Remember K.I.S.S. here - keep it short and sweet.
Once they reply with their interest - it’s either a yay or nay. If it’s a “yes, I’d be happy to explore / find out more”, then let them know what you plan to gift them with (we call it ‘product seeding’ in marketing speak), and what you’d like in return. Keep the wishlist casual - reverse psychology works here; the more relaxed you are about the returns from them, the more likely they will post/tag/share. When you start dictating how many posts/stories you want from them, duration of posts, etc., then it becomes more commercial and you should be prepared to also offer them monetary payments for their time and effort. (Creating content takes thought, time and planning!)
One of the best pieces of advice I can share with you is - if an influencer has helped you achieve your social media goals, foster a relationship with them. One-off interactions are fleeting and can come off as ingenuine. (Of course, if the seeding exercise didn’t yield the results you hoped for, then you learn and move on.)
However, if an influencer you’ve engaged truly resonates with your brand, it’s most likely they would also click with you. Make friends with them, and possibly even make friends with their friends and see where their network can take you from a social media standpoint. Like attracts like afterall.
Keep them updated on new developments in the horizon, and if they share your enthusiasm about it, keep in mind to seed them when the time comes so they can experience it and rave about it to their followers.
When I see influencers tagging a brand frequently, it not only builds credibility for the brand but also my trust for this person. It builds an ecosystem of integrity, transparency and a good overall rep for both the brand and the influencer - win, win. (Influencers reading this: feel free to post/tag a brand even when they don’t gift you, and you made a purchase as a customer. It makes you real and honest, and not just a digital billboard.)
I hope these pointers help. I share them with you wearing two hats - as a branding professional who seeds products on behalf of clients, as well as someone who brands reach out to (and I am grateful for this privilege.)
Stay upbeat and be well. Feel free to DM me or @riuhinthecity if you have any follow-up Q’s.