Scrolling through Instagram, you see a sponsored post: a caption with #ad at the end, written by an influencer with thousands of followers. Even if you’re interested in the product, you’re likely to think “They’re just being paid to say that.” Just a hint of this perception can have the opposite effect brands want when they make influencers part of their marketing plans.
That’s why we’re committed to creating authentic relationships with influencers. When they truly believe in a brand, we can elevate businesses together and connect with audiences meaningfully. We caught up with Sav McBride, PR Account Supervisor and GS&F’s resident influencer expert, to walk through our approach.
The State of the Influencer in 2020
You might think your B2B marketing doesn’t have anything to do with influencers, but remember this: “There’s an influencer for almost every industry,” says McBride. Building products? Influencers. Made-to-order salad restaurants? Influencers. Water heaters? Believe it or not, influencers.
Influencers aren’t limited to big names with large social media followings. Some industry voices may not be known on social media but add the clout you need by sharing their expertise in a piece of content or webinar, where they’ll be easily recognized as a trusted expert. You might also identify someone who isn’t known by the general public but would draw a big crowd at an industry-specific speaking engagement, like a trade show panel.
Many influences are also partnering with agents as they navigate connections with brands. As they grow their reach and followings, influencers must carefully manage their own bandwidths and contracts—not to mention their hard-earned reputations and credibility. As the process gets more complicated—yet more important—agencies like GS&F can help your brand connect with the right influencers.
Leading With Trust
If executed without honesty and transparency, influencer activations can lead to negative repercussions as consumers question the influencer’s true enthusiasm about a brand’s product or service. That’s why we lead with one of our agency values when it comes to influencer partnerships for our clients: earn trust.
Influencer marketing should go beyond a sales push and allow consumers to see your brand with integrity and honesty in the real world through a real person giving honest feedback or accreditation. Real-world applications and testimonials, especially when they’re on video, are invaluable assets.
From the beginning, we use a vetting process to make sure we are investing our client’s time and resources in influencers who see the partnership the way we do—as mutually beneficial. From research and discovery calls to negotiations, estimates and much more, we ensure that every partnership is more than a business transaction, and aligns with a brand’s image and carries a believable tone.
McBride explains that the key to partnering with genuine brand advocates is to take your time in vetting each potential partner. “While the process can be extensive and often leads to discovering an influencer is not the perfect fit, investing the time will ensure that you find an influencer that exceeds your qualifying attributes and authentically represents your brand,” she says. And with plenty of influencers out there, brands have the luxury to be picky, testing out the types of influencers that work best for their brands with smaller activations before locking into long-term partnerships.
Learning From Experience
Our process for influencer activations has helped us identify areas of improvement and learn from every partnership as we go. For example, through our experiences, we’ve learned how to tighten and clear up communication while setting more equitable expectations for both parties.
“The primary challenge we continue to see when working with influencers is maintaining a consistent, ongoing line of communication,” McBride says. “With so many brands entering the influencer space, many of the best influencers are being approached by dozens of brands daily.” She adds that this is what makes investing in relationship building even more important.
“Make open communication a priority,” McBride advises. “At the end of the day, we’re all just people—so relating to your influencers and understanding their value goes a long way.”
3 Tips for Influencer Activations
We asked McBride to share a few tips for brands interested in pursuing influencer partnerships—and those already working with them. Here’s what she had to say:
- Always think long-term. Even if the initial conversation is around a single campaign, you want to partner with influencers who can represent your brand now and in the future. Many times, we assess campaign partnerships and go back to our most effective influencers to engage with as ongoing brand ambassadors later.
- There is always room to negotiate. That is all part of the fun! Hire an agency that understands how to work harder for your brand and get the best bang for your buck when partnering with influencers.
- Remember that influencer relations are complex. Yes, it’s a form of paid media. But unlike a magazine ad, this media is a person who has their own brand to represent and image to uphold, so it’s vital to work with them as a collaborative partner. Many times, you’ll find that the right influencer can give you ideas and creative content that resonates with your audience in a way you never thought possible.
No matter your industry, there’s potential for your brand to take on influencer partnerships as part of your overall marketing plan. But as the process becomes more complicated, it’s even more important to partner with an integrated agency and ensure your influencer activations move the needle for your brand.
With a skill set and processes to navigate partner identification, contracts, communication and negotiations, as well as creatives and others to help produce content, our team is excited to continue growing in influencer partnerships in an ever-expanding variety of brands and industries. We’ve quickly seen the value in these efforts, and we know they work, so we’re continuing to flex our muscles, learn more and bring this value to our clients.
Who’s going to represent your brand? Let’s find your next great advocate together.