Influencer marketing is the practice of brands working with social media personalities who share and endorse their product or service in return for special discounts, freebies, payment or a mix of all of the above.
After spending the last 12-18 months talking to hundreds of people here in NYC – emerging social superstars, VIP influencers (see more about segmentation at the bottom of this post), brands, agencies, founders and investors -we found lots of conflicting misconceptions about what is happening, how it works and how to do it properly.
Here are the Top 6 most common misconceptions we found about influencer marketing:
1. You need a celebrity.
Having Kim Kardashian share your stuff might be quite cool but don’t fear, the data shows otherwise. Citizen influencers prove to have a higher engagement and trust.
It can be way more powerful to have 100 people with 1,000 followers share your cool stuff than one person with 100,000 followers.
2. You need to send them your stuff.
Purely optional. To have the greatest impact you should focus on activating real, existing customers and have them take photo’s/create posts for you to endorse your brand and then share that content with their audience.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from their friends over all forms of advertising, so having existing customers who already love using your product/service is faster, easier and delivers powerful results.
3. You need to give them freebies and discounts.
You’ll definitely find influencers happy to receive discounts and freebies, but more than 80% of the influencers we interviewed are seeking to work with brands who will compensate them with money.
One VIP influencer who has a ‘verified‘ Instagram account with over 480,000 followers said “I’m sick and tired of companies sending me teeth whitening equipment and discount codes. That stuff doesn’t help me pay the bills.”
4. You need to do the grunt work to find, engage and negotiate.
Most influencer technology platforms are either directories or analytics tools. They will help you drill down on a specific segment and then produce lists of accounts that match your criteria. Helpful for sure, but you are left with the nitty-gritty of contacting/emailing/calling, working out a price, and negotiating compensation.
This is the way that most companies start off with influencer marketing, but they can find themselves with limited bandwidth for how many influencers you can manage and negotiate with at any one time. In addition, they will always just be promoting you to the same audience.
You’re much better off inviting a large network of empowered brand influencers to create content for you and then curate the best submissions. (For transparency, this is one of the key reasons we launched BrandBrief, our self-serve campaign platform and influencer app).
5. You need a massive budget or monthly / up front commitment.
It’s very easy to waste a lot of money quickly and unnecessarily. There are many platforms and influencer agencies happy to charge hefty monthly fees / retainers and many VIP influencers do charge a lot of money for posting content.
The problem for brands and agencies is that there is no globally accepted pricing standard for what someone should pay, or what an influencer should charge for a post (or series of posts).
Make sure you understand exactly what metric you are tracking and how you can quickly measure a return on your investment. By having clear goals up front and running small tests in highly targeted genres and locations it’s actually super easy to test the potential effectiveness of a larger scale influencer campaign with as little as $500.
6. Influencer marketing is unregulated
The FTC has very clear rules about influencer marketing and the requirement for influencers to declare any material connection between the brand and the influencer.
There have been high profile cases such as the Lord and Taylor case where fashion influencers did not adequately disclose their relationship with the brand and subsequently had to settle charges as part of the investigation.
Through our research and conversations with social media professionals, we have found that the segmentation of influencers falls into these three groups:
- Citizen Influencers – this group probably includes you, me and most of our friends. 250-3,000 real followers on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
- Emerging Superstars – 5,000 – 100,000 real followers on any of the above 3 platforms.
- VIP / Professionals – these include social icons such as celebrities, sports stars etc. 100,000 + real followers on any of the above 3 platforms.
Most brands and agencies also agree that there is a massive first-mover advantage for brands to leverage influencer marketing to engage with consumers.
Brands in industries such as Fashion, Beauty, Health, Fitness, Food, Beverages, Travel, Home, Music, Sport, Gadgets and Startups show to be getting the most traction with influencer marketing delivering the highest ROI of any marketing channel by a power of up to 11x annually.
We launched BrandBrief to fix the issues we found with existing platform offerings, but realize we’re not for everyone. We carefully curate both the brands we work with and the influencers who submit branded content through our app.
If influencer marketing is something you’re interested in investigating, send me a note direct and I’d be happy to chat more about our findings, get your feedback on BrandBrief, or point you in the direction of many of the other great companies working to help brands and influencers looking leverage this exciting new revenue opportunity.
Influencers can download the IOS App to browse live campaigns.
Brands can launch a campaign at www.brandbrief.com
For more information check out the FAQ’s on BrandBrief here.