Brands and influential personalities have always been intertwined. Companies have used experts, celebrities and other authoritative individuals to promote their brands and products for decades. With the advent of social media, the scope and variety of these influencers has broadened, and brand partnerships are no longer centered around celebrity endorsements. This offers huge opportunities to businesses, who can use influencer marketing in a way that wasn’t previously feasible.
The growth of influencer marketing
The use of Internet-born influencers in marketing is so commonplace that it’s strange to think that the phenomenon barely existed a few years ago. Bloggers, Instagram stars and YouTube celebrities who have organically grown their audience through the power of their content and personality are beginning to dominate the conversation.
While you may find it difficult to engage a top-tier blogger to endorse your business, this marketing technique is well within the reach of small brands. Whether it’s sending products out to review or engaging “micro-influencers” to become brand ambassadors, influencer marketing can be affordable and effective. It’s knowing how to find influencers that will actually benefit your brand that’s the challenging part.
Find the people who share your values
It seems trite to say that a brand ambassador needs to share your values, but this really is the most important consideration. If their personal brand doesn’t align with yours, or their online content is completely irrelevant to your product or service, it can create a disconnect between your brand perception and the reality your customers experience. It can also lend your brand personality traits you’d rather it not be associated with. For example, if your brand personality is friendly and approachable, you probably wouldn’t want to engage a blogger (despite perhaps having great content and a healthy audience) who are known for their sharp, sardonic wit.
Learning from celebrity endorsements: what worked…
Celebrity brand endorsements make for great case studies when determining your influencer marketing strategy, as many of the key tenants are the same. You should think about the influencer/brand relationships that are so seamless that you can believe they appeared naturally. For example, there’s David Beckham’s work with Calvin Klein. Calvin Klein memorably and effectively utilized David Beckham’s (extremely aspirational) physicality, and the association has become embedded in the public consciousness, despite Justin Bieber recently replacing him.
The partnership of British tennis star Tim Henman with the property investment fund The Hideaways Club is a another notably good example. Tim Henman’s reliable public persona adds an air of dependability to the discrete and exclusive luxury brand and his gentlemanly reputation matches perfectly with the brand’s core values. There’s also the countless relationships between glamorous actresses to beauty brands to draw from – from Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy to Charlize Theron and Dior – many of which have become a defining aspect of both the brand and celebrity.
… And what didn’t
It’s also advisable to take a moment to consider the partnerships that jarred. In traditional TV advertising, one mistake came in the form of Iggy Pop’s involvement with car insurance company Swiftcover’s campaign. Here the attempt to inject some of his “punk” attitude into Swiftcover’s brand personality came off as false and faintly embarrassing. It seemed unlikely to audiences that Iggy Pop burns with a genuine passion for car insurance, and when it emerged that Swiftcover don’t insure people who work in the entertainment industry, the disconnect became uncomfortably clear.
Engage influencers who love your product
It’s important to remember that an Internet personality isn’t a mouthpiece or billboard, and trying to use them like one completely negates the point of engaging an influencer. You have to sell yourself to an influencer, and make them genuinely enthusiastic about your business. Then they can lend some of the personality or expertise that made them popular in the first place to promoting your brand.
Whether it’s bloggers positively reviewing products that seem entirely at odds with their online persona, or an Instagram star who will team up with the highest bidder rather than the brands they actually like, people are savvy enough to spot this kind of dishonesty. Simply passing influencers cash so they’ll reel off something you scripted will look and sound like an advert – damaging both the influencer’s relationship with their following and the credibility of your brand.
So, how do you do find the right influencer?
Think about the key themes of your brand. If, for example, you have created a sustainable business, search for the bloggers and social media stars who are passionate about sustainability. From this point you can get to know the “personal brand” of each influencer, and think carefully about how well they align with your own brand. It also helps if you admire and appreciate their work. If you can, respond positively to their social media posts and share their work before getting in touch with them directly.
Be open, be friendly, but most of all, be concise. Most micro-influencers have a day job, and run their social media, YouTube, and blogging accounts in their spare time, so they will appreciate brevity. Here you can reference the posts or videos of theirs that you particularly like, and explain why you think they will appreciate your product or service. If they are interested, the partnership should grow naturally, and will be one of give and take.
Influencer marketing is, at its core, about creating great relationships with people who truly get your brand. If you nurture a relationship with someone who has a well-read blog and five thousand twitter followers, a you may well find yourself growing together. Mistakes have been made at the high-end of influencer marketing, where companies with huge budgets simply threw money at Internet personalities, but most businesses don’t have this option – and will create better, more genuine partnerships because of this. Find people with sincere excitement for your brand, and the effect will be powerful.