Social media – in particularly Instagram – has created a space for everyone from the average person to Kylie Jenner to showcase the very best side of their lives, carefully curated, filtered and posted in order to give a desired impression. It’s unintentionally grown a bank of powerful influencers who share photos and videos of their lives to their millions of highly engaged followers, when done correctly a high percentage of these followers make lifestyle and more importantly buying decisions based on the influencers suggestions.
The result of this has been a massive increase of brands working with influencers and paying thousands of pounds to have the right person with the right demographic promote their product, service or campaign on their social media channels.
This is nothing new, brands have been working with celebrities since the beginnings of advertising, but the difference is the fact that seemingly anyone with a big enough following can be making money as an influencer.
As a social media marketer I am excited by the prospect of influencer marketing and think it has a solid place within most social media strategies, however I do have a few reservations (and irritations) about it. So here are my pros and cons:
For me, the best thing about working with influencers is the trust element that it gives to their audience. If their followers look at their content regularly and look to them for consumer advice then this can be a powerful partnership. However, choosing who to work with needs to be considered carefully. If the influencer works with anyone who will pay their desired fees, this could actually be a damaging relationship – as they may just post whatever you ask them to without really understanding your brand, which could discredit both of you further down the line.
If you work with an influencer who already loves your brand and actively uses your products or services then the partnership is authentic and you can create the content together in line with the brands angle and their own personal experiences. With authenticity in mind, working with an influencer over a period of time rather than as a one-off often proves more effective.
If you are a small brand with or have a very niche audience, working with an influencer can really help your brand and content go further. It can be tempting to work with someone because their audience is up in the millions, but it is often more beneficial to look at their engagement levels. On Instagram for example; when accounts get to a certain size, Instagram often promotes them to new users who will go on a following spree to start up their channels, some of these people rarely use Instagram, or don’t have a genuine interest in those accounts and therefore do not engage with the content. A simple way to look at engagement is look at how many followers they have and how many likes and comments are on their most recent posts. If they have 1.1m followers but only get 2k likes, there is a clear problem. This can also suggest they have paid for their followers which are essentially ghost accounts.
A partnership is a great way to work with an influencer, makeup brands to this particularly well with the tutorials angle. Working with a talented and/or well respected makeup artist to show how to use different products to achieve different looks is a fantastic opportunity, and works well for the trust element, sometimes brands send a batch of products to an influencer with no obligation to say they like it, therefore the tutorials or posts which feature them are uncensored and have allowed them to say what they really think. Obviously, you would never do this unless you 100% believe in your product – which of course, you do!
Another great example of partnerships has been in the camera industry with travel bloggers and vloggers taking epic content and sharing it on their channels with advice on how their followers can achieve the same.
Unless you work with a really targeted influencer or even a micro-influencer the return on investment is actually very difficult to measure. It is important to work out exactly what you are trying to achieve by working with an influencer before you start. You can put in place ways of measuring this. It could be that you want email signups to add to your database, in which case you could make a specific landing page for any sign ups coming from the influencer or ask each sign up to do something which identifies them as coming from that source (for example clothing companies often offer a discount code e.g Kylie10).
Working with the likes of Kylie Jenner has proven incredibly successful as their following is huge and her direct influence on buyers is off the scale. Although working someone as popular as that (96 million followers on Instagram) is great for supposedly immediately going out of stock, there is no data into how true or sustainable that is.
Other than Facebook, most channels actually struggle to determine who is using their network and give very vague demographics such as gender and age which are input by the user when they sign up. Gaining additional, meaningful insights beyond this are difficult to get hold of, and often based on user behaviour which isn’t necessarily representative of their buying behaviours. For example I could enage with and follow luxury travel brands on Instagram but actually travel on a budget or not at all, but Instagram or the influencer might list me as a luxury traveller.
Again, this is often not a problem for beauty brands as even high-end makeup is within reach of most people who might spend more than usual, whereas luxury clothing, cars, jewelry or travel would need to actually reach users who can really afford the product or service.
Personally, the thing I find the most detrimental to the meaningfulness of influencer marketing are brands who have seemingly endless marketing budgets and will work with anyone on Instagram with a certain amount of followers. A good (or bad) example is the hair growth tablets in the shape of a bear and so called ‘fitness teas’ who pay for sponsored posts with everyone from the Kardashians to the cast of the Only Way is Essex and hundreds of big accounts who refer to themselves as a model in their bio. I am sure this blanket tactic means they sell out regularly but something feels wrong to me about their style. From what I have seen none of these accounts actually use the product, they don’t have posts spanning 30 days of them using it, talking about it and posting results, they just occasionally post something in a tone of voice very different to the rest of their profile (indicating they have copy and pasted what the company asked them to post), with a photo of them holding the product. This style of influencer marketing can tarnish the genuine, authentic partnerships and make it seem like anyone will endorse anything if they are paid.
I have no problem paying influencers for their time and use of their platform, in fact I am envious of those that successfully make money this way – especially those who are being paid to promote and recommend incredible brands which they love using, from cameras and beauty products and luxury hotels.
What I do class as a con however is the lack of consistency in fees across the industry. This is of course because the influencer themselves or a talent agency determine a fair cost for their time, which differs wildly depending on who you approach.
I did some digging and here are two examples which are purposefully very different:
A travel vlogger who is one of the most popular on YouTube and can probably be more aptly described as a film maker.
- The brief I gave would require this person to be flown to a destination for a minimum of a week, the cost of flights, hotels and excursions would of course be covered.
- We would require them to use high spec equipment which includes a drone
- Film, direct, edit and feature in the video
- Then post the complete video to YouTube with supporting social media
The cost of this was understandably quite high as it involved exclusive use of their time, equipment, editing skills and then the promotion to their key demographic.
I also approached a makeup vlogger to ask about a makeup vlog – not a tutorial, just a recommendation of one product. I approached a very popular makeup vlogger who has a smaller demographic than the travel vlogger, but still a big audience who were highly engaged.
- They were required to film a short video for YouTube from their house talking exclusively about a makeup brand and products
- Edit the video
- Post the clip on YouTube with supporting social media
The cost of the makeup vlog was in the tens of thousands which didn’t include any supporting posts on other networks. It was considerably higher than the cost of the travel vlogger.
I don’t want to compare what the two’s industries but what I will compare is the time taken, the first vlogger would have given up a week of their time to travel, plus editing time. They would also need to film multiple locations and edit this together. The makeup vlogger could do this in the morning and work with a different brand in the same day. This difference in cost was surprising considering the time difference and skills required.
So there are the pros and cons of working with influencers. I have worked with a few influencers and would do so again, my thoughts are both from the perspective of a social media marketer and a user of social media.
Have you worked with influencers, or are you an influencer? Post your thoughts below.