Influencer marketing has fundamentally changed both consumer purchasing decisions and brand comms strategies. Getting a ‘celebrity’ – that’s a person with influence in the eyes of your audience, so could be someone we traditionally view as a celebrity, but it could also be a 15 year-old YouTuber raking up fans – to use your product or service in their environment has proved to be a successful marketing technique so far, particularly for brands trying to delve into the younger, more social media-conscious market. But with more demand for marketers to show transparency and trust in their advertising efforts this year, how is the influencer market expected to hold up?

Influencers can have a tremendous impact on brand reputation – just look at what Kylie Jenner managed to do to Snapchat’s share prices with just one tweet last month. However, there is still some cynicism and questioning around influencers and whether they are genuinely convincing and honest about the way they talk about a brand’s product or service. Studies have already claimed that celebrity endorsements don’t quite catch the eye with the millennial market meaning that brands need to step up their game and think beyond the likes of celebrity influencers in order to win back consumers trust.  People see a difference between true brand advocacy – i.e. the influencer genuinely has appreciation for the product or service, as opposed to bought advocacy – where the lack of passion shows.


The line between authenticity and deception

The other problem with influencer marketing is the regulations that are supposedly in place. For example, influencers are supposed to add “#ad” to social posts that promote brands. After all, it is illegal not to say if a person has been paid to promote a product or service, but this is often not properly regulated.

Some brands even try to cleverly integrate the #ad within other hashtags – but this may be seen as deceptive and met with cynicism. It’s best to play it straight and by the rules.


A see-through view 

It may seem basic but taking a step back, looking at your pool of potential influencers and judging whether they naturally fit alongside your brand is key to being honest with your audience and true to you. You want to be realistic and convincing about who would use your product or service, so it’s no good chasing the numbers and going after the influencers with the highest number of views or the ones who are the most popular with your audience. For example, if you’re a sportswear brand and you set your sights on a beauty YouTuber who has millions of subscribers and is popular with the same demographic as your audience, check they are actually interested in sports and have done work with brands that aren’t necessarily just beauty. Otherwise, your brand may seem out of place, the influencer may not represent your brand in a genuine manner or the audience will be confused by something unexpected.

It’s good to spend some time picking out potential collaborations and widen your search to include influencers with a smaller following too – they can be just as effective as having one influencer with a huge following.


Paying the price

Most influencers will probably want some kind of commission for promoting a product or a service so it’s important for brands to be aware of that but also not let influencers take your product or service for granted – remember what happened to social media influencer Elle Darby when she tried to blag a free hotel stay in exchange for publicity? People will say what you want them to if they are paid a nice price – but there’s always room for negotiation and you want the influencer to have a genuine interest in the brand for them to be able to come across as convincing to their audience. Setting aside a good chunk of budget for influencers is smart, but you have to ensure that they are worth the investment. It’s still the wild west out there when it comes to cost – you can be quoted anything from a couple of hundred pounds to tens of thousands. We recommend setting criteria around following and audience type, as well as budget ceilings.


Quality not quantity

When working with an influencer you want to make sure that there is a natural flow of content between the influencer’s posts. At the end of the day, it’s the influencer who ultimately decides what content goes onto their channel and they are the ones who know their audience best and will know how to communicate your brand in a way which engages their audience specifically, so put some trust in them too. Work on building the relationship with the influencer and getting to know them and their followers and their flow of work so that you can easily slot in.

Delving into the influencer world can be difficult since there are so many out there to choose from and all have a different purpose for being an influencer. Whatever influencer you might be wanting to reach out to, it’s important to stay true to your brand, adjusting to the influencer’s needs as much as necessary whilst still making sure that they are the right person to represent your brand. A good working relationship – like that with any media partner – includes clear and honest communications.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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