Tackling the many misperceptions of the impact of influencer marketing

Hypothetical situation I’m sure is playing out with clients/companies every day:

Client says they want to reach a “younger audience.”

Client says they need to engage these folks, raise awareness for their brand and sell more (insert widget/service here).

Among other ideas, you suggest influencer marketing as a potential tactic, given: 1) Most influencers ARE the younger demographic and definitely attract it, and 2) Trust levels are high in “a person like me” at the moment.

Makes sense. The client agrees. You go about researching and pitching influencers. You find one that’s perfect. Huge audience. Very engaging. Big millennial audience. Open to a partnership.

Perfect, right?

Not so much.

Upon pitching the influencer and opportunity to the client, they decide to “pass” with the following feedback:

  • “This audience isn’t quite right–and they might not be ready to buy our product.”
  • “Why are we asking for them to create digital assets for us? That doesn’t help us promote our company.”
  • “We don’t have enough brand mentions baked in this proposal. Why can’t we ask them to mention the product more?”
  • “We don’t see our products online in any way–how does this connect to sales?”
  • “We’re not active on many of the social channels where this influencer is strong. Why would we want to engage with them if that’s the case?”
  • “I watched a few of their videos and Instagram posts–they hardly ever mention brand names. That seems like a big miss to me.”

In my experience, this is a fairly typical reaction. And, I’m always surprised–especially given the litany of articles, posts and research that have been written about the power of influencer marketing.

But, clearly, some people are still skeptical. In some cases, it’s for legitimate reasons. But, for the most part, I still think there’s a big misunderstanding about the goals and overall approach with influencers.

Let’s tackle the above theoretical comments one by one:

  • “This audience isn’t quite right–and they might not be ready to buy our product.”
    • You want to be careful with demographics–I wouldn’t assume too much just based on what you see with the naked eye. The beauty of social is you never know where content can end up thanks to shares and algorithms. I tend to think there’s more value than just the demographics that are available (not to mention the influencers themselves have a tendency to “over-report” on their own metrics in an attempt to impress corporations).
  • “Why are we asking for them to create digital assets for us? That doesn’t help us promote our company.”
    • Sometimes the goal of the influencer partnership is content — not promotion. Remember, many companies are still struggling to come up with compelling social content on a regular basis. Influencers are FANTASTIC at this–why not work with them to create content you can both use?
  • “We don’t have enough brand mentions baked in this proposal. Why can’t we ask them to mention the product more?”
    • You don’t need 4,245 mentions of your product for the influencer partnership to be a success. You just don’t. And, realistically, the influencer is rarely going to go for that. Remember, people are trusting “a person like them” more and more, and trusting CEOs and brands less and less (you saw the recent Edelman Trust Barometer scores, right?). Influencers are a key way to reach this younger audience–but, they’re not going to bend over backwards to serve your needs. No matter how much money you’re paying them.
  • “How does this kind of work really connect to sales? This might be a waste of resources.”
    • Influencer work doesn’t always need to connect directly to sales–in fact, I wouldn’t usually expect that. Instead, think further up the funnel. Influencer work can play a much bigger role in driving awareness and engagement. Using influencers as a conduit to getting people to visit your store or buy your product seems like a faulty set-up from the get-go. Set expectations right out of the gate–you’re engaging this influencer to introduce a new audience to your product or service.
  • “We’re not active on many of the social channels where this influencer is strong. Why would we want to engage with them if that’s the case?”
    • What if the influencer is on a platform you aren’t on, as a company? No problem! In fact, isn’t that a good thing to help you grow a potential platform, or hit an audience you’re obviously underserving or NOT hitting? I would flip this thinking completely.
  • “I watched a few of the influencer’s videos and Instagram posts–they hardly ever mention brand names. That seems like a big miss to me.”
    • Again, influencers aren’t going to come out and completely shill for brands. Some will–but many just won’t. And really, they shouldn’t. They’re influencers because they’re real. They’re interesting. Or, they’re entertaining. You really can’t be all of those things if you’re pitching products every other post or video. Want a real-life example? Think about the recent Casey Niestat Samsung video. You know the one–let me remind you (see below). Did you see 45 mentions of Samsung in this video? No. Did it have value for their brand? Absolutely. It’s not all about mentions–sometimes it’s about affiliating your brand with an influencer who clearly has the ear of your customers (and remember, you probably don’t if you’re considering this path).

photo credit: A. Strakey This Sums Her Up Perfectly via photopin (license)

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