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A guide to choosing the right influencers for your brand
Influencer marketing harnesses significant benefits for businesses that utilise it correctly. A 2016 study from Twitter found that consumers seek recommendations from influencers almost as much as they do from friends, and 42% of marketers believe it offers significant return on investment. As a result, the influencer marketing industry is set to be worth $15 billion by 2022.
Despite the results that can be gained through influencer marketing, it is a controversial topic. Influencers have become increasingly criticised over time for being dishonest and out of touch with reality. This argument was heightened during the coronavirus pandemic, when many influencers were criticised for sharing glamourous lifestyles and exotic holidays when the general public was enduring testing times. To heighten the debate, a YouGov poll found that 96% of UK people do not trust influencers.
The lack of trust towards influencers is an obstacle that companies must face, but it should not necessarily be a deterrent. Instead, to achieve results and effectively engage your audience, you need to identify individuals who can act as genuine brand ambassadors and bring consumers on board with your products and services. This means choosing an influencer who aligns with your brand values, is reliable and resonates with the audience you want to target.
In this guide, we have outlined how to select an influencer that fits your brand, helping you achieve the engagement and traffic you want from your marketing activity without any pitfalls.
Reach or niche?
When selecting an influencer to work with, brands can go down one of two routes: reach or niche. This means choosing whether you want someone who has a mass following and gets multiple likes, views and comments on their content or someone with a smaller, more niche audience. There are pros and cons to each.
- The apparent advantage of using a reach influencer is that you will get high visibility for your brand. It’s a numbers game with a ‘hope for the best’ scatter-gun approach. This type of influencer will have follower numbers often in the thousands, if not millions, and every post they do will receive high numbers of views. However, you pay for this visibility, and these influencers tend to be costly. You may also find their feed is saturated with influencer content from many sources – as a result, their authenticity and trustworthiness often decrease.
- These are influencers with a smaller following (also called micro-influencers), usually known only within a specific community. Although they may have fewer followers, their audience tends to be highly engaged and loyal, so a recommendation from a niche influencer can still go a long way if your offering fits within their industry. These influencers and this approach tend to be the most cost-effective and credible option, with up to 22.2 times more conversion.
The category of influencer you use largely depends on your brand and type of products or service that you are offering, along with your marketing priorities. For example, if your product is a fast-moving consumer good (FMCG) item such as shampoo or a snack item that is deemed as a quick sale, you might want the weight of a household name behind you, with a huge base of followers for the greatest exposure. However, if you are marketing a niche or high value product then a niche influencer figure with more alignment to the product, and a relevant following, will be a better way to go.
Focus on relevance
Regardless of whether you choose the reach or niche route, you must pick an influencer whose values, interests and followers are relevant to your brand. Often, it can be tempting to select the latest reality star getting coverage in the press – but they may not be the best ambassador for your business. Instead, you need to focus on who aligns with your brand values and your target audience profile.
A perfect example of the need for relevance is if you are promoting a health product. The likes of the Kardashians have come under fire for advertising medical products, such as supplements. Such a move could be seen as dangerous for encouraging young people to take medication without considering the side effects, discrediting brands and shining an unfavourable light on their marketing activity.
However, if a brand were to use authoritative experts to endorse their products, it shows increased responsibility and credibility. In the below example, we see Cadbury use Jane’s Patisserie, a well-known baking blogger and Instagram figure, to promote a recipe book – which works better than getting someone who has never baked before to endorse it.
Simply put, people are more likely to listen to someone who knows what they’re talking about and can demonstrate a positive working knowledge and experience of your products and services. Seek to find people who can showcase this understanding clearly, as this will better persuade their followers that you can be trusted. This could be an industry professional or figurehead or a more general influencer who has a proven interest in a specific topic. By doing so, you will ensure you are working with relevant ambassadors who can knowledgeably endorse your products and be trusted as they do so.
Know who your audience aspires to
Before selecting an influencer, it is crucial to understand your audience intrinsically. Influencer marketing works by appealing to audiences through those they aspire to – so you need to find out who those role models are.
Using buyer personas and journey mapping, you should know your target customers’ key demographics, such as age, location, and so on. On top of this, you should understand their interests, including what they like to do, what they watch and listen to and the channels they engage with. From this, you can analyse which public figures they respect and follow.
The influencers your audience will look up to will vary from person to person but understanding their interests and demographics should allow you to identify public figureheads. For example, a young adult female who enjoys reality TV might be more likely to listen to a Love Island star, who is unlikely to appeal to an older audience. Similarly, if you’re marketing B2B, a pop star won’t be relevant, but an industry professional might be.
By determining your audience’s interests, and pain points, you will be better placed to choose influencers who they actively listen to, increasing your conversion rates.
Consider their following
Before you commit to working with an influencer, there needs to be matrimony between their existing following and the customers you are looking to target. Start by considering who your products and services are aimed at before checking how they fit with the influencer’s following.
For example, if you are selling a new range of golf clubs, you would expect the influencer to have a following who are actively interested in golf and specifically playing it themselves. If most of their following are teenagers interested in gaming, it signals that there’s not a great synergy between the two of you. If you were to create content with that person, you would probably end up with confused audiences and low conversion rates.
However, if you can find someone whose following mirrors the people you want to target, you can guarantee better results. Influencer content will be more likely to result in sales, while the influencer themselves will benefit from an engaged audience that fits their personal brand.
Check engagement rates
When utilising influencer marketing, you’ll understandably want to assess the impact of your efforts, including traffic, engagement and conversion rates. These metrics are reliant on the influencer’s own performance and capacity to achieve visibility for your brand. So, you need to work with someone who you know can deliver.
Analyse the engagement rates of any influencer you are interested in, including how many followers they have, how many likes or comments they get and any other valuable metrics. The exact data you are looking for may vary depending on what platform you intend to work with them on, so bear this in mind and carry out your analysis accordingly.
You may even want to check the influencer’s press coverage and what kind of comments they get on social media to measure sentiment towards them. Additionally, once you enter discussions with an influencer, they may be able to provide insight into their performance and the results of previous campaigns they’ve worked on.
You need to be confident that you will achieve your goals by working with this specific influencer. While part of your success will be tied to your ability to select a relevant ambassador for your campaign, it is their responsibility to engage their audiences with the content they create on your behalf. An influencer with low engagement is unlikely to impact your bottom line, so it’s critical to undertake adequate due diligence to prevent wasted opportunities.
Understand their content
The next step in identifying the perfect partner to represent your brand is to familiarise yourself with their existing content. Influencers are often brands in their own right, with distinctive personalities, tones of voice, values and aesthetics. Any content they put on – including sponsored or paid content – needs to fit in within this to meet their followers’ expectations and maintain consistency.
Make sure you follow any influencer you are considering working with first. This will allow you to see first-hand the content they post and whether it matches your brand vision. Essentially, you want to ensure their interest, personality and way of posting align with your target audiences, mission and value proposition.
Taking the time to review their existing content is also a great way to figure out what sort of content you envision them creating for your brand, which can help clarify your brief and get the most from the campaign. By understanding their content, you will also ensure a shared vision between both parties, meaning that everyone benefits and achieves their objectives. This will make coming to a contractual agreement much more manageable.
Look out for red flags
While we all hope it will never happen to our business, there are times where marketing activity can go wrong and working with a third party – such as an influencer – can heighten the risk. So, it’s fundamental to watch out for any warning signs and avoid risks where possible.
Look for potential red flags with any individual you are considering paying for content. These flags could include past controversy, negative press attention or public sentiment. While it is true that debate can make an influencer more known, you don’t want to become embroiled in a PR crisis that damages your reputation.
Similarly, if you have heard negative things from other people who have worked with the influencer, including them being difficult or unreliable, it could signal that it’s not worth the hassle. Another red flag is if that person has been in trouble for not disclosing sponsored content, as this is a trading standards requirement and could result in costly legal action, content being removed, and growing mistrust in your brand.
Another issue to raise when considering who should promote your brand is your budget. Some influencers can be incredibly costly, even for just one post, so there is little point in selecting someone if you don’t know that you can afford them. Instead, seek smaller, more niche figures who can still provide great results on a smaller budget.
All the factors above are instrumental in dictating whether an influencer is a match for your business. If you have any suspicions that they’re not, it’s generally best to move on rather than taking the risk of being another ‘influencer marketing fail’.
The research and due diligence needed when selecting the perfect influencer for your brand can be quite a task, but it is vital for achieving impactful results that are aligned with your marketing and overall business strategy. By choosing the right ambassador and briefing them effectively, you will have the advantage of a shared vision, engaged audience and harmonious partnership between both sides.
With this, you can enjoy increased brand visibility, return on investment and better conversion rates. It will also help you avoid catastrophes or waste money on a campaign that just doesn’t work. Instead, you can focus on influencer marketing that genuinely grows your bottom line and compels your customers.