Social influencers can bring big marketing results. But when done badly, it can alienate those you most need on your side.
It is often assumed that the journey to find the right social influencers for your marketing efforts is the hardest part of the process. However, the important work really begins when you start talking to social influencers.
We know businesses find commuicating hard because so many brands and marketers are clearly doing it “wrong.” A quick Google Search for the phrase “influencer outreach fail” returns a whopping 717,000 results.
We can also see the communication gap as influencers continue to be as social and vocal about bad outreach as they are about the things they love. They will call out bad practice and that is bad for business!
Dubai-based digital agency Omnia suggests following their “CCTV” method when it comes to influencer engagement in order to avoid the most common pitfalls, and thus avoid being publicly shamed by the very influencers you want to convert into future brand advocates.
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C is for Communication
By their very nature, social influencers are good “socially.” However, their communication style often differs from that which most businesses are accustomed to. A basic example of this is their readiness to respond to emails outside working hours. This is mostly because social influencers have a day job, until their social channels become their main income stream. To communicate with them in a timely manner then requires some flexibility outside the 9-5.
On a deeper level, social influencers will often complain about the lack of connection or relationship building within the communications they receive from brands. They feel that they only ever call on them when they need something and then immediately start making demands. Influencers don’t want to be treated like “guns for hire” and rightly so. We appreciate that building meaningful relationships takes time and effort.
However, there are many relationships built in business. From those that we have with stakeholders and staff, to the ones we nurture with partners and the media. Social influencers are now the bridge between you and your current (and potential future) customers. There is no relationship as important as that. Modern consumers don’t trust experts or review sites. Instead, they trust the opinions of influencers and their peers. That makes influencers your new gatekeepers.
This business relationship deserves regular effort, a genuine open approach in communications, mutual respect, and compromise. That may mean emailing outside working hours, messaging on the social app where they already hang out or making the effort to meet face-to-face.
C is for Creativity
Once you’ve decided on the ‘what’ and the ‘when’, then researched the ‘who’, your campaign needs a ‘why’ and a ‘how’. This is where the creativity comes in.
One of the biggest irritations for social influencers is that they still feel like they’re being approached as a type of traditional media. Young bloggers find themselves pitched generic press releases that have been blanket-sent to a media list; the reproduction of which wouldn’t sit authentically on their website. Social influencers who predominantly use channels like Snapchat find themselves approached by advertising agencies with existing creative content that doesn’t fit their channel’s dimensions and story mode. These influencers may want to work with you, but neglecting to tailor collaboration offers to them is simply making it harder for them to say yes.
On the other end of the scale, we hear influencers bemoan the fact that they are approached by businesses “to do something together” only to find that they are expected to completely design the campaign creative brief, while only being compensated for the engagement levels of the social space, if compensated at all. Social influencers, as a rule, want a good level of involvement in the creative process. They value individuality and their own brand voice. Their success relies heavily on authenticity. Their content must sound like them. But, try to bring something constructive to the “ideas” table that you can build on together or expect to pay them an additional creative agency fee.
With that in mind, it’s crucial that you have an understanding of the channels you are asking an influencer to promote your business on, based on some level of usage (even just as a viewer, if not a content publisher). This will not only help you be more authentic in your communication – because you truly understand the influencer’s work load – but more importantly, it will ensure your marketing has the best chance of success because it is tailored to those channels.
T is for Transparency
Transparency is the path to trust. Brand loyalty from your customers is wholly dependent on that trust. From the largest corporations to the smallest local businesses, it must be a priority in all interactions with the public and in your dealings with these social influencers.
Due to the nature of their work/hobby, social influencers are some of the most digitally-savvy people in marketing today. Most will heavily research new businesses who approach them to collaborate. If there are corporate skeletons in your closets, they will find them. They will be deeply angry if something has been hidden from them that could damage their own reputations (particularly important if working with parenting, eco, or dietary influencers for example).
It’s no surprise that we hear from influencers about their initial interactions with business owners and how marketing is often shrouded in ego-grooming-jargon. They want to know in plain, polite terms, who you are and why you’re contacting them. What is your end game? Social influencers can’t help you if they don’t know. If you’re trying to grow a little-known business with no following and no budget, don’t skirt around those issues. The influencer may be open to Affiliate opportunities to make a percentage of sales they refer to you instead. If your campaign is an attempt to right a mistake or a damaging PR experience with customers, then be honest. This allows the influencer to make an informed decision to work with you.
When it comes to money, don’t be shy. This is a key area where social influencers get frustrated. With everyone in the digital industry trying to keep up with the pace of developments and calculate compensation rates, engagement rates, return on investment measures. If you don’t know whether to pay, ask their advice. They will have rate cards. If you can only offer a free product or discount, be upfront. If you want to grow a long-term relationship over time, then ask for it.
Finally, ensure you provide social influencers with the professional standards of disclosure for paid promotions in your industry. Make sure your business has researched the most up to date guidelines from Advertising Standards and do your best to interpret them for the influencer. It is your responsibility as a business to take control of this area of transparency for the end consumer.
V is for VIP
VIP: Very Important People. Social influencers are just that, but not in the way you might think.
They are influential yes, and influence is power. Influencers are a very important tool in how your business builds relationships with specific audiences that will help your business grow and prosper.
Social influencers may be modern day celebrities, but they are not royalty. Influencers are not famous stars with entourages and lists of demands to be met. They are building their own business, just as you are building yours.
Any interactions you have with social influencers should be mutually beneficial and respectful. We can all work in harmony together to achieve our goals. But your upmost priority is to the reputation of your business and the wellbeing of your customers. That gives you the right to lay down certain conditions and ensure ethically sound marketing practices. If you are forthright about this with influencers, they will respect you for it and your relationship can grow from a sound base.