The word influencer—like “hype,” “traction,” and “ROI”—have become dirty words in advertising conversations. They’re hard to pin down, harder to measure and sometimes impossible to act on. Influencer strategies for a fashion brand might vary wildly compared to a tech company. But with nearly 84% of 2017 marketing professionals saying they planned to use influencer marketing in some capacity and brands earning an average of $7.65 for every $1 spent on influencers, it shows no signs of stopping.
Is an influencer someone with 50,000 followers on Instagram? Someone whose tweets, photos and posts garner hundreds of views with the bat of an eye? That’s the popular definition. Forbes defines influencer work as the “grey territory “ between a testimonial and a product mention. And while soft promotion is nothing new—like the American Express’ “Never Leave Home Without It” ads from ’95— putting that cred to work in an inundated environment is a whole other story.
Selecting an influencer is the most important part of the equation. The right selection can ensure the success of a campaign—the wrong one can be ineffective, or worse damage your brand. When selecting one, it’s important to consider brand values, demographic interests and campaign objectives. Fashion and lifestyle brands like Glossier and Wicked Clothes have seen wild success with influencer marketing, with EMV spreading past their original platforms to reach YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and press outlets.
Most of these campaigns utilize a quick graphic or video that demonstrates the value of a product to the target audience. But that isn’t the only way to get in on the influencer action.
The Case for Brand Advisors
Influencers aren’t trusted names in their field without reason. Whether it be tech, gaming, fashion or lifestyle, these individuals have a keen cultural sense and have worked hard to grow a following. Instead of recruiting influencers to be talking heads (which is seen as increasingly ingenuine by audiences), some brands are utilizing influencers as editorial advisors in the building phase of their companies.
Outlets like The Odyssey and Green Label started out as startup publications with a dedicated team of writers. But influencers in both the college and skate spaces began to crop up and offer value as publishers and brand advisors. Both publications offer creatives the chance to develop their creative skills to great results.
Before its series of business missteps—many of which included influencer mismanagement, The Odyssey was generating up to 20 million page-views per day. Its rich core base of influencer content proves the worth of nurturing influencer creativity and valuing their contribution.
On the other hand, it also serves as a cautionary tale for overusing influencers in an attempt to “cash in” on the excitement of a brand. The publication often expected too-high article counts in a short period of time, which led to a drop in quality and lack of cohesion.
So, is influencer marketing worth the time, relationship building and time investment? As long as a brand doesn’t expect influencers to sacrifice quality, or treat them like promotion mills, the benefits outweigh the risks.