Influencer engagement strategy

How to Build an Influencer Marketing Strategy for Your Brand

Tami Briesies 2 years ago

Introduction

The world of online has evolved quicker than many people expected it to. The way we communicate is constantly changing, as well as the way we intake information or are influenced into thinking a certain way.

Back in the day, celebrities were our influencers. Before social media, models were the movers and shakers; shown on various television adverts, on billboards, and still are in fact but were far reaching and unrealistic. What normal person would end up looking like a supermodel? They were so far out of touching distance that there was no way anyone could relate everyday life back to them.

When blogging became frequent, and social media started becoming increasingly more important in the day to day life of millions across the world, these influencers changed.

Marketers have caught wind of the power of influencers in recent years and have run with it. Brands have seen the benefits of utilising the power of influencers, from all platforms, and have seen how brand awareness and traffic has increased by the relationships they have built with bloggers and vloggers.

So, who are influencers? Well, according to Fashion Monitor, 'influencers' are defined as:

'Individuals who have amassed a trusted and engaged following online, through the content and opinions they share across social channels.'

Remember when we mentioned marketers latching onto this incredibly smart form of content sharing? Econsultancy have said that almost 60% of fashion and beauty brands now have an influencer marketing strategy in place, and more than 21% plan to invest in this huge business over the next 12 months.

We are going to take you through three brands which we have seen rise through the ranks of influencer success, with three different strategies and then give you some handy tips and tactics to take away.

Table of contents

1. Is the landscape for influencer marketing changing?

2. How to identify the right platform for your influencers

3. Common questions around influencer marketing

4. Three steps for setting up an influencer strategy

5. The six engagement tips for building influencer relationships

6. An influencer marketing case study: Mulberry

7. Tools of the trade: Influencer measurement sites

Brand one: L’oreal

Recently, L’Oreal created their 'Beauty Squad' that comprised of five of the UK’s most popular bloggers and vloggers: Victoria from InTheFrow, Ruth from A Model Recommends, Kaushal from Kaush M, Emily from Emily Canham and Patricia at The Patricia Bright.

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Utilising these influencers have given the brand an edge. Speaking to people of all ages, each woman has their very own page on the L’Oreal Paris website where they talk in depth about their likes and dislikes. What they have done here is created targeted pages for each individual, with products they are specifically targeting. The beauty of this is that each and every one of them is a regular user of L’Oreal products, and their love for the brand is genuine. Sharing anything related to the campaign will be met with excitement and a trust that what they are talking about is legitimate.

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Being in the L’Oreal Glam Squad means coverage from all angles, and a PR campaign covering this one too. Posts on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and their respective blogs have garnered an incredible amount of reach between each platform (7.4M reach in total, in fact), and successfully given the brand the coverage they so wanted.

Brand two: Mini Cooper

Similarly, though on a smaller level, Mini Cooper has begun to understand the true benefits of influencer engagement. Recently, particularly on platforms like Instagram, there has been a lot of coverage from bloggers who have been given a Mini Cooper to travel in for a weekend break.

Mini Cooper has been a British symbol for decades, and is now a must-have car for the Twenty something driver. A beautiful little run around car at a slightly higher price point a lot of people may say. For this reason, it has always been a luxury brand, and many people find the thought of owning one an absolute privilege.

Take Sabrina from A Little Obsessed, who was given a Mini Cooper Clubman to drive just before Christmas:

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To coincide with the lending of the Mini, Sabrina organised a road trip to a local city, and blogged about it. The post received nearly 500 likes, and a handful of comments that made it a success where engagement is concerned.

Brand three: ASOS

ASOS has recently been flying when it comes to their influencer strategy. Particularly with their ASOS Insiders piece (who were previously named as ‘Stylists’), where influencers, from across the globe, have been assigned to use their Instagram platform under the guise of ‘@asos_NAME’.

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To refer to any products that they are sharing, the item code is shared within the caption, and a link is added to a personal list of items on the ASOS site, placed in the bio section of their Instagram to ensure they are going directly to the source.

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What is great about this is that here, ASOS has utilised a platform that is the main source of inspiration for their demographic. To extend this further, because ASOS is so far reaching in terms of style, the influencers that are used are never the same, and cover many of the popular styles that millennials now find fashionable.

This engagement strategy is different in the way of the traditional style that we’ve come to know and love.

Is the landscape for influencer marketing changing?

Back in the early 2000s, blogging was relative to a small paddling pool in comparison to the ocean that it is now. Bloggers were just considered as online users who reviewed items, briefly spoke about their day in short snippets and took photos of their outfits using a camera on a pile of big coffee table books that didn’t get you fully in shot.

Despite this, bloggers were relatable and readers trusted their word over many others. They were reliable and full of integrity; you knew if they weren’t happy with a product, there was a genuine message behind that and they eventually started to state that they would only work with companies and products they felt fit their little corner of the internet.

No different to celebrities who ensure their integrity stays intact, bloggers have started to become a lot savvier in a business sense. The only difference is that celebrities are still considered top dog in reaching a huge amount of people, and although you’re still more likely to see the likes of Karlie Kloss or Gigi Hadid on the cover of Vogue or advertising the latest Rimmel mascara, it’s not a review from a ‘normal’ person so to speak.

But what makes bloggers and vloggers special is the fact that it’s not just a 30 second clip of why a product is so ‘great’. It is the physical use, the experience someone has had behind being gifted, and how that experience has affected the user, alongside the personal review where you know you will be receiving an honest opinion.

So who exactly are micro influencers and macro influencers?

Deemed as the most relatable, with under 100K followers on all platforms, their following is little in comparison to others but their reach and influence is big. Audiences follow these micro influencers not because of their popularity, but because their word is trusted and the value that is placed on their opinions is high. For brands, this is incredibly important because it means that they are still pushing products, but their voices are authentic, and heard.

Think of it this way – big influencers cast their net very far, but they never know what they will catch. Micro influencers cast smaller nets and are more likely to have followers who are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

It seems that the trouble with macro influencers is that many are distrustful of them. Despite people still following them on various platforms, content could potentially become diluted and engagement could decrease. It’s been said that life changing amounts of money have been offered to said macro influencers, and for that reason, whatever is said arguably makes no difference to the blogger/vlogger.

A great example of this is when social influencers advertise detox teas or teeth whitening products, without prior knowledge of whether it is safe or not, and potentially no consideration for whether their audience is younger than they think.

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It can be argued that millennials who have grown up with the internet are not keen on the ‘traditional’ media that many of us are used to. There must be a connection to the brand or product, and that is often through a micro influencer with an authentic voice.

According to research from Experticity, micro influencers have up to 22.2 times more buying conversations around product recommendations each week than the average consumer, and 82% of consumers are more likely to follow a recommendation from a micro influencer. This is in comparison to 73% of people who are more likely to listen to a recommendation from an average person.

Are targeted micro influencer strategies now at risk of becoming devalued or unauthenticated? Because they are in such high demand, it could potentially mean that the sheer volume of what is necessary for brand campaigns may damage any micro influencer’s integrity because they need the work.

Although the ‘everyday influencer’ is seen to be a lifestyle/fashion blogger, it’s worth mentioning that you should never box influencers into one area of the industry. There are many influencers who may potentially not be running blogs, but instead Instagram accounts or even YouTube channels; they may be actors, or musicians.

Look at Hobbie Stuart – best known for his YouTube covers. The singer was previously signed to a record label, but continued to post on his channel and has seen a lot of success because of it. Covering songs as well as vlogging, it shows him in much more of a three-dimensional light, a normal person rather than an untouchable celebrity.

This means reaching an entirely different audience. Product depending, this could be hugely beneficial if that is the type of reader you’re targeting. As in demand as fashion, lifestyle and travel bloggers are, other niches could be hugely beneficial to what you’re looking to do for your brand.

We’ve spoken a lot about the magic around micro influencers. But do you really know what type of campaign would be most beneficial for them? Or even better, what type of content would be the best of each platform when you’re looking to get reach for a brand?

How to identify the right platform for your influencers

Although follower count is still a big metric when considering campaign work with an influencer, with what we call ‘micro influencers’, the hope is that although a lower following is what they have, the engagement and conversions will be a lot higher than that of a macro influencer.

Using Twitter as an influencer platform

If you’re looking to run a competition, Twitter is a platform that you should definitely consider for a brand campaign. As well as this, if you’re looking to build your Twitter page, memes are certainly an avenue to consider while working alongside an influencer.

As much as this is out of date, ego baiting is very much still a thing on Twitter. Sharing work from an influencer (and tagging them in the process), could do wonders for a brand. If you’ve previously worked with a micro influencer, share their work on your platform – this could open the potential for retweets and reaching a secondary level of readers that you could be missing out on if you don’t.

Instagram influencer tips

Great for competitions, using a product within a flat lay (or in whatever shot that looks the prettiest), can be incredibly effective for brand work. Although blog post promotion can do well here too, Instagram is a platform that is deemed to be quite personal and so sharing a collaboration in the way that the influencer feels would work best is a sure-fire way of getting some engagement.

Although it was seen to be quite a negative thing to be working with brands or placing #ad in the description of an image, now it is just another collaboration that a micro influencer would be working on with a company, and many embrace it – so don’t worry about backlash.

Influencers on YouTube 

Although this could potentially be a platform where rates are generally a lot higher, due to bigger reach, it is also good for competitions, product reviews and brand mentions. YouTube is a platform where you can essentially let your creativity run wild.

It’s a platform where you’re open to do anything with a campaign. For fashion and lifestyle influencers this is particularly good in the shape of WAYS TO WEAR videos, reviews and clothing hauls. This is a great way to get the influencer’s opinion across and their direct thoughts on a product. YouTube is a great avenue for inspiration and this is why many micro influencers find great success in pushing brands here.

The Snapchat/Instastories approach

An app where images and videos only last 24 hours, and an addition on Instagram where you’re able to do the same, as well as link to brands. Both are great platforms for quick hauls, real time shopping (which is particularly good for engagement) and sharing products.

Common questions around influencer marketing

You may have a whole load of questions about this subject whirling in your brain, and that’s why we are here:

"What are the benefits of influencer engagement to a brand?"

Firstly, this should be a priority in your KPIs when trying to improve your site. Traffic is of course a huge reason why influencer engagement could benefit your brand. As we’ve said previously, with a trusted voice behind your business, you have a lot more chance of pushing customers through the funnel if audiences are behind your brand. Nine times out of ten, if an influencer is raving about a product, their readers will feel the need to try it too.

Let’s not forget the credible association and relationship with growing influencers. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it does take a lot for influencers to grow their audience, so they will work very hard to ensure that audience is maintained. The goal here is not a one-off campaign but a long term relationship where both parties are considered in decisions – a constant relationship where they are providing coverage for your brand as well as you providing them with the benefits of said brand in whatever way you see fit – a back and forth relationship that grows over time.

Reaching the outer audience groups is a difficult one that many people struggle with. You need to remember that when you’re working with an influencer, it’s about what matters to them, because that is who your customer is listening to, and it’s who they trust to provide them with the right information to make an informed decision about purchase. They are future customers of the brand – and so the circle increases outwards depending on recommendations.

You want your customers to have a point of contact that isn’t too far reaching. We’ve mentioned this previously, and it’s entirely relevant throughout your strategy process – going in with a micro influencer, or any influencer, for that matter, will ensure that you are touching points without alienating your customers.

"Is social following something to consider?"

Social following is a metric that you need to consider when you’re looking to do work with influencers. Particularly with micro influencers, this number is varied and depending on who you’re looking to create a campaign with, can a big factor when it comes to rates. These numbers can be make or break for some influencers, but are brand dependent when it comes to work. We have had various instances where influencers have said they were willing to lower fees due to the client – great for our budget, but a credit to them for showing genuine interest in the brand.

Let’s not forget there are many other measurables to look at when you’re working on your influencer strategy. This would include reach, engagement on the content work, and the impressions on the piece of work, which can be outlined within your contract or brief, to be reported to the client once the campaign has been completed.

One thing to note is that the prospect of having followers bought through bots is increasingly becoming a problem that many influencers face. It’s been said that various businesses are skimming over this problem, and that is something that needs to be fixed. If followers are being bought (and let’s remember that many the accounts are inactive and spam), you aren’t reaching your optimum engagement, you will not see the true results that you are so desperately seeking. Remember, the whole point of this is to remember that integrity is at the base of every campaign, and if this is ignored then it essentially may mean nothing for the work that you’ve put into it.

Three steps for setting up an influencer strategy

Let’s look at what the phases are to consider when you’re setting up a strategy. Let’s call them 'The Three I's'.

Step one: Initial

Identify your demographic and niches first. Are you looking at fashion, lifestyle, travel, food, fitness?

Who are the influencers who embody and speak to the demographic you’re looking at? Make a list. Make sure you also list your customer’s average demographics, their interests, likes and dislikes, and this will align with the influencers you’d like to target for your campaign.

Would they be good to associate your brand with? Why? Look at their previous work, take the time to browse through their social pages, and their blog and YouTube channel. Get a feel for who they are – remember this is a relationship you’re building from the ground up and looking to continue for a very long time, so it will be worth doing this for the long run.

Step two: Insight

Get to know these influencers online and offline – meet up for coffee/lunch and get a feel for how they work, personally and professionally. It’s all well and good chatting to a blogger or YouTuber through a social platform, but you never really know the person behind the blog until you’ve met them face to face. Even if it’s just a flying meeting, it’s worth doing, and you can discuss their blog and the industry in general.

How do they usually work with brands, in the first instance? It’s fine to ask this question.
Try to gain an understanding of whether they like to be approached first or have they approached brands themselves? You need to gain an understanding of how they prefer to work with brands so you can compromise on work where it’s needed.

What is their story? How did they start in the industry, and do they have any other established relationships? Be sure to take a look at what campaigns they are currently working on - you can look through their blog and Instagram to see this too.

Are they open to brainstorming ideas? You need to make sure they’re part of the project from the beginning, so they are happy with what they are posting. Throw ideas around, take their opinions on board and see what they feel would work best on their platforms.

Step three: Initiate

Once you have a campaign idea in mind, and have collaborated to come up with a final idea, there are a couple of steps you need to take before you cross that line:

  1. Draw up a contract finalising everything involved in the partnership.
  2. Make sure you have confirmed all deliverables for both sides.
  3. Ensure you both are aware of how payment will work and how the campaign/project will run.

Be sure to write up a brief with all this information included so the influencer is aware and you are both able to refer to it in future.

The six engagement tips for building influencer relationships

Tip one: Connect

Identify and proactively reach out – this needs to be genuine.

Tip two: Nurture

Authentically participate in communities, support and engage.

Tip three: Partner

Invite to participate in an ambassador programme, involve in social programmes; chats, webinars, IG takeovers, etc. Create co-branded content, exclusivity. Remember, to get back, you need to give a little more at the start to establish yourself.

What will you be looking at as measurables for a campaign?

Tip four: Relevance

The influencer is sharing content and developing a following relevant to your business and the particular market segment you want to target.

Tip five: Reach

The number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base that would bring value to your business.

Tip six: Resonance

The potential level of engagement the influencer can create with an audience that’s valuable and relevant to your brand.

An influencer marketing case study: Mulberry

We recently ran a campaign with our client Mulberry in the run up to their London Fashion Week show at the end of February. The aim was to drum up a good amount of buzz around the event, and Mulberry were keen to show how the brand was luxury, but still for the everyday girl.

With this in mind, we rounded up a handful of bloggers who we already had a good relationship with, and invited them down for the show, with the invitation arriving in the new season’s clutch bag, as well as a gifted Bayswater as a thank you for attending.

There was bags of coverage; from Twitter to Insta Stories, Instagram, and YouTube. As with Mini, Mulberry has a vast British history, and is deemed as one of the ultimate brands in the UK; working with them, as an influencer, is a huge thing!

Our aim was to garner organic coverage of the brand, and this is exactly what we did, gaining brand awareness from Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and blogging platforms:

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In the end, the results came back as this:

Total reach: 1.6 Million
Total engagement: 392K

We also saw spikes within referral traffic from Instagram and Insta Stories:

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As well as a relationship that has been built upon with the influencers, growth in this area is what we wanted.

With such amazing results, and the knowledge that the bloggers did enjoy their experience with the brand, alongside the free rein to create whatever content they liked and what they knew their audiences liked, it’s clear that this relationship will continue a lot further than just one campaign, and that is the aim.

Their audiences trust their opinion and value their integrity and that is something that should be maintained across all pieces of work for whatever campaign is created with influencers.

Tools of the trade: Influencer measurement sites

With so much progression in the space, it’s important to look into the tools that you can utilise for keeping track of campaign success.

Traackr: 

One full system to record and manage the relationships that you begin to build with influencers. It allows you to look at several metrics that will help you gauge the success of the relationships that you create; you’re able to upload influencers you wish to reach out to, add old and new, filter by location or demographic, and get a full look into their influence, plus detailed numbers that will allow you to make a clear decision on who will be the best content creator to pick for your campaigns.

The tool allows you to measure the coverage of your campaigns and what you can do to improve your brand’s influence in terms of who engages your audience, on what channels and what content works best with them.

This is a great tool to implement alongside the processes that we have suggested above to ensure you are covering every aspect of your campaign when looking to gauge your success.

Onalytica: 

Like the influencer’s version of Gorkana, Onalytica gives you access to half a million influencers across the globe. You are able to gauge who is best suited to your campaign and who would be the most influential in your community for your particular campaign.

Take a look at real time data that will allow you to see the impact of your activity and engage with content creators to see what they feel works best for their audience, and ultimately yours.

You can gain an understanding of which influencers are engaging with their audiences, and get a rounded view of who they are building relationships with, so you’re able to build up your campaign to be the best it can be.

Fashion Monitor:

The fashion and beauty industry is a big player in influencer marketing. The niche is pretty saturated so it takes a lot to stand out! Fashion Monitor have recently cottoned on to the success of influencers in this sector and sought to carve their own path whereby you’re able to access thousands upon thousands of content creators at the click of a button, when you’re in need of the perfect blogger or YouTuber for a particular campaign.

You’re able to connect with influencers who you believe will be perfect for your target audience, as well as plan campaigns with the industry news and events that is shared on a daily basis.

The database shares social information, a little bit about the influencer as well as their predominant sectors to ensure you’re able to reach out to the right people.

There are many ways to find your connections, and Twitter is a great place to start, but to whittle the influencers down to precisely what you need for a campaign, Fashion Monitor is a great option.

We hope you have found this guide to influencer marketing useful and relevant to your brand, the tips and tactics mentioned have worked well for brands across the globe and continue to bring successful results! Good luck with your own influencer strategies, if you need any support in getting started then please get in touch with our influencer engagement team!

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