Harper PR Blog Social Media

The INs and OUTs of Influencer Marketing

  • August 12, 2016


Merriam-Webster defines influence as “the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.

We all have the power to influence. Think about it. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant because a friend or colleague recommended it to you? Or similarly, when did you suggest to a friend that he/she needs to try the latest restaurant you just ate at?

We all make decisions based on someone or something that has influenced us.

For hundreds of years, advertisers and brands have used celebrities to endorse their products or services. Remember the famous Cindy Crawford commercial from Pepsi? Or how about the Andre Agassi campaign for Canon Rebel cameras? L’oreal has had models and A-list actresses from Penelope Cruz to Jennifer Lopez pushing their products. And Aveeno and Jennifer Aniston seem like the best of friends. She is the envy of millions of women who dream of having perfect skin like the former ‘Friends’ star.

Every time I see the Jennifer Aniston Aveeno commercials on TV, I wonder a few things:

  1. How much did Aveeno pay to secure one of Hollywood’s biggest names to be their brand ambassador?
  2. How much makeup and soft lighting is used to make Aniston’s skin look much younger and perfect than it actually is?
  3. Does Aniston even really like and use Aveeno, or is she just a friend of the paycheque? 

Big brands pay big bucks for big names.

However, in recent years a new trend has emerged. 

Big brands pay big bucks for no-names.

Social media has changed the game for influencer marketing and brand ambassadorship. Regular people who managed to build a semi-significant following on one or more social media platforms now have the power to be a super influencer. 

I personally have a love/hate relationship with influencer marketing. I love when you cut through the clutter of everyone and their dog claiming to be an influencer to find some real, genuine gems. I hate the crazy clutter. 

If you’re thinking about working with social media influencers, here are a few things to look for and ask before you invite them to work with you and your brand.

  1. Define your goals clearly. Who are you trying to reach through the influencer(s) and what do you ultimately want the influencer’s followers to do? Example, if you’re targeting Millennials, you may want to find someone who has large influence on Snapchat versus Facebook. 
  2. Find the right fit. Look at their social media channels, and get a solid sense of what they cover, who they already work with, and how they portray the brands and products they are endorsing.
  3. Don’t be fooled by follower count. Many brands see a large follower count and get excited to reach all those people. However, the follower count is not the number of people you can expect to start making purchases of the products you’re putting forward. Instead, do a content analysis of the last 20 posts and determine the engagement rate of those posts. That will give you a more accurate sense of how many people are actually engaging with the influencer. As an example, a colleague got so excited to work with an Instagrammer that had about 15,000 followers. However, this person’s posts would average 40-50 likes, which is a below average engagement rate. So, at the end of the day this Instagrammer wasn’t really all that influential.
    1. There are many reasons why someone may have a large follower count. I also do a quick audit of the followers to look for any signs that indicate the influencer purchased likes, or subscribed to a follow/follow back account. 
  4. Ask the influencer for a media kit or an overview of their recent insights. Most quality influencers will have a rate sheet and know their followers and their behaviours. Many brands make the mistake of working with influencers who have a large following in a certain country or certain part of the country. As an example, a number of influencers have built a huge following in the United States. That won’t work if you’re targeting a Canadian audience, for example. Instead, try and find a more relevant influencer who can prove his/her followers are mainly Canadian. 
  5. Be clear with the influencer right from the start. Ask for his/her fees, or present an offer of what you are asking them to do and how much your budget is. As lovely as it would be to find people who genuinely love your brand or product and want to do it for free, it’s very rare. Quality influencers realize their value, so be prepared to budget for the good ones.
  6. Speaking of budget. Determine what you’re willing to spend and the value of product your willing to give to the influencer to try, showcase and/or contest away. Many brands are looking for big time influencers that tend to charge big money for one post. Instead, consider working with a group of smaller influencers who will provide a number of touchpoints over a designated period of time.
  7. Be up front with your expectations. If you want exclusivity with the influencer and do not want him/her to work for a competing brand, you need to disclose this right away and then also be willing to pay. Exclusivity can often mean a higher fee to secure the influencer.
  8. Finally, really think about if this is the best strategy for you and the best bang for your buck. There are so many other ways a brand can directly engage with audiences. Sometimes using an influencer makes a big difference. Other times, considering strategies that directly engage the consumer with your brand could be your smarter approach. 

Like I said, I have a love/hate relationship with influencer marketing. I admire big brands that have a policy to not pay for influencer posts. I recently worked with a brand who has a celebrity following, and I asked if the brand paid for any of those celebrities. They said no. Those celebs just truly love the brand and because they love the brand so much, they often post about it on their social media channels. Amazing. That’s the ultimate goal. To have something that people love so much, they are willing to be your biggest fan and cheerleader without expecting anything in return. 

I believe this is how it should be, but it’s just not the case. At least not for another few years, as influencer marketing and sponsored brand ambassadors continues to be a hot spot for marketers, advertisers and PR pros around the world.