July 22, 2019

The Ups & Downs of Using Social Media Influencers in Marketing


And The Tale of the Dream Wedding That Never Was

Unless you’ve been caught under a rock or a World Cup spell like many of us, you’ve likely seen the walls crumbling around Instagram influencers Marissa Fuchs and Gabriel Grossman’s. Much like a train wreck, it’s impossible to look away. After a travel and lavish gift-filled six-day scavenger hunt ended in a “surprise” wedding between the influencers had everyone glued to their tablets like the finale of Game of Thrones, it was discovered that the whole thing was a premeditated scam. In fact, an elaborate pitch deck - that boldly included engagement metrics for those listening in the back - was sent to media and brands ahead of time. Of course, what this means is that it was surely not a surprise to Fuchs, whose Insta handle is @fashionambitionist. She was almost certainly in on the whole charade. Ugh, don’t you feel dirty just reading about this? If you took at a look at Fuchs’s snotty, tear-filled “performance”, you might wonder how anyone bought into this in the first place. That’s what is kind of fascinating though, isn’t it? It’s the power of the social media influencer.

The truth is, though, it’s not hard to understand how these influencers can get carried away, as those with one million followers or more can command a whopping $50,000 for a single sponsored post. Do you need a paper bag yet? Because we do. And while some people fall into the world of social media influencing after stints on shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, others get there by genuine hustle, elbow grease, and a ridiculous amount of selfies.

As marketers, do people like Fuchs and Grossman scare us off the use of influencers? Absolutely not. Their positive effect on marketing campaigns has been proven time and time again. And when they genuinely earn it, it’s hard to begrudge them their (sometimes admittedly steep) fees.

The Social Media Influencer 4-1-1

Social media influencers are those who have power over their followers when it comes to purchase decisions because of their authority - whether real or perceived - and knowledge, relationship, and power. They are essentially the celebs of the digital landscape, and some are actual celebs. When this concept was first embraced, it was possible for marketers to simply reach out to many of these influencers, engage in a convo, and get the ball rolling, but there’s a much more formal process to this these days.

If you watched season three of Black Mirror, your stomach surely turned as Bryce Dallas Howard tried to up her own personal social media score with every single life interaction. It was agonizing to see it play out on the screen, as it hits way too close to home for many of us. And for better or worse, this is a fairly similar concept to how this works, as social media influencers are given scores for how much influence they have and these are reported via Influencer Marketing Platforms.

While this might sound superficial to some, these scores are necessary when marketing agencies are choosing who might do the best job for a specific client.

The influencer marketing platform is a database and digital dashboard used by agencies and brands to find the right person for their client’s needs. In most cases, they work by having an agency submit a product or campaign idea they need to market. Once this is submitted, influencers within this platform bid on the project, essentially offering ideas for how they could positively affect the client’s bottom line. On top of filtering by influencer score, brands can use most platforms to filter by subject matter, category, and geography. Don’t cringe with this analogy, but it’s essentially a mix of online dating and outsourcing.

The more elite influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media outlets choose to be represented by talent agencies or influencer marketing agencies rather than use these platforms, so that’s something to consider. However, these influencers typically come with a higher price tag.

Establish a Network of Influencers

As discussed, there are a plethora of Influencer Marketing Platforms that you can use to find social media influencers, and agencies to boot. But there are ways to go old school and simply try to engage these people on your own when you have a marketing need in a specific niche.

What you want from influencers is a story rather than a quick and mundane mention. In order to get this, you need to get creative in integrating your brand into the influencer’s life in a way that interests not only them but also their audience. Once you earn the trust of various influencers in this regard, you begin to build a network you can go to when handling marketing campaigns and product launches.

There’s nary a better example of a mutually beneficial “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship than the one between the influencer and the marketing agency. There are plenty of ways to enlist the help of a social media influencer, such as:

  • Enlisting them to use your client’s product for an event
  • Coordinating an in-person event to have influencers attend
  • Run a promotional giveaway
  • Give influencers something they can use during an event, project, or even on vacation
  • Many influencers are early adopters, so you can send them a sneak peek of a product

It goes without saying that you want to ensure that any products you are sending influencers are new, functioning, and photo-worthy.

Never Neglect Your Influencers

Just because you’re not currently in need of their services doesn’t mean you disappear, as you need to tend to this relationship. Call it brownnosing if you want, but you need to keep them happy, especially if they’ve made a significant financial impact for your clients. Reach out to them about once a month regardless of project status, and promptly return any communication from them. Getting back to that mutually beneficial part, you want to share their content on your social channels so that they will put your blog posts and other forms of media on their site. Encourage them to interact with your social channels.

You also want to keep them in the know, as they will appreciate this. Keep them abreast of product and other brand updates. You can even ask their opinions on projects that are coming down the pipe, as influencers surely thrive on being, well, influential.

And last but not least, it never hurts to send thank you cards, gift cards, and swag from your brand and client brands to keep them interested.

The Proof is in the Influencer Pudding

As with everything in marketing, it all comes down to metrics. You want to make sure your social media influencers are, indeed, making a financial difference, so you need to track and analyze. Whether it’s traffic earned from posts to the site, comments on posts, social shares of earned posts, traffic back to the site, and conversions, you need to make sure your brand is getting something from the relationship.

The Downside of Using Social Media Influencers in Marketing

What many who truly understand the complex world of social media influencers will tell you is that numbers don’t tell the whole story. As we mentioned earlier, there are cases when those with over a million Insta followers can command 50K for a single sponsored post. What some will point out, however, is that this person might have a lot of followers without the true connection, and without the connection the real purchasing influence is watered down. In other words, there are cases in which quality is better than quantity, which makes paying $50,000 for a single post a risky proposition.

We still wholeheartedly believe in the power of social media influencers in marketing but it’s best to proceed with caution when the numbers start getting that big. Want to learn more? Reach out to our digital marketing team today.