"Influencers are essentially the cool kids at school who buy a pair of trainers that the whole school then buys," said Bex Ringer, director at influencer marketing agency, summer. But, she pointed out, the world of talent-led marketing is becoming "more muddied" as a huge wave of influencers become celebrities in their own right, and traditional celebrities behave more like influencers – showing a more human and ‘imperfect’ side to themselves.
Celebrity Intelligence hosted a panel session at PR360 to offer practical advice for how PR and comms professionals should approach this new, more complex world of influencer marketing and how to adopt a more data-driven mindset in order to succeed.
Download their latest report on successful talent collaborations here.
Sarah Penny, Celebrity Intelligence and Fashion & Beauty Monitor’s head of content, said that brands are adopting a more "layered" approach, and moving away from one-off endorsement deals.
"It’s not just about giving influencers a product to post about, but more about collaborating and creating bigger, authentic relationships," she said.
The panel outlined four key focus points:
1. Find the right influencer
Penny pointed out that in Celebrity Intelligence’s ‘Age of Influencers’ survey, 84% of people found matching the right talent to the right brand difficult and time consuming. So are we doing enough with the data readily available to us, and how can we get better at analyzing it?
Lauren Spearman, digital manager at Benefit Cosmetics, advised that follower count is less important than engagement when seeking out an influencer to partner with. "We have blacklisted influencers who may have hundreds of thousands of followers because their tone of voice has been off, they never reply to audience comments or are occasionally aggressive – it wouldn’t be worth our time getting involved."
She also pointed out that even smaller brands will have some people already talking about them – existing brand ambassadors who are likely to have shared values and interests that will lead to an authentic relationship. Looking at data and social conversations with tools like Celebrity Intelligence can help narrow the search, she said.
Ringer agreed that tone of voice is a vital part of the search, saying that brands should look for relevancy. "Scrutinise their content, who they are, and whether they will communicate your branding the way you need," she said.
The panel stressed the importance of understanding who an influencer’s followers are, the people a brand is actually trying to talk to. This has often been considered more of an afterthought by brands in the past, who assume certain things about followers without actually digging into the data.
"We shouldn’t be afraid to push influencers for those stats and insights," Spearman said, explaining that the Benefit PR team works in a more analytical way to build influencer relationships. "The right people to work with are the ones that understand that – and know their demographic."
2. Crystal communications and a watertight brief
You’ve found your influencer. What now?
"People have wavering levels of professionalism," warned Ringer. "Be very clear with influencers from the outset. Set up your expectations from the very beginning in a watertight contract and brief with thorough KPIs and outcomes."
She said building up a long-term relationship with an influencer across multiple platforms and touchpoints, such as Instagram stories and posts and YouTube videos, can help brands create a "wider conversation" with the influencer and their audience.
Spearman agreed, particularly in the "fickle" beauty world where it’s tricky to manage influencer relationships. For her the key is not only clear, frequent communication with influencers, but also in managing the communication of brand message between them and their audience.
Provided prerequisites such as hashtags and product spellings are correct, brands should allow influencers to communicate in their own style, have control over what they say, and encourage a more organic, authentic relationship.
Ringer agreed, to an extent. "There needs to be a level of control from the brand side to ensure the message is right. It depends on the brand and the brief, but be really clear what the boundaries are."
3. A blended approach
The panel said that savvy brands are adopting a blended and layered campaign approach, using more varied talent in their campaigns. By mixing traditional celebrities with emerging and niche talent, they are able to reach different audiences: celebrities can offer significant reach, but niche influencers have strong relationships with their followers and can offer more authenticity.
Ringer cited the Madison Beer x Missguided campaign, using tiers of influencers from a high profile singer down to micro influencers, to spread the brand message out further. Spearman used the example of launching a new mascara at regional events, including Leicester and Cornwall, using local influencers to garner interest.
4.ROI is more than sales
When it comes to building blended campaigns and long-term influencer relationships, putting a hard figure on ROI becomes tricky. Penny pointed out that for certain brands, including fast-fashion brands, it is easier to measure ROI. But, as Ringer said, there are so many other ways to track return than sales – the focus should be on building brand awareness.
She suggested it all comes back to the brief and setting clear objectives. In many cases there is an element of trial and error and you may have set the wrong KPIs or used the wrong type of influencers. "Go back and try a new tactic, because influencers do work," she said. "By creating great content with creators who have an engaged following you can gain genuine sentiment around your brand."
To learn how you can ensure ROI and demonstrate success on talent-led campaigns, read the latest Celebrity Intelligence guide "5 new (and effective) ways to ensure ROI on talent-led collaborations".