Influencer Marketing Strategy Unwrapped
Last week ZINE had the pleasure of hosting a selection of the biggest brands and agencies for breakfast at The Ivy Soho to talk all things influencer marketing.
The crumpets and brioche breakfast sliders were to die for, and by 8.30am the room was getting packed – which only points to how enthusiastic the crowd was to get started. As per our January event at Shoreditch house, the event had booked out well in advance, and in the room was the likes of TopShop, MediaCom, Jimmy Choo, BBC, Coty, Edelman and more.
A quick show of hands showed the audience was almost equally in-house brand vs. agency, and almost all of the 70 attendees had one thing in common – they all currently run influencer marketing campaigns.
After the networking breakfast, I welcomed the panel who represented almost the entire influencer marketing eco-system – Senior Strategy Director Andy Fairclough joined us from IPG Media Brands, Lauren Spearman, Digital Manager at Benefit Cosmetics was our brand representative, blogger and endurance athlete Sophie Radcliffe shared much insight into the influencers perspective, and our very own CEO Caroline Duong, representing the tech side.
Each of our panellists work with influencers in very different ways. Lauren at Benefit explained that while they work with over 300 influencers, their main focus is building relationships, whereas as an agency IPG Mediabrands work with influencers in a varied way depending entirely on the client’s campaign requirements. In a similar fashion to IPG Mediabrands, ZINE does manage some campaigns for clients, however as an influencer marketing platform it aims to automate processes and help its clients to manage campaigns more effectively. Sophie, our influencer panellist offered her experience from working on range of brand campaigns – both big and small.
Below is a brief summary of some of the topics covered:
On Balance of Creativity & Data / Insight
Caroline: We filter data by key points – the non-negotiables, and our second step is to look at content and how they fit with the brand. There will always be a trade off between content, audience analytics and budget. You won’t ever find the influencer that is 100% right. Look for the influencer who is right, not the influencer who is perfect.
Lauren: We look at location and audience. But we steer away from follower numbers as that doesn’t necessarily mean engagement and instead focus on great content. Beauty content can all look the same, so we want influencers who are different. We work with influencers to create content for our channel too, using them for their photography skills.
Sophie: That’s great – it’s a waste to work with brands on collaborating on great content and for them never to actually share it on their own channels. We are creating a three-way conversation. If my audience see you post my content it really resonates well with them.
Lauren: Exactly, Just 1% of people actually view a brands Instagram grid – influencer content doesn’t have to fit within your brand feed perfectly.
Andy: Working with influencers from a media agency background is slightly different as we are all about numbers and have to show the performance, and that its actually working and the delivery and ROI. We have a 5 step process by which we evaluate all influencers using a combination of data from platforms like ZINE, looking at the reach, and of course human validation – its very important not to forget that aspect.
On What Makes A Successful Influencer Marketing Strategy
Andy: There is no guarantee of success as control is handed over to the influencer. That’s why it’s important to nurture your relationship with the influencer, and measure what’s important.
Lauren: If you don’t have the brief right, you won’t see the content you want. I can’t stand it when I see brands who ask the influencer to copy and paste a caption. It all goes out and all looks the same when you are targeting a group of people that probably have a similar following and its just spamming. It goes back to creativity. We [Benefit] are risk forward. Brief properly then give trust to the influencer. Don’t dictate what their content should be.
Caroline: Preparation is everything. Be as specific as possible but not too prescriptive which is a very fine line. Be aware of all the possible outcomes, it’s a challenge but putting in time to create a proper brief saves you a lot of time during the campaign and also earns you brownie points with the influencers as you aren’t pushing back continuously.
Andy: Creativity is a subjective thing. When there are too many cooks every man and his dog has an opinion. Keep the stakeholders down to one or two and it becomes more manageable and consistent.
Sophie: It’s absolutely all about the brief. There have been so many occasions where the brief has been really clear but it still doesn’t provide the tiniest minutest details. Saying you want a product in the picture isn’t enough if really you want the product front and centre. I have learnt this by trial and error. Long term relationships are so much better. I am trying to move away from one off partnerships as they are a flash in the pan and our audiences collaboratively don’t really engage with the content as much as if you collaborate with a series of campaigns.
On Brand Safety In Influencer Marketing
Lauren: We are quite laid back when it comes to brand safety. When we work with influencers we usually have followed them for a while, or have a relationship with them. There are people we have stopped building relationship with as their tone of voice doesn’t fit, or they are aggressive or rude and really that’s because it doesn’t fit with our brand. In the beauty field there have been incidences where suddenly someone has been dropped as something has happened. But maybe sometimes you stand back and work out whether they have actually done something wrong or was it something they tweeted years ago. Sometimes the answer isn’t to always be completely risk averse.
Andy: In a way we have more responsibility as we are an agency and if we mess up we’ll be fired. We check whether there is negativity around the influencer, and news around them in addition to social media and make sure they haven’t done loads of work with competitors that people aren’t aware of. Those are the key things for us, and making sure the content & the copy fits with the brands tone of voice. There are a few steps we go through to ensure brand safety, but it’s really about having that 3-way dialog.
Caroline: We are very aware of brand safety but at the same time it always depends on the brand and whether they are more of less lax. Also, again it comes down with the brief, and making sure the influencer does not get carried away making false claims about the product. But it’s really done on a case by case basis.
Sophie: It’s been interesting working on bigger campaigns that would have as previously been TV adverts, but now moving towards influencer marketing. If they were using actors who obviously don’t mind saying whatever they are asked. But they still look at you as though you’re a gun to hire, and ask you to say specific things which are totally off from anything you would usually say, and they expect it to go out on your channel. I have worked hard to build my reputation, and reputation is everything. It’s not something I jeopardise. I always ask brands what their alignment is, what their mission is, what they are trying to achieve and how it aligns with what I am doing. I love working with brands, making content but the more it moves away from marketing messages to ‘let’s go and create brand awareness and experiences for people’ that’s where the real wins are made.
Influencer Marketing’s Biggest Challenges
Andy: As a media agency, our biggest challenge is other agencies, PR agencies specifically. Influencer marketing is something everyone feels they can do. Another challenge is measurement as no one has actually nailed it. It’s something that is hard to get right with all the issues around data and visibility and the nature of walled gardens, that big tech companies are becoming more isolated, so it’s getting harder to show attribution across the user journey. So, you need to invest time and make sure you actually select the right people for the job.
Lauren: One of the challenges we see is a growing trend of talent management companies with no experience. Everyone wants a manager as it makes them feel successful but if their management has no experience in digital marketing, especially with all the modelling agencies taking up influencer marketing when they are essentially diary management companies. It can be quite off putting for us. It’s a barrier and makes it harder to work with the influencers.
Caroline: Agreed – you need to talk to the influencer directly. Generally, for us the challenge is managing expectations and lack of education and experience in the industry. We are also trying to get away from the typical product in shot kind of campaign – it’s OK, but it’s not really what influencer marketing is about. It can be a waste of the influencers creativity. Managing people’s expectations and trying to get people to think more strategically is definitely a challenge for us.
Sophie: Let me tell you about my favourite campaign which was with Hyundai for their new car the Kona. They challenged me to climb the 10 volcanoes in the UK in 72-hours, driving the Kona in between. I didn’t even know there were 10 volcanoes in the UK but apparently, they do and date back 450 million years. This campaign was amazing as it was so ideal for my community. We did have a lot of back and forth initially, but once we agreed what we wanted to achieve and the safety and finally got started my community loved it. We were inspiring people to actually go out and explore the UK. The brand awareness for the Kona absolutely sky-rocketed, but it didn’t actually look like something that was a branded campaign even though we created some beautiful content from it and had a big crew there. It looked really authentic and they never once said can you talk about the size of the engine or the number of seats in the car. They just said drive the car and don’t even say anything about it. I loved the car so I did talk about it, but it was so natural and it fit so well. For me that was really great as we were doing something in the real world, as we talked about before – something that inspires and that other people can get involved in some way. They gave me complete freedom to be myself, not putting me on top of a mountain and asking me to say a script. The main challenge is where collaboration gets taken out and there are loads of cooks, and everyone is trying to throw their opinions, and the brief isn’t clear and there is so much back and forth that everyone gets frustrated with it, and we don’t end up creating something that both of us love
On Biggest Success
Sophie: I did something really phenomenal with Estée Lauder. They chose 3 women in the UK to share their confidence issues, and confidence is a really massive thing for me. If anyone follows me on social media they see I talk about confidence all the time as I feel it’s something that we need to work at every day. One of my quotes is ‘Confidence is like a muscle – the more you train it the stronger it gets’. And that’s what I am doing with Trailblazers. So, for me to be able to work with a brand that I have admired for so many years, and for them to share my story on their adverts which my friends saw on TV – that was a big moment for me
Lauren: There are two things we are seeing quite a lot of success with and one of them we have mentioned quite a lot is longer term partnerships. This year we are working with 4 influencers exclusively across the year which we are seeing so much success with. Steering away for the ‘one Instagram post’ collaborations. There is definitely success in long term partnerships. We are also working with groups of smaller influencers where every quarter we offer workshops. Influencer marketing is still new and a lot of people get into thinking they want to make money and plug any old shit – but there isn’t that business side of it. So we are working with influencers to up-skill them and work with them especially with their writing and also the business side of it, so they know how to manage their accounts and so on. Especially in the beauty industry you need to think about how you are going to stand out against other brands. We are seeing a lot of success with influencers as we are offering them more than just ‘here’s some make up’.
Andy: We have been doing a lot with Amazon recently. They were very brand safe and didn’t want to do influencer marketing at all. We have since turned that around and that relationship now has an ‘always on’ approach for Prime Video. In our recent campaign for Prime called Unstoppable Women we did an experiential campaign involving a lot of micro-influencers attending an event. We turned Bethnal Greens Working Men’s Club into a Working Woman’s Club and had a big comedy event. We have made influencer marketing into a media channel for them which is quite a big achievement.
Caroline: I’m really proud of what we have achieved at ZINE. We have a product that actually does what people need it to do rather than a product that sounds amazing but no one really understands. The feedback we get from clients is amazing – so something I am very proud of – and of course the wonderful team!
On Approach to Influencer Marketing Measurement
Lauren: We are part of a big global business with a HQ in San Francisco. Our global team use a few tools to track who is talking about us and normally we measure things that way. But, the biggest thing we get out of it at the moment is being able to track who is talking about competitions. Its great we can see who is talking about us, and we see the same people all the time, but who is talking about our competitors? So the way we use that measurement is to see who is talking about them and target those influencers to convert them from other brands which is so satisfying!
Caroline: That’s super interesting as usually brands look at influencers and think – well have they worked with competitors in the past, and if so don’t want to work with them. You do the opposite!
Lauren: Especially in the beauty industry there is no brand loyalty at all. I work for benefit but I’m not wearing ‘all benefit’. It just doesn’t work like that and we’d be missing a trick if we looked at someone and said ‘ooh you work for competitor’. For us it’s even more of a reason to work with them.
Andy: For us, measurement depends on the budget of the campaign. If it’s a really big branded campaign it will be a brand affect study verses a competitor; whether consideration and awareness for the brand has changed and track it over time rather than just a single point in time. For smaller campaigns it’s more of a challenge as budgets don’t allow you to pay for a study or a survey to ask people what they think. Asking people what they think is really important. As a media agency numbers are really important. So also can negatively target people using paid social when they have or haven’t engaged with that content, but we use data in a whole range of ways, but measurement is the biggest challenge for me as we haven’t quite nailed it properly.
Caroline: For us it’s all about automation. We try to automate everything we can measure. And you should confuse measurement with evaluation. You can measure certain numbers but you need human elements too. The person behind it who understands the goal, and the strategy to make a good judgement call. We are also integrating our technology in more and more channels and deeper into excising channels so we can get good measurement across the campaigns to deepen the automation.
Sophie: I have an agency who creates reports for specifically interesting brands I have worked with, or campaigns I am particularly proud of, or if the brand asks for one. They would pull together all the content I have created and all the metrics and highlight all the different comments for me to present to the brand. It’s really difficult to see it all visual in one place. I do a lot of travel and fitness campaigns and the result could be 6 – 7 months later when someone might send a message to say ‘I read your blog on Tenerife, and went there and had such an amazing experience, so thank you as I never knew I could do such adventure stuff there’. If I get things like that I screen shot it and send it to brand – but I guess that’s the real juice, but we only know that if someone messages me and I send it to the brand.
Andy: That feedback is really important for both the brand and for you as well to learn what content is working well and what your audience enjoys. If you head is in the sand you can’t test and learn.
Advice I wish I’d known before I started
Sophie: It’s a tough one. I want to say something positive. When I first started Challenge Sophie 5 ½ years ago, I never even knew that being an influencer would be a thing or would be my thing. To be honest I just absolutely love it, it’s so creative and collaborative and fast moving we were chatting earlier saying the sky is the limit of what we can do together. But the one thing I wish someone would have said to me is you have to set your own limits of what is enough. There are no limits as to what you can do, I could spend hours creating content and responding to messages but somewhere you have to draw the line and have your own life.
Caroline: It’s important to stay flexible – there is no one size fits all. Especially as a tech company where you try to automate things and put things into boxes. But that’s not always how things work so you have to remain flexible. Sometimes you are working with 50 influencers on a campaign who all have their own lives, some will go on holiday, and then one is sick, so time frames are pushed back. There is always a human element that you cannot programme away.
Lauren: Focus on building relationships first as you get so much more from it. I’m not saying you be get loads of extra content, but it will just work so much better when you are working on a campaign to be able to get on the phone and talk to someone. Building that relationship makes such a difference when working on campaigns, then it works on both sides as well.
Andy: We mentioned before that we consider influencer marketing a media channel but it’s actually forgetting the fact there are people involved. Human contact is key and educating people within agencies that these are people and you cannot always rush these things helps the case of getting the content of exactly how you manged it. It’s all about education. None of us really knew the negative side of things like the press about the mental health side of social media. Teenagers especially, growing up with that kind of pressure. So, it’s about getting the right kind of balance. Focus on making good content that people are going to enjoy, not feel bad about.
— End Of Panel Session —
After the main panel session the floor was opened to the audience for questions – a session that lasted almost the same amount of time as the panel session. I believe this only goes to show the sheer appetite for more information and shared experiences in this new and exciting industry.
At the end of the event a number of the attendees stayed behind to ask the panellists more questions about their experiences, and to to find out how ZINE’s influencer marketing technology can help them to optimise their campaigns.
One of the additional benefits the attendees got (as if the breakfast and content had now been enough!), was the pre-release copy of our latest studio report – Framework For A Profitable Influencer Marketing Strategy. You can download your copy of the report via the button below, or if you want to find out how ZINE’s influencer marketing technology can help you with your campaigns, get in touch with the team today.
I’m Head of Marketing at ZINE where I am helping peers and customers who want to revolutionise their influencer marketing strategy. I love food, fitness and Min Pins.