By Isabelle Shee, CFO at GROW and 1/2 of @sheesisters, digital creators specializing in golf and lifestyle.
As social media remains a goliath in the funnel of e-commerce sales, brands are seeing influencer marketing making a bigger dent than ever in their sphere. In fact, the influencer marketing industry was worth an estimated $16 billion in 2022, according to Statista. With the oversaturated pool of content online, the truth is that not every brand can cut it out there. To me, those who find success and those who get lost in the algorithm sauce seem to be differentiated by one main thing: the authenticity of their content.
Here’s my hot take: Brands should start giving creators full control over their marketing. The biggest thing here is making sure you’ve picked an influencer who authentically represents your brand or product. For example, if you’re developing a campaign focused on sustainability, make sure to choose influencers who have a track record of supporting green causes and brands.
As a seasoned influencer who’s actually helped brands reach their goals, here’s what I believe you need to know for a successful marketing partnership.
Give Your Creator Full Control Of Creative Messaging
In my experience, brands usually care most about two things: their messaging and conversions. This makes sense: They’re putting their seal of approval on this spokesperson, so to speak, so they’re going to want to make sure they’re not going totally off-book. However, when brands fully control the messaging, this can be a total lose-lose for both parties. Creators know their own audience and what content performs best on their platform. Why? Because this is what we do day in and day out.
For example, my best-performing videos are transitions from golf to glam outfits and relatable day-of-the-week skits. When I promote brands, I like to incorporate their product into these videos naturally, like having their drink in hand when I go glam, rather than doing an unnatural sales pitch on it in a video solely dedicated to them. My audience is coming to my page for a reason and when I have control over my content, the brand gets a lot of eyes on the product, I don’t take a dip in engagement, and the partnership serves us both.
Treat Your Creator Like A Billboard, Not A Salesperson
Once your brand has been introduced to an influencer’s audience, it’s important to remember that this is just the top of the marketing funnel. It typically takes multiple marketing touchpoints to generate a viable sales lead. Your influencer is number one. The landing page you’re sending them to, the emails you’re following up with and the targeted ads you’re sending them matter just as much, if not more, than your influencer’s numbers.
I see this mistake all the time where brands think influencer marketing is a substitute for their sales team, but for most influencers, this simply isn’t true (excluding Kylie Jenner and Kylie Jenner only). The reality is that marketing creators should be paid on views, not sales.
If You Can’t Afford Influencers, Try Sending Your Product For Free
Okay, this point might sound a little crazy, but hear me out. If you think an influencer is a perfect match for your brand but can’t afford their rates, sending them your product for free might be a good way to get in front of their viewers without the cost (as long as they like your product). The downside of this is you really don’t have a say in their messaging and you’re not going to be capturing leads, but if you feel confident about your product and want to shoot your shot, it’s a good option. As a marketing creator, I’m rarely opposed to trying new products.
There’s also a big chance that influencers are hanging out with other creators, so they’re likely to give your product out to friends and family. Creators often love generosity from brands, but leave any obligations at the door if you can’t meet their rate (a.k.a. “try our product with the requirement of one post and one story”). Instead, try: “We’d love for you to try our product; how can I get it to you?” Influencers are much more receptive to no strings attached opportunities.
Don’t Forget About The Little Guys (Micro-Influencers)
As you round out your creative plans, don’t forget about micro-influencers, or creatives who have between 5,000 and 100,000 followers on a platform. According to Influencer Marketing Hub data, they have an average engagement rate of 3.86%, while mega-influencers see about one-third of that. They’re more affordable, they tend to connect with their audience in a more meaningful way, and many of them also exude that authenticity and relatability that brands are reaching out to influencers for in the first place.
All of this is to say that influencer marketing probably isn’t going anywhere.
Brands should start thinking about dedicating budget and space to the creative sphere if they want to keep up with competitors. During my time as a brand influencer, I’ve seen brands have the most success when they’ve given creative liberty to creatives, have a robust sales funnel and, most importantly, have a product that delivers. As your brand sticks its toes into the influencer marketing pool remember: Your audience wants to see authenticity, not a sales pitch. Your creatives will know the best way to reach them. Trust the process and trust your hire.