I have worked in hospitality for more than 10 years and made friends with fellow Marketing Communications managers in the industry. Many of us shared similar reluctance when it comes to influencer marketing. This type of marketing has gained popularity since around 2000 where hotels were reached by or reached out to this group of people called travel bloggers in hope to help boost brand’s visibility via their channels in return of a free stay and other freebies. Yes, we do have certain standards in selecting influencers, such as Google rank (for websites or blogs), number of followers, their followers’ demography, style of posts/writings, style of visuals, etc. to see if those elements match with our target audience.
But, after every such a collaboration, did sales take place? Or, at least, do you receive leads?
I understand if many of my fellow marcoms are being evasive about it. I would be, too! Well, we got more followers, one may say. I know that it is often too technical to many of us to show our bosses if traffic to our website that results from an influencer’s post leads to selling. Even if we can track it, the outcome is usually disappointing. Then, we usually start to doubt certain influencers’ credibility. We start to be suspicious that they only use us for freebies, that they bought their followers, and that they should have posted at more ideal time, and so on and so forth.
My dears, let’s fix this. We all know influencer marketing is often tricky. But I know for a fact that scraping it off of our marketing strategy altogether is also a reckless decision. I personally love working with the ‘right’ influencers and often see increased number of followers AND leads AND SALES! So what should we do to get the most of influencer marketing?
1. Who are your target customers? Who are the influencers’ followers? Is there a match?
Which one is more important, increased followers or sales if you cannot have both? Sales, I believe. So, it means, you should market your product or service where your prospective customers are with the help of those influencers. To me, increased number of followers is one thing. Leads and sales are another. Just because an influencer’s post mentioning your brand leads to some of their followers following you doesn’t mean they are the types of people who will buy your product (or service). You need to be fully aware of your product’s cash value and the type of people who can afford it. The more expensive it is, the more you need to target specific influencers who will potentially help you do a successful campaign. Ask a prospective influencer if she or he can provide you with details of their followers’ demography, such as income and interests. If what they can provide are just gender, nationality, age and other generic metrics, I would love to advise you to give them a pass, but it’s your call.
2. Target niches, not random people
I worked for a food & beverage company in the past, and contrary to what many have done, I avoided collaboration with food bloggers most of the time. Why? Because I know that food bloggers are a strong knit community. They follow each other, like each other’s posts, and comment on each others’ posts. If you value engagement more than number of followers like I do, you would particularly be critical with comments under posts. Are these people really interested to know more? Or are they making those comments only to be visible to potential clients like us? I preferred working with niches, and that is why I normally would approach specific influencers whom Seth Godin calls ‘tribe leaders’, influencers who are followed by somewhat ‘fanatic’ followers who are curious of what the influencers do/eat/wear, where they go, what they read, what they put on their faces, and so on, and would copy what these influencers do. When I worked at a 5-star resort, we successfully collaborated with a prestigious gay travel community. When I worked at a food & beverage company, we did it with some eccentric MUA’s (make up artists) and athletes.
Think of niches that will potentially buy your products. Are they racers? Mountain bikers? Roll-Royce Executive Club? Film Noir lovers? Having said this, some social media platforms may work or may not work for your brand, depending on what you are selling. Back to Point #1, market where your potential customers are. Find brand ambassadors (in whatever scope you’re working on) to “lure” their followers to your brand. Niches marketing works like word-of-mouth marketing, which is, in my personal opinion, the best!
3. Is working with celebrities worth it? (Don’t be fooled by number of followers!)
Only if the celebrities are ‘tribe leaders’. How do you spot a tribe leader? Check on their Instagram, for example, for comments under each of their posts. Are there generally a lot of comments? Is the celebrity engaged with those comments? Just because a celebrity has millions of followers doesn’t mean she is a tribe leader. Trust me. Followers can be purchased. Just check on the number of likes on each post, the types of comment they make, and how engaging she is with comments made by their followers.
4. Set clear terms and conditions on the agreement
Always make an agreement signed by both sides. Sometimes an influencer can be a pain in the neck with their train of requests. You should do the same, while at the same time maintaining good relationship with her. Set a deadline for posts, types of visuals in line with your brand guideline, etc. If you wish, you could create a special promo code for the influencer to post for their followers so that you can track if the collaboration is effective.
A signed agreement can keep you from unnecessary headaches in the future.
5. Don’t spam
Be really careful with shadow ban on Instagram. It happened to us. Our followers dropped, so did post engagement all of a sudden. Instagram and Facebook are known to be ice-cold reluctant in helping you with these issues. I found that it happened most likely because I spammed influencers’ DM’s with my requests for collaborations. So, please don’t hustle too much. Whenever possible, try to reach them by email or WhatsApp. If this information is not available on their profile, it doesn’t hurt to check on their YouTube channels to find it.
Don’t let AI detect you as spammer!
Before I end this article, I would like to add a bonus tip that may or may not be popular. Anyhow, it is necessary to know.
6. Be willing to pay them some cash
A lot of potentially successful influencers expect cash payment for their service. Yes, in a perfect world a full barter would be great, but always have another option that includes cash. When you are in the process of budgeting, make sure to include this type of marketing expense especially when you already know influencers whose collaborations will likely bring benefits to your business. I know that some influencers can be really expensive and business owners may be reluctant with the idea, so work on it the best you can. Besides, some influencers are open for negotiation. Create guideline in a spreadsheet to categorize influencers based on certain parameters, such as engagement rate compared to number of followers, brands they have represented, and values you can offer based on those parameters.
I believe influencer marketing is still worth the shot when you can find those tribe leaders, and after you weigh in the values of your product/service vs. the buying power of the tribes you target. Don’t just invite an influencer to your establishment, giving them freebies, just because they have millions of followers and happen to be available for collaboration. Plan ahead and reap the most of it.