With studies showing that 84% of millennials are likely to be influenced into making a purchase by seeing the user generated content of strangers, influencer marketing is an essential marketing tactic for many retail brands. However, it certainly isn’t cheap! Working with some influencers or celebs, can cost you tens of thousands for a basic Instagram post; even the costs of working with less well-known influencers can soon stack up into the hundreds and thousands. How can you make sure that you’re getting the best possible return on your investment with influencer marketing?
It’s vital to have a clear focus on what you’re trying to achieve with influencer marketing activity. Is it to increase brand awareness? Is it about driving direct sales? Is it about changing public sentiment around your brand? Can influencer marketing do all of these things? Yes, although they rarely just magically happen: you need to have a robust strategy behind the influencer activity you utilise, and it MUST tie back to your business objectives in order to be worth the time, effort and money.
It’s not just a matter of picking the most popular influencer or the biggest name you can afford with your budget. The people you choose to work with must not only have a highly relevant and engaged audience in order for this activity to be the most effective it can, and you also need to ensure the content they can produce is a good match for your overall objectives, along with your brand ethos. Whilst you can give them guidance as to the type of content you want from them, at the end of the day, they are the content creators and they will produce something that they feel fits with their audience. If their normal content (not other brand partnership-related posts) seems a good fit for what you’re trying to achieve – the chances are that the content they produce for you won’t stray a million miles from this.
We’re not going to deep dive into how to tell which influencers have fake followers or have employed dubious tactics here, you can take a look at this previous blog post for more info on that. However, you owe it to your brand to make sure that you don’t automatically take every influencer at face value and that you at least conduct some basic checks on their account to make sure you’re not wasting money. Working with an influencer that has bought some of their following at some point in the past doesn’t necessarily mean that a campaign with them won’t have some benefit for you, but if you’re essentially paying for someone to post about your brand to an audience which might only be half real, your budget could probably be better spent elsewhere.
If you’re planning on working with a big influencer, don’t be afraid to ask about their past results on previous campaigns. Some will be savvy enough to have found out some stats from brands they have worked with in the past, such as sales made from their referral traffic, although at the very least, they should be able to tell you how many impressions and engagements their social media posts garnered on previous brand partnerships. Whilst you just have to take their word for this to some extent, an influencer who doesn’t seem have a clue what they are offering brands from a commercial point of view might not be the best to work with in order to maximise the impact of your budget.
Whilst most of us strive to have less paperwork in our lives, having a (digitally) signed agreement with every influencer you work with is essential if you want to ensure your money is working as hard as possible for you.
This agreement can be a simple one-page document that outlines exactly what activity you’re expecting from the influencer - e.g. two Instagram grid posts, one video, two IG stories, etc - and the exact dates or deadlines they are expected to meet this expectation.
Include a clause giving your brand the rights to use the influencer’s content assets for your own marketing materials and channels (with full attribution given every time to the influencer) so that you can leverage this content again in the future, if needed.
Whilst this type of official agreement might seem like overkill, it can make all the difference to the impact of a campaign. If you have several influencers lined up to release content on a specific day, and they are late, it can really affect the level of buzz that your campaign creates. It also adds a layer of professionalism to the activity and makes sure that expectations are clear all round.
Make sure that any links you give Influencers to use as part of the campaign are fully tracked, with separate UTM-tracked-links for each influencer, and if they are doing several posts, you can even provide individual tracked links for every single post too. Whilst this might seem like a lot of effort, it will mean that you can definitively track the website traffic arriving through each influencer’s content. You can also track any resulting sales from this traffic and break this down by the individual influencer and the type of content that prompted the purchase. As well as providing accurate attribution, this can also provide valuable learnings for the next influencer campaign you run.
If the main objective of your influencer marketing activity is to drive sales directly, an affiliate agreement with your influencer could be a good idea. Best suited to products with a significant profit margin, giving a percentage of every sale made through the influencer to them is one way to help incentivise their activity even more. However, getting influencers on board as affiliates isn’t right for every online retailer. It might not be the right fit for your brand image, or it could have too much of an impact on profitability.
If you’d like to know more about influencer marketing and how we can help you run effective campaigns that are designed to give your retail brand the best possible return on investment, get in touch. You can find out more about how we work with influencers here.