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The Rewards (and Risks) of Working with Online Influencers

October 20, 2016

Are you more likely to buy a product or service because it’s recommended by someone you trust? If you’re like most people, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Recent studies found that over 90% of us trust recommendations from other people, even if we don’t know them, over advertising content that comes from a brand.

This simple fact is driving the rapid growth of influencer marketing.

Not so long ago, the idea of “paying” for coverage of your product might have felt wrong. But done properly, influencer marketing can deliver the best of all worlds: relevant, authentic and trusted content that reaches your target audiences.

Here are five tips for creating truly impactful influencer marketing campaigns.

1. Find the right partner

Like in life, finding the right match takes a mix of hard work, an open mind and a bit of luck. The most important questions for brands are: “Does the influencer’s audience align with mine?” And almost as important: “What is the influencer’s relationship with his or her audience?” Are they an engaged, trusting audience?

While there are a number of software tools that can help play matchmaker between brands and influencers, we haven’t found one that can take the place of old-fashioned, human due-diligence.

2. Influencers shouldn’t stand alone

Once you find the right influencer to partner with, it’s tempting to throw all your eggs in that basket. Don’t. An influencer program is one part of a robust marketing program. As impressive as the results can be, remember that you’re still only talking to one slice of your potential audience.

3. Focus on quality, not quantity

Marketers are driven by metrics. Why not choose the influencer who reaches a million people over the one who reaches 5,000? The answer lies in understanding who the audiences are. How many of the larger audience fits your target audience profile? What about engagement? Does the smaller audience tend to act on recommendations from the influencer? Is the larger one just looking to be entertained? Smaller isn’t always better, but don’t necessarily make your decision based on audience size alone.

4. Take risks and let go a little

Deciding to partner with an influencer for the first time can be a bit nerve wracking. Maybe the YouTube content creator you’re working with sometimes uses foul language. Maybe the tone of some of their content feels a bit “off brand”? Of course, you need to stay away from influencers who are too controversial or entirely off brand, but don’t be afraid to push the envelope just a little bit. Remember, the influencer’s audience has expectations too. If your brand turns the them into something they’re not, no one wins.

5. Insist on full disclosure

Now for the risky part. As influencer marketing has grown, it’s become a bit of a “Wild-West”. Some brands and influencers aren’t always up front about the “sponsored” nature of their relationships. In October of this year, Canada’s Advertising Standards Council changed their regulations to require full disclosure of any paid endorsements or mentions of products and services.

We can’t imagine not disclosing these kinds of relationships, but keeping an eye on the guidelines as they evolve is every marketer’s responsibility.