Branding rules are in a constant state of flux. Just when you think you’ve pinpointed what’s going to work, someone changes the playbook.
This is particularly true with influencer marketing. The public has become accustomed to the idea of looking for purchasing suggestions from bloggers, vloggers, writers, and other popular advocates. What was once considered to be the "Wild West" to marketers has now become far more regulated.
The Federal Trade Commission’s announcement in 2017 was indicative of this shift. It now expects that influencers working with brands clearly label their paid content via hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored.
It's unwise to assume the rules won't change again, so it's imperative to stay on top of current shifts — otherwise, you'll face losing ground to competitors.
What to Shelve and What to Support
Brand managers have to accept that the “free lunch” days are over. The influencers must be explicit about the nature of these relationships, as if it was a full-blown ad campaign. But different platforms also treat influencers differently.
Facebook’s branded content solutions and Instagram’s subhead tools are helpful, but they don’t tackle the FTC’s requirements. Brands are expected to not only learn the laws of each platform, but to also apply additional guidelines.
In the midst of this potential confusion lie celebrity endorsers who tend not to disclose these relationships at all. Currently, the FTC sides with the belief that most followers understand that their favorite stars sell certain products for pay.
But that too could change, leaving marketers to transform themselves into masterful tacticians ready to overcome consumer skepticism while still being compliant. It’s a tough role, especially because people distrust traditional advertising. Still, buyers shouldn’t be deceived into believing influencers are talking about goods or services purely because they love them.
So what’s the answer? It’s important to know which strategies need to go away and rather start with an influencer's follower count being the main focus. Companies should pinpoint the effect of a niche audience and consider partnering with smaller micro-influencers who have to generate their own engagement. Additionally, purely transactional relationships need to go the way of the dinosaur. Marketers must invest in influencers to drive thriving partnerships.
The solution lies in knowing the smartest ways to push brand-building this year. Follow these tips to stay ahead:
1. Follow the FTC.
The FTC disclosure guidelines are clear and must be taken seriously. Plan to disclose every piece of paid content — not just the first one you arrange with your influencer. But be creative. You can use something other than the spammy-sounding #ad and, instead, try something like #ABCCompanyPartner.
Don’t rely on the influencer — especially one with few similar experiences — to understand the importance of following this protocol. Check every paid post, and ask for any necessary revisions to keep your brand out of hot water.
2. Investigate beyond Instagram.
Instagram topped the charts for influencer marketing in 2017, but it’s not the only game in town. It might not be right for reaching your customers who prefer Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, or other platforms. Do a deep dive into other platforms — especially those that your competitors are ignoring — to make sure you aren't missing out on a chance to build conversations and stronger conversion rates.
Be sure you’re regularly checking the pulse of your prospective audiences. You never know when a hot platform could emerge, and being on the cutting edge could give you an early advantage.
3. Test influencer tools.
Tracking the moving parts of your influencer marketing relationships and campaigns requires high-level tools. Look for solutions that create workflows and streamline processes in addition to measuring performance.
Your objective must be to find a partner who helps you find enthusiastic initiative partners whose sincerity drives their content. Simultaneously, the technology you choose can offer you a wealth of data to measure progress and key performance indicators.
4. Rate your ROI.
In the past, brands have struggled to prove the return on their influencer campaigns. Make sure in 2018 to determine how much revenue influencers are bringing into the fold.
Not sure how to do this? You can use Google-based Campaign URL Builder to delve into campaign feedback and analyze your output, outcome, and business metrics. As you gather more data, you can more aptly pinpoint each influencer’s value to your brand.
5. Create useful content.
Throw the generic ads overboard, and challenge yourself and your influencers to develop entertaining, educational, or emotional content. Stop allowing yourself to be held back by what you think you can’t do. Instead, consider what you want to accomplish and storyboard your message. Then, work with your influencers to creatively bring these ideas to life.
Not only will audiences appreciate the freshness of your non-ad-like material, but they’ll also be less likely to feel “sold to” by a paid spokesperson.
Influencer marketing won’t disappear in the next 12 months. It won’t stay the same, either. Use the industry's past progress to help propel you smoothly through 2018.
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