Social Media Influencers – are they really worth it?

If you’re reading this post it’s almost guaranteed that you’re a social media user and undoubtedly you’re following at least one (or many more) social media “influencers”. From Hollywood celebrities to small town gals (& guys) who have amassed millions of followers influencers are becoming a popular component of the social media marketing mix. So what actually deems someone an ‘influencer’ and how do you know if you’re getting any value from paying for product placement in an Instagram feed?

Influencer status

First and foremost, what exactly is an influencer and how many followers does it take to reach ‘influencer’ level? Or is it less about the number of followers and more about how engaged the audience is? Cambridge defines an influencer as someone who affects or changes the way that people behave. From a marketing perspective, an influencer can reach consumers via their blogs and social networks that your brand may not be able to.

Influencers will either share an image of your product (think Instagram, Pinterest) or talk about it on their blog, in their newsletter, vlog (youtube), tweet or Facebook status update. Although it is paid product placement the plug for your brand is usually shared as though the influencer is a genuine customer who is enjoying the product/service. Completely contrived but made to look as genuine as possible.

Influencer channels

There are also different channels that influencers use from Instagram, to Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat and blogging platforms. Business Insider’s list of the top 18 YouTubers will give you an idea of the reach that some of the most influential vloggers have. Forbes have also compiled a list of the top influencers for 2017 across all platforms. A little closer to home Mumbrella shares the top 50 most influential social media personalities in Australia.

Depending on the type of product or service you want to sell, different channels will be better suited. If it’s a boutique hotel room that you’re selling then the rich visuals of Instagram will likely be the best bet. While if you’re in the organic food market then perhaps a more detailed product review on a blog is better suited.

Influencer payment

In the US, Adweek suggests that the average sponsored post on Instagram will set you back around $300 for mid-range influencers. While according to Forbes the world’s most influential yogi Rachel Brathen demands up to $25,000 for a single Instagram post! Price tags of $3,000-$5,000 per social media post are not uncommon for other leaders. A Youtube partnership with a channel that has an audience of half a million can attract fees in the hundreds of thousands.

For smaller brands without the hefty advertising budget sometimes free product will be enough to get your brand splashed over the insta feeds of thousands but not millions. It’s generally the smaller businesses that run into problems providing free product to low level influencers and then not seeing their product shared well or in some cases not shared at all. This is when contracts are essential; clearly state the terms and agree to them before providing the product/payment.

How do I choose one?

You might already be following someone that you think aligns with your brand or speaks to the same audience you are trying to reach. If you think of influencers as a partnership then get in contact with the people you want to represent your brand and talk about how you can work together. Many influencer contracts/packages are not standardized and based on negotiation and relationships. Alternatively, there are influencer agencies that can help you find the right people.  When choosing an influencer it’s worth thinking about their relevance, frequency, engagement, reach and authenticity.

Are all likes equal?

No. Sometimes the better option would be to go with a mid range blogger who has a smaller yet more engaged audience vs a mega influencer (think Kardashians and co) who will get millions of ‘likes’ but not necessarily engage. These days a ‘like’ could really be considered a pair of eyes viewing a post. We all ‘heart’ posts on Instagram and ‘like’ posts on Facebook without necessarily even reading the content. Having an influencer really talk about your brand and engage with their followers via a blog to 20,000 might be far more successful than one image getting lost in a feed to an audience of 1million.

Do likes equal dollars? 

You should be skeptical when it comes to spending money on social media influencers. Getting 12,360 likes on a post is not necessarily going to translate to sales. So it really depends on what you are hoping to get out of it. If sales is your game then you need to build in systems to be able to directly measure the effectiveness of the campaign but if your overall goal is brand positioning then measurement will be entirely different. Volume is not always the best indicator of success. Sometimes an influencer with a smaller yet more engaged audience could provide better results than the one that gets the most likes.

Influencer marketing round up

If you feel like influencers could be a new avenue for promoting your brand then here are my top tips to get you started…

  • Identify your goals – What do you hope to achieve with your influencer strategy? Be it sales or to create a new brand persona that aligns with the influencer’s personality.
  • Identify your audience – you need to make sure you’re talking to the right people with the right influencer.
  • Always think visually driven – provide your influencer with rich visual shareable content.
  • Cut through the clutter – Think outside the box! We are bombarded every day with huge volumes of digital content so think creatively about how you can work with the influencer to give them something interesting to talk about.
  • Contracts contracts contracts! – Influencers are notorious for not delivering on loose agreements. What are you giving them and what do you expect in return?
  • Measure your results – Track and monitor your engagement assessing the overall results against your originals goals.

If you need help discerning the social media influencers from the phonies or deciding whether influencer marketing is the right channel for your brand we can help.