Advice for Working with Influencers

Content Creators, better known as Influencers, have been the buzz of the marketing industry for several years. Every brand is trying to figure out a way to ‘get in on the action’ with marketing budgets continue to rise year after year. Influencers are making millions of dollars a year posting on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and anywhere else someone can grow an audience! Looking around in literally any public place you’ll see someone on their phone trying to capture the perfect picture to post!

"I just read your post on influencers and it was an EYE OPENER." @aspirowallet

The data all points to the fact that Influencer marketing works! Over 72% of Instagram users reporting that they have made purchasing decisions based on Influencers or Content Creators posting about the products / brands. I recently ran a poll on @DapperProfessional and 73% of my audience confirms they’ve made purchases from brands after seeing an Influencer’s post about the brand.

I, as Dapper Professional, am now in my fifth year as a content creator and I’ve talked to hundreds of brands over the last five years. Each year on Instagram has had its own ‘theme’ ranging from having to post three times a day, to having to comment on others photos, to posting only high quality content, and everything in between. I’ve been fortunate to build an incredible network of other Content Creators who closely monitor the algorithm with me and who I’ve become friends with over the years!


Very prevalent on Instagram today is Content Creators artificially increasing their likes by joining massive engagement groups. This is true for Content Creators you wouldn’t expect it from because they’ve already built such massive followings, but for those individuals who salaries depend on engagement, they’ll do whatever it takes. I do not support and will not participate in that type of artificial activity. Fake followers are definitely still a thing, but that exists for everyone, so unless someone buys thousands of followers, you can expect a percentage of any following to be fake (most of the time it’s out of the individuals control, it just happens over time).


Content Creator is my preferred term because I personally choose to work with brands who value the content I create, in addition to the influence I have with a following of over 110,000 followers. I’ll use Content Creator and Influencer interchangeably.


I consult and help brands, absolutely no charge, all the time. So CLICK HERE to visit my About Me section and feel free to reach out to me. Throughout the years and many hours spent on the phone providing guidance and advice, I’m summarizing the 5 most important characteristics of working with content creators.


"Nothing influencers the public more than social media. Influencers are critical part of marketing where your followers feel like they are apart of something." (Anonymous @DapperProfessional Follower)

The Five Most Important Characteristics of Working With Content Creators:

  1. Build a Strategy That’s Best for You

  2. Do Not Rely Only on ROI

  3. Develop Genuine and Lasting Relationships

  4. Be Engaging and Authentic

  5. There is NO Silver Bullet

Build a Strategy That’s Best for You

This sounds so simple in theory, but it’s amazing how many business owners I speak with and work with that have spent no time developing their social media strategy. The first thing you have to do with your social media strategy is to determine if you’re planning to spend marketing dollars to work with Influencers or if you’re going to provide product in exchange for exposure. It’s also important to determine how many Content Creators and for how long you plan on working with them, which will feed directly into the relationships you build with them.


Keep in mind that creating content for brands is a very time consuming process. We (speaking on behalf of Content Creators) enjoy the process and understand we are getting paid or compensated by your products, but it's still a lot of work. If it's done right, it's a lot of work. The amount of time to shoot, edit and to promote content will add up to hours. To provide you with an example: an average photoshoot for me is a minimum of 2 hours of time for me and a photographer, at least 2 hours of time to edit and then 30-60 minutes to get the post and stories ready for posting on Instagram.


Paying Content Creators

If you are paying Content Creators , be mindful of the fact that the larger the audience, the more they are going to charge and that doesn’t alway equal a larger ROI. Someone with millions of followers might have less engagement and be able to drive traffic less than someone with a smaller following.


A critical component of paying a Content Creator, and often overlooked, is your plan to actually use the content they create! Most influencers you will select to pay will be producing professional caliber content. Have a plan in place to use that content, not just on your social channels, but also on your website to showcase your products actually being used by people rather than just product shots!


When you compare the cost of working with an influencer to the cost of hiring a photographer and model and actually producing all that content yourself, an influencers cost is looks cheap. Plus, you get the added benefit of all that exposure and potential sales.


Measuring More Than ROI is discussed below.


Product for Post Collaborations

If you have determined that you are not going to pay Content Creators, hopefully as a result of you determining that you wouldn’t properly be able to leverage the content effectively, then product for posts is a nice secondary option. The product for post option will allow you to still receive impression-based exposure and provide you with the opportunity to work with some amazing content creators.


A product for post collaboration can be mutually beneficial if you select the right Content Creator to work with. My advice would be to find a ‘micro-influencer’ in the category that your product and brand is part of. This would be a Content Creator with a smaller following, perhaps around 10,000 - 50,000 who would value receiving your product. Depending on the value of your product, the higher price items will allow you to request more in return for the product.


If you’re providing a pair of socks, you might be able to request a story, organic integration into posts and they might be willing to email you any of the content, so you can post it and provide them with credit. If the pair of socks is valued at $10 per pair, then asking a Content Creator for a video review would not be properly compensating the Content Creator for their time and content.


On the higher-end, if you’re offering a pair of dress shoes, you can likely get them to agree to at least X number of posts, X number of stories and X number of photos that they email to you.


Even with a following of over 110,000, I still try and help out smaller brands who are asking a favor by posting stories for them about their products. That is of course if I am genuinely interested in their product.


Do Not Rely Only on ROI

Measuring ROI is one of the most challenging components of working with influencers. The largest brands in the world are still l struggling to figure out how to do this. Trust me, I’ve worked with some! The platforms they choose to use are mainly start-up platforms and the process can be very time-consuming for the team leading the initiative on behalf of their client and the influencer themselves. And the platforms all typically perform horribly.


I can’t imagine the amount of time it takes some of these agencies to create ‘press books’ for their large clients for how they recommend you make their product look. My stance on that always is, it’s going to be how I choose to style the item and photograph it within your broader set of guidelines.


When it comes down to actually measuring ROI, there is a 100% accurate way to do this. The idea of a discount code seems so archaic, but that’s the approach a lot of smaller brands take on Content Creation. Which, I disagree with because a brand trying to get you to push their discount code is a brand trying to get you to be their sales team. I do believe in using discount codes for the top brands that I work with because I am using their products all the time and regularly posting about it. If it’s just a one-off discount code, I wouldn’t expect to see much of an increase. What you will be able to see though is the Likes, Impressions and Views, which the Content Creator can provide to you. So just because you don’t see a massive increase in your own following or product sales, doesn’t mean that the campaign wasn’t successful because now that many more people know about your brand!


The accounts that drive massive ROI through codes and swipe up links, are the Instagram and YouTube accounts that are charging $10,000+ per post. If that’s within your budget, then by all means it’s a path to consider! For most companies that’s not an option, so you have to rely on Likes, Impressions and Views, which the Content Creator can provide to you.


If your goal is to be able to measure 100% the ROI of every dollar spent, then you should create some unbelievable content that’s going to successfully capture the attention of prospective customers and pay to advertise on Google, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Another path would be to pay to advertise on Instagram with major ‘repost’ accounts. These accounts typically have a lot of fake followers and really low engagement rates. Do your due diligence and you can likely find more reputable mid-sized repost accounts within your niche that would be a better use of your money.


Develop Genuine and Lasting Relationships

Building lasting relationships will yield the highest results for whatever it is you’re looking to gain out of social media marketing. Care about the Content Creators that you’re working with, proactively reach out to them and just having regular communication will go a very long way!


The top brands that I’ve worked with over the years have all been brands where I’ve developed relationships with the brand contact. We’ll jump on the phone every couple of months and exchange emails regularly. We go back and forth about the content that I’m producing and what they want to see more of which is mutually beneficial! These brands also have their pulse on the Influence Marketing world, so I’m always learning from them as well.


A key component of building that lasting relationship with select Influencers will likely result in them organically integrating your products into non-sponsored posts more regularly. For myself and a lot of the individuals that I speak to, we’ll always wear our favorite brands when we’re posting non-sponsored posts or stories. That is an organic type of promotion that can’t be bought.


It’s even more important if you’re a smaller brand or a brand without a budget. If you’re the owner communicating with the Influencers that you’re working with, they really value and appreciate your time. It can lead to them promoting your products more and providing you with valuable assets that you can use!


Be Engaging and Authentic

From the smallest brand to the largest brand, if you’re going to work with Content Creators, prepare to be engaging with them on all platforms where they create content and promote your products! It doesn’t take a lot, but a like, comment and the occasional direct message about how much you appreciate their support will go a long way! Even reposting their stories and providing the credit will also provide exposure for them, so in turn you are helping them out as well. It’s all about the mutual relationship!

"I've had a few brands reach back out to tell me that they've enjoyed the content I've created for them and...honestly...that makes my day. It's nice validation for all the hard work." (@threadability)

Personally, I find it really frustrating and quite surprising how many brands are willing to pay to work with Content Creators, but they have nothing in place to engage with their content. Heck, it can be an interns job even! And when I say engage, I don’t mean posting the same three emojis every time they post. Be genuine and put in the effort that you expect them to match.


It’s also a way to set yourself apart from larger brands who definitely do NOT do this or do a good job of it at all.


There is NO Silver Bullet

As with anything in business and life, there is no silver bullet to Influencer marketing. There is also no silver bullet to your product / brand selling record numbers each year. If you have the idea of working with one major influencer will help your product ‘go viral’, you should think again.


Content Creator marketing should be in addition to a comprehensive brand strategy that includes everything you’re planning to do for your product to be successful. The comprehensive plan should include working with Content Creators, so be sure to follow the actionable steps above and this should help put you in a much better position.


Another very important aspect to their being no silver bullet is actually doing market research to understand if there is even a place in the market for your product. This also includes knowing who your target market is so that you are effectively spending advertising dollars. Target marketing used to be a very expensive, but with Facebook and Instagram advertising platforms, target marketing has become very inexpensive.


It really is shocking sometimes how many entrepreneurs I talk to who have a product idea or they are in the early stages of their product launch who have done zero research. Some of them don’t even talk to their current customers to learn from their feedback!


As a Director of Strategy at Campos, a Brand Planning and Customer Experience firm, we work with companies of all sizes to help with identifying their target market. If you want to learn more about approaches to Brand Planning, I recommend checking out this article: “Branding By Life Stage”. If you want a really in-depth case study, I recommend checking out this whitepaper: “Leveraging Research to Build Better Products” (link coming soon).


Conclusion

If you actually took the time to read this entire article, you’re ahead of many of your competitors. If you actually take action on even just one of the recommendations, then you’re on the right path. Whatever path you choose, it’s important to stick with it. Success doesn’t happen over night and building a brand, following, sales, etc. takes time. I’ve been at it for over five years and every day is a grind!


The Five Most Important Characteristics of Working With Content Creators:

  1. Build a Strategy That’s Best for You

  2. Do Not Rely Only on ROI

  3. Develop Genuine and Lasting Relationships

  4. Be Engaging and Authentic

  5. There is NO Silver Bullet


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