After 8 years of Influencer Marketing experience, this is what I’ve learned…

I founded Collective Bias in 2009. Our journey began with an idea jotted down on a napkin, and now I’m honored to say that we’re widely recognized as a leader in influencer marketing. A lot has changed in those eight years, and we’ve learned a thing or two about how to successfully work with influencers and how to help brands get the most out of their influencer marketing campaigns.

#1 – Show respect.

In the early days of influencer marketing, marketers were more respectful. Today marketers are too controlling. They expect influencers to do and say whatever the brand requests. This is the worst thing you could do as a brand. After consulting with legal experts, we found out that this could get you in trouble with the FTC. There is a lot of interpretation with the published FTC guidelines, but we believe if an influencer is going to use the disclosure “in my own opinion” then it should be their opinion and not supplied copy from marketers.

Show respect by engaging with them. Influencers spent time and effort building their influence and trust among their respective networks...and they expect the same from us as marketers. During the honeymooning stage of Influencer Marketing and Social Media, there was much more engagement between brands and influencers. Everyone on both sides got very excited when either listened and responded. It was, after all, a new form of advertising that allowed a two-way conversation. Don’t take this medium for granted. Marketers who spend time engaging with their influencers and advocates will only see positive results.

#2 - Trust and unleash.

Trust influencers and unleash them to do what you’re paying them to do. They are business professionals, and have done this for a living for awhile. They know what they’re doing. Just trust them. They will respect your brand, just like you will respect their work. This trust will work out in your favor, especially if there is a negative situation that arises with your product. In the early days, one of the most frequently asked questions we heard from clients was, “How can I control what’s being said about my product?” I know this can be hard for marketers. But let the influencer be creative and let them use their own voice. After all, that’s what their audience is used to. Prescribing copy and content will stand out like a sore thumb and like I said earlier, it will violate FTC guidelines. In our experience, we’ve seen the best content come from the campaigns with the least amount of guardrails.

#3 - Stop glamorizing.

We live in a world that is somewhat shaped by the media. The media has to stop glamorizing influencers. It has set unrealistic expectations. It’s affecting authenticity. There is a general lack of seriousness that is not good for the industry. To avoid falling into this trap, marketers should select influencers who are in the business of influencing. These influencers understand how to create high-quality content and how to work with brands. Marketers should require quality and authenticity. Do this by identifying influencers based on their passion for your product or for your category. Finding influencers who already have an affinity toward your brand/category only helps increase the authenticity and credibility in the content they produce for you.

#4 - Think beyond the celebrity.

The media has glamorized influencers so much that some marketers rely on celebrities too much or think that they are the only route. This is fine if you can afford it and if your only KPI is reach. However, several studies have shown that celebs don’t generate much (if any) engagement for brands. Last year, we ran a study of more than 14,000 U.S. consumers and found 70% of millennials prefer product endorsements by non-celebrity influencers. Only 3% said they would consider buying a product in store that was endorsed by a celebrity. So if you are a marketer trying to engage the millennial audience, celebrity endorsements probably aren’t the best use of your budget or time.

#5 - Don’t be gullible.

Just like fake news is a thing...fake numbers are unfortunately also a thing. Influencer Marketing is a strategy that is here to stay and according to a study by Launch Metrics, 62% of marketers surveyed implemented an influencer campaign in 2016. The top question we get from clients, though, is what’s the ROI? Influencer Marketing ROI and metrics have been difficult to define. We are all doing it in different ways. There is no standard industry metric, unfortunately, but I believe 2017 will be the year that a standard metric is set and true ROI will be defined for our industry. Until then, be sure to truly understand the metrics reported to you. Are they verified? Are they showing true engagement and influence on purchase intent? All these questions should be asked, and most Influencer Marketing companies should be able to answer them.

Whether these tips are common sense or serve as a good reminder for you, there is no doubt that this industry has changed, and our mindset about Influencer Marketing has evolved. In my opinion, these five pillars will always remain at the core of an effective Influencer Marketing strategy.

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