While influencer engagement isn’t new to marketers today, social media has broadened its definition, and more importantly, has shaped how brands are working with relevant key industry opinion leaders.
That said, of course, the new found flexibility also opens doors of risks: for example, the recent Gushcloud saga questioned the credibility of influencers and brands’ guideline compliance with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), leading ASAS to begin drafting a new set of guidelines to include social media advertising.
Therefore, it is important brands be more aware of their influencer engagement strategies to make sure they uphold their brand integrity.
Here are four quick important tips on how brands should best engage influencers.
1. Redefine influencers
It has become clearer as influencer marketing evolves, a brand’s popularity does not equate to its influence on customers. A key opinion leader (KOL) or an influencer need not always be a celebrity; it can also be someone who carries influence over others, in either opinions or purchasing decisions.
One way to determine whether the influencer is suitable to represent your brand is by using social listening tools that are available online.
They are effective in identifying key influencers more accurately for brands, with the functionality of tracking closely on their daily conversations, follower base, brand preferences, and more. It is important to find out more information about your influencers first before engaging with them, as they may end up doing more harm to your brand.
For example, your influencer could be waxing lyrical about two competing brands at the same time; or does not seem genuine in his or her brand encounter sharing. To sum up, the three most important attributes when short-listing key influencers for your brand is relevance, reach and resonance.
2. Customised approach
When reaching out to influencers, it is important to remember not to focus on the number of influencers your brand engages with. Instead, it is the quality of relationship that you establish with your influencers that matters. Brands are better off establishing relationships with long-tail or mid-range influencers who have smaller communities, but are consistently in touch with their fans and have better engagements with them. This allows you to also create a more intimate relationship with your customers, which encourages them to be more active and loyal to the brand.
Partnering with the right influencer can control your brand’s reputation, influence customers’ purchase behaviour and even potentially be the gatekeepers to your audiences.
Take for example our Hootsuite ambassador programme, which has become a global initiative aimed at organising grassroots campaigns and building authentic relationships with people. The programme has helped to shape and strengthen our brand presence – both online and offline – and also allowed us to create even better product offerings with the insightful feedback that we receive at a minimum cost.
Ongoing social listening can also help brands to understand the needs and sentiments of their influencers and customers, which enables them to customise better their influencer outreach programme that is aligned to the business’ needs.
3. Freedom to create
While your marketing team has key visions and brand messaging defined around a particular brand campaign, let’s not forget to give your KOLs the creative freedom and flexibility when it comes to content creation and advocacy tactics. Less brand control tends to give these influencers more autonomy with better online content duration and tendency to advocate for you brand.
That being said, your brand also needs to do its due diligence in providing engaged influencers with the relevant assets and campaign information, as well as the right level of support and attention to ensure they fully understand your brand’s offering(s). Together with the customisation of your marketing approach, you can ensure your influencers are not uploading similar content at the same time.
4. Authenticity is key
Last, but not least, authenticity is the key to creating loyalty for any brand. There should be transparency and alignment between your brand’s activities and those of influencers.
However, as influencer marketing is still evolving, the ethical values surrounding this relatively new form of online marketing are not as clearly defined as traditional media or advertising. A recent article debating the ethics and credibility of food bloggers and influencers has surfaced, questioning the code of conduct and common practice of the industry sector.
While it is still up to the brand or influencer to disclose the relationship between the two parties prominently, it is best for brands, influencers and consumers to ensure that there is a level of transparency and trust built across all communications to prevent any potential issues or misunderstanding from arising.
The contributor is Yvonne Tey, marketing director of APAC for Hootsuite.