Delivering impact not impotence with influencers

As Singapore’s Advertising Standard’s Authority prepares to finalize ethical guidelines for influencer engagement, it’s the right time to ask – is engaging with influencers worth all the trouble and hassle for brands?

As the now infamous 2015 episode with Singtel and Gushcloud vividly illustrated, if you don’t do it right, it can blow up in your face, leaving you impotent and facing the acute embarrassment of apologizing to consumers, as well as your competitors.

For the risk averse, it may be tempting to throw the baby out with the bath water, but avoiding influencers completely is a mistake and brands would be missing out on an extremely effective and creative way of reaching consumers.  Remembering a few key things is all that’s needed to avoid potential pitfalls, when working with influencers.

It’s all about trust. The fundamental thing any content creator and distribution channel offers brands is the ability to leverage on the trust, credibility and loyalty they’ve built up with their audience. Good influencers understand this and are fiercely protective over their integrity. Those influencers that don’t grasp this should be straight off the list. We always think it’s a good sign when influencers push back and don’t agree to everything; after all, they know what works best with their audience

Be completely transparent. These days everybody expects content for free online and are sophisticated enough to understand that content providers need to get paid somehow. The worst thing you can do is to downplay or not mention any paid association, which could easily result in a backlash. Focus on creating great content that users will choose to spend time with and be proud that your brand co-created

Influencers are talent, so treat them like talent. Whilst it may be tempting to treat influencers like media partners, they aren’t. These are creative people, passionate about their subject matter and respected within their chosen field. To benefit from their creativity and passion, treat them with respect and work hard to excite and inspire them to want to work with, and create great content, for your brand

Loosen up, lose control. Brands are no longer what they tell consumers they are; they’re what consumers tell each other they are. Share your brand DNA, your brand stories and objectives along with a framework. Then let them tell your story in their own way, after all that’s why you’re working with them

Aim for marriage, not a one night stand. Tactical engagement can fulfill an immediate need, but to get the most out of a relationship with an influencer, you need to think marriage. A longer-term commitment will allow you to get to know each other better, deepen affection and project greater authenticity

Influencer engagement is extremely powerful when done right, it allows brands to open up new channels of communication with consumers, leverage on a trusted relationship, and permits creative flexibility that may not be possible elsewhere. It also allows brands to appear on multiple social platforms without huge investment and if done well, can create long-term, credible brand advocates.

Nik Vyas is the head of content for Zenith Singapore.