The rise in social media has created a new category of targets for public relations practitioners – the social influencer, or influencer for short. These are the folks who have established an online presence with a loyal following, and what they buy or eat or travel to can exert a great deal of, well, influence on particular brands.
And so it was inevitable that a conference on influencer marketing would be born, and I found myself immersed in a New York City conference center for two days focused on all things influencer marketing. Here are five of my biggest takeaways.
It’s all about the micro-moments.
Google developed the term micro-moments, and if you’ve never had the word before, that’s okay; it refers to what you are likely shooting for when interacting with your audience. As Google puts it, “Micro–moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something.”
One presenter at the conference explained it in a way that really resonated with me – micro-moments are the moments of influence that happen in everyday life. When we think about what we want to get out of influencer marketing campaigns, a lot of it comes down to micro-moments – how can we best influence people and encourage them to act?
When looking at influencers that want to work with your brand, a loyal following is more important than a huge following.
Throughout the two-day conference, micro-influencers were referenced again and again. Just what is a micro-influencer? The term refers to an influencer that has a small but loyal following. Small is relative, of course, but a co-founder of ButcherBox says the company would classify someone with a following of fewer than 50,000 people on their social media accounts as a micro-influencer. A panelist from Book of the Month answered that same question with the bar set at 100,000 followers or fewer. A Reebok rep didn’t quantify it with a number, but instead focused on the qualitative relationship that the brand would be able to have with the influencer.
Numbers look impressive, but at the end of the day, it’s most important for an influencer to have a following that is engaged and tuned in.
Brand ambassadors can be a risk, so choose wisely and help mitigate risk on the front end.
We all know those examples of brands that have worked with an ambassador where it hasn’t quite worked out. (See Jared from Subway.) Many conference speakers emphasized the importance of carefully selecting the influencers that you choose to associate with your brand. Of course, there are always the unexpected events that you can’t prepare for, but there are ways to minimize risk, such as choosing to work with several influencers instead of going “all in” with one person.
Businesses, small and large, can use influencer marketing – even start-ups.
One of my favorite presentations at the conference was on finding influencers on a startup budget. After all, just because you don’t have the latest tools or platform at your disposal (which can often come at a high cost), it’s pretty easy organically to find influencers on Google or social platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
Once you have a list in hand, you can engage with your audience by offering review units or coupon codes, hosting different events in target cities or simply sharing information that might be of interest to them.
Contracts are king.
At the most basic level, contracts are critical to ensure that the elements and expectations of the arrangement are clear. What’s more, they can make sure that the influencers you work with are playing by the rules.
The Federal Trade Commission, an independent agency of the U.S. government established to protect consumers, keeps a close to eye out to make sure that influencers are disclosing their relationships to brands when making endorsements. Even so, notable brands like Cole Haan and Lord & Taylor have recently come under fire for not disclosing relationships transparently.
If you’re a brand working with an influencer, a contract is one of the best ways to mitigate those legal risks. If you talk about timeframe, cost, expectations and disclosures on the front end, there will be less wiggle room for error along the way.
The world of influencer marketing is really still in its infancy. But there is no mistaking the power of these influencers to enhance brands and drive sales. They have already become an important arrow in a PR pro’s quiver.