Using Influencer Marketing in your content strategy: Q&A

One of the benefits of the CMA is having such a variety of members who can specialise in a number of areas. From print and publishing, to video, podcasts, and beyond. Many of our members asked the CMA to run an event around Influencer Marketing and how it can be used by content marketers.

A few weeks back I hosted a virtual event around this very topic with a great selection of speakers. Each speaker brought a different view and perspective which helped our audience understand the present challenges and opportunities in our industry.

Rob John, CMA

Our speakers: 

Victoria White, Editorial Director, Hearst Content Agency

She was the renowned Editor in Chief of Company magazine for over 10 years where she oversaw the transition from print brand to cross platform publisher including being one of the first print editors to work with YouTube influencers – putting them on the cover before any other publications

Rachel Middlewick, Commercial Director, Hearst Content Agency 

In her role, Rachel has been working with a broad range of clients across the retail, food, health & wellness, finance and homes sectors.

Rachel embraces working alongside Hearst’s performance marketing agency iCrossing, to use deep audience, search and social insights to build purposeful content.

Beth Oddy, UK Sales Manager, TRIBE

Beth’s experience has seen her leading brand and agency partnerships from Group M, Publicis, Coty, Unilever and P&G. She has expertise in digital advertising, native content and social media, as well as OOH and print.

Katie Buckett, Co-Founder, OneFifty Consultancy

Katie is one of the founders of OneFifty, a behavioural and data-led digital marketing consultancy. Working with households names such as Mazda, O2 and Airbnb through to ambitious growth brands like houseof, Green Cola and Zopa.

I caught up with our speakers after the event to run through some of the questions received by our audience. Here’s what they had to say: 

Q: What methods do you use to analyse an influencer’s followers before making contact?

Beth: TRIBE is built on a custom-built fraud detection scan called Audience Vital Signs (AVS)- this scans our influencers every six hours for anything that can be deemed fraudulent (bots, fake followers, fake accounts, copied work, going against t’s & c’s). So to submit to our campaigns you need to pass this scan!

Facebook is also taking a hard line on fake followers, really pushing the needle on limiting fraud in the industry. 

Q: How important (or incrementally more effective) do you think the creative idea is when you activate influencers?

Rachel and Victoria: I think moving forward the creative idea will become more important as otherwise it really is just product placement. The impact of which over time (and has already) become diluted. A creative idea plus an influencer will increase authenticity and therefore engagement.

Q: Do influencers work in the B2B space?

Katie: They absolutely do and it’s an area where there’s a huge amount of opportunity and scope for innovation within B2B. The challenge is it requires identifying influence to be approached properly – there’s rarely an easier influencer list you can grab off Google or another campaign. That requires proper research techniques and upfront investment in understanding who genuinely influences and how they should be activated. Otherwise, influencers don’t work. It’s also about understanding the role of influencers – and what they will/won’t deliver. They’re rarely the most effective way to get pure awareness or traffic (you need paid media) but they do impact conversion (because of the influence they hold) and can be a very cost-effective way to generate content. 

Q: Would you say the best formula for success is a brand ad + an influencer post that uses the paid partnership functionality (BCA)?

Beth: Since the launch of BCA’s, TRIBE has been working closely with Facebook to run tests around the best paid strategies. From these tests, we’ve found that when you run a Brand Ad (from the brand’s account) alongside a Branded Content Ad (a boosted organic post) where the content is thematically linked, it drives action intent for minus 79% of the cost. 

Q: Does influencer marketing work on all company sizes? Would it be effective in growing the brand and following in its early days?

Rachel and Victoria: I would say as long as the right influencer is selected and there is brand fit then yes this is something – budget allowing – that all brands could look to harness. 

Katie: If you’re going back to the pure sense of ‘influencer marketing’ then yes, everyone needs to influence a certain group of people and they want to find the most effective routes of doing that. If the question is do online influencers always work then no. It depends on what outcome you want (sales, change in opinions), who you need to get in front of and who influences them. 

Also, an error that I see most is the type of influencers brands use – and the assumptions they’ve made that they do influence. For example, fitness influencers rarely drive gym sign-ups, even though they’re used the world over by gym – they’re too far away from how the average person sees themselves (if they go there, it’s not for me, I’ll look so unfit/silly).

So start with what (we need to do), who (we need to influence) and how (do I most effectively get in front of that audience). That will tell you if online influencers will work. 

Q: Would the content creation approach work for online software products (a website that people log into to learn?)

Beth: Yes absolutely! Influencer Marketing & Content Campaigns work across all categories & brands. Simply submit your brief detailing what you’re after, and influencers who want to work with you will submit their content through to you for review. It doesn’t always have to be product-led, we work with everything from charities, social media, web & tech, lifestyle & services. 

Q: How exactly do you use social listening for influencer marketing?

Rachel and Victoria: We use social listening in many ways. First, in order to validate the defined business objective. A brand may perceive a consumer has a certain pain point but in fact, it might be quite different. This could fundamentally impact the decision around which influencer sector you choose to work with.  

We also use social listening to benchmark campaign impact. We take a pre-campaign reading of brand perception and compare it against the same measure post-campaign.

Q: Some content creators have been known to ‘buy’ followers, which means their engagement is awful. How do you distinguish between influencers and ones with fake followers?

Rachel and Victoria: You can check their own engagement levels before working with them. If they have paid for followers who have very little engagement with the influencer you will be able to see that from their own channel results (likes, tags etc) 

Q: Where do you see the future of influencer marketing going over the next three/five years etc?

Rachel and Victoria: As with all creative and marketing mediums there is a degree of flex required. Also necessary is agility – who could have foreseen this year’s situation where influencers gained a lot of power by being ‘at home’ content creators. The role of an influencer in terms of adding an endorsement to something lies at the base of the partnership but how that then manifests itself will change and flex. 

Katie: Identifying and activating those with influence isn’t new, it’s been happening for thousands of years in different forms. What I really hope to see in the online space, is that there are a better appreciation and sophistication of what influence means, how to find it and how to use it. You can’t lift and shift an ‘influencer list’ and ‘going out to some influencers’ shouldn’t be tacked onto the end of a campaign. That always results, at some point in: is this actually doing anything, aren’t influencers a bit of a waste of time, I’m not sure we have the right people. So I think we’ll see far more research into models of influence, activity is more integrated into an overall content/marketing plan, and it will have a clear (and understood) role in the customer journey. 

Q: Do you think micro-influencers are better than macro?

Rachel and Victoria: It’s a combination of the two, normally from both and budget and an effectiveness POV. 

Katie: It’s also never a simple macro vs micro debate either (sorry!), it depends on the group you want to target and who actually influences them – that could be one person, it could be 10, or 50. If you don’t look at the audience you’re targeting you’ll be guessing and likely missing. 

Q: Do you class the Scarlett campaign as influencer marketing or more of a celebrity endorsement, given that Scarlett’s content was tweaked to fit with the Asda visuals?

Rachel and Victoria: We still consider this influencer as celebrities are macro-influencers really. Also, some celebrities don’t engage with social media and don’t therefore have any use in this space. Other celebs such as Scarlett use these channels as a way of broadening their reach and thus are able to use this influencer status. 

Q: Do you have a bank of influencers? How do you choose which ones you take on board in your agency?

Rachel and Victoria: We have some we have worked with a few times, but we like to approach each brief or new challenge with a look at what is out there or what has changed rather than relying on the same few. We simply do a lot of research to find the best influencer for each campaign based on deep insight around the defined business goals. We then create a strategic framework that will meet the goals. This enables us to be really objective about who we choose to work with. 

Q: Are all your campaigns geared towards a millennial audience? Have you ever done influencer campaigns for the 50+ sector? And, if so, did they prove effective

Rachel and Victoria: Definitely not. We have worked with various influencers on different campaigns dependent on the target audience. The ask on the examples we have shown was to speak to a younger audience but within our roster, on George, we have Mums, couples and wellbeing experts who are 35 plus. 

woman with phone

Q: Does the content run across Hearst’s channels and if so how is it labelled?

Rachel and Victoria: No, Hearst Content Agency delivers content for brands’ platforms. We have in the past worked with some of our internal talent (we did a series of videos for P&G which featured the Men’s Health Grooming editor) but they are treated as internal influencers. There is no guarantee that this content will then end up on the Men’s Health channels. Naturally, we can broker introductions though! That is part of what we do…

Q: Without naming names (unless you want to of course) has an influencer campaign go completely off-message – any funny/weird stories?

Katie: Not sure how funny or weird this, but we had a very big campaign for a travel brand and a fairly large, well-known influencer who reposted the same image they put up just 10 days before. They had used the ‘free’ holiday to-do another brand campaign and either they or the agent had overlooked the deliverables on this one. It’s always worth specifying upfront what the rules of engagement are – even if you think they’re obvious and make sure any agent is communicating with the influencer!

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