influencer marketing

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There’s no shortage of cautionary tales when it comes to influencer marketing; speculation and  myths run rampant throughout the industry. In the years since I founded Sway Group, I’ve seen misconceptions come and go in the influencer and content marketing space. And I’ve learned that the trick to avoiding strategy speedbumps is to stay informed.

I’d like to share a few of the brand missteps my agency has been seeing in social marketing lately — and what I think you should be doing instead.

Prioritizing Follower Count Over Engagement

Follower counts do matter, but the real magic is in the engagement rate: comments, shares, likes, etc. That’s where you can see how responsive an influencer’s audience is to their content, which can help determine return on investment (ROI) and establish a benchmark for success.

It may seem ideal to partner with a celebrity influencer with followers in the millions, but research shows that as the number of followers rises, engagement rates fall. Hugely popular accounts can feel impersonal and tend to attract fake followers, which affects engagement. In comparison, microinfluencers typically have higher engagement ratesbecause their accounts feel more authentic and relatable.

Smaller accounts not only have more sway, but they’re also more affordable and usually offer the kind of targeting that isn’t available for large accounts. Tailored messaging obviously has a better chance of resonating, and it also means audiences are less likely to tune out and even stop following an influencer who posts too many generic brand mentions.

Forgetting About Instagram’s ‘Link In Profile’ Feature

Instagram’s “swipe up” feature in Stories — available only to verified or business accounts with more than 10,000 followers — is a powerful tool for driving traffic and creating specific calls to action. However, don’t forget about the tried-and-true “link in profile” option, which is critical for posts that appear in the main Instagram feed.

Unfortunately, individual Instagram posts don’t (yet) allow for live links, which means brands and influencers need to get creative with that one clickable link that’s available in an account’s bio section. Aside from driving traffic to a brand website, an influencer’s bio link can be customized to send audiences to a giveaway or contest, a sponsored blog post, a specific brand-owned URL with relevant campaign content, a video, or anything else that supports the campaign goals.

Approved businesses can also take advantage of Instagram’s shoppable post features, but the “link in profile” feature should definitely be used in tandem with any “swipe up” or shopping links. All of these features drive engagement, and they’re all important elements of a successful influencer campaign.

Ignoring Paid Advertising On Facebook

This one doesn’t seem intuitive at first glance — isn’t influencer marketing all about transcending old-school advertising methods? It’s true that influencer content outperforms traditional advertising with up to 11 times the ROI, but social shares have also been sharply declining, thanks to increased competition and platform algorithm changes.

As the amount of published content continues to skyrocket, brands are receiving fewer organic traffic referrals from Facebook and less engagement with their Facebook posts. It’s no longer enough to post content and hope it arrives on a follower’s main feed. Paid support helps ensure that great sponsored content gets the engagement both influencers and brands are looking for.

Paid advertising on Facebook allows for extremely accurate targeting and, as the world’s largest social platform, the audience potential is high. Influencer posts can be boosted with paid support, which means you can reap the benefits of the authentic, credible content that resonates with today’s audiences, along with the visibility and metrics provided by Facebook’s ad structure.

Not Researching Influencer Audience Demographics

It’s easy to assume that a millennial lifestyle influencer has an audience that’s comprised mainly of millennials who are interested in lifestyle topics, but your targeting work shouldn’t stop at analyzing the influencer. In order to make sure your targeted audiences match your ideal customer profile, you should be looking at follower demographics: age, gender, location, occupation, etc. Influencer audiences aren’t always a perfect match for the people they follow, especially for large accounts.

The best ways to do deep-dive audience research include working with an agency, using an influencer audience insight tool, or paying for an influencer selection service that includes analytics.

Assuming Influencer-Created Video Content Is Expensive

Our clients often come to us with preconceptions about the cost of influencer content, particularly video creation. People tend to think the best way to get seen is to partner with a high-profile YouTuber when, in fact, video doesn’t have to be expensively produced or shared by a top creator to resonate with audiences.

Many influencers are regularly creating compelling video content that’s being accessed from multiple platforms: their blog, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram Stories, and so on. Video continues to be an enormously popular — and cost-effective — option for influencer marketing, and one that’s growing alongside viewing trends. According to one recent study, 80% of online content consumed in 2019 will be video, and tech solutions like shoppable video links continue to boost options for direct sales.

From storytelling to photography to video and everything in-between, influencer content usually costs far less than a creative agency, and it has the authenticity that consumers overwhelmingly prefer. Campaigns can be structured so brands own or have rights to influencer-created images, video and custom content like recipes or home decor tutorials, extending reach and ROI over time.

In this fast-moving industry, it pays to be strategic with your approach, which I believe includes examining your assumptions and beliefs. Every mistake is an opportunity for learning. And in the end, learning some of the most common pitfalls of influencer marketing will save you time and money, and help ensure the success of your next campaign.

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