There’s some interesting stuff happening with influencers these days. Influencers are folks who have built a following and audience on a particular platform, or combination of platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, TikTok or Twitter, and usually around an interest area.
Travel, technology and fitness are good examples, but name your niche and platform, and there’s likely an individual with an audience willing to partner for exposure in exchange for a price.
Influencer marketing is hot
The use of influencers shows no sign of abating, as it becomes increasingly challenging to get large organic reach for free, or to target audiences through paid ads as effectively as we once did.
While there are agencies out there who list and match influencers with companies and campaigns, many brand deals happen directly with influencers reaching out for partnerships, or companies approaching influencers directly for a collaboration.
I know the travel content influencer game well with my own work on www.carryonqueen.com
This week I want to address a few cautions around influencer marketing.
This isn’t necessarily to toss a glass of water on the fire, but I do want to temper the enthusiasm with some strategic thinking.
But first up, let’s take a look at TikTok and what they are doing with influencer marketing, since everything hot starts with TT these days it seems.
This past week TikTok moved the needle further with a number of announcements at TikTok World, related to influencer marketing. (Did you know they also have plans for TikTok Shop – like Shopify, and distribution and fulfillment larger than Amazon?
Definitely content for another post, but suffice it to say they have more than just Instagram in their sites!) TikTok will be building a “Creator Marketplace” database for marketers looking to collaborate with creators and visa versa. Anyone with 10,000 followers will be invited to set up a profile, outline the type of content they create, and name their price.
TikTok is making it incredibly transparent, easy to connect, and easy to transact. If you thought it was tough filling all those minimum wage service jobs post pandemic, this may be why!
Influencers are making good money on their own terms. Jokes aside, TikTok saw a gap in the marketplace. They have a growing audience (1 billion monthly users), and advertisers wanting access.
But they also realize that the culture and creative on the platform may be a challenge for many advertisers to master, so putting paid collaborations into the feed is potentially a lot more entertaining than dry, paid ad content an advertiser might otherwise produce on their own.
Will TikTok take a % for matching the deal all within platform? Time will tell, but I’d be willing to bet one or both of the partners will pay in some way for the service.
The caution here should be around vetting influencers. Traditional external agencies usually do some background checks and vetting of influencers, since they have their own reputation and future client business to protect.
By having the listing and matching service available within the TikTok platform, all of the vetting responsibility will fall to the company taking on the the influencer for a collaboration.
But here’s the thing…
When we use influencers, we’re partnering with the influencer and their work. Depending on the influencer and platforms they use, that might be through writing, video creation, podcasts, photos and posts or a combination of these across different social media channels.
We’re partnering not only with their content, but we’re also partnering with the influencer themselves. The implications of that are often considered less.
The closest parallel is likely celebrity endorsement – where the celebrity’s endorsement is what is desired, but the celebrity’s behavior outside of your brand deal, also comes along for the ride.
Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong are two high profile sports celebrity endorsements that went off the rails. Kanye West is the most recent example.
Do due diligence
Influencer marketing is becoming a huge part of strategy for many promotions departments. But we need to do our due diligence in selecting influencers to work with.
Our marketing can be directly affected by the influencers marketing.
When we have an influencer help us tell our story, we need to remember they are off on their own outside of that, building their own audience and telling their own story. If that story becomes negative, or an incident in their past is at odds with our company values and those of our customers, there’s going to be a problem.
It’s long been said that social media is rented land – a place we build out an online identity, and seemingly take ownership through our content, customizing the look and feel of the place like our own home. While the house may well feel like our own, it is indeed built on rented land.
Land where the real owner (Mark Zuckerberg anyone?) can decide to change the rules, charge you more rent, or kick you out. Just ask anyone who has lost access to their Facebook or Instagram account, and they’ll tell you how violating it feels to lose something they view as their own.
While using influencers may not at first appear to be rented land, it is never-the-less a contractual agreement for representation of your company, or exposure out to their audience. We’re essentially renting access to the influencer’s audience.
And with that, we get the influencers whole brand identity, whether we want it all or not.
When we’re thinking about brand and content audits, we need to remember it’s not just about the influencer and how they interact with you and your audience, it’s also about how they interact with their own audience, fueling their own brand. That’s what you’re buying into.
Just something to think about if you’re considering engaging an influencer for your business. Do your research. Google the name. Check out the content on ALL of their accounts. See how they reply and interact with followers. Look for any earned media and be diligent – go back a couple pages on that Google search.
Essentially it’s about being a good judge of character.
Then when you find someone promising, consider going on a few dates before you get married!
Just like any relationship, you need to vet for values and character if you’re going to invite them into your world to represent your brand in any way.
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Mary Charleson, is a marketing speaker, educator and strategist. She is the author of www.fiveminutemarketing.com blog and weekly newsletter, featuring marketing tips, served up like a personable chat with a caring friend over coffee. She has authored two books: Word of Mouth Mouse & Mobile and Five-Minute Marketing. Mary is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), a designation through NSA (National Speakers Association) held be fewer than 12% of speakers globally. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and the Global Speakers Federation. Subscribe to Mary’s Weekly Five-Minute Marketing Tips.
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