Opinion

Marketers, stop trying to influence influencers

Trying to sway your influencer's content is the number one mistake that even the big brands are still making, writes Vamp’s Aaron Brooks.

While reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek, I came across a line which really resonated: “Marketers are always trying to influence the influencers, but few really know how.” He was referencing another book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, which identifies influencers as an essential force for galvanising trends and social change.

Influencers are not a new concept, particularly for marketers. For years they have attempted to woo these taste makers in a bid to spark a movement, secure preferential treatment or exposure of their brand. Word of mouth has always been powerful and, with thousands looking to these people for inspiration, their ability to alter the buying habits of audiences and create these tipping points is huge.

But if marketers have long been aware of the importance of influencers, they haven’t always had the means to utilise them. Now, the digital age and social media have completely diversified, amplified and streamlined the process. Brands no longer need to send thousand dollar samples to celebrities in the hope they’ll choose to wear them in front of the paparazzi. Endorsements can be secured in a completely trackable way.

As marketer’s paths to influencers have become clearer, more direct and with less pot holes, old habits of trying to directly influence the influencer have crept in. I understand the sentiment. “Who understands the brand better than the brand itself?” they’ll ask as they shoehorn marketing jargon into a brief. Or insist the influencer uses words straight from a campaign mood board.

It’s a damaging practise and forgets how much audiences have matured. Influencers have become so popular because they provide a distinctive voice, originality and authenticity. They earn loyalty and trust over time. They realise that savvy audiences will see straight through inauthentic product placement and it could cost them followers. It’s why so many will turn down paid briefs if the brand does not suit their values – or it isn’t a product they would genuinely use.

If they do accept the brief, it’s essential they are allowed to speak in their own tone of voice. Marketers must allow them to freely interpret the campaign or product. Positioning it through their lens, and telling followers about it in their own way, is exactly what you are paying for and will be more effective in the long run.

Tightly controlled campaigns are often conspicuous, even if they’re not in the same league as Scott Disick’s ultimate Bootea clanger, or Naomi Campbell and her gifted Adidas. They’ll use language which doesn’t feel natural or creative direction that makes them stand out from the rest of their feed – and not in a good way.

Relinquishing control isn’t easy, particularly now I’ve just reminded you about those toe-curling faux pas. But there are ways to arm yourself with the confidence to step away and stop attempting to influence the influencers.

Choose your talent carefully so you can be confident of their talent and professionalism.

An influencer’s follower count is far from the most important metric. You should be ensuring their specialism and interest is in the area your brand or product lives, so they can credibly interpret your brief and share their experience in an authentic way. A beauty blogger who has never shown a car on their feed will not be the right influencer for your automotive brief, even if their huge following is the demographic you wish to target.

Issue a clear and concise brief with enough direction to get the result you need, but enough freedom to allow creativity.

Setting hashtags are a great way to align your campaign and boost awareness. But setting strict guidelines for shots and captions is a surefire way to make a campaign look false. You also stop the influencer from sharing genuine experiences with your brand or product that could really bring it to life.

The reason influencer marketing has gained momentum is because ‘one size fits all’ advertising no longer resonates. It’s these individual and unique voices that cut through the noisy and cluttered world of digital content. Collaboration, not dictation, is key. Marketers that are able to put their trust in these content creators will reap the rewards with campaigns that feel real and are more engaging.

Aaron Brooks is co-founder of influencer marketing platform, Vamp

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