A Case for Influencer Marketing Amid Backlash in Cannes

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Influencer marketing has become one of the top ways companies from Fortune 500 conglomerates to early-stage startups amplify their message. But as Unilever CMO Keith Weed recently brought to light at Cannes Lions last week, influencer marketing isn’t a perfected strategy. Whether it’s Twitter trolls or Instagram imposters, everything from fake followers to fake engagements are giving marketers headaches as they try to decipher real, meaningful engagements from bots.

Despite the current climate of distrust, influencers are an invaluable marketing tool and it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet. However, it is time to pivot strategies for today’s climate and, in turn, focus on creativity over influence.

By working with influencers day in and day out, I can tell you that it does in fact work. As a direct result of creating over 3,000 pieces of influencer content, since December 2017, we’ve seen 62.2 percent of new U.S. users and 40.5 percent of new global users come from influencer marketing alone.

There are many approaches to ensure your influencer marketing dollars aren’t going to waste. When developing relationships with creators, here’s what we look for to instill the most creativity and how you can apply these tactics to find the most success for your company:

Step Back and Find the Right Verticals for Your Brand

Before you amp up your investment in influencer marketing, make sure your target audience and your influencer’s audience align. When we initially began working with influencers, we experimented with various verticals to understand which audiences resonated with our brand and which influencer would best align with our messaging. After testing content with a variety of influencers, we found the most success in driving long-lasting downloads through creators in the beauty and lifestyle, family, and LGBTQ+ verticals.

Allow Room for Creative Liberty

Once you’ve found the verticals that work best for you and thoroughly vetted your creative partners, it’s important that you give influencers creative freedom to integrate your brand’s messaging organically. This is the hardest part for most brands. At Seriously, we provide influencers with three simple and clear talking points in the company briefs and leave the rest up to them. To find success with influencer marketing, you have to be willing to trust that the influencer will tie your messaging in creatively and authentically. Though it may feel unnatural to relinquish creative control, in the end, no one knows the audience better than the creator. Anything less would be a disservice to your brand, their brand, and their audience.

Be Sure the Integration is Authentic

On that note, when working with influencers, you don’t want to force anything. Rather than designing creative around your brand, allow for the creator to instead insert it into pre-existing content while also being transparent with the audience. You want an influencer to mention your brand, company or product naturally in a video that they were already planning to make or that their viewers are going to engage in. Not only does this approach seem more natural, but we’ve seen tangible results, getting higher engagement. Viewers likely won’t click if it’s simply a promo or blatant product placement.

Value High Engagement Over Followers

Engagement rates tell a better story of the influencer’s impact — how active the influencer’s audience is, if the audience will be open to external messaging, and how the influencer’s content resonates with them. By looking at engagements rather than subscriber or follower numbers, we’ve been able to weed out, as best as possible, influencers with fake followers and subscribers, since they don’t have as high of an engagement rate. Yes, bots exist here too. It’s important to make scrolling through the comments part of your vetting process to ensure they come from real followers.

Sure, there’s a lot that needs to change in the influencer marketing landscape. But through carefully selecting the right vertical and ceding a degree of creative control to the creator, we’ve been able to move the needle for our brand Best Fiends and hopefully this will help you to achieve your company’s marketing goals, too.

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