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Influencer Marketing

4 Emerging Influencer Marketing Trends

Influencer marketing has become an essential part of any digital marketing strategy. Bloggers have catapulted over the last decade from obscurity to near-celebrity status, using agents in many cases to broker sponsorship deals that can reach tens of thousands of dollars for a single Instagram post. As a result of these hefty price tags, brands have begun to look more closely at the potential value of each collaboration to build loyalty, awareness and, ultimately, sales.Although Instagram followers has become the ‘influence standard’ for many brand marketers, there is increasing importance placed on conversions and hence more emphasis is being placed on direct blog traffic, time spent on the site, and other factors that indicate strong engagement. Some emerging digital platforms that connect bloggers with brands for collaborations have gone as far as providing access to bloggers’ Google Analytics, which has become a game-changer for brands when assessing potential conversion and relevance of an influencer for a particular campaign. (It’s important to note that not all platforms offer this level of transparency. Before signing up with any service that coordinates blogger collaborations, brands should always check if this data is available.)Given the growing trend toward transparency between brands and bloggers, here are four influencer marketing trends we expect to see over the next year:

Brands and Bloggers Will Communicate More Directly

With digital platforms making it much easier for brands and bloggers to communicate and negotiate more efficiently, the traditional role of a blogger talent agency will change. Brands will realize many benefits of this direct engagement including more creative collaborations that generate greater levels of genuine brand messaging to a more deliberate and targeted audience. We will see greater levels of  enthusiasm for a wider variety of brands, as bloggers have increased visibility of all opportunities available and will be able to make more informed choices about those that are suitable to their audience and style. They will have greater control over their messaging, partnerships and in turn their success.

Brands Will Utilize a Greater Variety of Bloggers

With blogger research and outreach so time-consuming, collaboration opportunities have often gone to the same handful of top influencers. With the rise of digital platforms, one of the rising influencer marketing trends that expect to see is a wider variety of bloggers involved in influencer marketing campaigns and an increase in collaborations with niche bloggers whose small, yet loyal audiences have high conversion rates.

Brands Will Use Influencers to Grow Their Own Social Media

In a trend that walks the line between influencer marketing and content strategy, we expect that brands will engage influencers to help build their own social media networks and audiences through Instagram takeovers, guest posts and partner events. We also expect that brands will start to publish more of their own content on their blogs, Tumblr accounts and other mediums, engaging influencers to catch their attention and spark relationships.

Bloggers Will Embrace Traditional Blogging

Many top ‘bloggers’ have diverted their attention away from traditional ‘blogging’, opting to express themselves through Instagram and Snapchat – but the emerging value of strong Google Analytics and clear conversion data may in fact inspire bloggers to strengthen their own domain names. As brands start to evaluate key metrics including audience demographics, time spent on the blog and overall digital influence, we expect bloggers to respond by balancing their efforts more evenly across their own web assets and social networks. Having a strong owned presence rather than relying on the platform du jour will help bloggers expand their brand presence and retain their longevity regardless of which social media platform is most popular today…or tomorrow.

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Instagram Ads vs. Influencer Marketing: Deciding What’s Best for Your Brand

As the largest and fastest growing social network, Instagram is a hotbed for advertising; however, it’s also been somewhat of a battleground for marketers who are eager to tap into its pool of savvy consumers, but were met with resistance by way of Instagram’s limited ad capabilities.

That all changed when Instagram announced that they will now offer an improved ad solution that enables brands to make use of direct response buttons such as, “Shop Now,” “Install Now,” and “Sign up.” Instagram will also enable interest and demographic targeting and allow brands to use Instagram’s API for managing large campaigns.

Furthermore, these offerings will be accessible to more brands as Instagram previously was more selective with the brands it enabled to advertise. Plus, with recent reports that Instagram ad revenue will reach more than $2 billion worldwide by 2017, the ad-route is becoming more and more attractive to brands.

However, prior to Instagram’s announcement, many brands relied on influencer marketing to target potential new customers and reach fragmented audiences. So now, for many brands, the question becomes: how do we decide what’s best for our brand’s marketing: ads or influencers?

The first question to ask yourself is what do you want to achieve? Brand awareness? Customer engagement? More followers of a certain type? Drive traffic to points of purchase? The answer to this question ultimately drives your marketing decision. Here are a few considerations to make:

Brand Awareness vs. Affinity

Ads are great for increasing brand awareness. You can push ads to a desired target group and immediately see results. The very first Instagram ad from Michael Kors received four times the usual number of likes compared to non-promoted posts; and it also reached a global audience of 6.15 million. The company also received 33,000 new followers, 16 times more than usual. Furthermore,Instagram’s business tools captured the progress showing exactly how each brand is performing with each ad and each objective (e.g. brand awareness), measuring impressions and reach to show how each target group responds to ads.

However, while ads are great for increasing brand awareness, brand affinity is a different goal that speaks more to a user’s sentiment when engaging with brand content on social media; and capturing brand affinity through ads is not done easily.

While the Michael Kors ads produced the numerical results necessary to prove ROI for marketers, the sentiment didn’t fair as well as many people in the Instagram community weren’t happy to see the ads and some saying they were “super annoying” and others demanding that they “JUST STOP.”

The idea that Instagram will soon be opening its ad platform to accommodate more brands, sends red flags to users who don’t want to be bombarded with ads any more frequently than they already are, particularly when there’s a chance those ads will have no relevance to them.

One of the strong suits of influencer marketing is its perceived authenticity. Users following influencers have a different outlook than many users who follow brands on Instagram because influencers are not always pushing out ad content; therefore, when influencers do share promotional posts, it comes off more genuine and organic. This is the difference between awareness and affinity. Awareness can be instant but affinity speaks to a positive sentiment and longer-term relationship between consumer and brand.

So the question becomes what’s more of value to achieve your brand’s desired outcome: raising brand awareness to see immediate results for a specific campaign, or building long term relationships and affinity through influencer marketing?

Cost of Ads vs. Finding the right influencers

Instagram maintains that ads will be open to more small to medium businesses, but the cost is still somewhat of a mystery. Instagram has always remained mum on exactly how much a direct ad campaign costs.

One post from Quora claims that figures between $350,000 and $1 million per month have been mentioned by executives. Whether this is true or not, a figure anywhere in that ballpark is probably not cost efficient for the average small business.

Influencer marketing can be much more cost efficient and in some cases, cost nothing as was the case with fashion brand Zara, which built their Instagram presence to over five million without the ad spend. However, finding the right fit of influencers to work with is an ongoing challenge for many brands.

Understanding what qualifies an influencer and how to effectively leverage their audience takes time and research along with negotiating contracts and scheduling time to analyze results and return; although, influencer networks have helped brands bypass these issues by developing a network of pre-vetted influencers and brands that are matched through a central network that manages everything from campaign goals and initiatives to legal contracts, compensation and results.

A Winning Strategy:

It’s clear that developing a winning Instagram strategy is not black and white. Determining whether to use ads or influencers should be addressed on a case-by-case basis as there are pros and cons to each solution; and in many cases, an ad-approach coupled with an influencer-approach to Instagram marketing can achieve desired results. Ads are great for getting eyeballs on your brand content at a fast and far-reaching pace while influencers help boost engagement, bridging the relationship and affinity between consumers and brands.

Brands can benefit greatly from adopting Instagram’s new ad offering into their current strategies; however, with 84 percent of consumers noting that they trust people they know over direct advertising, according to a Nielsen study, it’s clear that influencer marketing on Instagram still has it’s rightful place. The best strategy would be to use the best of both worlds to maximize results.

For example, brands can use content from influencer marketing campaigns and select the best performing images to create an Instagram sponsored post campaign. Incorporating authentic experiences into promotional content can add a flair of authenticity to your Instagram ads.

Brands can also try running ad and influencer campaigns in parallel to combine Facebook data-driven targeting with consolidation from the trusted source of influencers. Instagram’s new trending tags and places features also have potential to increase ad opportunities for marketers allowing them to build content and campaigns around what’s trending.

Instagram’s new ad offering opens a lot of doors for marketers, but nothing will replace the authenticity that makes Instagram Instagram. The platform is defined by the generation that dictates what’s cool and authentic; therefore it’s core users can easily sniff out anything that’s contrary. To thrive in this space, your brand must skillfully balance the ability to tell its story in the most authentic way while also leveraging all of its capabilities to drive customer conversions.

[By Francis Trapp] [Read More]

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9 Questions to Ask When Working With Instagrammers

Influencer marketing has been a great source of native advertising ever since blogs became popular. Instagram is now the latest platform to become a goldmine for marketing. This platform works well for all types of companies, whether it’s fitness or fashion, travel or e-commerce, beverages or home improvement; Instagram is a winning bet for most brands. The question is, how do you engage with these influencers and–when you find them–how can you make them work for you on fair terms?

Most brands or agencies will outsource this work to marketing firms that specialize in working with Instagrammers. However, if you are looking at doing this yourself, here are 9 questions and tips for working with Instagrammers.

1 – Find them on Kik
Kik is an app that lets you easily message without phone numbers or email. The person’s Instagram handle is most often their Kik handle too. If you are looking to work with Instagrammers you should be on Kik. It’s the platform of choice for messaging with Instagram influencers.

2 – How long will the post be up?
Unlike blogs and videos where the content stays live forever, Instagram influencers play by a different set of rules and most of them will negotiate a certain amount of time for the post to be up. There may be different tiers of payment (1 hour costs X and 5 hours costs Y) or they may have a flat price for a limited-time-post before it’s deleted. Either way, you’ll want to know how long the post is live for so that you can:

Request the post to go live at prime time for where they are located and who the audience is (are their followers US or European? Is your target audience college students or young professionals?)
Decide if you want posts to go up at one time or if you want the Instagrammers to stagger their posts over a certain period of time.

If the Instagrammer charges hourly costs, make sure to ask them what kinds of results they receive to justify having an hourly fee.

3 – Will you put our link in your bio?
Instagram doesn’t allow you to post links in the caption of the photo. The only links allowed are in the bio area of the Instagrammers’ profile. Some Instagrammers will post in their bio free of charge during the time the post is live if you request them to, and others will negotiate another price as they look at that as additional advertising. Either way, if the influencer does include a link in their bio make sure that they specify this on their photo caption.

4 – Discounts by buying in bulk
First ask the Instagrammer how much it costs for one post. Once you have that price, negotiate for a cheaper cost per post by buying multiple at a time, and having them post every couple days or weekly.

5 – Other sponsored posts
You’ll want to look at or ask how often they do other sponsored posts as well as if there are any competing brands they are working with. You’d be surprised at just how many brands are advertising on Instagram and there is a good chance they are working with someone similar. Before entering into an agreement with them, make sure you know who else they are working with (if you are a sports drink, are you comfortable with them working with another sports drink simultaneously?) If so, ask that they space it out – ie: not within a certain amount of time of promoting a similar company. If a sponsored post works out well with a particular Instagrammer, or if they do really well for a similar brand you can always negotiate to work with them exclusively on a monthly basis.

6 – Fluctuation in pricing
Instagram is still the wild west with some influencers, so understand that prices are not set in stone or tiered as predictably as working with bloggers, for instance. Prices may vary significantly from one Instagram influencer to the next even with similar follower counts and engagements.

7 – Types of Instagram accounts
The type of account will vary with pricing, so if you aren’t using an agency that specializes in Instagram be cognizant of this.
Theme Pages: These can be very affordable. Theme pages are pages that focus on a particular theme rather than a person. They may post pictures only of dogs, or memes, or travel destinations.
Bloggers and Models: These influencers tend to be on the pricier side over standard Instagram influencers. If the account you want to work with has a blog, or is a model, you will be paying more for the post on average.

8 – Repurposing or “owning” the picture
You’ll want to make sure that you have permission to repurpose the picture on your own Instagram page or website. Best practice says to tag them when you do, so approach it as added exposure for them versus ownership of the picture. You’ll want to get this agreed to in writing.

9 – Tracking
Our agency tracks the success of an Instagram post not only through public stats, such as engagement, but also by analyzing site visits and by using technology to extrapolate performance based on the lift.

[By Sarah Ware] [Read More]