By: Alyssa Chandler, APR of the Orlando Chapter (Twitter: @listenlyss/IG: picturethislyss)
Influence. At the end of the day, that’s what organizations want: to influence or inspire consumers to notice them.
Brianna Barnebee, an Account Executive from VISIT FLORIDA, talked social media influencers and why this emerging partnership style is a crucial part of PR.
First: what is an influencer? Barnebee explained that influencers are individuals with a large following who produce sponsored content on their pages. These people are…well, influential. Influencers are brand advocates. They’re real people making recommendations to other real people. Influencer PR is word-of-mouth on a larger scale. Barnebee recommends partnering with influencers because at the end of the day, people trust people.
But what does partnering with an influencer look like? When should you work with an influencer? Barnebee suggested several occasions:
- During a product launch
- To raise general brand awareness
- For event promotion
- To promote product giveaways
- To build an image library
These strategic uses for influencers will take your brand to the next level. You might be wondering, though: How do we find these people? Barnebee provided this helpful list in terms of scouting out influential social giants:
- Use social listening tools
- Look at who is following you—there may be untapped potential in an already established fan of your brand
- Search via hashtags to find out who is already talking about you and the industry
- Ask your audience who they follow via tools such as Instagram story poll
- You can also use influencer agencies, though Barnebee recommends you exercise caution. “Do your research to ensure that these agencies understand your industry so that the partnership makes sense.”
Barnebee also offered helpful tips for pitching. Regardless of whether you’re pitching to the influencer or vice versa, the main takeaway is that you should always have a plan. Specific is better. Look for influencers with media kits and a formal proposal. Do your research! When you’re approaching a new influencer, these are some helpful questions to ask up front:
- Do their numbers align with your goals?
- Are their financial requirements within your budget?
- Do they have a strong portfolio?
- Does their tone match the tone of your brand?
“When vetting an influencer, don’t hesitate to reach out to other people they’ve worked with and ask how it went,” Barnebee said. “Ask if the brand would recommend this influencer. Look at the partnership from all angles and feel free to dig into the influencers’ prior content.”
Barnebee also cautions: don’t partner with influencers who have more sponsored posts than organic content. These accounts will not be popular for long because people don’t want to be sold to all the time.
Before partnering with an influencer, Barnebee stressed one critical aspect: Have. A. Contract. The best partnerships will be those that have clear guidelines agreed upon at the outset. Here are some items to consider when drafting the agreement:
- What will the deliverables look like? How many posts/stories/etc. will the influencer need to provide?
- What brand standards does your organization have? Are there terms that are off limits?
- How should the influencer document their work? What’s the submittal process? Via screenshot? Spreadsheet? Make sure the path is clear.
- How will influencers share the metrics? Work this out in advance to ease confusion and manage expectations.
- Will your organization have full rights to the influencers’ photos? They often produce amazing visual content, so ensure that you’re able to use it after the agreement has ended.
Do keep in mind the FTC’s disclosure laws. Influencer campaign must be what a normal consumer could experience. A brand cannot show a consumer something that they couldn’t consumer themselves. The brand also needs to list the paid partnership in the copy of the post. Also, the partnership information cannot be included in the portion of the caption that needs to be expanded to reach. And finally, according to Barnebee, the best rule of thumb? When in doubt, disclose.
At the end of the day, you want an influencer to enjoy the partnership not because they’re paid, but because you have provided them with a truly unforgettable experience.Do your best to help them become brand ambassadors. Think about special arrangements and personalize wherever you can.
And finally, every PR’s practitioner’s favorite part of a campaign: reporting.
All joke’s aside, reporting is essential for conveying worth. Barnebee recommends maintaining a spreadsheet with pre-arranged metrics such as shares, reach, and engagement for all influencer partnerships and outcomes. Look for both quantitative and qualitative metrics in order to get a full view of the campaign’s value. Barnebee says to, “Set campaign goals in advance and measure against those goals after the campaign has ended to judge its true success.”
A bonus takeaway: keep in touch with influencers well after the campaign is over. The best scenario for a relationship with an influencer would be converting them to a true fan of the brand. Barnebee referenced a particularly great partnership that resulted in an influencer sharing a throwback Thursday unpaid post on her account, months after the partnership, solely because she loved the experience on a personal level.
Here are some ways Barnebee recommends maintaining brand/influencer relationships, post-campaign:
- Set calendar reminders for yourself to continue to check in
- Send Christmas and birthday cards
- Send personalized texts or emails
In the ever-changing, ever-expanding realm of social media and PR, brands must find ways to stand out. Consider partnering with influencers to reach your target audience in an authentic and organic way, from a trusted and reliable source.