According to Business Insider's Influencer Marketing 2019 report, "Influencer marketing ad spend is poised to reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022." As this industry continues to explode, it’s undeniable that brands must plan to incorporate this tactic in their marketing budget. But with new influencers emerging every day, how do you know which are the right ones to work with?
Having facilitated countless successful brand-influencer relationships over the years, we’ve learned what questions you should be asking to yield optimal campaign results. Here are six things to ask yourself before working with any influencer:
1. What are my campaign goals?
Are you hoping to generate overall brand awareness? More leads? Do you have a particular line of products you’re trying to drive sales for?
While most of us would like to achieve all of the above, the proverbial "Rome wasn’t built in a day" phrase applies here as well. Try starting by focusing your efforts on one or two prioritized goals for optimal results. This will help you see more clearly which influencers can best assist with those particular starting points. For example, if you’re trying to push specific product, you can look to influencers who are regularly identifying helpful products to share with their audience. If you’re wanting to improve overall brand recognition and awareness, you can work with influencers who may not push much direct product, but who produce really compelling content that can elevate your brand's perception.
2. Who is their audience?
You could find an influencer who looks like the perfect fit for your brand on paper, but it’s imperative to know who their audience actually is -- not just who you think it might be. Asking influencers for specifics about their audience demographics is a must in order to be sure it aligns with your target market.
Ask for details regarding their top geographic markets, what the breakdown is between their male and female audience, the top age ranges, and any other statistics you deem relevant. Be sure to ask for screenshots directly from their Google Analytics or Instagram/Facebook Insights so you can see the numbers directly from the source.
3. What kind of content do they produce?
In an optimal scenario, brands will find influencers who are already producing content that would fit their brand standards. Brands should take a look at their own guidelines and the sort of content that aligns with who they are at their core. Then, find influencers who are already producing that kind of content.
Not sure where to start? Look at your own branding to date. Are the colors in your logo warm, cool, bright or subdued? Is your brand message one that’s more serious or more playful? Do you tend to be more relaxed and casual or polished and elevated? The more questions you can answer about your own brand, the easier it will be to identify influencers who are in a similar realm.
4. How is their engagement?
Reach is great and not something to completely glaze over, but what you should really be monitoring closely is engagement. How many likes, comments or shares does an average post get? Furthermore, look closely at the type of comments you're seeing on any given post. Are they authentic forms of engagement from active users, or do they seem more like spam coming from some sort of bot account?
While we can’t always fully understand why the "Instagram gods" naturally favor some accounts over others, you can at least get a pretty good feel for what kind of engagement each influencer receives on an average post (as well as other sponsored posts). This will give you a better idea and more accurate depiction of what you’ll receive should you partner with them (instead of guessing based on what you see when you look at their followers).
5. Is this influencer an organic fit?
While you may find loads of influencers who impress you with their aesthetic or engagement, this still doesn’t mean they are the right fit for your brand or your particular campaign. As more sponsored posts pop up every day, users are becoming more aware of what is an authentic recommendation versus what’s merely a paid post.
So, how do you ensure your partnerships yield authentic and compelling messages that lead to real conversions? You find influencers who are an organic fit. In a perfect world, the influencer would already be a fan or loyal user of your product. If that’s not the case, who are influencers you believe would genuinely benefit from what you have to offer?
For example, let’s say your company sells a stylish alternative to clear, TSA-approved travel bags. Find influencers who are already traveling frequently, and whose style and aesthetic align with yours. Even if they’re not already using your product, give them a chance to try it themselves first. If they become a fan before they become a paid sponsor, they’re much more likely to create content that’s convincing and organic.
6. Who else are they working with?
Monitoring other brand partnerships is a great way to see if an influencer is the right fit for you. First and foremost, make sure they aren’t already working with one of your competitors. But furthermore, what do you think about the other brands they support?
If you’re a cruelty-free and vegan brand who really stands by that ethos, it may feel inauthentic and forced to work with an influencer who posted about her favorite burger joint two days ago. Yet if they’re already working with similar brands who also share your core values and ethics, their audience is likely to trust both them and your product that much more. If the influencers you’re considering working with are already posting about brands you support and that overlap with your current audience, you’re on the right track.
Asking these six simple questions can help you start your influencer collaborations off on the right foot and ensure that you’re adding to the overall credibility of your brand, not deducting from it.