POV: 2019 State of Influencer Marketing Report

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The team at Relatable recently put out a report on the state of influencer marketing for 2019. They partnered up with 350 brands and agencies to source comprehensive data and insights to help hone in on the current situation.

This study showed that influencer marketing is not about earned media and shipping out free products anymore, it is now about working with the right and relevant influential individual that can help companies reach their target audience. Although, 95% of respondents believe that influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing, 24% of them have zero experience with influencer marketing in their company and 8 out of 10 brands will have a dedicated influencer marketing budget in 2019.

Marketing teams are tending to launch monthly and quarterly campaigns, combined with an always-on program, while about 1 in 4 are limiting their executions to when they’re launching new products. 82% of respondents stated that their company is currently advertising on Facebook and 7 out of 10 marketers agree that their Facebook Ads are getting increasingly more expensive and harder to optimize. 76% of marketing teams are operating their influencer marketing manually, without any tools, and although there is no lack of platforms, tools, and technologies available for those who are looking to take their influencer marketing to the next level, many are still not leveraging them.

Half of the marketing teams think finding influencers to participate is a very big challenge. They also fear a lack of control on message and need to make sure that the influencer’s creation(s) will resonate with their audience and will authentically connect with new and existing consumers. On top of this, 75% of marketing teams are concerned about fraud and bots that mess with results.

Awareness and consideration were the most common marketing objectives when running an influencer marketing campaign with only 50% being sales.  Fewer and fewer brands are using follower growth as a KPI, which is good to see.  There is a clear opportunity to combine influencer marketing efforts and content marketing budgets to increase return on advertising dollars.

With 80% of brands allocating a budget to influencer marketing and nearly 1 out of 4 lacking the necessary experience to manage these campaigns, there is a real need for education and support. Influencers should not be in a silo and most likely not run by your PR firm. Your social media manager should project manage the relationships and either grind it out manually or, if the budget permits, they should leverage tools or 3rd party agencies to help do some of the heavy lifting.

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Social Media: Planning For The Now

Social-Media-Tactics

Lately, I have been having a lot of conversations with Founders and Marketing Directors about social media and I find that there are a lot of blanket statements being thrown around that are built on very soft foundations. It is so important to really understand the value or opportunity each social network can provide and then map that against your product or offering. You also need to take into account current usage and tools and trends on each, to make sure you are approaching it the right way, for right now. Sircle Media issues a general roadmap for our clients that is revisited each quarter, but each brand needs to take that a bit deeper for their own business.

We suggest a quarterly re-assessment for brands that reviews the current state of the union on their top platforms and takes into account the most pressing needs for that brand in the immediate future. For example, if a brand just landed their first big order with a major retailer, the most important thing for the company at that moment is likely supporting velocity so they can help ensure that (even more) important second order. If this is the case you might need to:

1- Run hyper-local and super targeted Ads to underwrite the relationship and potentially drive foot traffic.

2- DM local influencers on Instagram and try and get them to engage with you and perhaps even pay them to go to the store and hype the shelf space.

3- Create content that specifically highlights the relationship (your logo and their’s) and then boost that content or run them as Ads at fans of said retailer and your competitors.

When the company needs to triage and be narrowly focused on a top priority like this, you have to have a smart plan of attack in place to improve your chances of winning. You don’t want to be stuck in the mud, with edits and debates over general lifestyle photography when your most pressing need deserves more attention. You also don’t want to be single platform reliant, as I think many Brand Managers are with Instagram right now. You need to have a holistic plan of attack and not dismiss any platform or component of a platform without research and thinking.

You need to have a current game plan built upon what is in front of you and not be so romantic or so set in stone about what did or did not work before. Social platforms and how best to use them are constantly evolving and it is imperative you are evolving with it. Think about what you want to happen and then reverse engineer from there.

You don’t necessarily want a certain amount of Instagram followers. You want a retailer to shelve your product and you think that your Instagram count is a necessary step to get there. I will admit that for a long time it was, but nowadays you have more savvy buyers and some realize that your follower count is not the only measure of your influence. If you are smart about using FB/IG Ads and influencers the way you should in q1 2019, then you are actually accomplishing what your follower count used to imply. You are proving that you are able to support the retail relationship with awareness and attention that benefits you both.

That is playing the current social game the right way…right now!

 

 

 

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Influencer Spotlight: @Headstandsandheels

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At Sircle Media, a big part of what we do for brands is managing relationships and strategic partnerships with influencers. These days, a lot of people are faking it in the influencer space, so it is really important to analyze and understand what makes one great.

We recently partnered with an amazing young woman, who goes by @headstandsandheels on Instagram. First off, I like the handle selection, as it doesnt pigeonhole her as much as others because she can toe the like between health and fashion. She is not a macro influencer with 100K+ followers, but she provides so much more depth than many of those profiles. To me, it is about strategically finding underpriced attention, rather than reaching for overpriced partners that often lack the punch their numbers imply.

We prefer to look for brand ambassador type engagements over one and done relationships that are all too common these days on social. We contacted Melanie and together came up with a multi-dimensional partnership to be run over the next few months for our client, Terra Origin. It involves many posts, online content, offline events and a really comprehensive collaboration that allows her to really get to know and experience the brand and products and provide her take on how they make her feel or perform in general. In order to really wield influence and opine on their value, she had to immerse herself in them. This way she can provide honest and truthful information (the whole point of “influence”) and our client (who of course, believes deeply in their products) gets to show off their wares to someone who is a bullseye target.

Plenty of influencers strike these types of partnerships every day, so this alone is not a differentiator.  What makes her special is that she is a wonderful soul and a pleasure to work with. So many influencers lack business acumen and are hard to deal with. Others don’t actually have influence and are selling follower count over everything else and not willing to put in the work. Melanie acted like a business person and really sat down and negotiated with us to help get us to terms (financial/logistical/creative) that work for both parties.

I also want to point out how she engages with her community. Many influencers post content that is beautiful (and even accomplishes the reach desired from the relationship) but I find that so many don’t engage in their comments on those photos. They treat the relationship like PR (one-way presentation) and don’t get into the weeds and conversation with their followers. To me, an influencer who does not do that religiously is leaving opportunity on the table and extremely vulnerable to losing their influence as platforms evolve. She is in there, having a conversation and providing depth in addition to her width. This makes her a great partner.

Bonus: In the image here, she is wearing Sweaty Betty which is a brand Terra Origin would love to be associated with. I know some marketing folks who would be annoyed that they were underwriting the relationship and another brand was stealing some of the thunder.  I personally love the association upside it brings with it. I look at it as her being authentic and living her life and she is bringing value to that other brand too in the process. To me, it means she either worked with them before and as a truthful influencer, continues to bring value to a brand she had a relationship with because she genuinely likes the product. OR it is a brand she just loves (and has such a solid brand profile, that you could argue it actually raises her street cred) and that brand should pay attention and come work with her. Regardless of the spirit, I love and applaud the hustle and tactic.

Big fan Melanie, big fan!

 

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Instagram Is The Social Network Of The Moment…

can_you_buy_50_instagram_likes_for_an_affordable_priceOur Fall 2018 Interns have been part of the #SircleSquad for a little over a month now and they’re getting down to business! This semester, we’ll be sharing a blog post by one of our interns, on a topic selected by them.

First up, is Amanda Arevalo of Fordham University!

Amanda Arevalo

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Instagram is the most important social media platform to invest your company’s time in, plain and simple. Facebook and Twitter are important too, but Instagram takes the top seat. While Facebook offers more total reach, Instagram has a higher rate of engagement with users. While Twitter is ideal for small businesses and organizations, Instagram is more useful for storytelling, since there are twice the amount of users on Instagram than on Twitter, and its photo-based layout allows brands to have a more personal connection with followers. Statistically speaking, Instagram has more than 800 million active users- 60% of whom check Instagram daily and 80% of users following at least one business account. Those are compelling numbers, so having a strong following, heavy engagement, and the right micro-influencers are crucial to building your brand’s awareness.

For that reason, Instagram is essential to any business, especially if they are early or growth stage entities. The good news is, this isn’t the hard part. If you follow another brand on your business’s Instagram account and you “like” pictures of that brand’s content, a number of things can happen. First the chances of that brand noticing your brand and following back, perhaps to create a collaboration, increases. Some of their followers coming across your brand’s content and liking it also increases. It takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it. If you then create interesting content that tells a story about your brand instead of making a generic sales pitch, you’ll also have a better chance of increasing and keeping your following. Over time, your brand’s impact and awareness will grow exponentially.

Many think that the role of Instagram is to simply display content that followers will like. While this is true, it shouldn’t be the main and only focus. Many companies dedicate all of their time to creating attractive photos, but they tend to forget the importance of engagement. You can have all the followers in the world, but if you lack that necessary engagement with your followers, then none of the likes or views will even matter. So if you spend the time to convey a message or stir up an emotion and you actually succeed and get a response, do not squander that conversation opportunity by staying radio silent.

So what exactly should engagement look like? The focus here is to create a personality for your brand. Your brand’s personality is then used as a tool to create a dialogue with your followers. People tend to not care about brands that don’t care about them. If many people are asking questions on your photos, and your brand doesn’t answer, then their questions are simply left hanging. That’s one potential customer that you just lost. While one may not seem like a big deal, having at least one unanswered question on almost all of your photos means that you have many ignored users. Over time, the number of people that will not want to buy from or interact with your brand, because they feel uncared for or unheard, can add up.

One of the most powerful tools in your engagement arsenal is the regram. If a very happy customer or fan/follower posts a picture of themselves with your product, then that’s great free marketing right there. Your customer is happy, and they want to show all the other people on their feed. This WOM opportunity is powerful and you can pay them back by posting their image on your account. This could potentially lead to more customers coming your way. Simply liking that picture will show that you are taking into account their opinion of your product, but regramming the picture takes this appreciation a step further. It shows that you’re really taking into account what they have to say, which many followers will genuinely appreciate. Knowing that they’re on your account makes them feel excited and cared for, because in that way you’re saying, “I’m happy that you’re happy,” and who doesn’t like that?

Asking engagement questions is also a surefire way to create a dialogue with your followers. This is especially useful to do with your Instagram Story content, which is another super powerful feature on Instagram. Asking a question, even if it’s as broad as “What’s your favorite Fall drink?” will create a dialogue that’s fun and interesting. Instagram Stories have different features where you can add polls (such as the classic poll and the slider) and a “Questions!” feature (which would also be perfect for an “Ask Me Anything” session). Because of this, users will know your company is active, well rounded, and thoughtful- and not to mention, you’ll be able to learn a little more about the audience that your product attracts most.

With different engagement tactics in the books, you begin to publicly establish a foundation for your product. This is something that potential customers truly like to see. Now the question is, how can you get followers to move down the marketing journey path from awareness to consideration and trial? Something people like to see is that a product is attainable, especially after seeing that someone they admire uses it as well. If let’s say, someone who enjoys makeup, sees their favorite influencer use a high-end makeup product, then they will be more inclined to think, “If they [the influencer] are using that brand, then why can’t I?” The use of an influencer will make your brand seem much more appealing to the average user.

On Instagram, there are a plethora of influencers that like to post great photos on their personal accounts with all types of brands in tow. Finding the right influencer is also the best way to target a niche market for your brand, especially if you’re able to extend your reach. At the same time, you can also diversify your audience, and speak to a new, niche market. If you have been focusing on one targeted audience, then you might be ignoring a whole different group of people that are also actively purchasing similar products. Therefore, you should experiment with different types of micro-influencers and use them as trojan horses into new communities. Searching for different types of influencers will allow for different types of people to buy your products. Like with any sale, it is better to have a warm introduction, than to make a cold call to a new customer!

At the end of the day, Instagram is not a magic tool. It’s only useful if you make it useful through effort. That’s why boosting your awareness, creating appropriate content, engaging heavily with your followers (and/or with anyone who engages with your content), and finding the right people to further represent your brand should all be taken very seriously.  With all of these in motion, you are setting your brand up to win on Instagram.  The people and the awareness are there, and so it is on you to go and find them!

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Instagram Story Stickers = Free Exposure Hack

OWYN Stories

Last week I wrote a post about the necessary ingredients needed to succeed as a healthy CPG (or beverage) brand. One such brand is our awesome client OWYN. They have super smart people running point, are investing the necessary capital and hustle, have a great tasting and healthy product and are all about storytelling.

They are always open to new ideas and hacking ways to stand out from the clutter and get their brand messaging out there in the process. Ahead of a weekend full of events, we went ahead and created a custom branded GIF for Instagram Stories that can be used by them and by any IG user for that matter.  We submitted to Giphy and got it approved and it is now searchable by anybody who is posting a Story.
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Without prodding or planning, we had someone post it within a day of creating the asset. Even better, the person @Jessmair, is a power user, with 57K followers on the platform. We have effectively empowered a true influencer with some ammunition to do the heavy lifting for us. We put in some work and earned some free exposure for the brand.

We call that a win!

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On supporting retailers with paid social tactics…

On this episode, we talk about the importance of supporting your retail relationships with smart paid social media tactics. Landing a big order with a retailer is awesome, but once there you need to spring into action to make sure you stay there. We have talked about different ways to influence velocity reports before and it is a major factor in a brand’s success.

You cant just post an announcement and then hope and pray. You need to create compelling assets highlighting the partnership, push that content out via paid social and influencer support and create awareness that drives foot traffic into your partner’s store(s).  Plan ahead and have a campaign ready to launch as early as possible to have an immediate impact. Remember it is not about just getting on shelves, it is about staying there!

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On using Twitter Search to your advantage…

On this episode, I talk about using Search.Twitter.com to your advantage more for business. I think brands have given up on Twitter and/or have really demoted it in favor of Instagram (proper and Stories) and Facebook. That is fine, but it most certainly should not be abandoned.

Whether you use it personally or not is irrelevant, what matters is that a ton of people do use it religiously and are often using it to seek information and recommendations about a range of topics. The search feature is incredibly powerful because within seconds you can take a peek at what conversations are happening and chime right in.

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A simple search for “Vegan Protein Powder” will give you a breakdown of all people who are talking about that topic on Twitter. Not only can you find other brands to collaborate with, competitor brands to monitor and influencers to engage as secondary benefits, but more importantly you will find customers looking for advice.

For a brand looking to sell a product online and to introduce something new to a niche market this is everything.  As you can see below, these are three inquiries for recommendations on this exact topic in the past week.

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For me, this is gold. I can easily see who is talking about the itch that my product can scratch and I can chime into the conversation from the comfort of my own home?  Sign me up…

 

 

 

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On communication between clients and agencies…

On this episode, I talk about how clients and agencies should treat the courting process more like interviews to really get a better sense of what it will be like working together.  Of course, the skills and knowledge should be assessed, but the attitude, tone, and communication approach are of equal importance.

Clients should really try to smoke out how agencies roll in those areas and conversely, I think it is so important for the agency to get a sense of what the client is like and how they want to be communicated with. I try to do a real level setting up front, as well as ongoing temperature check-ins to see how we are faring throughout the relationship. I can say very confidently that the clients who openly communicate and are transparent with their thoughts and feelings about our approach and service all outperform those who do not.

We are experts in navigating social platforms, managing paid social ads, working with influencers and effectively running social media for brands, but we are not expert mind readers.  Just as open and honest communication internally between employers and employees is the key to success, so too is the need to follow suit with your agency relationships.

Tips:

1- Be straightforward and never passive aggressive. 

2- Be brutally honest and always fair. 

3- Don’t allow frustration to mount and allow a molehill to become a mountain.

4- Don’t assume the agency knows exactly what makes you tick, guide them.

5- Allow the relationship to evolve and do level setting reviews from time to time to point the compass for all parties involved.

Invest the time and improve your client-agency relationships, because if you do that you put your brand in a better position to win.

 

 

 

 

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POV on Instagram Stories – March 2018

On this episode, I talk about the compelling stats behind Instagram Stories.  Some compelling stats:

- 300 million active daily users

- Over 1/3 of Instagram users are viewing Stories daily

- Snapchat Story views have declined 15-40% since Instagram launched their Stories product

- Major Snapchat influencers are now posting 2x more on Instagram Stories than on Snapchat

- 1 in every 5 organic Stories earns a direct message (proving consumption is happening)

- Daily consumption of Instagram has skyrocketed since the launch of Stories (raising the tide for the whole platform)

If you aren’t taking Stories seriously, you need to recalibrate. This is a real platform in and of itself and should probably be the first focus when using Instagram and not in the second position. Experimenting with organic and paid Stories efforts will prove out the be far more beneficial than sweating the organic reach and like count on each Instagram post. That serves a purpose too, of course, but is less of a driver than before.

Invest in Stories more now and take advantage of the good times, before that starts to change for the worse and they less value. Don’t sit on the sidelines reading yesterday’s news. Grab your phone and start telling your brand’s story…

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On KPIs and social media…

On this episode, we talk about social media and the KPI conversation. Our argument is that a brand or business needs to first determine what their goals are and then articulate that to their employees and/or vendor partners. They shouldn’t get lost in the weeds on terms like CPM’s and Ad Recall Uplift, they should just define what they want/need to happen and then allow their team to create a gameplan against that.

Let me explain this a bit further. “I want to grow my Instagram followers by 5K” sounds like a KPI but I would push back on that and ask – why, what does that give them specifically? This is a tactic and not a goal. Worth noting:
Goals are at the top and are the macro drivers: 
i.e. Reach 1 million vegan moms
Strategies are one step down and are different tributaries to that goal:
i.e. Facebook Ads, influencer partnerships etc.
Tactics are the small ball, micro executions within strategies:
i.e. Dark posts, influencer giveaways etc.

So growing your IG follower count is a tactic, under the strategy of leveraging the IG Platform and that strategy should feed into a bigger goal. So if that goal is to reach 1 million vegan moms, then we would argue that in today’s IG landscape, harvesting your own follower count is not the best tactic to accomplish that. You are better served by leveraging more paid Instagram work, more integrated collaborations with influencers and even brand collaborations that put you front and center with an audience already established by another like-minded brand.

We are all about KPI’s and ROI, as a way to measure success via social media, but I flip the script and put it on the client to think it thru first. Define the goals, discuss and debate strategies and then let your team execute on different tactics. Tactics will vary and come and go, and strategies will change and modify along the way too, though less frequently.  Goals should remain pretty consistent and be revisited every 6 months.

Don’t make your social media vendor (or any vendor for that matter) or your internal social media team report back on random statistics that add no value.  Tell them where your destination is and let them lead the way to get there. The trip won’t always be straight or perfect, but if all turns are made with the destination always in mind, then you are more likely to get where you were going at the outset.

 

 

 

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