Influencer POV with Sircle Media Influencer Marketing Director, Michelle Paltan

 

As Instagram continues to grow and evolve, so does the influencer landscape. Influencers have proven to be especially important during this global pandemic as brands need to create more awareness and storytelling around their messages before people go to stores and to help facilitate online sales during a big uptick in at-home shopping. We sat down with Sircle Media Influencer Marketing Director, Michelle Paltan to give us the dish on all things influencer marketing, during our current pandemic, and how brands can choose partners that are the perfect fit for their message and goals.

What’s the most common misconception when it comes to influencer marketing?

That there’s only one type of influencer that works for your brand. Influencers are people, and just like your customers who are also people, they are multi-faceted and could be looking for a product just like yours even if their feed may not show it. The brands that are doing it right, aren’t staying in just one niche. It’s a balance between your main target consumer and your actual consumer who is buying the product.

How have you seen influencer marketing change since the start of COVID, and even with the rise of Black Lives Matter? 

The main change I’ve seen with both COVID and Black Lives Matter is the increased demand to work with authentic influencers who are able to relate to the state of the world but are also accountable. “Authenticity” has always been a word that was thrown around by brands and influencers, but with the rise of these two topics on social media, it’s become essential to fully understand the true meaning behind it. Just behind that, is accountability. Consumers are holding brands and influencers accountable to make the right decisions on social media which means both sides really need to do their research and make sure they are moving forward in this new world in the right way.

What size (follower count wise) influencers do you think work best for brands?

There’s no one size fits all for influencer marketing. The best way to go about it is to have influencers of all sizes talking about your brand. Different sized influencers might be geared toward specific KPI’s, but they also all have the potential to achieve your marketing goals. I love to use Vital Proteins as an example for this; if you really take a look–they are not pigeonholing themselves to one group over another therefore they are getting constant awareness and visibility.

How can influencer marketing translate to actual sales for a brand?

This is probably the most frequently asked question I get and the answer isn’t simple. First, remove the idea that your first at bat working with an influencer MUST show sales. More often than not, it won’t happen–it’s not impossible but it’s not likely as the influencer’s audience is first learning about your brand. It’s like making a cold call and expecting to close a deal on the first conversation. Brands will start to see ROI through long-term relationships. The sales cycle with an influencer isn’t always easy to track, but over time, you’ll see patterns that show the awareness + engagement that they have brought to your brand will turn into future customers. Adding elements like affiliate programs, paid support through the branded content ads, and again, leveraging the relationship for more then just one post will help lead to ROI faster.

What is something brands should be doing more of, to attract more influencers to their brand?

Adding a contact form or an application on your website for influencers to directly reach out to your brand is a simple, but impactful step. Any area where you can include more touchpoints for influencers that are already interested in your brand to engage and get a hold of you is a major plus in my book.

Where do you think influencer marketing will be a year from now?

If I had a crystal ball…I would say that we’re on the path to even more authentic influencer relationships, which will lead to more education of the brand prior to influencers posting about them. Brands should already be thinking this way and the influencer should be like an extension of your brand. So to make partnerships come from a real, authentic place, you need to act like they are part of your company and provide as much insight as possible so influencers can bring your product to their audience in a way that makes sense and works.

With the increased usage of Instagram, more influencers appear. What do you think about the overwhelming number of influencers, and how do you choose one that is right for a brand?

There’s no such thing as too many, in my opinion. I think it’s great that there are more influencers out there because there’s space for everyone and niches waiting to be tapped into. There are also new brands popping up every day too! However, choosing the right influencer takes a decent amount of research and development. At Sircle, we have come up with a formula that takes into account your brand goals and looks for specific metrics that help us narrow this down. The “right influencer” for your brand can be ever-evolving, as is your brand on social media. At the end of the day, keep in mind who your target consumer is and when considering influencers,  make sure they represent that audience.

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What’s cooking, with Bare Bones Broth X @Sweatsandthecity?

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Creating meaningful relationships with influencers is more important now than ever before. 2019 was the year that saw Instagram become too over-saturated with “one and done” influencer partners, trying to promote different products seemingly on a daily basis. That’s why as a social agency, we seek out long-term, authentic relationships with influencers who give honest feedback about their favorite products and can be a true partner and collaborator. These are much more valuable than an influencer who poses once with your product in hand, but never really becomes a customer or a fan. 2020 should be all about depth!

Recently one of our clients, Bare Bones Broth, an organic line of high-protein, Keto-friendly Bone Broth teamed up with fitness & wellness experts, Elizabeth and Dale of @sweatsandthecity for a three-month partnership. Their first in-feed post included an extremely thoughtful caption by Dale explaining the four ways she loves to enjoy the product. Elizabeth and Dale are the perfect partners for this brand because they talk about all things wellness, fitness, beauty, and food-related and have a large and engaged audience base. Their fans have diverse interests and this client wants to cast a wider net than just strictly speaking to super healthy eaters, making this a perfect pairing.

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When creating long-lasting, meaningful relationships with influencer partners, it’s important to show the authenticity of that relationship to your fans and followers in more ways than an Instagram post. We suggest that brands think outside of the box and look for creative ways to bring value to their audience. To that end, as part of this partnership, we had them create a blog post that we felt would better explain the product and the relationship. This is an excellent format to answer potential questions and is good fodder that can be used as part of the content marketing and sales journey on the brand’s domain.

Here we allowed our fan base to learn more about who we’ve chosen as a partner and why they’re such a great fit. To show this, we conducted a Q+A with Elizabeth and Dale found here! They answered a bunch of great questions and even highlighted their own personal, favorite products:

What are each of your favorite products from Bare Bones?

We are both huge fans of the Organic Chicken Bone Broth and Rosemary & Lemon. They have so much flavor!

 

 

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OMG! – Magnesium is magnificent!

When launching with a new client at Sircle Media, we make sure to focus our efforts on developing a strong foundation for success. When a brand starts out with little to no social media presence, it’s important to be very strategic in your efforts early on. This might include promoting e-commerce, partnering with large brands for giveaways, or striking up relationships with genuine, like-minded influencers.

One thing we see, especially in the CPG space, is that many influencers love to promote products that support a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you have a great product, that solves a real need, many influencers are willing to present it to their followers because they truly believe in it. This is gold for a brand that is truly functional and provides real benefits.

Recently we launched with OMG! Nutrition, a line of on-the-go, easy to mix vegan magnesium packets that help with a multitude of health concerns, such as stress, restless sleep, heart health, digestive concerns, immunity, bone support, nighttime cramps, and even muscle relaxation. OMG! Nutrition is also NSF Verified, meaning that their claims have been vetted by a third party. This is mission-critical with this type of product.

With supplements, it was very important we reached out to those who could speak on the validity of the product. We made sure we partnered with registered dietitians who have studied the benefits and uses of magnesium. Since it also helps with workout recovery, we wanted to partner with an influencer who could show the use of the product in their everyday life.

We eventually came across the perfect fit with @happystronghealthy.rd! Jenna is a well-respected dietitian with an online coaching business. She was the ideal influencer for this collaboration because she has the authority and qualifications to speak about OMG! Nutrition. Our partnership with Jenna started with an in-feed post using their Berry Blast product.

Her results were solid! Jenna is considered a micro-influencer because she has a smaller following, but we have found that most tend to get more engagement on their posts because they are truly connected with their audience. Jenna received 43 comments and 33 website link clicks on her first post, which is impressive.

She posted a very descriptive, well thought out caption speaking to the benefits, uses, and quality of the product and because Jenna is a dietitian, many of her followers are also dietitians, nutritionists, or those looking to improve their health. As a result, many in the health field commented on the post saying they also wanted to try OMG! Nutrition which only reinforces the value of the product to outsiders looking in the comments section.

      

Jenna was a pleasure to work with not only because she was the perfect fit for this collaboration, but because she went above and beyond to promote the product. Since her audience was our ideal target market, her followers truly appreciated her sharing OMG! Nutrition and we found some solid conversations to engage with while doing our follow up community management.

This really did provide much more depth than width, which we would argue is a better play for a product like this.  We plan to sircle back and double down on this strategy.  Stay tuned…

 

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Influencers provide eyeballs and content, but do they produce revenue?

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Creating memorable content is so important when trying to convey to a user how your product might perform. When it comes to food, performance is best conveyed through taste and usage cases, such as recipes. Influencers are an excellent resource to rely on for compelling content, especially since they are the ultimate customer and can convey a more authentic narrative to other users and potential buyers of your product.

When it comes to influencers, we think some are great for influence (providing eyeballs) and some are great for content (food stylists and/or photographers) and the best ones provide both. The truly special partners are those who are judicious in their brand selection and therefore are deemed more reliable than others who seemingly date a different brand every day. These ingredients (pun intended) are what makes Ashley Cuoco (@ashcuoco) one of the best in the game. You cant overuse her because she is selective and ultra-authentic, but when you have a good pairing, as we do with our client Mutti, you have a truly special partnership.

Not only has she produced wonderful content and exposed their brand to other impassioned foodies on Instagram, but it has also opened up a number of great opportunities to have a conversation within the comments.  While community management is the least sexy component of social media, it is probably the most important. Remember, that this is an uncontrolled communications medium and you want to engage in a dialogue with consumers. This is what makes it “social” in the first place and differentiates the efforts from traditional, controlled media, such as PR and branding. Having a true fan of your brand as your influencer partner activates solid word of mouth activity and can directly lead to new business.

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Some brands sleep on the comments and are even completely unresponsive at times. They are happy (sometimes) with the awareness and/or the photo they received, but ironically it is the comments that will most likely lead to actual sales. All brands want to see increases in revenue and that’s why our team pays close attention to the comments section – it’s where the business happens.

We see this especially when a brand works with an influencer that people actually respect and are influenced by. When they post about your product it will often directly lead to questions such as “where can I find this?” or “what are the ingredients?” These are literal buying questions and give you the opportunity for a sale right then and there. Rather than telling and selling, you are responding and facilitating. This is a much better position to be in for a brand.

Below you can see an example of this in action. In May, Ashley posted about a Tomato Confit recipe using Mutti’s Canned Tomatoes. The asset was beautiful and it opened up a dialogue with various users.

Another micro-influencer, @gatherweekly, commented on Ashley’s post and the influencer and brand both responded quickly and provided ways to secure the product through various distribution channels. This is excellent ammunition for the client’s salespeople, especially in retail, to showcase demand.

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The lesson here is that you should be working with authentic influencers that can provide you with both content and influence. If you do, it is then mission-critical to be in the weeds on the comments on both their profile and your own. Marketers are obsessed with scale and volume metrics (like impressions and reach) as well as ROAS analytics (Spent X and made Y) but these types of small ball activities are perhaps the most valuable and underrated. We spend quite a bit of time here for our clients and although it is a lot of work, it is certainly worth it.

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Truth Nutrition X @Stellathelight = Influencer Collaboration Success!

When a great brand and influencer pair together, what you see are quick results. Recently one of our clients, Truth Nutrition, an all natural, vegan pre-workout supplement, and influencer @stellathelight, came together for an epic giveaway collaboration.

 Stella, who is a plant-based health coach and fitness enthusiast, was not only a perfect fit for our client, but was also a positive, and professional partner. For the giveaway, Stella was asked to create a post promoting Truth Nutrition’s Vegan BCCA and she truly exceeded our expectations!

Instead of a simple in-feed post for the giveaway, Stella stepped it up and created a well-directed video showing how she incorporates Truth Nutrition into her diet and in the caption, explained all of the benefits of the product. Her motivation to do a stellar job for the giveaway showed that she is a hard-working partner, and someone we’d like to collaborate with in the future.


Not only did Stella provide excellent feedback and create good quality work, but it also produced great results! Our client saw an uptick of 200 followers, which is significant for an unknown brand and from a single post. This giveaway also earned a reach of 16,861 users and 397 profile visits which represents some solid visibility. The fact that she presented it in a fun and simple usage case, made that even more impactful. This served as an excellent advertisement for how and when to use the product. = Win!

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Because Instagram is now saturated with influencers, it has become more and more difficult to find partners who will settle on a reasonable and accurate market price and also provide very solid work. Sircle is always on the hunt for value plays in this arena and this partnership with @stellathelight provided just that. We will most certainly be working with her again!

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#TastesSoFresh: A Mutti Pomodoro Influencer Success Story!

At Sircle we believe influencer marketing is a must-have component of your social media strategy. One of the best ways to generate exposure for your brand is working with influencers on a calculated social marketing plan. Last October, one of our long-time clients Mutti Pomodoro, launched their #TastesSoFresh campaign. Mutti worked with 16 foodie influencers who authentically paired very well with the brand to promote the freshness of their finely chopped tomatoes.

Mutti Pomodoro is a Parma-based company that produces 100% Italian grown and produced, non-GMO tomatoes in a variety of forms. Mutti is the self-proclaimed guardian of authentic Italian tomatoes and honors a rich history while investing in innovation and leading sustainability practices. When finding influencers for a brand like Mutti Pomodoro, it’s important to search for those who are interested in creating delicious recipes and can genuinely speak about why their products taste so amazing.

The foodie influencers we carefully selected for the campaign shared videos of themselves eating their freshly chopped tomatoes straight from the can. Not only did this create great exposure for the product, but also gave them excellent user-generated content for their Instagram Stories and feed. This plan, therefore, nailed each of Sircle’s core pillars; growth (followers, impressions, reach and emails), engagement (captions, comments and lots of buzz from influencer followers) and content (really nice, influencer produced UGC).

Because Mutti is a very traditional brand, it can seem a bit more difficult to make their campaigns seem trendy in a social media space. That’s why searching for the most compatible influencers such as @madelinemhall, and @meatballssmama was essential for this niche brand. What is unique about working with true foodie influencers, is that many of them never show their faces in their posts. Once we found influencers that truly resonated with what our client is all about and got them to actually try the product, nearly all of them showed their faces in their posts. This is significant, as it assigns a deeper stamp of approval from these tastemakers AND it ties in nicely with Mutti’s marketing philosophy, which is that it is about the “chefs” as well as the food. If you love to cook and use great products, this really is the brand for you. This came across well thru this campaign.

Throughout the #TastesSoFresh campaign, we posted an influencer regram every two days to keep the buzz and momentum going and to show that Mutti tomatoes are perfect just the way they are; just tomatoes and salt. Once all of the influencers posted their videos, Mutti created a compilation video to send to email subscribers, creating even more exposure and interest in the product and helping create excitement among their growing community.

This campaign was a huge success and didn’t require a big financial commitment. It was more about hustle, finding good, smart partners and believing in our client’s awesome product(s). We will be running something similar back in the coming months, so be sure to go and check out Mutti and keep an eye out.

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Snapbac + Santia Deck = Influencer Gold.

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As we’ve stated many times before, at Sircle Media, we love to forge partnerships with thoughtful, authentic influencers. Recently one of our clients, Snapbac, (a line of compression-based sportswear that helps you warm up, work out and recover, all in one garment with revolutionary heat and ice therapy pods) partnered up with the incredible Santia Deck, an Olympic USA rugby hopeful and USA flag football athlete. Not only does Santia have a following of 328,000+, but many of them are real athletes who love to engage with her posts. Meaning she has width and depth.

The partnership consisted of some Instagram feed posts and Instagram Stories each month over many months. On Santia’s feed, she went above and beyond the terms of the contract, because she really found value in the product. This is such an important, though often overlooked ingredient to true collaboration with people of influence. Many get paid to promote products they don’t even use, to be honest, and that is just not the real deal. Santia sported their gear organically during her sprinting exercises and rugby workouts because they help her perform at her best, which is the intent of the product in the first place. These posts resonated well with her audience and she was the “featured actress” and Snapbac was just the supporting cast.

She also did a Story takeover and she discussed the benefits of the heat and ice therapy pods as well as why she loves the compression on both the top and bottom part of the body. Before the takeover, she announced that she would be doing so on her own Instagram Story. During the takeover, Santia did not post on her own feed, so it felt like she was genuinely taking over the Snapbac account for the day.

Her takeover offered real content from a fitness maven, explaining exactly how to use our product (=content Gold) and it also provided 2-3X the amount of impression consumption on each Story (in comparison to 200-300 which is the norm). We also had a spike of 100 followers that day along with DMs about our product and pricing (=buying questions!).

Santia Deck has been such an incredible influencer to work with. She is awesome, a real inspiration in fitness and a great partner. Not only did she wear Snapbac’s apparel in posts directed towards the brand, but she also wore the apparel in posts where she was advertising for other brands (=added value).

Working together with influencers that resonate with your brand and understand how to represent the product is what makes the right partnerships so successful. This is why Sircle believes in the power of a fully integrated partnership with real influencers who wield actual influence AND know how to play the game and really collaborate with their brand partners. Just another reason, why @trackbaby001 is a star!

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Influencers: Pay them, deploy them and let them do what they do…

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I recorded a podcast episode on the Inner Sircle about working with influencers in today’s market. So many brands are missing this golden era and excellent time of opportunity by not engaging with influencers or by doing it all wrong.

First off, you should not be on the sidelines, plain and simple. Influencers represent targeted community infiltration at scale and that should be part of your mix. Find solid power users, who fit your target demo, analyze their posts, tone, energy, and community and then reach out and negotiate. Remember these are humans and often don’t know how to price themselves correctly. Most swing for the fences and unfortunately, often get their ask from PR Firms or brands that don’t counter well. As a result, they get the wrong sense of the true market. That being said, there is always room for compromise and conversation if you get in the sandbox and play the game. We find the best dollar value comes from multiple posts over many months, rather than “one and done” relationships. This happens because the human behind the Instagram profile values guaranteed recurring revenue for security.

Don’t just look at follower count, which is often BS or has a lot of fluff, that is not your target demo. We argue that you don’t even look at the quantity of engagement as this can also can be BS or just a lot of likes, that equate to nothing. Instead, find someone with fewer followers and less engagement, but who engages back with every single follower. This is someone who is creating a real bond with those users and therefore wields more influence over them. Bottomline – beware those who post but don’t engage and/or who only post staged, one-off product photos. Conversely, over-value those who really carry out on the dialogue and who integrate more with the products in their feed and Stories, like @calliegullickson did for OWYN above.

Once you do get in the game, source the right influencers and negotiate well, but don’t mess it up by trying to be too controlling over the message. Hire them for their storytelling and then let them do just that. The best example of the right way, was when Nike hired Casey Neistat to make a commercial for the #MakeitCount campaign. Rather than a big budget commercial, he and his friend Max just hit the road and went on an epic journey together to actually live the message rather than show it in a contrived way. The result was over 29million YouTube views and a campaign that went down in history as one of the best influencer engagements of all time. It doesn’t hurt that Casey is an all-time great storyteller and content legend, but worth noting this was way back in 2012 when he was not as expensive and was much less well known than he is now.  Go out and find your Casey Neistat people!

 

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Influencer Marketing: Look for transformational relationships over transactional ones!

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When working with influencers, seek out true partnerships over “one and done” post relationships. Of course, a singular post with your product in hand can earn tons of impressions and potentially a bunch of likes and engagements too. However, if you want to really move the needle, you should look to integrate into their life and routine.

If an influencer really has a captive audience that actually pays attention to their recommendations and guidance, as is the case with @sweatsandthecity, then you should look to create a transformational relationship vs. a transactional one. Here she talks about a 9-month journey, to try and get her gut health back in line after a battle with diverticulitis. She credits meditation, cutting out foods found to be an issue in an Alcat Test, Acupuncture AND our client Terra Origin’s Healthy Gut product, as the steps to getting there. What an amazing endorsement!

If you have a great product and believe in it, look for partners who can convey that message for you. It can be the benefit, the clean label and/or the taste that stands out. Have them help you package that story and speak to something they have personally used or consumed and actually appreciate. Then let them do the storytelling in their own way and look at the depth (engagements, actual words in the comments and chances for a dialogue) even more so than the width (impressions and follower count). That is much more likely to INFLUENCE consideration and trial from their audience, which is the whole point of it all, isn’t it?

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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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