Before we dive in, I think it’s really important to distinguish between two seemingly interchangeable marketing mediums: social media marketing, and influencer marketing. If you can distinguish between the two, it’ll help you delegate the right members of your team to work with influencers - without relinquishing anyone’s creative freedom or distorting job roles.
Social media marketing essentially refers to brands using their own social media accounts to promote themselves by authoring their own posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on – basically any self-publishing platform you can think of. Your own-brand social side of things is mainly about marketing yourself via channels that you control – and there’s the crux – which is why lots of people refer to it as “on-channel” marketing.
Then influencers came into existence, and now we have a social media form of “off-channel” marketing. Influencer marketing revolves around working with other people who have a significant following on social media, to promote your brand or product to their followers – and hopefully influence them into buying something! This process can involve paying influencers directly or compensating them instead with goods or services. While this content might appear on the influencers’ channels, any form of paid marketing (or unpaid now; #giftcentral) must be clearly marked by the influencers.
Since influencers are posting on their own accounts, you will relinquish some control – creatively or otherwise – which is why it’s really imperative you align the archetypes of influencers you’re working with to the archetype of your brand or campaign, build solid and trustworthy relationships, and never chase numbers. In many ways, follower count means nothing, data means everything.
A decade ago, when social media was still very much in its infancy, there were huge question marks around where it sat in a marketing plan. Now, we’re seeing it again with influencers. So, where within your company should your influencer work sit?
Social media team
In my opinion, your social team is the most obvious place to start when thinking about how to fit influencers into your marketing plan. Influencer work across owned, earned and paid social channels works really well for most brands – the two go hand-in-hand after all. Influencers should work as an extension of the existing brand team and are usually ahead of the game when it comes to platforms enhancements and alterations like IGTV for example so they should actually ease the workload of a social media marketing team. Social is also about creating a more impactful, personable relationship with your brand’s audience, and influencers do this really well. They’re also all about content, and spotting who and what will resonate well within their audience, so they’ll be pros at archetypal alignment.
Influencers working with the PR team is a hot option too, given PR folk tend to know exactly how to foster and develop healthy, long-term relationships. It’s all about third-party credibility and editorial opinion, the lifeblood of the PR/journalist relationship. With influencers, much like with journalists, you’re looking to convey your brand’s story via a credible third party and their editorial voice to their audience.
The nervousness that I have in this area is the, generally speaking, PR teams focus more on placement and reach, meaning the data element influencer marketing is often what goes missing so you’re not using influencers to their full potential or measuring success metrics enough.
Despite social media integrating itself further into our lives, traditional forms of marketing still exist, so it’s unlikely that a company’s sole marketing plan will be influencers work. Instead, influencer marketing will be part of a broader mix, with budgets agreed far earlier than within social stakes, making it more of a challenge to get things signed off.
That being said, influencer marketing can work as part of the wider plan which would ease workloads. The best way for a traditional marketing team to work with influencers is to develop an always-on team of brand ambassadors – that way things work on a rolling basis.
An affiliate marketing team will be much more aligned to the trading calendar, so the benefit here will be their innate understanding of the data involved when it comes to working with influencers, and how to evolve the approach based on performance and SEO.
This will naturally lend itself more to being a transactional experience with the brand, rather then a two-way partnership because of the targets associated to the affiliate teams within the organization. People will be selected based on domain authority rather than output so if you’re working with influencers because you want more content, this won’t be the right place for it to sit.
It’s likely your creative will vibe with the artistic endeavors of influencers, and in that way, they’ll be able to envisage a brief and write one pretty accurately. The excitement for an influencer is that their content will be used in different touch-points whether that’s billboards through to TV and for a brand, it’s great to have real, relatable people in those spaces, humanizing campaigns.
Agency creatives are used to having ownership over the brand creative, meaning relinquishing the reins to influencer content creatives can be a challenge, resulting in diluted or inauthentic creative. Since creativity is such a personal skill and everyone has their own vision, a creative team might not be fully aware of how to foster and build solid relationships with influencers, making it frustrating for both parties.
The main issue with not being able to decide where an influencer marketing team would work best within your company, is the inevitable miscommunication and bad briefing that will come as a result of delegating the wrong people with the wrong job roles to deal with influencers. While they might be more economical than most traditional forms of marketing, Influencers aren’t necessarily “cheap” – so you want to be able to make the most out of them, and give them the guidance that allows them to do what they do best. At the end of the day, only you will truly understand your company’s DNA, so stick to what you know and if you kind find the right team within your company to make influencer marketing fit, or it might be an idea to re-think the ways you can use social to market yourself.