THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO INFLUENCER PARTNERSHIPS (PART 1)

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We’ve all had that moment of staring at a blank white box where social post copy should go

It can be hard to think of creative words that also get your message across day in and day out. This challenge is heightened for brands and agencies working on influencer partnerships. You want the influencer’s aesthetic and the brand’s messaging to be communicated clearly and effectively, but how will that really impact the success of the campaign?

The game of influencer marketing can be hard to beat. With so much noise and competition on social media, brands and influencers need to do everything they can to get that extra advantage in the feed. And as these partnerships become a bigger part of marketing budgets, there’s more data out there that gives us insight into what’s working, and what isn’t.

This post is the culmination of a collaborative study between top marketing researchers and 1000heads, a leader in social-first digital marketing. We set out to understand how even the smallest tweak in copy could impact brand and influencer partnership content and what best practices could be instituted to ensure optimized performance for partnership campaigns.

These insights will help any brand marketer elevate their influencer partnerships to ensure they hit performance objectives and provide a best-in-class experience for consumers.

METHODOLOGY: LEVERAGING THE INDUSTRY STANDARD.

The 1000heads Insights team collaborated with a committee of faculty, data scientists and researchers at NYU, Dartmouth, USC and Tulane to analyze over 12,000 influencer and brand partner posts on Instagram. Social posts were leveraged from 1000heads’ proprietary influencer tracking platform VOICEBox and cover content from several thousand influencers across a diverse range of influencer passions and industry sectors. The analysis focused on the impact of linguistic features on influencer post engagement (likes, comments and shares).

The researchers leveraged the industry-standard dictionary for text analysis, LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry Word Count), to build a machine learning regression model to determine which linguistic qualities of an Instagram post help and hurt engagement rates (ratio of engagements to influencer follower size). 1000heads added a layer of analysis, drawing out practical insights on how brands and influencers can collaborate to create more effective social media content.

AUTHENTICITY: GENUINE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN BRANDS, INFLUENCERS AND FOLLOWERS BREED TRUST.

The better social media ads get at reading our minds, the less we trust brands on social platforms, and the more likely we are to take a recommendation from trusted influencers who share their own experience. Consumers crave authenticity online.

Our research found that the format of posts may influence how the content is received by consumers. When your brand is working with influencer partners to create content, you can use these simple insights to create post copy that really resonates with the influencer’s audience.

“Followers want influencer content to feel authentic and real, like a conversation with a friend. Content that feels unnatural or too sales heavy is likely to lose the interest of followers.”

First, posts containing casual language (slang, abbreviations) and auxiliary verbs (forms of “be,” “do,” and “have”) performed better than those that didn’t. This implies that followers want influencer content to feel authentic and real, like a conversation with a friend. Content that feels unnatural or too sales heavy is likely to lose the interest of followers.

Our research also showed the importance of utility when it comes to speaking to consumers. More specifically, posts that used “help,” “protect,” or “stop” saw higher engagement rates, a 9.7% increase. Such language is able to trigger that the post will offer value to the audience and help make their lives easier or better in some way.

Second, people follow influencers because they care about what that person thinks and feels. When influencers use first-person language (“I,” “me,” “my”) followers are more likely to engage; we saw a +3%pp increase in engagement rate. Talking about what they’re doing or why they love a product can drive engagement up, and the converse is also true.

When influencers talk too much about others, using pronouns like “she,” “he,” and “they,” the engagement on that post goes down. This includes talking about the followers themselves. Our research found that while addressing followers with “you” and “your” is generally okay, overuse, especially in the context of a sponsored post, can come off less sincere and too forceful.

READABILITY: LOOKING BEYOND THE PICTURE — POST COPY CAN IMPACT CAMPAIGN PERFORMANCE.

Although visuals are the best way to get the attention of users, captions are becoming increasingly more important. The movement toward “microblogging” — a long-form social media post that goes into additional detail or tells a story related to the post — signifies that a pretty picture isn’t the only way to stop people from scrolling.

However, our research uncovered that users don’t just want content, but want it formatted in an easily digestible way. Proper formatting in a post resulted in +6%pp better engagement performance on that piece of content.

When creating body copy for a post, it’s important to keep readability in mind. Formatting posts with organized lists and colons (:) draw the reader’s eye through the text and guide them to the most important pieces of information. Additionally, using numbers to list out items or steps in a process appeals to audiences.

Conversely, our research found that lists in paragraphs with an excess of commas take more effort to read and as a result lose followers’ attention.

Remember when creating body copy that readability is an important factor in capturing and keeping consumers’ attention.

IMPACT OF DISCLOSURES: HOW TO SET THE GROUND RULES FOR YOUR INFLUENCER PARTNERSHIPS.

The proliferation of influencers was fast — faster than the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could keep up with in terms of regulation and guidelines. While broad guidelines were introduced in late 2017, it wasn’t until late 2019 that the FTC more clearly defined disclosures and sponsorships and started very publicly enforcing compliance with their influencer guidelines.

With the importance of disclosures and FTC compliance in mind, we looked at how copy-based disclosures impacted influencer content, specifically the volume of disclosures as well as the location of the disclosures within the posts’ copy.

“When working with an influencer, brands should be prescriptive in how they want influencers to disclose the relationship.”

The FTC requires sponsored posts to use simple and clear language to disclose the relationship between brand and influencer. Simple explanations like, “Thanks to Arnold Bread for the free product,” can be enough if placed at the top of the post in a way that is hard to miss.

In terms of disclosure location, the FTC requires some kind of disclosure in the first few words of the post. Terms that describe the influencer as a “partner” or “ambassador” for the brand are acceptable.

Including hashtags with disclosures such as “ad,” “advertisement,” and “sponsored” are not necessary. In fact, our research found that those hashtags at the end of the copy led to slightly higher engagement (+0.2% percentage points) compared to posts where influencers led with the disclosure hashtag. Although the difference was small, when looking at engagement rates between 3% to 4% (the average for influencer and brand partner content) even the smallest increase in engagement rate can have an impact on the post’s overall performance.

While disclosing influencer and brand relationships at the beginning of the post is important, do it in a clear and natural way that describes the relationship and save those hashtags for the end of the post.

When working with an influencer, brands should be prescriptive in how they want influencers to disclose the relationship — not just leave it up to the influencer. This protects the brand as well as the performance potential of the post.

Additionally, when an influencer indicates they are “partnering” with a brand, the content lends itself to be received as authentic and genuine. This verbiage indicates the brand and influencer have an authentic relationship and chips away at the perception that influencers are just mouthpieces for brands in disguise. A partnership assumes a level of autonomy for the influencer, which in turn makes the relationship less transactional.

FOR THE REST OF OUR RESEARCH AND A SUMMARY OF TIPS FOR MARKETERS...SEE PART 2!