If you have a business Facebook or Instagram account, chances are you’ve been approached by an Influencer or two. Sometimes they already love the brand and want to build a relationship, and sometimes they simply want free product to review or give away.
While it’s tempting to say yes to what seems like an easy and cost-effective way to get your products in front of potential customers, it’s important to remember that in the world of social media, things aren’t always what they seem.
Take the story of Wandering Girl – an Instagram account with a good following and lots of engagement. Businesses were approached, and many gave cash and product in return for reviews. Except the account was fake. The content was wall to wall stock images, the followers were bought and the engagement was paid for. All to prove a point.
Of course, this is an extreme example. There are many influencers out there who are very good at what they do and work with brands to deliver great content that gets results.
But how do you tell which is which? How do you work out when to get involved and when to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
Top tips for managing influencer requests
1. Check them out
No brainer, right? You’d be surprised how many times even this basic check doesn’t happen. See how many channels they’re on. Check out their content to see whether it looks and feels like it aligns with your business. Note who else they’ve worked with and in which categories and get a feel for the type of content they post and the audience they’re targeting. Remember, this is a business transaction and you need to feel comfortable that they’ll deliver.
2. Calculate their engagement rate
See how active their account is and whether the level of engagement they’re getting stacks up with the number of followers they have. Not sure how to work this out? Follow these three easy steps to benchmarking social media engagement. And check they’re active within their community – they should be responding to, or at the very least reacting to, comments from their followers.
3. check the timing is right
Being approached by influencers can be flattering but responding to ad hoc requests is unlikely to result in any tangible benefit for your business unless you know exactly what you can offer. Being really clear about who you need to reach and what you expect in return will not only increase your chances of success, it will also scare away anyone just looking for freebies.
4. Set your own ground rules
Once you start saying ‘yes’ word will get around and the number of requests you receive will likely increase. Remember, you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everyone. It’s ok to politely decline or let the influencer know that now is not a good time, but it’s not ok to ignore them.
5. Always drive a business objective
Some product in a courier bag might not be a huge cost to your business, but it’s still a cost. And while the influencer might only have a couple of thousand followers, it’s still your business, your brand and your product being marketed to your target audience. So always – always – make sure whatever the activity is, it’s driving one of your business objectives and you’re measuring return on your investment. Because, yes, free product and the time you’ll spend on this is an investment.
If your objective is awareness:
Give the influencer something to review and something to give away. Ask if they would consider putting some (or all) of the value of the product they get to keep behind their post to get additional reach for you, and for them. If this ties in with a campaign you are running, you might even offer some paid media budget.
Let them know who your target audience is. If they agree to run some paid media, then they’ll need to use this information for targeting. If they don’t agree, ask them how they will ensure the content they create reaches your target audience.
Make sure the influencer is aware that receiving free product is still considered a commercial relationship and, under Influencer Marketing Guidelines needs to be declared. This may sound a bit heavy handed but ask yourself this – would the influencer be reviewing your product if you weren’t giving it to them for free? If the answer is ‘No’ then it’s considered to be paid promotion.
If your objective is online sales:
Give the influencer product to review and a unique discount code to share with their followers. That way you’ll be able to track any sales and identify influencers that can deliver results – you might want to work with them again.
If you are in this for the long haul, you could look to make the influencer an affiliate – which would see them earn a percentage from each sale they generate. This might require some technical changes to the back end of your website but – with the right partnership – can be lucrative for both of you.
6. Always measure results
Regardless of your objective, ask them to publish their post as ‘Branded Content’ for your business. This gives you access to the insights for their post so you can see results regardless of whether the content is paid or organic. If this all feels a bit too hard, at the very least make sure they tag your business page into their post and use any relevant hashtags.
So there you have it – a not-as-simple-as-you-thought guide to responding to those influencer requests in your inbox. Because it’s not that simple.
Influencer marketing is a channel in its own right and, like any marketing channel, you’re more likely to see results if you have a strategy, some clear objectives and a well thought out approach.
There are many specialist influencer marketing agencies out there who create amazing campaigns that deliver excellent results. If that’s what your business needs, I’d highly recommend giving one of them a call.
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