Using influencer marketing is one of the best ways to directly connect with relevant audiences through a medium that those audiences trust. And as many brands are now discovering, the best way to maximize these influencer campaigns is by doing the legwork and taking the time to collaborate with their influencers, working with them to build strategies that make sense for everyone involved – brand, influencer and audience, including recognition of an influencer’s creative freedom.
But there’s a reason that so many brands are hesitant to give influencers creative freedom and instead utilize campaign copy they’ve written themselves, which often comes off as far less authentic than it would otherwise. That’s because brands are huge, and one slip-up can cost a ton – not just in dollars but in public perception. Brands want to make sure that they are presented in the proper light, safely and responsibly, so as not to turn anyone away from their products and services.
As influencer marketing becomes more of a focus, however, it’s vital that brands learn how to find a balance between allowing their influencers to function autonomously while also protecting their own image. Today, let’s explore how to find that balance, and what it looks like to use influencer marketing not only to a good campaign, but a successful one that satisfies everyone involved.
Why Giving Influencers Creative Freedom is Important
Influencer marketing works primarily because audiences view influencers as something like peers. Their authenticity is their greatest tool not only in promoting products and brands but also in simply gaining and expanding their audience. Because of this, influencers also know their audiences best and know how to communicate the most effective message to them.
Without creative freedom, the messaging that a brand requests influencers to use – no matter how well written or created – often comes off as fake, which is perhaps one of the worst perceptions an audience can have of the brand.
It’s vital that the influencers’ message seems honest and true to themselves, as if your product is something that they discovered on their own.
For example, the massively popular Whole30 food blogger Alex Snodgrass, who operates a blog and Instagram under the name The Defined Dish, is all about clean living and eating. Rootz Nutrition, which sells healthy, vegetable-based protein powders and supplements, has partnered with her and allowed her to use her own voice and format to promote their product. In Instagram stories, she shows followers how she uses Rootz products in healthy shakes for her kids, without using any copy-and-pasted words or jargon. Rootz recognized that Alex was successful for a reason and gave her the autonomy to showcase their products the way she wanted.
Creative Freedom Leads to More Collabs
Authentic messaging doesn’t come out of thin air; it’s built over a period of time, which is another reason that some brands are skeptical about influencer marketing strategies. However, giving influencers the creative freedom to help create successful campaigns also leads to future collaborations between you and the influencers you partner with.
In a recent poll, 77 percent of influencers said they were more likely to want to work with a brand again if they had the freedom to be creative within the confines of the campaign strategy. Putting faith in the long-term fruits of your campaign labor is huge and can get your brand in front of the same targeted audience multiple times. Not only does it ensure a consistent audience, it also gives you a trusted partner you can come back to again and again.
An audience that sees your product with the same influencer on a repeat basis may seem like a waste of money and time, but it’s quite the opposite. It shows the audience that your product is worthwhile and also tells them that you’re a reliable company, because the influencer wouldn’t continue to work with you if this was not the case.
Engagement Stats Over Follower Counts
When brands begin looking for influencers, they should aim for long-term partners. This enables brands to not just give their influencers creative freedom, but also to continue to build trust as campaigns finish and end up successful. Finding the right influencers to partner with is key, however.
In this search, brands need to be wary of putting too much trust in high follower counts. While a sizeable audience is obviously a positive, it can also be misleading. Followers can be bought and gathered in false ways, leading to inaccurate numbers and disappointing campaigns. The true statistic to focus on is engagement stats.
Engagement is the key factor in achieving ROI in your campaigns. Check the statistics on what percentage of an influencer’s followers actually engage via likes and comments with their content. The world of influencers is massive, filled not just with misleading audiences but also with fake accounts posing as influencers, as well as accounts like reporters and journalists who are not actually influencers but do garner a lot of attention. Engagement can help you find the real gems among the crowd.
Plan Your Goals
With any sort of campaign, no matter the medium, it’s vital to form goals and measurements ahead of time. Ask yourself questions. What do you want to achieve through this collaboration? What does a successful influencer marketing ROI look like? How can your influencer help you get there? How much of “getting there” is not up to the influencer and instead should fall on your shoulders? How will you measure the campaign’s success?
These might all seem like basic details, but you’d be surprised how often they are overlooked, leading to disappointment and brands cutting ties with influencers who are actually doing great work. Without properly cataloguing your goals and measurements, you’re operating in the dark. Virtually any ROI that isn’t staggeringly high can end up looking lackluster when you didn’t have goals in place. Answer the above questions, and any others that might be relevant to your brand, then put them into a detailed contract.
Again, as is the case with any digital marketing campaign, you can’t rely on the influencer doing a few social posts then doubling your company’s revenue. Influencer marketing campaigns are worthwhile and lead to engagement and ROI, but they can often take time. More importantly, they take work from both the influencer and the brand itself.
In another influencer marketing trend that simply cannot die fast enough, many brands are initiating influencer marketing campaigns without setting up the company itself and its website for success. The messaging is off or it’s not optimized for conversions or it has very little useful content.
For example, if an influencer drives a follower to your landing page, have you and your team set up that landing page, optimizing it for conversions? If they’re writing blogs for you, are you running paid Facebook ads for those blogs to make sure the content is visible to not just their audience but also to audiences unfamiliar with both your brand and the influencer?
As Dave Peck of RingCentral says, “You can have the best influencer in the world and the most successful campaign, but if the content on the other end [is bad], then the campaign won’t work.”
This is why influencer marketing campaigns absolutely must be a team effort between brands and influencers. You can’t expect your influencers to do it all; that’s what your marketing and web development teams are for.
Meet in the Middle
While creative freedom is important and meaningful for influencers, you don’t have to start by giving every influencer total autonomy. Start small, allowing influencers to use their voice and their own style to help create an authentic tone for the brand. Once you’ve worked together longer and have built up more trust in your influencers, you can begin giving them more and more freedom. It’s a relationship, not a transaction, and like any relationship, trust leads to success.
“While I get that cursing is not attractive for brands, marketers should aim to meet creators halfway,” says Ry Doon, comedian and Vine celebrity. “Creative freedom is huge for us, and it really does dictate who we choose to work with. Give influencers breathing room, and trust that we know how to produce content in a style that will generate greater engagement with our audiences. The bottom line: I’ll stop cursing in my Vines if you stop mandating that I add twenty hashtags to every post.”
It can be helpful to put yourself in the shoes of your influencers. They’re not doing this with the sole purpose of promoting your brand; this is their lifestyle and career. Influencers want to cultivate audiences that trust them by being genuine, authentic and creative.
A synergistic relationship between your brand and an influencer is only possible by meeting somewhere in the middle, leveraging both your company’s strengths and their audience’s desires. It’s difficult to reach an audience by forcing an influencer into a box, as audiences can easily tell when someone they follow is promoting something using cookie cutter, copy-and-pasted words.