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How Brands That Work with Micro Influencers Create Branded Content – and Replace Their Content Studio

Is your brand struggling with content creation for visual social networks and/or visual content mediums? Are you trying to figure out how to best leverage influencers as part of your content creation efforts to drive traffic and improve your engagement rate? What about the challenge of how to approach micro – influencers to collaborate around your content initiatives? These are the questions that are top of mind for many brands today, and this article will show you how brands that work with micro influencers create branded content to the point where you could consider replacing your content studio with their deliverables.

Influencer Marketing: From Pure Amplification to Collaborative Content Creation

health-ade kombucha @thehonestshruth micro influencer case study

Influencer marketing originally emerged as a social media marketing channel. Brands were looking to leverage influencers with large audiences to incite word of mouth marketing as well as amplify the brand’s content. These were often done through sponsored reviews or sometimes dedicated social media brand ambassadors. These are the traditional types of influencer marketing examples that are stuck in the head of many a marketer.

Over time, especially with the popularity of visual social networks like Instagram, more and more brands are making shifts in their influencer marketing programs and increasingly seeing social media influencers not just as a way to amplify the brand’s content, but as superior content creators. More and more companies are working with influencers to create content that could be leveraged not just in social media, but also throughout organic and paid digital efforts that the company might have.

One of the most recent influencer marketing trends is seeing companies that are outsourcing their entire content creation efforts to an army of micro – influencers.

Why is this happening and why might your brand want to take advantage of this trend? We’ll dive deep into that question, as well as give you some best practices as to how to approach micro – influencers and engage with them, should you wish to use them to replace your internal content studio.

Customer Acquisition Costs are Rising in Social

Organic traffic and a naturally grown engagement rate are still important for total brand image. What are your thoughts on just focusing on the rising acquisition costs? I think the idea here is that using social media as a customer acquisition tool is becoming more expensive, rather than the platforms themselves becoming pay-to-play.

The first trend we see begins with increasingly rising acquisition costs on social media channels. Advertising is becoming more expensive, and working with agencies to develop savvy visual content is not cheap, either. Similar to how many companies are bypassing agencies and talking directly to advertising sales reps at the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, et. al. for their social advertising needs, many brands are taking the process of content creation and shifting it from outsourced agency work to in-house content teams. Read about how many direct-to-consumer brands are doing so in this article here.

Authentic Content Converts

@declansmama711 micro influencer content

With customer acquisition cost increasing, brands are constantly looking at how they can better convert customers through content, and the conclusion today is that authentic content converts best. Whether it is an agency creating content for a brand or a brand doing it in-house, at the end of the day, it’s hard to match the authenticity and perspective of that of a social media user with a solid follower count.

Many brands end up drinking their own Kool-Aid when it comes to their creative content. Furthermore, many brands are so focused on the internal content creation process that they are not properly validating their content with their target audience, and that content when published is never aligned with the tastes and preferences of social media communities. This creates a gap and a need to align content from internal needs to external tastes, and eventually leads to a dramatic decrease in a company’s engagement rate and ongoing traffic. 

Bridging the Content Alignment Gap with User-Generated Content

@sheri_wilson_ micro influencer content

If a brand has a lot of customers already talking about them in social media, leveraging the content of fans who are social media users, something we call user-generated content, can help bridge this gap between internal content creation needs and the tastes and preferences of niche audiences and their millions of followers. When brands don’t have enough word-of-mouth marketing to be able to leverage user-generated content about them, they’re realizing that rather than creating the content themselves, they can simply reach out to micro – influencers to do so on their behalf.

This is why creating influencer-generated content (IGC) is so important for many brands today: IGC can help spark the conversations necessary to eventually create UGC (User-Generated Content). Once social media influencers start talking about a product, it starts catching on.

Influencers as Superior Content Creators

@amandawarren__ micro influencer content

What many people forget is that influencers, whether they be online celebrities, nano influencers with less than a thousand followers, or micro – influencers, are content creators. They are good at creating content that is aligned with and engaged by social media audiences in influencer space. When we look at the cost of our creating content, whether it is through an agency or in-house, we can now begin to compare and contrast those costs with that of working with a micro – influencer to create that content for us. In doing such a comparison, many brands are finding that working with micro – influencers for content creation is extremely cost-effective.

While there are some micro – influencers that would like to be compensated for their time and influencer content creation, there are also many other micro – influencers in the influencer marketing industry who will create content simply for the incentive of receiving free products from the brand.

Further Reading: What is a UGC Creator? And How Do I Become One?

Scaling Content Creation

@runnineverlong micro influencer content

There is another challenge when it comes to having an internal content team: How do you scale that social influencers’ content creation operation while maintaining creativity and authenticity? When it comes to image creation, it becomes difficult to scale for a number of reasons. The challenge is in being able to scale image creation while maintaining its authenticity, because we know it is the authentic content that creates conversations that converts, and, at the end of the day, drives sales on social media platforms.

Trend has built a very, very interesting company, which is helping brands replace internal content teams with armies of micro – influencers. Many brands will try to find influencers and engage with them individually or through finding them on other platforms, like influencer networks. Trend has actually created a pool of influencers and collaborates with them to provide brands content creation at a fixed price rate. When you take out all of the negotiations and back and forth that brands must do with each influencer, you can see how working with a company like Trend can help you achieve economies of scale while engaging effective marketing strategies.

Best Practices in How Brands Work with Micro – Influencers to Create Content

Now that you’ve bought into this approach, how can you best engage with micro – influencers to achieve this type of scale in your influencer marketing strategy?

There are two important points to consider:

Avoid Cold Outreach in Marketplaces

Don’t do cold outreach through influencer marketing tools such as influencer networks or marketplaces. While marketplaces as a directory of influencers provide value for companies who lack experience working with influencers or have time-to-market issues, the problem is that you don’t know whether or not these influencers are authentically interested in working with you or your product. Should you offer them money or product, it might incentivize them to work with you, but if they are only collaborating with you for the money, the end result of the content will lack the authenticity that is the cornerstone of successfully leveraging user-generated content unique to influencer campaigns.

Avoid Individual Influencer Outreach

Influencer outreach comes with similar (as well as additional) problems. Not only will you not know if the influencer genuinely wants to work with you because of your product and not the incentive you are offering, but the burden of vetting how real the influencers’ community and engagement are will rely purely on your own influencer audit powers rather than an influencer program or influencer agency. Individual influencer outreach is also very challenging from a scaling perspective, as you can imagine. The time this approach requires will quickly take over your entire influencer budget.

Trend’s Answer to the How Brands Should Work with Micro – Influencers

Trend provides a service that is an ideal mix of marketplace and individual outreach, with all of its benefits and without the disadvantages that either influencer marketing campaign strategy has. It begins with the fact that they vet every member who has to apply for membership in their database. Confirming that their content is of high quality, as well as ascertaining that they have real people engaging with their content are just two of the many factors that Trend looks at when vetting influencers.

Because it is an apply-only platform, they are not scraping a database only looking at vanity metrics in order to create a large marketplace. Instead, they focus on the quality of the influencers they collaborate with on behalf of brands, from fashion influencers to health and wellness influencers.

The other advantage of working with Trend is that they only work with influencers who apply to work with you. Why is this valuable? Trend’s set up means that every type of influencer that is matched to you wants to work with you. They want to work with you because they feel your product will connect with their audience, or they enjoy your product, themselves.

Trend’s approach to developing an influencer marketing program is valuable because it means that their customers are being joined with bransd or influencers that genuinely want to work together and create a stable, mutually beneficial partnership. Trend’s pool of vetted influencers is the best way to drive sales and increase brand awareness.

Trend also ensures that:

1) From a logistical perspective, your product gets delivered to influencers to create an effective influencer or micro-influencer strategy.

2) Influencers actually publish your content on their social networks.

3) You maintain licensing rights to the content.

If we are going to leverage micro influencers to create an in-house content studio, it begins with making sure that we have legal rights to utilize the images and videos of micro influencers across all of our digital and social efforts.

I have personally known the Founder and CEO of Trend since before he launched his company, and he is someone that is very in tune with Instagram influencers and in developing a service that truly provides value to both influencers and brands. If this is a service that you’re interested in, I urge you to reach out to Trend and their team and schedule a demo to see how their platform works in more detail by clicking here.

Does your brand leverage influencers as a content creation army? 

Do you agree that it is a critical component of the future of influencer marketing ? 

I would love to hear your opinions and experiences as to how you work with micro influencers in the comments below.

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This is a post written by me on behalf of one of my marketing partners. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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  1. Must try this. Content is time consuming.

    p.s. Where are your books available other than kindle?

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