When The New York Times runs two different reports on brands partnering with social media influencers over a single weekend, you know the trend is real.
Eric Dahan, CEO of influencer marketing company Instabrand, has a particular interest in this trend–his company’s platform specializes in connecting brands with budding social stars and facilitating mutually beneficial relationships between the parties.
We asked Dahan some questions about the trend; his answers after the jump.
What does your platform do to help brands find influencers?
We have a tagging system that allows influencers to choose their own tags for brands to search when looking for relevant parties. For example, we have the ‘fitness’ tag which allows fitness brands to quickly identify a base level of influencers willing to partner and sponsor their product.
What trends have you observed among the influencers?
Influencers are rarely big name celebrities. Often times they are teenage girls or ‘tweens. There tend to be more active female influencers than male influencers.
How does the gift-giving/relationship process work?
We often don’t gift product; rather, we seed it as part of the deal we have with the influencer on behalf of the brand they’re promoting. We allow the influencers to choose their own product, which helps keep the post more personal and more organic for the influencer.
When brands send out gifts, it ends up being pretty hit or miss. Some influencers will post about the gifts they receive, however it’s never guaranteed and, often times, brands shy away from relying on direct gifting.
Do you interact with the agencies that gather this talent for live appearances, as in the NYT piece?
We often send influencers to live events. It’s really about sending the right influencers to the right events…we always look for events that influencers are excited about attending.
Everyone talks about authenticity being key to good influencer programs. What does that mean to you?
I believe there is a misconception that if someone is getting paid to do something, it, by default, is inorganic or inauthentic. Don’t get me wrong: if an influencer is ONLY sponsoring a product for no other reason than to get paid, then that is inorganic.
However, if you are paying an influencer to wear a brand that they genuinely love and that fits their style and image, what difference does it make if they’re using their ability to promote that brand to pay their bills?
Unlike celebrities, these influencers are purely content creators; they often have no other sources of income, which means means that they have to rely on advertisers to finance and support their lifestyle and content creation. In addition, influencers are extremely protective of their image; it’s their equity- meaning that they have incentive to only work with brands that fit their style, and which are sincere to what they represent.
What sort of advice would you give to brands on this issue?
Brands should treat influencer marketing as a way to gain buzz around their brand, and accelerate the word-of-mouth process. The key is to make sure that brands select influencers who are sincere to the brand and a good fit. Choosing the wrong influencer with the hopes of just gaining exposure doesn’t add value to anyone. Luckily, influencers do a pretty good job of vetting the brands they work with, which really helps keep the authenticity up.
Do you see this trend sustaining itself in coming years?
I see influencer marketing as the new advertisement paradigm. Gen Y and Gen Z have grown up in a world of digital transparency, peer reviews, and accessibility to information. As a result, authority has shifted from faceless corporations to individuals.
Now the ad industry is making that same transition – traditional display ads and feed-injected ads do not hold nearly as much relevance or weight as influencers, who constantly evolve to stay socially relevant to users.
For reference, here are some charts from a case study involving client REVOLVE Clothing.
Note the general numbers attributed to the influencer campaign:
…and the trend lines on this chart.
It certainly seems like influencer marketing worked for REVOLVE. The question, then, is: how well can it work for your clients?
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