Over the course of the past few years we’ve seen an uptick in the amount of people calling themselves influencers. If you aren’t familiar with the term, according to dictionary.com it is defined as, “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.” Years ago labeling someone an influencer would not have been met with the vitriol it is today. And while some fault lies on the influencers, I believe it is the companies and brands we work with, that also must share some of the blame as well. Working full time in this industry over the past three years I’ve seen how brands continue to miss the mark with influencers but through today’s post I hope I can give some insight into how they can do better.
From personal experiences with marketing teams, brands, and companies; I’ve learned that few truly understand the power and reach of influencer marketing. It isn’t just them though, the average person also has a gross misunderstanding of the work, the time, and the dedication it takes to truly influence people to spend their hard earned cash. On average I aim to post on my blog at minimum twice a week. Once I’ve planned out the topics, created copy, then a storyboard for the visuals I have worked 4-5 hours on one post. If I decide to reach out to a brand who I feel aligns with the message I’m writing on, you can add 1-2 more hours of research to that. As you can see it takes approximately 6-7 hours to simply create one post. Which may only take you dear reader two to five minutes to read. However that doesn’t deter me from inputting the time and effort it takes to develop quality content worth your time. That said, it is easy equate the amount of time spent consuming content; with the time put into its creation.
Something often undervalued by the companies and brands that reach out to work with a creator is the process. When a brand reaches out based on my work or notoriety, wanting their product or service to be incorporated into what I am doing unfortunately they don’t always see the value in paying me for that time. Instead they want to simply gift me their product or service in exchange for the 7 hours it takes to create the content that led them to me initially.
In many cases this means receiving a product worth somewhere between $5-$200. Sounds troubling if you ask me. Let it be noted that I also haven’t mentioned the time it takes to purchase clothing, other ancillary products, or the amount that it costs to have someone to photograph these things for me. We’ve now approached the 10 hour mark and added the cost of $100-$400. Ultimately meaning I’ve made no money from this “collaboration,” but the brand has successfully received free advertisement and access to my audience.
The average cost of Google ads for a month, for a small business, is between $9,000-$10,000. That’s a small business. Which means if I ask for a one-time payment $2,000 for a static blog post that’s set to be seen by at least 1-2K people monthly by living on my website in perpetuity – that brand is getting the come up! Brands however are under the impression that working with influencers should be cheaper because we are not seen as professional advertisers or marketers. And that is their greatest faux pas. Thinking we aren’t professionals. Sure there are a variety of levels of content quality in the space but that is where payment should be gauged — not on follower count.
It should be the desire of all creators to weave a thread of excellence in everything they create.
That said, quality is not always revered as it should be in this work. Here is where brands can course correct. When looking to work with content creators, rather than focusing solely on the amount of followers that the creator has you must look deeper. Take a look at the quality of their photos, the consistency at which they post, and if they have a blog — read through some posts. It is easy to look at a number on an Instagram profile and make assumptions. A smaller account may cause one to assume that the work isn’t top notch when it could actually just be a lack of visibility. By partnering with a smaller creator who is producing excellence, your brand will get the focus of someone can actually reach people and create revenue. This isn’t to say that those creators with larger followings can’t also produce but it is to say that shouldn’t be the only qualifier.
The cost of traditional advertising has dwindled to a single digit percentage while the spending for digital marketing has doubled. Meaning that brands have to start seeing the value of working with directly with the consumer they are aiming to reach. As a Black woman who is a mother, my reach is exponential. Multiply that by the fact that I have nationally syndicated television series, am an entrepreneur making revenue, who is college educated – I am the quintessential buyer. Which also means I could be a qualified seller and value add for business.
Take Kahlana Barfield-Brown for example, also a Black mother, Howard graduate, who sits at the helm of a circulated monthly periodical. She has the access to a large contingency of women who are looking to her for insight. She can offer value because she’s visible, beautiful, but also seen as an authority in her field of beauty and fashion. However now that she has proven to be a viable seller other markets can begin to use her reach to gain traction. Smart brands will see that. But even smarter brands will find the next Kahlana. The untapped gem who has yet to be seen.
In order to find success in the influencer marketing world brands and companies must be willing to seek to understand rather than be understood.Click to tweet
In order to find success in the influencer marketing world brands and companies must be willing to seek to understand rather than be understood. I’ll give you an example. A company that I was already a fan of reached out to work with me. We corresponded over email countless times and settled on partnering. Because they reached out first I already knew that they understood the value I could bring. However they did not see my association with their brand worth a fiduciary investment. Instead they wanted to use my reach and access to tap into a market they hadn’t reached on their own. Because if they could do it – they would have already done it. Brands cannot be afraid to spend money in order to get into spaces where they aren’t making waves. They can’t only be willing to send overproduced inventory or free gifts and receive excellence. You get what you pay for, or this case – don’t. Which for them turned out to be nothing.
As told in this article in the WSJ,“Online Influencers Tell You What to Buy, Advertisers Wonder Who’s Listening,” brands and companies struggle with working with influencers due to not accurately being able to measure the reach of instagram posts. One way past that is to stop strictly relying on Instagram to do the job of advertising a product. With the ease of being able to buy followers and likes, you can be duped. However by working with influencers who are also blogging you’re tapping into an additional medium. So often influencers call themselves bloggers but don’t have a website to send their audiences to. Having multi-platform reach benefits the brand in the long run. Brands should move away from working with mono-platform creators and back to those who are creating on their own spaces as well.
Seeing this business grow from inside and outside of it has been interesting. I’ve learned what type of material brands are seeking but I’ve also learned that they largely don’t know. They are looking to be told how they should work with a creator. It is up to the influencer to show the brand the how, the why, and the what in partnerships. What influencers must be willing to do is not accept the bare minimum for the sake of being able to say you’ve worked with a company. Marketing budgets exist, period. If a brand isn’t spending the many with you they are going to spend it elsewhere. Their ultimate goal is for their product or service to be sold. I’ve learned that part of my job now is to show them how I can do that.
I’d love to hear from you, what do you think about influencers and influencer marketing? For me this is similar to when everyone hated fashion bloggers as they began to infiltrate the closed curtains of fashion. The industry didn’t appreciate them as a new wave of journalists and certainly not as models. Influencers are now in that same boat, trying to navigate their place in the microsystem. In actuality influencers are simply trusted consumers, they’re the cool kids, every era has them. Now social media has put them on display, and brands have to find a way to tap into the new form of advertising.
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