“Influencer?” I hear you ask. “Isn’t there a vaccine for that?” As similar as influencer marketing is to being hit with the flu – both can spread fast with devastating results – being ill prepared, hoping for lightning-fast ROI or putting your brand into the hands of an outsider can be treacherous waters for those dipping their toe in.

Influencer marketing presents a huge opportunity for brands wanting to access larger or new audiences. But just as you wouldn’t expect your favourite basketball player to be promoting soccer boots, you don’t want a wrong-fit influencer to be plugging your product outright – it could do more harm than good.

When I see promoted posts on Instagram that are a poor match or an obvious plug that’s tried to be covered up by the influencer, it leaves me cringing about the brand and the person I’m following. But that’s not to say it can’t be done well. Small and large brands are having huge successes from influencer-led marketing strategies, and others just by adding it to their marketing mix.

[Editor’s note: I’ve seen first-hand the damage a half-arsed influencer marketing approach can have on the influencers themselves – brands need to treat borrowed audiences with respect. Ed]

So what should you look for? And how do you find these influencers? We’ve asked some of Brisbane’s top influencer marketers for their tips when looking for people to pair your brand with.

Influencer Marketing Starbucks Coffee

Mackayla Paul is the Founder/Creative Director at Social Stylings. She says that when outlining the potential collaboration between your brand and the influencer, you shouldn’t just be focusing on logistics.

“Get clear on why you’ve chosen this particular Influencer and how their audience will benefit from learning about your brand. Don’t just choose influencers for their follower count – ensure that the influencer you work with has a great engagement rate on social media as well,” Mackayla says.

“Also consider tapping into micro influencers. It has been shown that micro influencers or influencers with less than 20,000 Instagram followers generally have a more engaged community that trust their word more than that of larger, more established influencers.”

I hear this a lot and it rings true with me and the influencers I follow. You’ll also find that a smaller following is a more targeted audience – so instead of using a budget on one macro-influencer, try giving it to multiple micro-influencers for a better engagement rate overall.

Ashton Rigg is the Content and PR Manager at Youfoodz. She says that the reach of social influencers plus the fact consumers are tuning out of traditional advertising means influencer marketing can be an effective tactic, provided you know what you’re getting into.

“Don’t try to hide the #ad angle,” Ashton says “Social consumers are savvy. There’s no shame in using people with serious social swag to help spread your message.

“‘Influencing is the new word-of-mouth, which we all know is the most valuable form of marketing a business can hope to get. While you want your influencer content to appear as organic as possible, you need to toe that fine line between not making it look like a blatant ad and obviously trying to cover up the #spons. People follow a social influencer because they want to see and hear what they have to say – even if they’re paid to do so.

“Another tip would be to set your expectations early. When you enlist an influencer to spruik your product, you’re both entering into a business agreement. Setting your expectations early means avoiding awkward conversations later about removing posts or chasing overdue content, plus you’re establishing strong working relationships from the get-go.

“Draw up a basic agreement that includes your non-negotiables. This might include deadlines and lifespan of posts (many influencers keep a very curated profile and will remove sponsored posts after the campaign period has ended); specifying any brands or products that should not be mentioned or photographed in conjunction with yours (they may have existing deals and want to add more collabs into the one piece of content); and if you require approving their content prior to posting.”

Top tips from Ashton. If you know the post is going to look sponsored, don’t try to cover it up, and get clear with your influencer on the right kind of language that should be used around this.

Influencer Marketing Fashion

Matt Henry is the Managing Director at Digital Marketing Company, MH Consulting. He says that when choosing influencers, engagement is everything.

It may be obvious that some influencers inflate their social following with fake followers, bots or just junk audiences. Therefore, it’s important to work with influencers based on their ability to actually engage their following, which can be gauged by unique actual reach, views, likes, comments, shares and click-through,” Matt says.

“Other things to look out for are that some influencers may have an audience that is totally legit and very engaged, but only a small percentage is relevant to your actual content/product.

“For example, the influencer may be well-aligned to your needs, but does the geographic make-up of their audience match that of your target audience? They may get high engagement, but many of those fans may actually be based overseas which, for your product which may only be available locally, will be wasted engagement.”

That’s a value bomb right there. Just because the audience is big and engaged, doesn’t mean it’s your audience.

Matt also says that when choosing between macro and micro influencers, you need to know your marketing objectives.

“When seeking awareness as your primary objective, engage with macro influencers, that is, well-known influencers with relatively large following.

“If you are seeking conversion/purchase as your primary goal and are willing to sacrifice going to a larger audience to get more conversion, micro influencers are more successful in converting their smaller, more loyal audiences.”

So there’s many aspects to consider when choosing influencers to pair your brand with. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started:

  1. What sort of influencer would align with my brand? (eg. sports person, model, food blogger, location photographer, etc)
  2. Should I go with macro or micro influencers? Or a mixture of both?
  3. What is the geographic location of the influencer’s audience?
  4. How many followers do they have?
  5. What are their engagement rates?
  6. What is their voice and tone?
  7. Do they promote any of my competitors?
  8. Do they work for cash, products or both?
  9. Agree on deadlines and ensure they stick to them