No matter how many times I’ve dissected the topic of influencer marketing — whether it was in my book with Tami Cannizzaro when she was at IBM, or in a recent interview with Konstanze Alex Brown of Dell — it seems there is always something more to learn.
It’s no wonder I welcomed the opportunity to moderate a discussion on this very topic at the Digital Marketing World Forum Conference (October 18th, 2016) in New York City.
In preparation for this event, I had the pleasure of connecting with Paz Zvick, Director of Direct Marketing Partnerships with GlassesUSA.com. I captured her thoughts on what makes a successful influencer program, and the key lessons she’s learned from programs she’s orchestrated. Here’s what she had to say.
Social Media Explorer (SME): What are 3 most important things you consider when evaluating a potential influencer for your brand?
Paz: The most important aspect of a potential influencer is their content. We always look at a potential influencer and ask ourselves “what do they most talk about?” “what are their interests?” We assess every influencer first and foremost by look at his or her content, and evaluate how it matches up with our own brand.
The second thing we look at is the influencer’s demographics (age/gender/geo). Essentially we want to make sure their demographic matches our brand’s target audience.
Third, I assess the Influencer’s “influential power” — this is not only looking at whether they have a strong presence on their channels, but how strong the engagement is on these channels (i.e. YouTube views, IG and FB likes and comments, TW likes and re-tweets, etc.)? We then use this information to design a bespoke campaign aimed at utilizing the specific platform or platforms where his or her “influential power” is most prominent.
SME: What are some of the keys to bringing them on board?
Paz: I believe making the influencers excited about the brand is key to bringing them on board. Once they are excited about our brand and what we offer our clients, the door is open to find the right way to work together.
Another key is to always remember that influencer marketing is all about PEOPLE. Unlike buying media programmatically, here we are collaborating with other human beings, other perspectives who have their own way of looking at the campaign, its content and eventually, its success metrics. So, the inter-personal communication, flexibility, creativity and readiness to listen to each other will become critical factors in building an influencer marketing campaign.
SME: How do you maintain the relationship beyond the initial engagement?
Paz: Once we decide to work with an influencer, we then consider them to be an unofficial “ambassador” of our brand. Therefore any relationship formed between an influencer and our company is always aimed towards expansion. We see it as the only way to successfully develop a true identification, not only between the influencer and the brand, but between our brand and a larger community of influencers who believe in our brand and its advantages.
SME: What are some things you should definitely avoid or be mindful of when developing an influencer marketing program?
Paz: You should avoid bringing on board every influencer. A successful influencer campaign is not measured by the size of the influencer’s audience, but by the match between the influencer and the brand. Some of our most successful campaigns were a result of collaboration with small-scale influencers, whereas campaigns with large-scale influencers were not always as successful as one might expect. So be mindful about the MATCH of both the content and the audience for your brand.
SME: How do you approach influencer marketing at GlassesUSA?
Paz: We work with influencers on a constant basis, so no specific “Influencer Program” is in place. We choose all influencers according to the same criteria, and measure all campaigns according to the same metrics.
SME: What are your goals with this program?
Paz: As an online retailer, the goals of our influencer campaigns are to bring traffic to our website and to generate sales. We consider these collaborations as direct response campaigns for acquisition of new customers, and measure them accordingly.
ii) How did you find the influencers?
Paz: Through a medley of different ways. It can be as simple as seeing a great Instagram account in passing or a funny YouTube video, but nine times out of ten we find our perfect candidates by doing a manual search.
iii) How did you evaluate these programs?
Paz: Over the past 18 months, we have worked with dozens of influencers. Naturally, some campaigns have produced better results than others. However, we see influencer marketing as one of our most valuable and high-quality marketing channels within our marketing mix. Our KPI’s include the amount of traffic to the website generated from each campaign (clicks), the amount of sales generated from each campaign, and the long-term value of the users.
SME: Given your broad target audience, is there any one platform for your influencers that tends to do better than others?
Paz: We are currently seeing our best results from YouTube influencer campaigns. Our second best results are from Instagram. Therefore, both platforms are constantly at the focal point of our campaigns.
SME: Do you think more companies will try to do influencer programs in 2017? Should they? Since these programs often take a couple of years to gain momentum, what should their expectations be?
Paz: I believe more companies will engage in influencer marketing programs in 20i7. The ability to create high-quality content, tailor-made for any audience, is a huge advantage for marketers.
On the other hand, one should bear in mind that working with influencers is a gradual and long-term process. It takes time to recruit the influencers, to find the right content for each vertical and channel — and sometimes it also takes time to see the results. So, patience is a great virtue when it comes to influencer campaigns. Expectations should be realistic. The process is long and your “perfect” result may not happen immediately.
SME: Why do you think YouTube is currently the best performing platform for your influencer campaigns?
Paz: Since buying prescription eyewear online is still not the “standard” for most people (and so many others do not even know they have this option), we found YouTube has a real effect in making a change. YouTube videos enable us to reach out to millions of people and let them know about the option of buying glasses online and the advantages of doing so — generally, and specifically at GlassesUSA.com. Furthermore, since glasses are more than a fashion accessory and also a health necessity (for most people,) the personal recommendations from influencers often persuade their audience that buying glasses online is a safe and smart move.
SME: If, and what, will be the effect of more marketers being engaged in influencer marketing?
Paz: Instinctively, the effect would be a much higher demand from the advertisers’ side, which will reinforce the influencers’ leverage when negotiating potential collaborations. On the other hand, a growth in the amount of marketers that are being engaged in influencer programs will likely require much more legal regulations and behavioral norms concerning the relationships between the advertisers and the influencers.
Another possible outcome is an increase in negative reaction to sponsored content from the audience’s side. This will require both advertisers and influencers to be much more creative when working together and to make sure their content has a real value for the viewers.
SME: How do you predict influencer marketing will look like in a year from now?
Paz: I expect a much more balanced relationship between marketers and influencers. The demand-supply balance is currently leaning toward the influencers’ side, while both sides need to understand that this is a collaboration. As such, both parties share the risks, the failures, but also the successes. It should be in both parties’ best interest to make sure the partnership is formulated in a way that both can gain from it. This is the basis for any future expansion of the collaboration.
Secondly, I anticipate automation systems for influencer marketing will become much more common, but will also provide much more relevant and granular information regarding the influencers.
Lastly, I predict influencer marketing will be much more versatile, both in content and in platforms.