Making the most of influencer marketing

Experience Event panel on influencer marketing
Vikram Bhaskaran of Pinterest outlined three roles that influencers can play in a marketing strategy.

In the mid-20th century, everyone tended to consume the same media – major newspapers, women’s magazines – and everyone was influenced by the same advertisements those media carried. Fast-forward to the 1980s and the new sources of “influence” in advertising included a handful of genetically-perfect supermodels, who were called on to endorse just about anything – from jeans to soft drinks.

In our own digital age, we’re experiencing a surfeit of information that constantly competes for our attention across a wide variety of channels – and this has precipitated a further evolution in both advertising and influence-generation. Where we once had supermodels, we now have the “influencer generation.”

“Influencers” have the power to reach millions of people daily – through social media, blogs and videos – and for this reason they are highly sought-after by major international brands. At Rakuten Marketing’s inaugural Experience event held in New York City in November, experts gathered to discuss influencer marketing and its future:

Experience Event panel on influencer marketing
Alexis Maybank of Project September emphasized the importance of tailoring a message to a specific network.

Defining the influencers’ role

Vikram Bhaskaran, who manages Strategic Partnerships for Pinterest, said there are three main roles that influencers can play in the process of selling a product or service:

  1. As facilitators at the point of distribution
  2. As native content creators
  3. As the new breed of tastemakers

But Bhaskaran also recommended that before any business considers tapping influencers for branding or marketing efforts, they should ask themselves some hard questions: Do the influencers in question have track records of producing results? Does their influence translate to sales? And can their allure be translated to highlight your brand and sell more?

Alexis Maybank, Founder, Project September and Founder, Gilt, added that even if you focus your activities to a single influencer, your message should still be tailored for every network.

Experience Event panel on influencer marketing
Birchbox’s Ashley Berman discussed the impact of the “unboxing” phenomenon on her company’s early development.

Take advantage of what consumers already love

Ashley Berman, VP of Acquisition Marketing at leading beauty and grooming retailer Birchbox, highlighted the phenomenon known as “unboxing,” where influencers document the opening of freshly-bought products on video platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or blogs. In this way, they can share the experience of discovering new products with their family, friends and social network followers.

Such influencers played a powerful role in Birchbox’s early days, helping the brand grow quickly by organically tapping into a burgeoning market of women who weren’t avid makeup buyers, but loved discovering new products and techniques. Birchbox harnessed that enthusiasm from its community to develop new product offerings based on users’ feedback, and curated special collections in partnership with some of its most engaged, long-term subscribers and influencers.

Experience Event panel on influencer marketing
“Snapchat is my life,” explained Claudia Oshry, better known as @GirlWithNoJob.

Know where they are, go where they live

Claudia Oshry, better known as @GirlWithNoJob, said, “Snapchat is my life. I’ll broadcast from an event or my bathtub. Only a few things are private.” And her millions of followers seem determined to go along with her for the ride. If you’re trying to reach young female users on Snapchat, it might make sense for you and your brand to partner with someone like Oshry.

As Kamiu Lee, VP, Business Development & Finance, BlogLovin’, puts it, “Engage influencers where they’re already influencing.” You’ll have a much better chance of tapping into an already receptive demographic.

Experience Event panel on influencer marketing
“Engage influencers where they’re already influencing,” said Kamiu Lee of BlogLovin’.

It’s all in the details

When working with influencers, it’s crucial to understand that while you may be working to attract one demographic, you might unwittingly be alienating another. Influencers can have strong followings and equally strong personalities. There are mega and micro influencers who reach vast or concentrated groups. More than that, there’s no longer a single touchpoint that determines what brings about the final click or sale.

The main takeaway from the panel was the fact that all the panelists agreed there’s already so much noise out there that the best way to even begin partnering with any influencer is to clearly understand your own goals first –and always respect your loyal consumers’ tastes and opinions before jumping onto any new fads.

Read more posts from the Rakuten Marketing Experience Conference here.

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