Influencer marketing is now a thing. Your girl next door who decided to post photos of her daily outfits and share life updates with her followers is now an opinion leader with a strong voice. That voice is being listened to by her followers, always looking for new product recommendations.
Since 6 in 10 teenagers prefer advice from influencers over celebrities and 86% of women go to social media for purchase advice, it makes sense that brands are more and more turning towards influencer marketing. After all, for $1 spent in 2019, influencer marketing generated $5.78. No need to be a calculus genius.
However, things have changed since the very beginning of social media and influencers. Instagram is now saturated, growing on the platform is trickier than before and engagement is not always there. Plus, more are influencers working with brands and monetizing their content. Thus, customers see a lot more products than before, forcing them to take more time before making a purchase decision.
Why influencer marketing is a long-term game
That plus the fact that influencer marketing remains a new field of marketing, that analytics and data are not always easy to retrieve, that setting KPIs can be confusing to a lot of brands and that campaigns may not always produce the expected results.
One thing we have seen happening quite a few times is that brands have given a go to influencer marketing, worked with bloggers and Instagrammers to not see the results they were expecting. After one campaign, they give up on influencer marketing… while they should not… because influencer marketing is a long-term investment and not a short-term fix.
Here is why…
Why short-term is a bad idea
Now that more and more influencers are monetizing their channels, it becomes harder for smaller brands to work with big influencers who could give them a lot of visibility at once. Nano and micro-influencers may be more affordable but their reach will not be as high and therefore, sales may not be either.
Thus, we see a lot of companies inclined to sign in for the short-term and work with a few big influencers for one-off collaborations. They want to build quick engagement and increase follower count. While it will work, it will not give brands what they need to convert a follower into a client and into a repeat customer: loyalty.
Let’s say you are a jewelry company that works with a macro-influencer with one million followers. Most of your budget goes into that collaboration and you get immediate results. Your products are fairly affordable and impulse buys are thus possible. However, you do not work with any more influencers after that nor do you carry on with that initial collaboration. How will you reach new potential customers? What of those followers who were that close to buying but either decided they needed more content to make a decision? And those who completely forgot about your brand because they did not see it more? What about customers who may be interested in your new collection but are not aware of it because no one is promoting it?
Influencer marketing works because of the human effect so it is integral to creating long-term and meaningful relationships with influencers rather than sending out a product for one post. This will have two benefits. First, when a relationship is built, the influencer will put all their effort into creating content for your brand because there is a connection that drives them towards working with you. Second, their followers will see your products many times, which gives you more visibility, accelerate the purchasing process and increase loyalty.
Short-term is not authentic
A key to success in influencer marketing is how authentic a connection between an influencer and a brand is. A one-off collaboration cannot display a strong relationship nor connection. The influencer must sustain an authentic relationship with the brand that goes beyond merely giving a testimonial or endorsing a product. They must be seen to adhering to the brand and its values and enlarging their sphere of influence beyond just one channel.
It is important for a brand to pick the influencers that are right for it in terms of values. Only a good fit will be able to promote a brand in a genuine and authentic way. However, even if you are not new to social media and influencer marketing, finding the right influencers for your brand can take a lot of time.
Several criterias go into picking the perfect influencers: follower count, engagement, content, the way the influencers communicate with their followers, other products they have promoted, other brands they work with, the demographics of their audience, etc. However, even knowing exactly what your brand needs may not be enough for a successful campaign.
You decide to promote your jewelry brand with Influencer Z. This is a paid partnership that contains one post. Your influencer’s followers will see the product once and never again. This might make them think twice. Is Influencer Z not talking about it again because they are not that much fond of those products? If you like something, you rave about it all the time. Or did they promote them just because they were paid. Does that look authentic? No.
You are a small brand with limited marketing budget and work with nano and micro-influencers on a collaboration. You pick then that you think have roughly the same audience and all have a high engagement. Posting days happen and no sale. Bummer. You decide to give it another go. Their audiences are smaller after all, there are less people to promote to. You set up a second collaboration with the same ten influencers a week later and decide to have them post a third time a week later and then two week after that. You can see that your follower count is increasing, traffic to your website is too. So you decide to carry one with this collaboration over the course of a few months. And there you go, revenue is finally increasing.
That is why it is important to work with influencers in the long-term and have longer campaigns. There may be plenty of reasons why an initial collaboration is not successful. Content requirements, posting times, caption, the product itself, the influencer itself, the platform, etc.
Longer partnerships will make it easier for brands to figure out what is and is not working. Data is not made in a day and takes time to collect. People do not often impulse buy after seeing a product once. They need to see it often before they are convinced. If a campaign is not producing results early on, it may be amended.
The customer journey is much longer
One reason why influencer marketing better works in the long-term is simply that customers need much more time before making a purchase decision. Back in 2015, one or two posts would have convinced a prospect to buy. Now, they need to see the content more than ten times before they even consider checking the brand out.
Consumers are bombarded with content on a daily basis. Faced with much more choice and many more recommendations, they naturally need more time to decide. An initial collaboration with an influencer will serve as an introduction of the product to their followers. Then, awareness and visibility will both grow immediately. There will be a spark of interest from the customer.
However, keeping it at that stage will not produce much results. Even if the product is very affordable and the influencer has thousands of followers, there will not be long-term profits if a partnership is short-lived. Indeed, people need to be reminded constantly of a product before considering buying it.
A long-term relationship with an influencer through a continuous partnership will allow a brand to showcase their product to the same audience again and again. This will increase loyalty, make the brand look more legit by association but also increase revenue in the long term. After all, on-going partnerships create authentic relationships.
A short influencer campaign is less memorable and touchy. It doesn’t compare with years of collaboration with the same person. On a longer run, your influencer becomes your brand advocate; furthermore, people correlate their personality with your brand.