How to work with social influencers?

In the past years marketing playground has completely changed and peer recommendation plays larger role in the marketing mix. Have you ever thought of working with social influencers to promote your event? Can social influencers increase your event profile or replace high profile speakers? Hope this post can give you a good overview and ideas who social influencers are and how you can work with them to increase awareness or ticket sales of your event.

According to Forbes article “The Explosive Growth Of Influencer Marketing And What It Means For You” from late 2014, influencers are not only the ones with high numbers of followers on social platforms but also experts in certain topic. They maintain good relationship with their audience and have high level of credibility among them. McKinsey study shows that marketing-inspired word-of-mouth leads to two times more sales, as opposed to traditional paid advertising and has a higher retention rate of 37%. This article presents two types of influencers, ones with large following base, and ones who are everyday customers but have high credibility among their close circle of friends.

I wanted to know more about this new marketing practice and this opportunity came during Advertising Week Europe, where they hosted a panel with very prominent UK vloggers and their talent management agency – “How to win brands and influence people: why social influencers are the new celebrities”. This panel was moderated by Nina Tsang from Celebrity Intelligence hosting the vloggers Louise Pentland and Jim Chapman (both have over million followers on YouTube and Instagram), Lucy Lendrem from Gleam Futures, agency that manages digital talent and Emma Grede from ITB Worldwide.

Nina opened the session by saying that brands today are willing to work with social influencers who have large following across their social channels. Louise and Jim were one of the pioneers in this area who started about 4 – 5 years ago vlogging out of their bedroom. Asking both vloggers what they have noticed over the past years in this landscape, Louise suggested that it “got bigger and well known” and Jim adding that their audience “grew up with them”.

How did you start working with brands?

Both vloggers said that it took them long time to get it right. “It takes years to grow and nurture the audience to the point that brands will be ready to work with you and you ready to work with brands” suggested Louise. Jim added that brands need to understand that vloggers know their platforms best and want to communicate with their audience on their own terms in order to keep the content authentic.

How do you leverage your audience to work with brands?

Jim said that primarily the “product needs to be something they want to talk about because if it isn’t the right fit the audience will notice. Each brand collaboration needs to make sense to the blogger and their audience so it will come across as authentic and if it something that the vlogger genuinely likes, it is easy to do”.

How brands utilize content creators to drive their products and messaging?

Emma suggested that it is important to understand the difference in following of a celebrity and social influencer. With traditional celebrities, the audience looks at where they are going, what they are wearing and where they are eating and that drives significant brand awareness. Social influencers, on the other hand, do two things – they build their audience themselves over a long time and therefore have trust with their followers and secondly they are active in niche market segments. Therefore, brands can get two things by working with influences – firstly, earned media and chatter which doesn’t happen with celebrities and secondly drive purchase intent.

Which platforms are best to work with social influencers?

Emma pointed out to Instagram as a good for all but said that most of the brands are interested how to migrate talent’s content onto their own platform.

How do you select brands to work with and what type of ROI can you expect from working with social influencers?

Lucy suggested that starting point is the type of content the vlogger creates and indicated that brands that are ready to work with social influencers are early adopters. Working with brands that are scared and want to have control over the content is not going to work. In terms of ROI, sales are exceptionally good and click through rates are about 40-50% if there is a call to action. She continued and said that in order to track and measure collaboration’s effectiveness you need to create a campaign.

How talent agencies and brands measure campaign success?

Emma looks at engagement rates and knows that clients use analytical tools, however suggests that no one really “got it down” so far and each client has a different way of measuring success.

Authenticity – can social influencers remain authentic?

Louise said that all sponsored videos must disclose “ad” so audience will know. YouTube ads are different from tradition TV ads and for all additional promotion or disclaimers she will point out to the additional link in the description box. When filming brand collaboration they will give their own spin on the content. Nevertheless, Jim added that you can’t do every video an advert because you will lose audience’s respect.

To conclude this panel discussion, major takeaway was that celebrities provide reach while working with social influencer is about conversion and purchase intent.

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

Panel at Advertising Week Europe: Emma Grede, Lucy Lendrem, Jim Chapman, Louise Pentland and Nina Tsang

Now, how all that fits into event industry?

As organisers, we have to ask ourselves how our attendees discover events and who are thought leaders within the industry? Also we have to see in what marketing activities we engage to promote our event.

There are few challenges:

So far we can mainly see fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands work with social influencers. Many of you have asked if I get paid for featuring destinations or venues on the blog. The answer is no. In the events industry it is common to get invited as a hosted buyer or go on press trips. Reporting about it on my blog is my own choice and I am happy to share positive experience. It will take some time before destinations, venues, CVBs and alike will be ready to pay for partnerships with social influencers.

Secondly, it is mainly B2C sector that works with social influencers where lead time is shorter and conversion higher. That is the opposite in B2B environment – building relationship and lead time can be much longer, purchase volume is higher and communicating channels are different. Brands will need to be willing investing time and be more patient to achieve results.

Last but not least is budget. Speakers are rarely paid, so will organisers be willing to invest money to collaborate with social influencers? I think this transition can take some years.

What are your thoughts about it? Do you think organisers should work with social influencers to promote events or the industry is not ready for it yet?

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