Do any of these names ring a bell?
Jojo Fletcher, Robby Hayes, Carly Waddell...?
Web professionals don't need to recognize these personalities from the long-running Bachelor franchise for them - and other people like them who appear on TV - to become valuable marketing assets for their retail brand. In spades, companies are reaching out to influencers to leverage their social capital by promoting products or services on their behalf. Since influencers' social media followers hang on their every post, the belief is they are contributing to customer acquisition initiatives, and it is a strategy that may be worth exploring for everyone.
CAN I STEAL YOU? Endorsements aren't new, of course, but social media has provided celebrities and their reality-based counterparts a platform to assist in raising awareness and ultimately moving/selling product (in a significant way) and earn a pretty decent living from doing so. Influencer marketing is successful for two main reasons.
For one, organic reach (the number of people who see a brand's messaging through unpaid distribution) is embarrassingly low on most social networks thanks to algorithms that limit exposure in the name of "user experience." Influencers are typically able to overcome this challenge because of their engaged fan base and that they are social profiles, not actual brand pages.
Secondly, people are more likely to trust the opinion of someone they know when making purchasing decisions and, for reality stars in particular, their followers are hyper-invested in their lives, feeling as if they know them personally. There's a connection that Paul Desisto, lead social media agent and social media marketing specialist for Central Entertainment Group (CEG), had to see himself to believe.
"When a reality star does a celebrity appearance, the fan isn't jumping up and down like it's Brad Pitt," said Desisto. "[Instead], they are coming up to them like it's their best friend and the fan knows everything about them...that they have a dog, that they work out every day."
The majority of people can't relate to Pitt's lifestyle, Desisto continued, but they can connect with someone who they saw vulnerable on TV (like looking for love on the Bachelor), lives in a modest house, drives a similar car. In short, familiarity and similarity is why people are buying what influencers are selling.
In fact, when media platform Bloglovin surveyed some 20,000 women recently, more than half said they had bought a product or service due to an influencer post. So how does a retailer get started?
Plenty of players exist in the social media influencer world from agents like Desisto to platforms like Popular Pays. Let's take a look.
Social Agents It might seem a bit unusual for a retail brand to reach out to a celebrity agent. Over the last two years though, Desisto says the endorsement side of CEG has "gone through the roof" with this specific division of the 19-year-old agency expected to do $20-$25 million in revenue for 2017 after raking in $7.8 million in 2016 and $2.1 million in 2015. It appears there is money to be made for everyone.
"One client came from a large reality show, and she gets 700,000 opens on Snapchat," said Desisto. "As you can imagine, that's very powerful with 35,000-40,000 screenshots [being taken]. I've had brands that have paid this celebrity around $10,000 to do a Snapchat series and earned about $50,000-$60,000 in revenue. With that same celebrity, they'll utilize her Instagram and Instagram Story. They pay her $50,000-$60,000 and generate $300,000 in revenue."
If you were under the impression that these celebrities were paid solely on commission, you're not alone. Desisto, however, says that's a dated strategy. Now it is supply and demand he says, and no celebrity or "anyone of value" will go the commission-only route because they simply don't need to. So who's employing these reality stars?
DIFF Eyewear is a celebrity favorite on Instagram as is Hello Fresh - a subscription box for meals that could benefit from long-term recurring revenue with the right endorsement. The key, according to Desisto, is for the stars to appear as natural as possible, and it, of course, works better if the celebrity is passionate about the product and the pictures, videos and Snaps are presented organically - live video mess-ups and all.
+ Here for the right reasons?
If you're wondering about legality of it all, join the crowd. Posts about endorsements made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser are subject to FTC rules, but a quick scroll through Instagram proves many influencers are not disclosing their fiscally beneficial relationships. Transparency (simple disclosure wording like sponsored, promotion, paid ad, ad, #ad) doesn't seem to influence buying decisions though. The aforementioned Bloglovin survey found that 63 percent of survey participants said they were not bothered by disclosure tags. Regardless, the advertisers should set clear guidelines about disclosures, which brings up a second important subject: brand control.
+ Trust the process? Scott Disick (of Keeping Up with the Kardashians fame) provides insights into how posting on a brand's behalf works. He notoriously posted the instructions (verbatim) from a sponsoring brand as the actual Instagram caption.
Desisto says it depends on the retailer when it comes to the approval process as some require it before posting, some allow the endorser creative control to post live videos or photos based on general direction, etc.
When creative is finished, sales are tracked a few different ways like providing influencers with a promotional code unique to them, the use of trackable URLs (tied to conversion events within an analytics system), and isolating the promotions to make it easier to monitor website traffic for spikes in visitors and sales.
Influencer Platforms When considering influencer marketing, readers of
Website Magazine might be looking for a more self-serve
influencer marketing platform to get the benefits that endorsements offer but without the "Hollywood" aspect.
Popular Pays is one available solution helping brands connect with influencers who have a significant following on social. The "creators" can participate in the listed campaigns on the platform by applying with their idea and a price; think crowdsourcing for influencers.
Social Bluebook works similarly. Brands can seek out creators they want to work with, track their progress through deliverables and pay them through the platform as well. For influencers, Social Bluebook enables them to "know their worth" by finding the value of their social accounts.
WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS ROSE? Influencer marketing is big business on small screens. Potential customers may not want to hear from a brand (and social networks may be making it more difficult to reach them regardless), but it's proven repeatedly that they're ready to listen and buy from people who are familiar and similar to them.