We believe that bringing brands, content, celebrities and influencers together makes storytelling more meaningful and impactful.
So you want to work with influencers. That means you need a plan. This is not a marketing practice that you want to just jump in and out of, or it will prove to be a giant waste of time. For brands that make influencer marketing work, they have comprehensive ongoing influencer programs that are worked on around the year, building upon each influencer partnership and post. And here’s the thing.
Working with influencers is not easy. This is the very first thing you need to prepare yourself for before starting a plan to incorporate social influencers into your marketing and advertising campaigns. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares eleven actionable steps for a plan to work with influencers for social media brand partnerships.
It is not as simple as simply sending out product and sitting back and waiting for the sales to come roaring in. In fact, sales rarely happen at first – something most people don’t expect. After all having a social influencer show your product in their feed, calling it out to get the attention of their tens of thousands to millions of followers should mean instant sales, right? Wrong.
You also need to understand that it takes a ridiculous amount of time to source the right influencers, engage with them, have them respond, negotiate pricing and deal point asks, create a contract, have it signed, send product, approve the copy, chase them down if it is slow going, share the post with some sort of smart comment on your brand’s own social feeds, screen grab the original post for your files so that your marketing team and CEO see the successes of the partnership, create a recap report, coordinate and send payment (and find out their email address isn’t the right one they want to use for paypal, so you have to send payment again and cancel the first – true story – it happens). It can take hours and hours and hours to secure the right social influencer. And once that post is up – give it a few days, and that campaign is done, unless you have negotiated multiple posts and want an ongoing relationship with that same influencer which is an excellent idea as you’ve done so much work to get them to understand your brand in the first place, and their followers will benefit from seeing multiple posts from the same person versus a one and done.
The Point Is Not Immediate Sales
Another point your team needs to understand is that social influencers should be used initially for branding campaigns – not sales results. There is massive power and benefit to the content that they produce, and that they then get organically in front of their own follower base, with a warm introduction showcasing your brand along with theirs. And that has value. Not only with the eyeballs that see the posts, but also the actual content that can be repurposed in your own social feeds and even website.
Social influencer partnerships are like the new version of the archaic TV ad or print ad but all wrapped up into one turnkey creation and marketing machine. Social influencers provide the creative direction, ad copy, set build, filming or photo shoot, editing and video or image photoshopping, wardrobe styling, often serve as the model, and serve as the distribution outlet, bringing their media reach – also known as follower base - to you.
And sometimes it takes only an hour or two for them to do this – realizing that makeup and prep time might not be part of that time frame, and other times it might take them days. Regardless of how long it takes them to actually create your content and post it, they are putting in dozens and dozens of hours responding to their fans, creating additional content that keeps people engaged, and working on growing their own reach to make their social platform feed even more valuable to brands. It takes them a lot of time and work to do this. And that’s why they get paid.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to approach influencer marketing, and the right way means you need to create a plan. So let’s walk through what that plan looks like.
#1 The Brand Brief
The first step you are going to do is create an influencer marketing brand brief where you teach the influencer about your brand. That includes everything from your social platforms, and what social platforms you want them to post on, the hashtags you use, who your brand is and the relevant messaging that is important to be shared, your primary core demographic you are trying to reach, who your brand isn’t (the ‘don’t do this or say that’).
Any dates that are important are also good to share from pre-launch timing, events you may be doing that are core to the campaign or seasonality. You’ll also include here or in the contract your brand’s strict adherence to FTC guidelines. Hashtag #ad is all the rage. And the law if you don’t want to be fined.
#2 The Budget Outline
The second step of your plan is to create an overall budget for your campaign. Please don’t be one of those brands who say they don’t have a budget and they will figure it out along the way. That’s a disaster plan. Determine the budget. Let your team or agency know your budget. That’s the only way for influencer marketing to be successful. It doesn’t mean the entire budget needs to be spent on a single influencer – but it will allow you to plan and determine if fewer bigger influencers are more important versus a larger number of smaller influencers who will create more content.
Influencers are typically priced using a Cost Per Thousand metric – called a CPM. So for every thousand followers they have, there is a fee, whether that is $5, $15, $25 or more, that is charged. This fee, the CPM, is also based on what the ask of the influencer is – such as how many posts, what type of posts – photo or video. The more time involved for the influencer, the higher the fee. And know that fees add up quickly. An influencer with 10,000 followers might make $150 if their fee is $15 CPM. An influencer with 100,000 followers might make $1,500 if their fee is $15 CPM. It’s all driven by the fan base as well as the social platform – Instagram static images which live longer are going to likely be higher priced than Instagram Stories – but Stories typically have more direct lead-in to your website with their swipe option to lead the viewer directly there. And higher CPM’s can be charged when there is higher past proven engagement – with likes and comments.
Your budget is also going to let you know how much money is available for paid media – yes, you heard me right. If you work with an influencer, Facebook is typically only showing 6% of their follower base the content they produced for you. You know this fact, and you will remember it when you are negotiating the pricing with the influencer. So whatever the platform, know you need to plan to boost that post to a bigger audience.
#3 Measuring Your KPIs
Your third step is to determine how you are measuring the influencer partnerships. This is where KPIs come in. Is it that you want to increase brand awareness so likes and comments matter most. Or are you trying to drive the viewer to take action (to visit a location or website, to drive downloads, to sign up for something – keep it free and you will have more luck)?
Are you trying to build your social following on your own pages, and are measuring where those bumps come from. Is the goal content – and you are looking for specific types or quantities of content. I know all of you are going to say Sales is a KPI – but try to keep that on the back burner right now. It’s really not how you should be measuring success.
#4 Do The Research
Your fourth step is to start doing research and finding influencers, which you can do in a few ways. Scour the internet and your chosen social platforms using relevant hashtags to find the individuals, and then reach out through Direct Message. Or you can use a social influencer database to help directly link you to influencers who have opted in. I’m going to tell you – there is not a perfect influencer database out there, and they are quite expensive. Plan on paying up to $16k or more a year for one that provides you the comprehensive data and analytics you may be looking for. And the cheaper ones… they are like a dumping ground of a miss mash of influencers and influencer wannabees. The databases will not guarantee you results or success – you are still going to have to do quite a bit of work. But they do help lead you in the right direction.
You might need to find influencers by specific city, or by topic interest, or by the type of content they produce. You might be looking for a younger influencer, or someone more seasoned that will impact your goal of attracting Gen X and Baby Boomers. Or you might look for influencers who are at the top of their game and have some sort of special element that makes them of interest to you. That’s what we’ve done with brands like Zero Hour Detox – who wants influencers who drink and don’t want a hangover later, and Pala Casino & Spa who wants influencers who will help them age down – which really means Gen X and Baby Boomers are the target, and BlackBerry for whom we look for influencers who are driven business-wise, and at the top of their game in their chosen professions. And you also want to know who exactly is that demo following the influencer – is it who you think it is, or is it a hot girl who you think would be AWESOME for your new herbal diet supplements, only to find out it’s guys in Russia and Europe that are following her. And what about competition – have they posted about your competitors recently?
Then that might not be of interest to you to jump on that bandwagon – or maybe it is because you are a fashion brand and no influencer is going to be limited to post about one fashion line. The size of the influencer fan base is going to impact costs – so that is also important to determine what you really need. You might ideally want someone who is going to produce video – so YouTube influencers are going to be of interest. And how many brand deals have they done – in reality? There is this new trend where influencers put #ad on posts they were not paid for in order to look like they were paid by brands and are desired influencers. And how good IS their content? Do they know how to work with a brand and show it in its best light? And how much do they honestly like your brand – that is going to impact that organic and authentic fit that all brand marketers are looking for. There is a lot to figure out and it is not just about their reach – as they can fake those numbers with bots and online tools that make it look like they have higher follower count and engagement than they really do. In a previous podcast I spoke about how to spot fake Instagrammers – you should definitely check that out.
#5 Contract It
Your fifth step – after finding the influencer, letting them know what you are looking for and negotiating the rate, is to create a contract. Don’t skip this step. It outlines exactly what you agreed to, and it has your FTC requirements in it so you are more safely protected. Contracts should go with every influencer campaign – even if they are super short (make them short please…) and to the point. Defining deliverables will set you up for better success. This includes what platform the content will be produced and shared on, how many posts, whether they are video or still, are they Instagram in-feed posts or Instagram Stories (super important that you know this), the actual timeline of when the post will be made live, how long the exclusivity is. Also make sure you include how long the post will live and not be taken down, because how long the post lives is not an absolute ‘forever’ - some influencers take it down days or weeks later to clean up their feed and make it look less branded. It’s also important to figure out your usage rights and exclusivity here – are you going to repurpose the social post and share it on your website? Then say that and get rights. We’ve had campaigns where we’ve paid extra to have rights to use the social posts in advertising – including email newsletter campaigns. If you don’t explicitly state you have rights… then realize you really may not.
#6 Shipping & Delivering
Your sixth step after getting the contract figured out is getting the product there. And this is not necessarily just about dropping the product in a box and sending it out. Presentation here can matter. Do you create a special box that has wow factor when they open it? Do you have information that includes a cheat sheet to your hashtags etc? Packaging matters here – you are creating an impression. And by the way – don’t make influencer marketing a last-minute thing right before an event, or you will be paying $75 to $150 just to overnight your product there, eating into influencer campaign budgets.
#7 Hit The Silent Button
Your seventh step is to sit back and let the influencer go to work. Don’t bug them unless you have already hit or are approaching a deadline. Seriously. You don’t know what else is going on in their life – like a day job or other brand deals, and they typically will not produce content the same day they get your product shipped to them. Just keep that in mind as you work out your campaign plans – if you can keep the flow going and continually work with influencers then the last minute need to get content out there is lessened.
If you are doing a big influencer push for a holiday or event, then you need the lead time to make it happen. They can always schedule the post for later – the more time to have to work out the details and craft the plan, have them have your product and then create the content, the better.
#8 Final Content Approval
As an eighth step – you want to be sure that you get approval of the final content you are paying for and have ability to impact content revisions. I’m not saying here that you need to don your creative marketing hat and tell the influencer how to change everything – they should already be on board with the details from your brand brief and your previous conversations. But this is where you want to make sure the written content looks right. That the right hashtags are used. That your brand name is spelled correctly.
If you are paying higher dollars, you are going to have more rights here to command changes. If you sent product for free and it is not exactly a high priced item, then realize your limitations. Make sure you give positive feedback and aren’t negative Nancy harping on all that is wrong with the post. Remember – they know how to get people to follow them, and one of the benefits of working with influencers is they are really good at knowing how to create content that gets engagement. You may feel a little out of your zone on this – and that is ok.
#9 Boosting & Comments
As a ninth step you want to see how the content is performing – and this is also where you want to come in and boost the content. You can either do this yourself through the influencer white listing the content and your going in through your own platform, or by giving the influencer the dollars to do it themselves. It’s also important here to take a step back and actually look at what the comments are – are fans of the influencer positively making comments, or are there negative comments?
The more authentic and organic the influencer you chose to work with is, the more positive the comments should be. If you are getting ripped socially for the post – then there is something wrong, and it is typically that you chose the wrong influencer, or how the product was positioned was wrong. People like being supportive of influencers they like and follow. Take a step to reflect so you can make changes in the future. This is where you are also measuring your KPI’s – making sure your goals were met. Which leads us to…
#10 Capture It Or It Didn't Happen
The tenth step, where you want to capture the content because we all know that if you can’t literally see something, then it kinda sorta didn’t ever exist. At least to brand owners and chief marketing officers. So screen grab away and capture that content. We use a subscription platform called CoverageBook – go to coveragebook.com - that makes clipping and capturing – and reporting – much easier, so you don’t need graphic designer wowness capabilities to prepare a report that will still wow your boss.
Plus you want these to be able to share with media in the future potentially, or new retail partners. Or whomever – just trust me. Capture that content and make sure it is recorded and pretty. You can share overall reach, likes, comments and engagement rate of your content as well within this report. And that engagement rate figure is going to help you when you work with influencers like nano or micro influencers who don’t have high numbers – they typically have higher engagement from followers which include friends, family and then wider circles that might literally know that person and feel like commenting to show support. Plus – you are re-posting all this awesome content – so that is super valuable all in itself.
#11 Payment Is Due... Now, Not Later
The eleventh step – which really could come before #10, is to pay the influencer. Seriously. Get on this and get on this fast. They don’t want to wait 30 to 45 or even 60 days for payment. Set up a Paypal account, and fund it. Then you can immediately pay the influencer as soon as they have posted, without having to go through all the processes it might normally take internally. You will get their love and gratitude. And I’m really totally serious about this.
Best way to never work with an influencer again? Delay payment. They’ve done their part, and expect to be paid promptly. They are not a business and used to net 30 or longer. It’s more like a gig they’ve just done, and upon completion of that gig, they expect the dollars to come in. And a learning lesson – ask them what email address they want to use for Paypal, because it’s often NOT the one they have been communicating with you on. And then you have to wait for PayPal to post a cancel button after a wait, and then do the whole process over again.
Some Tools To Help You Out
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog… it takes a lot of work and time for that one single post to show up. That’s why so many brands hire agencies to help them. Many brands don’t recognize the amount of time it actually takes, and question fees associated. It really is like herding cats. And yes, you can put a junior staffer on this or even an intern – but you probably aren’t going to get quite the same results and have as many people working on your behalf who know how to avoid some potholes along the way.
Take a read on some of our team's blogs on influencer marketing, as they will shed even more light on best practices to try out.
Additionally, make sure you check out our Influencer Marketing School below where we provide detailed step by step instructions on how to make influencer marketing work for you, in an easy learning environment with videos, transcripts, quizzes and infographics.
Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded's founder and CEO, has over twenty six years of leadership experience building global entertainment branding campaigns for top Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of brands. Her career started after receiving her BFA in Theater Production & Scenic Design from the University of Arizona. Acknowledged as an expert in the field, she has appeared on CNN and MSNBC; spoken at conferences around the globe from Germany to Beijing; and has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, Financial Times, The Economist, Brandweek, Advertising Age, Variety, B&C and Mediaweek amongst others. Originally from Texas, you will still hear her ya’ll as she gathers the team for strategy planning sessions. Like all true entrepreneurs, Stacy is an adventurer at her core – having sky dived, hang glided off bi-planes, swam with crocs while rafting the Zambezi in Africa, photographed grizzly bears in Alaska, trekked Mayan ruins in Belize, explored the ocean as an avid scuba diver, and who loves owning an advertising agency where she swims with a different type of Hollywood shark on a daily basis.