Despite all the talk, the majority of brands have not used influencer marketing. Instead, they're opting to rely on tactics like SEM, social media ads and banner retargeting. All fine, but research has shown that influencer marketing can also provide a huge gain for businesses.
So how can you do it effectively?
1. Understand what an influencer is.
An influencer isn't just someone with a lot of followers. First of all, followers can be bought, and many do buy them. If someone on Instagram has 20.4k followers and averages 260 likes per post, that's an awful 1.3% engagement rate and of that, how many could they actually get to care about the content being pushed?
Even if followers weren't bought, they could simply be a popular account. A cute girl who posts about fashion may have a ton of fans who engage regularly, but if the product is eyeliner and her followers are guys giving likes because she's cute, she's probably not going to be able to influence them to buy that eyeliner. An influencer is, more than the amount of followers they have, someone who their followers value and listen to.
2. Find influencers that match, and communicate.
Sourcing influencers that work for your brand takes time, and that's one of the reasons why many don't do it despite the upside. Things that need consideration are who their followers are, whether their usual content matches the brand's image, whether or not they promote brands too frequently, if they've worked with a competitor, etc. Keep in mind that if the goal is to sell a watch, for example, the most effective influencers may not be fashion influencers at all, but those who have a voice in their respective industries so they can show the not-so-obvious connection.
Once the desired influencers are found, the business' goals need to be effectively communicated, then they need to judge if it's in line with their personal brand, and then a contract needs to be created. This is an area that Japanese companies often take too lightly when working internationally.
3. Respect influencers. (This is important)
Many companies, particularly in Japan, are used to having control of every detail. They may not view a popular social media star as a legitimate business, yet the market has shifted to where these individuals actually are. After all, a company who desires to get their brand in front of their followers should realize that it's not any different from wanting to get in front of a television program's viewers. If a company wants access to someone's channel that they built, it needs to be understood that it's a business transaction, and these influencers need to be compensated fairly.
Another point to remember is that while it's important to be clear about what's desired, the actual output should be left primarily to the influencer. They know more about their followers and what they want to see than the company, and any type of deviation from the norm will be easily sniffed out by their followers, which in turn severely limits effectiveness of the campaign.
In the clip below, Micaela Braithwaite, a Canadian YouTube vlogger based in Kyushu with almost 275k followers on that platform alone, explains why it was difficult working as an influencer with a Japanese media company - ranging from being looked at as below them and not being fairly compensated for access to her followers, to attaching her name and face to a completely made-up persona.
It's also important to remember that influencers are in circles with other influencers. They collaborate, help promote each other and share information as well. You can take an inside peak at what influencers are saying about the jobs they take on sites like Who Pay$ Influencers? Respecting their worth will help your company in the long run for future collaborations.