The Real Value Of Influencer Collaborations? Think Long Term.
This article first appeared in Forbes. To read the Forbes version, click here.
Collaborating with influencers on sponsored content has made its way from a sub-strategy to a standalone entity for brands. The stats back it up: Forbes reported at the beginning of 2017 that 84% of marketers planned on working with influencers in the next 12 months. While that’s a staggering number, the way that marketers measure the success of these collaborations remains inconsistent.
What is it that constitutes a successful collaboration? Is it a boost in followers? A fleeting spike in traffic to the website? Is assigning a CPM or a “media value” the best way to measure it? Is it bottom-line sales? Some brands are just happy to know that their brand is being showcased in front of a targeted audience.
All of these components are important, and I don’t mean to trivialize them, but if they’re the only things you're focused on you’re being shortsighted. The value of the influencer-generated content (IGC) and the reactivation of it across marketing channels is criminally underrated and should be a central component of brands’ influencer strategies.
It’s not uncommon for brands to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on professional photo and video shoots. Somehow, they still find themselves starving for content. On top of that, many see their stock creative growing stale and underperforming. Turning to lower-priced influencer content and empowering highly creative influencers to be visual storytellers on behalf of the brand can not only fill the content gap but also boost content performance.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2020, 50% of brand content will be created outside of in-house marketing teams. This isn’t a coincidence.
Instagram powerhouse Triangl Swim is an example of a brand effectively reactivating influencer content. They've consistently leaned on a trusted group of influencers that they refer to as "Triangl Girls,” and their Instagram feed is jam-packed with aspirational photos from influencers wearing their swimsuits on exotic beaches around the globe. They also have a section of their website that highlights a sampling of photos from the Triangl Girls, giving their site a much more authentic, millennial-friendly feel.
Bohemian lifestyle brand Free People recently executed a campaign called #LoveYourParks in which they had influencers like@chelseakauai document their visits to national parks. They then took that content that originated on the influencers' Instagram accounts and reactivated it on their own Instagram profile, encouraging their followers to contribute their own content for a chance to win free stuff.
The most common pushbacks from marketers on the subject of reactivating influencer-generated content are the following:
1. "We lack creative control of influencer content"
2. "The content quality isn’t up to par, and we don’t trust influencers do to a good job”
3. "The influencers we work with are too expensive"
First, consider that having “creative control” may not be necessary. Start by building trusted relationships with influencers who are thoughtful, creative, and have taken the time to understand your brand’s aesthetic. If you’re looking for specific things in the content, lay them out in a brief for the influencer to review prior to creating it.
Avoid the urge to be a complete control freak, but don’t shy away from providing them with feedback on how you’d like them to alter or refine their work in an ongoing relationship. They appreciate the feedback.
In regards to the video or photo quality being lower quality in comparison to professional content, consider the success of user generated content (UGC). Studies have shown that ads featuring UGC have up to 4X higher click-through-rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than average ads. Those are powerful figures. AdWeek recently reported that 85% of users surveyed find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos.
The power of UGC, which is by definition not professionally produced, is well documented and understood. So why not just use UGC and skip the influencer content? Here are few reasons:
• With UGC, you can’t control the inbound flow of content and which products are being featured
• Small brands don’t typically garner enough UGC, while big brands have too much to sort through
• On average, only 1 in 10 UGC photos is considered “usable”
Influencer-generated content perfectly bridges the gap between UGC and professionally produced content.
On the influencer pricing front, you can shift the perceived value of influencer collaborations by thinking about both the long-term benefits of collaborations (content acquisition) as well as the short term (follower growth, web traffic, etc). It should be considered “working spend” because the content is being pushed out to each influencer’s audiences. When influencers speak to their audiences, they tend to listen.
Consider working with micro-influencers who have smaller social followings, but are still quite capable of creating high quality content. While sponsoring an Instagram post with Gigi Hadid has obvious appeal, consider opting for 40 to 50 collaborations with micro-influencers for the same cost.
It’s time to move away from the myopic emphasis on the upfront benefits of influencer collaborations. Make it clear in your negotiations with influencers that you'd like extend the content, and be prepared to pay more for it. It’s well worth it, and you’ll be spending a fraction of the cost of professionally produced photo and video content. From there, reactivate it across all of your marketing channels. Stop being shortsighted and open your eyes to the momentous long-term value of influencer-created content.