My presentation shed light on the current state of the industry in New Zealand, alongside Olivia Barclay, Brand Manager Kathmandu and Iyia Liu, Founder Waist Trainer NZ & Luxe Fitness. Olivia and Iyia spoke about their internal influencer marketing experiences from their respective companies. Both had very different products, company stages and goals, resulting in quite unique approaches to the space (both very strong) which was highly interesting.
For my talk, I was asked to provide a general industry oversight from our last year in the influencer marketing space in New Zealand and the 1,000+ collaborations we've organised in that time. Below are the key notes from my presentation, with a few inclusions from key points made by Olivia and Iyia on the night.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand's message to a larger market on your behalf: essentially leveraging the existing reach, trust and authority an individual has in a specific field.
The concepts behind it are nothing new. Word of mouth, endorsements and sponsorship agreements have been around for almost as long as there have been famous people.
What is new and exciting is the platform. Often now when we refer to "influencers", we are talking specifically about digital influencers, in particular, social media influencers.
This change has significantly impacted the marketing game, now individuals don't need to be celebrities to have a meaningful and valuable voice. There are thousands of people in New Zealand alone who aren’t widely recognised on the street, yet have amassed significant online followings and have the power to seriously impact purchasing decisions in relevant industries.
Where has influencer marketing come from?
Influencer marketing emerged as the result of dramatic changes in behaviour and media consumption. Led largely by the improvements in smartphone technology and more recently, internet advancements and data packages in New Zealand finally catching up with the rest of the world. We now have the ability to be connected every minute of the day.
The result: an enormous amount of social content being consumed.
Off the back of this, there are now masses of people throughout New Zealand with thousands (up to millions) of highly engaged online followers, who check in with these influencers religiously.
At the same time, this uprise in the use of digital has made it more difficult to connect with certain audiences via traditional platforms, due to competing with digital media formats gaining significant traction. Given this difficulty connecting with these audiences, it’s no surprise that marketers were quick to jump on the opportunity of leveraging influencers as an effective channel.
Iyia, Olivia and myself all spent time explaining the processes that we go through in rolling out an influencer campaign and these were largely the same across the board:
1. Determine Your Campaign KPIs
Reach & awareness - This “impression focus” is something that I think as an industry we will likely transition away from as it’s not necessarily the best measure of an effective influencer campaign, but it’s generally familiar & comfortable.
Engagement - This is quite similar to the reach goal, but with a greater focus on how many followers were actually engaged by the content, and their sentiment towards it.
User Generated Content - This is essentially recruiting a broad spectrum of online content creators to generate branded social media content for them.
Direct sales - Driving direct sales from the influencer activity, generally tracked via links or discount codes. Iyia had built two businesses through this enormously effectively and shared some great insight on what was and was not an efficient use of budget with direct sales as the major focus.
2. Develop Your Strategy
Target market - Who are you targeting with this specific campaign?
Creative strategy - What is the messaging & visual concept? Does the influencer element link in with a wider ABT campaign or activation? Generally these are best run alongside newsworthy or “instagram worthy” events.
Influencer relationship - How immersed is the influencer with the product/ campaign/ brand? Are they going to develop into a brand ambassador or provide a one-off endorsement?
Platform - Based on where your target market are and the creative concept, what channel best suits the campaign?
Celebrities or Micro-influencers - Is the campaign better suited to celebrity influencers as key ambassadors or more targeted to micro-influencers? Often, this is dependent on resources available to pull these campaigns together as in general, campaigns with celebrities can generate a greater reach with lower effort required, at a higher cost.
Boost budget - More relevant to some platforms than others, are you employing a boost budget for influencer posts? Olivia raised the importance of this, outlining that if you are going to the effort of having influencers create awesome content on your behalf, you should make sure that it is seen!
3. Select the Right Influencers
Focus on brand alignment - All three speakers stressed this as the most important consideration when running an influencer marketing campaign. Without it, you really are risking your brand as well as the influencer’s personal brand and campaigns are unlikely to be successful.
Seek to work with genuine brand advocates - Wherever possible, seek out and work with genuine brand advocates. Authenticity should always be a focus and they are the best influencers your brand can get.
Assess audience legitimacy - Firstly, check that engagement levels are sufficient (at least 1%). If not, be weary. Then look into a few random accounts that are engaging with the influencer’s content and check that these are genuine accounts. It is also not unfair to request audience demographics from influencers in many cases.
Assess audience match to target market - Consider the influencer’s audience in relation to your own target market. Your product may be a great fit for the influencer themself, but you need to make sure it’s the right fit for their audience also. Iyia shared some interesting experiences around learning this the hard way!
4. Communicating with Influencers
Consider the opportunity - The best way to look at an influencer relationship is as an opportunity to create a life-long brand advocate, if you make the collaboration a hugely positive experience for them.
On-board with creativity - Treat the recruitment process of brand advocates and influencers as you would a sale or hire. Make the opportunity clear and exciting. Remember that good influencers are approached multiple times daily with campaigns.
Detailed briefs - The briefing process is worth spending time on. As industry professionals, there are things that seem so intuitive that they need not be mentioned. Say everything, just in case! Creative requirements, timing, process, exclusivity, image rights, every detail you can think of.
Compensate fairly - there is no golden rule when it comes to pricing, but remember to factor in influencer audience value, time and energy requirements for content creation and the non-monetary value you are offering.
Approve with trust - Remember that influencers know their audiences best. They know what they like and what resonates. As much as possible, trust their judgement with campaign content.
5. Measuring the Results
The final step for campaigns is measuring campaign effectiveness. Assess what worked well, who performed best for your brand and what creative concepts were most effective.
Olivia suggested the idea that influencer marketing is an ongoing process in an ever evolving space - which you get better at over time and mould to your own brand.
Make sure to review:
The key campaign results against KPIs identified earlier
The quality of the content created by influencers
Sentiment of follower responses and engagements
How the influencer was to work with and how much effort was required at your end to make it a successful campaign.
Where is influencer marketing headed?
Within my time in the industry, influencer marketing has moved leaps and bounds and will continue to do so in the coming years. It’s not going anywhere anytime fast but it will be important to keep up with trends, platforms and best practices.
Here are a few trends we expect to see continue:
Influencer marketing becoming an increasingly integral part of the marketing mix for NZ businesses, not just at key engagement times, as it is for most businesses currently.
A movement towards focusing on micro-influencers and alignment, as opposed to less relevant celebrity endorsements.
More traditional brands incorporating influencer marketing into the wider marketing mix, to avoid being left behind by more innovative newcomers.
Businesses seeking to create more meaningful collaborations with influencers, beyond the basic product placement campaigns that we have seen in the past.
Demand from both influencers and brands for longer-term, exclusive partnerships.
About The Social Club
The Social Club is an Auckland based influencer marketing company, using an online platform to connect brand and agency clients with a network of nearly 2,000 social media influencers. Launched in 2015, The Social Club has now facilitated over 1,500 brand/influencer collaborations.