A matter of influence

As brands strive to be as relevant as possible to their audience, one thing that all yearn for is authenticity in the associations and spokespersons they attach themselves to. Having an influencer strategy as part of a brand’s overall communication strategy is critical in today’s world to reach and engage its audience in a way that will connect with them effectively.

As a direct seller, at Avon our Representatives are our main influencer base. Having an army of brand evangelists is a fundamental component of that business model. They are the key communication channel, and we work daily with them to equip them with information and content for them to share out to their social networks.

In addition we still also work with other influencers that can help us inspire our Representatives and also help us reach potential new Representatives. Building connections with the right influencers to help us do that is also important for us, as it is for any brand with such objectives.

And other brands don’t have the Representative army Avon has as a foundation. For many the influencer strategy is therefore key to unlock and fuel a brand’s power to engage new and existing followers.

My good friend Jason Nichols is Lead Brand Partner for the East Coast at Linqia, a company that helps brands unlock the power of influencers to communicate effectively leveraging its performance-based platform. We worked together at Unilever back in the day and he’s built deep knowledge in this space over the past few years. I caught up with him to understand what he’s seeing out there in the wild…

Influencer marketing is growing so fast? Why is that?

It’s all about the democratization of influence. Brands need to decentralize their campaigns now to make their message more relatable and that requires many authentic voices helping to land the message, rather than a single corporate voice in limited channels pushing a message out. This evolution challenges many of the most popular legacy brands who have traditionally retained 100% control over their look, feel and every piece of content. Conversely, this shift can be a key advantage to young companies that have no such expectations.

With your experience of being a brand manager and now having built specialized knowledge on influencer marketing, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a brand manager as operate in this new world?

Understand that influencer content is not brand content. An influencer’s job is to make content real for their audience. They have their own tone of voice and they need to stay true to that to maintain authenticity with their followers. Brands therefore have to be willing to take risks and loosen their grip. Content is not always going to be as they might have anticipated, but it will be much more creative, engaging and impactful. And that’s the whole point!

What other myths might need to be debunked for brand managers when thinking about influencers?

That you’ll drive immediate sales directly off the back of influencer marketing. Sure, some will; but not everyone. Influencer activity can drive perception or awareness but not everyone can replicate what Kylie Jenner is doing.

What is key then is to set the right goals and manage expectations. Understand that the larger the following the influencer has, generally the lower the engagement rate. So consider spreading the net out amongst multiple low-mid size influencers, and a partner like Linqia can help you with that.  

Also, an organic-only reach influencer campaign is just half baked. Media is essential in a balanced campaign effort and can help you both with targeted reach, efficient scale and rigorous measurement opportunities & insights.

What’s the future hold?

Influencer marketing is now a channel. Once first considered a part of the PR mix, it has now evolved and is competing for dollars with the likes of Facebook, Programmatic Display and Pop Sugar. We’ve seen a boom and consolidation is on its way.

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