The Power and Pitfalls of Working With Brand Influencers

The Power and Pitfalls of Working With Brand Influencers

You may have recently heard in the news about Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, and their individual beefs with Snapchat. For the uninitiated, Snapchat is a photo-sharing and chat app where its core function involves the photos, videos, or chats only appearing for a brief period of time before they disappear. It has garnered a huge user base since its inception by adding tons of new features that many other social networks have been quick to copy. (Has your niece posted dozens of photos of herself wearing CGI flower crowns or cat ears? You can thank Snapchat for that.)

However, Snapchat’s with all the imitation from other, more robust channels, the need to quickly update and stay ahead of the game has lead to some prominent Snapchat users becoming quite angry.

The Power of a Single Tweet

Kylie Jenner is one of those prominent influencers on the Snapchat platform. She has roughly 25 million followers, so when she shares something about the app it can have a tremendous effect. On February 21st, she tweeted her disapproval of Snapchat’s new app redesign:

After her tweet about the redesign, Snap stock closed down 6% and lost about $1.3 billion of the company’s market value. The backlash to the new design was so intense that Snapchat quickly put out a press release that they heard the complaints and would roll out features similar to the old design.

A Lesson Not Learned

An even more recent incident for Snapchat occurred just a past week. Snapchat ran an offensive ad on its platform for a mobile game called “Would You Rather” which asked its users whether they would “Slap Rihanna” or “Punch Chris Brown.” In 2009, Chris Brown plead guilty to brutally assaulting Rihanna after getting into an argument in their car. Obviously, domestic violence is not subject matter to make light of, especially not something you should use in an advertisement regarding a known victim and perpetrator. It was a tone-deaf move, even if Snapchat’s ad team didn’t understand the context of the copy. (And if they didn’t, they must be living under a rock.)

Rihanna swiftly denounced the advertisement and posted a response to her 61 million followers on Instagram. What happened to Snapchat? Again, the company lost 4% of its stock value and erased nearly $800 million of its market value.

Choose Your Strategy Wisely

When you rely on influencers to market your brand, your overall marketing strategy can become unpredictable. Essentially you lose control over your own brand and it becomes synonymous with someone else’s. That’s what has happened with Snapchat since it is so reliant on using celebrities to bolster its popularity. While this can be an incredibly powerful marketing tactic, it does mean companies need to tread lightly and consider their strategy carefully if they’ll be handing over the keys to their brand.

Snapchat is particularly vulnerable to “Rihanna incidents” because it uses a self-service ad platform where a company can submit ads without human negotiation. Ads submitted to the platform are said to be reviewed according to their company policy, but obviously, this one, in particular, fell through the cracks.

Overall, it seems Snapchat is taking a “fly by the seat of their pants” approach to marketing that can be somewhat worrisome for serious brand marketers. If you are considering using a brand influencer or social media platform to market your brand, let’s take a look at how you can do it effectively.

Influencer Marketing

People are spending more time looking at their phone screens than their TV screens. Marketers have taken note of this shift in consumer attention from TV to phone apps and subsequently have diversified their strategy. Thus, brands have started leveraging the main influencers on social media platforms (such as Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube) in order to expose a brand or product to that particular thought leader’s audience. Some influencers can have bigger audiences than even some cable TV shows, so this method is an excellent way to bring brand awareness to key demographics.

But influencer marketing is also vulnerable to fraud. With the influencer industry approaching $1 billion, many people try to inflate their numbers using bots, meaning influencers may not have as many people following their accounts as they say. In turn, your brand may not be reaching as many people as you assume. Ultimately, this is wasted money on the brand’s part. Mediakik, a brand influencer marketing company, conducted a study in which they created two fake Instagram accounts. They purchased thousands of fake followers and were able to secure four paid brand deals which offered both money and free products for the fake Instagram accounts.

While there can be great rewards for picking the right influencer and marketing through them, there can be potential pitfalls too. One of the biggest challenges is finding the right influencer and then making sure they continue to be the right person for the job.

Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, has been the spokesperson for the yogurt company Dannon for a number of years. During the last NFL season, Cam Newton made disparaging and sexist comments about a female reporter when she asked about running routes. Dannon officially cut ties with Newton after he made those remarks. This whole situation shows how a brand must be keen on selecting people who are going to be consistent all the way throughout the marketing campaign.

The Best Way to Approach Influencer Marketing

One of the greatest difficulties a major company like Snapchat faces is that influencers are using their product, whether they ask them to or not. Not every celebrity on Instagram or Twitter is a paid influencer, obviously. In these situations, it’s important to think very carefully of who is using your product and how in order to ultimately protect your brand’s image (and stock).

One of the best ways to mitigate these conflicts is to get in front of them. By seeking influencers out and nurturing those relationships, you can create one-to-one connections that can pay off in the long run.

  1. Picking the Perfect Influencer

The question you need to ask yourself is: What niche am I looking for? If you are selling natural makeup and beauty products, then you should focus on social media channels devoted to makeup tutorials or related topics. If you don’t partner with the right influencer, it can often organically damage your brand and take your marketing campaign off message.

Mediakik created a short list that can help you figure out what to consider when choosing the right influencer for your campaign:

  • Audience Demographic
  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Brand Experience
  • Frequency of Posts
  • Past Performance

Reach is particularly interesting because many marketers mistakenly assume they need to land the biggest catch (Kylie Jenner) to promote their brand. Partnering with many micro-influencers (those with followings in, say, the 10k region) has just as much power as landing a single celebrity. And if one changes their opinion of your product, the fallout will be much less impactful.

  1. Approach the Influencer as a Person

It may seem like common sense, but many brands do not view influencers as people. Oftentimes brands are more concerned with numbers than they are interested in connecting with the influencer and user. The product connection not only has to make sense for the influencer but for the user as well.

If you focus on the relationship that your brand can build with the audience, you will create more avid consumers that will proselytize your brand.

  1. Ascertain the Best Way to Expose Your Brand/Product

What’s the best way to disseminate your brand? Is it via exciting blog articles, interesting YouTube videos, colorful Instagram posts, quick Snapchat ads, or via retweets from influencers? The organic nature of influencers and their followers means that the audience will want to use and buy the same things as the influencer is using. By choosing the most effective way to expose your brand, like having fashion models wear your brand’s clothing on Instagram, you will receive the highest ROI on your marketing campaign.

Overall, consumers are becoming more reliant on social media influencers to give them the leg-up on purchasing decisions. If your brand wants to stay relevant in an ever-growing digital space, you should capitalize on this space or risk being pushed out by more innovative companies.

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