Influencer marketing has long passed the point of being a trend and is now, for better or worse, a staple element of the advertising industry. But that doesn’t mean brands have it all figured out. Questions abound around allocating influencer marketing dollars, drawing up campaigns, and perhaps most importantly, choosing which influencers make sense for the brand.
Adweek sat down with Lynsey Eaton and Suzanne Droese, co-founders of Estate Five, a Dallas-based influencer agency that represents a slew of recognizable influencers, as well as Jamie Wachlarz, Estate Five’s VP of strategic partnerships, to discuss how brands can navigate the world of influencer marketing—and see return on their investment. The three biggest takeaways from that conversation, below.
Influencers are more than their Instagram accounts
So much of what influencers do today centers on platforms like Instagram or YouTube. But it’s important to remember that oftentimes, a single social media account is only a sliver of what the influencer in question has to offer during a partnership. Eaton said that brands can need a little coaxing to open up to influencer partnerships that go beyond what they’re familiar with.
“Even though people have become much more open to influencer marketing, a lot of times they’re very comfortable with respect to what they’d been doing in their plans, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, this has worked for me. Instagram seems to be what’s working best for me,’” said Eaton. “They’re not really finding out about an influencer and learning about how each specific influencer platform works, because not they’re not all the same.”
In particular, Eaton said, this is important because what works and drives conversion with one influencer might be different than another.
“There are some influencers where we’ll tell brands, ‘You really like her, you really want conversions, what you really want to use is their blog, that’s what converts,’” she said. “And they’ll say, ‘Oh no, Instagram is what does it for us.’ But if you want to work with her, her platform that converts is her blog.”
Realize different teams within a brand can use influencers in different ways
Influencer partnerships can stretch across sectors of a company, and the way these varying departments will use influencers will change depending on what they’re looking for, according to Wachlarz.
“What we’re finding in some cases [is] that different aspects of different people within the same company need to use influencers in different ways,” she said. “The creative team might want to use influencers as models, just to have that association. The public relations team might want to use the influencers for awareness.”
However, that doesn’t mean you should try to make one influencer partnership work across the board. Each campaign is unique and requires specific attention—and specific goals. In an influencer campaign, there are typically one of two driving factors: conversion or awareness—it’s a rare influencer that will do both for a brand.
“You can’t have one activation hitting multiple KPIs,” said Wachlarz. “If you’re really going after conversions, you should not necessarily care as much about impressions and really just worry about the sales and vice versa.”
Engagement doesn’t tell the whole story
Influencers are so much more than just their follower count or how many people like their photos. But sometimes marketers can get so blinded by the more obvious numbers that they could be missing out on more important indications that an influencer campaign will be a success.
“As a marketer, the one hiring influencers, we’re so obsessed with the idea of engagement rate and how can we work with somebody that has the highest engagement rate,” said Wachlarz. “That’s gonna be the best person because they’re connected with their community. But engagement really doesn’t take into consideration some of your highest indicators for purchase conversion. Things like a send, a share, a bookmark or even a link click isn’t accounted for in an engagement rate.”
If brands want greater transparency when it comes to data, the easiest way is just to go straight to the source. Wachlarz said influencers care about the data and want to work with brands to showcase how they’ll best succeed.
She said: “There’s a misconception that, like, influencers don’t necessarily care about the data, but all of our influencers do.”