Having a million followers on Instagram doesn’t make you an influencer.
And while the statement above might challenge your perceptions of social media influencer marketing, real influence stems from an individual’s capacity to alter or change their followers’ behavior—not their follower count.
Now if you are still not convinced, you may be wondering: what is social media influencer marketing? And what’s the best way to do influencer marketing on social media?
So to help answer these questions, we spoke with Pamela Kaupinen, Senior Vice President, Strategy, at HelloSociety, to get her perspective on what it takes to build a successful influencer marketing strategy.
So, now get ready to revise your tactics as Kaupinen explains the ins and outs of formulating an influencer marketing strategy.
Kaupinen is one of the speakers at OMR Festival 2019, which will be attended by over 50,000 marketing enthusiasts. The two-day conference offers attendees the chance to hear from a-listers, CEOs, movers and shakers from the world’s biggest companies. Interested in attending? Get 30% off your ticket to OMR Festival with promo code: Falcon. Click here to get your discount!
Q: Today it’s pretty easy to create a YouTube channel and an Instagram account, but being active on these channels doesn’t necessarily make you an influencer. So, I’m curious to understand—how you define what it means to be an influencer at HelloSociety?
Pamela Kaupinen: Due to the overwhelming success of influencer marketing and demand for brand collaborations, there’s been a significant increase in individuals wanting to get in on the action, thus a notable uptick in people claiming they are influencers without credibility. Because of this, it’s now more important than ever to clearly define “influencer”—and define influencer marketing—with quantifiable qualifiers.
At HelloSociety, we define influencers as social-first content creators who have established credibility and clout among an engaged audience through consistent and quality social storytelling. We qualify influencers based on both quantitative and qualitative measures, including:
- Social following (e.g., Nano influencers starting at 5,000+ followers on Instagram and going up to elite influencers with audiences in the millions), Engagement rate, and Audience authenticity (e.g., Measurable through third-party partners such as HypeAuditor)
- Quality of content, Quality of engagements, Quality of followers, and In-person screening
Q2: Social media influencer marketing is becoming increasingly more important marketing tactic for brands, but not every brand out there has a influencer marketing strategy. So can you explain to me why you believe brands should have a plan for working with influencers?
Pamela Kaupinen: It’s not news that traditional media is challenged with modern consumers cutting the cord, abandoning print, and downloading ad blockers. Modern consumers crave opt-in advertising environments that are more personalized than traditional sources. The result is that today’s consumer is spending the great majority of their time consuming content on social media—nearly 3 hours per day. With that, there is a disproportionate percentage of consumers who do not follow brands on social media thus brands must go beyond their own channels to capitalize on the unrivaled consumer attention found on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. The answer is influencer marketing and the proof is in widely published success metrics around it:
- 79% of Internet users say they are now most likely to hear about new brands, products, and services from influencers
- 92% say they trust influencers more than traditional advertisements and more than traditional celebrity endorsements
- One-third of daily Instagram users said they have purchased a product or service based on a recommendation from an influencer or blogger on the platform
- 94% of marketers who have used influencer marketing rate it to be effective with nearly half (48%) increasing their influencer marketing budgets this year as a result
Q3: One of the challenges of building a social media influencer marketing strategy is making sure you partner with someone who connects with the same values you have. How do you source and vet influencers for brands at HelloSociety?
Pamela Kaupinen: As a New York Times Company, we are held to the industry’s most rigorous quality control and standards, which applies to how we vet influencers for brands. In addition to the quantitative and qualitative measures mentioned earlier, we work closely with brands to align on their values from the onset of the partnership and we add a human touch that is not always prioritized in the influencer marketing space.
Many influencer marketing agencies operate solely through dashboards that connect influencers and brands based on information that can be stored in a dashboard and generated automatically. What this process neglects to do is add the human touch that is necessary to truly understand a brand’s values as well as that of influencers. At HelloSociety, we have a dedicated in-house talent team that hand selects influencers for each and every brand campaign. Our team works closely with our partners to understand their mission, vision, and values in a way that goes beyond sheer data. This ensures that partnerships work both from a data perspective but also from a brand ethos perspective.
Q4: Besides sourcing the right influencers, what other challenges do the brands you are working with say they experience when it comes to establishing a social media influencer marketing strategy?
Pamela Kaupinen: Measuring impact and, ultimately, ROI continues to be a challenge in the influencer marketing space. This can be attributed to the fact that the social media metrics made available by the platforms themselves are often limited (estimated impressions, engagement rate, etc.) and the marketplace as a whole does not yet have established industry-standard success measurement tools that provide in-depth reporting.
One of our biggest initiatives for 2019 is to introduce the industry to HelloSociety’s first-to-market measurement tool, the Campaign Impact Study (CIS).
This never-been-done-before research solution will provide brands with a unique understanding of the effectiveness of its campaigns via direct follower feedback. With HelloSociety’s Campaign Impact Study, brands will have the opportunity to glean in-depth insights into their campaign performance among the organic audiences exposed to the content in real-time. Learnings for brands include campaign recall, perception shift, actions taken, and more.
Q5: Wow! That sounds like a resource that would help any marketer out there struggling to refine their influencer marketing strategy.
And following up on your point around creating brand-influencer partnerships, how do you encourage brands to establish such relationships? My feeling is that a lot of brands are still leveraging influencers for one-off transactions and not cultivating relationships with them.
Pamela Kaupinen: That is exactly right. The industry, as it stands today, is very one-off driven. The brands that are seeing the most success with influencer marketing, though, are the ones that are collaborating with influencers on more thoughtful long-term partnerships.
In a large-scale national study we conducted with more than 300+ influencers, we found out that the #1 mistake brands are making with influencers is not partnering long-term.
This is because influencers are not being given the opportunity to effectively move their followers through the consumer purchase journey, for example with 1X Instagram post. Our proprietary data supports this as well, proving that our brand partners who work with influencers on 3X or more posts, and on 2X or more campaigns, experience significant increases in campaign engagement as well as sentiment. More long-term partnerships with influencers who can act as brand advocates will be a notable trend in influencer Marketing this year and beyond.
Q6: What metrics do you recommend brands use when setting their social media influencer marketing strategy? Are any brands actually tracking and attributing things like sales or revenue directly to influencer marketing campaigns?
Pamela Kaupinen: HelloSociety places a strong emphasis on impactful engagements when it comes to evaluating metrics that actually move the needle for brands. While reaching new audiences is a key element of influencer marketing, the connections influencers have with their followers drive consideration where traditional advertising falls short. Thus, engagements and engagement rate are much more powerful indicators of success compared to reach or impressions.
In an effort to measure the impact of an influencer’s post and the resulting engagements, HelloSociety executes a Sentiment Analysis on a majority of campaigns to provide insight into the influencer’s dialogue with their followers. This provides brands with a measurable snapshot of how audiences are reacting to their influencer partnership.
In addition to tracking engagements on the post itself, HelloSociety’s Campaign Impact Study takes measurement one step further. Not only does the study measure content recall, perception shift, intent to take action, and overall brand sentiment, it is also able to attribute quantifiable sales to a brand’s influencer marketing investment.
A recent activation of the Campaign Impact Study generated purchases from nearly 200 respondents within 48 hours of the influencer’s sponsored post. Prior to this study, attribution measurements on this scale were highly inaccessible in influencer marketing. Beyond vanity metrics such as likes and impressions, the Campaign Impact Study proves the measurable quality and effectiveness of influencer marketing.
Q7: Finally, I know you’ve probably helped launch hundreds of campaigns, but is there an influencer marketing campaign example that stands out as your favorite? If so, why?
Pamela Kaupinen: One of our most memorable partnerships took place in 2018 with Johnson & Johnson for their nurses initiative. So much of the groundbreaking work in health care is driven by the work of nurses who see firsthand what needs to be changed, but not enough people know all that they do. To put nurses and their monumental impact at the forefront, HelloSociety contracted three influencers to share their personal stories about nurses. One of the influencers, Matt Chambers of Stories and Craft, shared how nurses helped save his family after they found out his son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. HelloSociety created a cinematic journey of Matt and his family’s story, highlighting the groundbreaking work in health care that is driven by the work of nurses. The content came to life cross-platform via social storytelling, custom video, and a long-form paid post on nytimes.com.
We love this campaign for so many reasons, but especially because it emblematizes the true power of influencer marketing which is the unique ability to leverage real, relatable, and authentic voices to deepen brand and consumer connections on a human level.
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