What Brands Misunderstand About Influencers | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

What Brands Misunderstand About Influencers

By Scotty Tidwell

The creator economy is on fire, and brands are turning to influencer campaigns to increase their ROAS as the digital advertising ecosystem shifts and CPMs rise. Unfortunately, most brands fail to work effectively with creators and influencers.

Too many brands view creator and influencer collaboration strategies as a "numbers game": "How many followers do the influencers have? How many people can they reach? And how many clicks and purchases will be a direct result of their influence?"

Brands approach these campaigns by asking short-term, fast-twitch questions. While such considerations are valid, brands benefit by asking deeper questions.

It's More Than Numbers

Brands often focus on partnering with the most-followed creators, thinking that will lead to the greatest reach. In so doing, they walk right into the "total social footprint" trap, which measures only the breadth of an influencer's reach — and says nothing about follower enthusiasm for particular topics.

Some brands – particularly DTC brands – focus too much on conversions. They want to see a bump in purchases during the first day or two of a campaign launch, which is unrealistic. Impulse purchases are quite rare. Researching products and services before purchasing has become easy. So, shoppers generally consult user-provided reviews — at a minimum — before clicking the purchase button. The path to purchase is rarely a straight line.

While numbers matter, brands should be careful not to overlook opportunities to find and collaborate with the creators who will produce the best results. Instead of simply identifying the "most followed creators," brands should start by asking one question: Who are the right creators to promote my brand?

The answer may be micro-influencers — who have a smaller, more engaged audience — or less conventional collaborations, such as sponsoring an e-sport team or backing a gamer directly.

Know What the Brand Wants

Many brands don't know exactly what they want from a collaboration — so it's hard for them to know what success would look like. They often don't know what their expectations for an influencer campaign should be or how to identify the right influencer or creator.

By clarifying their expectations, brands can identify the right influencers and creators – some of whom may not have big numbers but are far more intimately engaged with their audience and whose platform aligns with the brand. That's what leads to a more genuine, well-executed campaign.

Know What the Creators Want

Once brands identify the right creators and influencers, identifying the process for collaboration is essential. It's crucial to let the creators be themselves.

Creators who are handed corporate scripts often stumble when reading because the script doesn't match their usual tone. Creators possessed of more humor than professionalism may even make deliberate mistakes or mock the script. Efforts to exert excessive control often inspire rebellion – at the brand's expense.

While providing assets for creators is a great way to ensure that the brand message gets across, requiring word-for-word recitation stifles personality and creativity – two of the main qualities that drew the creators' followers in the first place.

When working with creators, enable them to interact with brand content in whichever way they want. They've amassed followers who resonated with their style. That's what their fans like about them. Efforts to alter that persona are likely to cause more harm than good.

The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing. Consumers sniff out disingenuous approaches – and a few keyboard warriors may even go so far as to call your brand out.

Better to take the time to find the right creators for your brand, then set them free to interact with your content on their terms. Let them contribute to your brand in a mutually beneficial way, and you will create solid influencer relationships – and your campaigns will begin to outperform expectations.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Scotty Tidwell is president at Storied and SVP at Enthusiast Gaming.