No, Influencers are Not Ad Buys

Influencers, Blog, Boelter Lincoln, Influencer Marketing

If you are even slightly involved in advertising or PR, you’ve probably heard the term “influencer marketing.” From fashion to fitness, these digital mavens have established themselves as worthwhile, non-traditional media outlets for brands to leverage. It may come as a surprise then to hear that they should not be classified as ad buys. With the FCC continuing to crack down on the clear labeling of paid partnerships using the infamous #ad or #sponsored designations, it can be confusing.

What’s not confusing is the clear value of influencer relationships. According to a 2016 study by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, influencer marketing delivers 11 times higher ROI than traditional brand marketing. To reach this 11 times threshold, however, brands must understand that instead of approaching influencers with a native ad placement, they must lead with a creative partnership.

I’ll give a sneak peek into my social feed. YouTube creator and tech expert Casey Neistat produces content that is raw, unfiltered and always innovative. Known for testing drones, cameras and experiences before anyone else, his popularity has soared in recent years. Now, consider GoPro. The portable, high-quality adventure camera brand seems like an ideal fit for Casey’s voice and community. But, if GoPro approached Casey with a native ad buy, offering him a sizable check to create and share a product review video with five talking points about their latest camera, the content would fall flat. Why would a follower believe Casey’s endorsement of GoPro, the brand, when every piece of his content from the last week was honest, authentic and wildly adventurous? Followers will not engage.

Luckily, GoPro was smart and partnered with Casey to create an experiential video, in which he explored scenic landscapes with thrilling stunts. The free reign in this partnership allowed for Casey to share his opinion of GoPro’s product in the context of his existing voice.

This creative partnership takes trust between a brand and an influencer, but the reward is tenfold when it comes to quality content and meaningful engagement within a community of potential loyal consumers. Utilizing the right evaluation metrics in the beginning stages of your influencer campaign will ensure that the best influencer(s) are selected based on demographic, content, domain authority and a variety of other qualities.

PARTNER to CREATE in their existing voice. Don’t buy an #ad.

Conversation-starting, sales-sparking engagement will soon follow. Remember that this strategy is effectively placing a brand into a community that is only listening to and engaging with an influencer’s unique, existing voice. Followers are not looking for your brand. But, when you can demonstrate how a product or service fits within the context of their passion, that’s when influencer marketing can truly amplify the core of a brand experience.