Over the course of the past several months, I’ve been conducting research in Dallas to better understand the influencer marketing world and find out what is affecting the ability of brands and influencers to work together. The net result: Brands need to rethink their influencer marketing strategy to position influencers as entrepreneurs, collaborate with them as business partners, and target micro and mid-tier influencers. You can obtain the entirety of the findings here, but a synopsis can be found below.
Influencers are Entrepreneurs
From 2015 onwards, influencers have begun to shed the term of influencer (one they were largely uncomfortable with anyway) and instead identify as entrepreneurs. The reasoning being that they are business people growing a business that helps brands connect to otherwise untapped or hard to reach audiences. This shift from influencers as hobbyists (i.e. people who are creating content for fun, enjoyment, community, etc) to entrepreneurs aligns with the rise in affiliate marketing, in enterprise driven content development and widespread social media adoption. Now, influencers are spending anywhere from 20 to 80 hours per work working on their social media channels, developing their content, creating new websites, and landing new business. They understand that their efforts are being used to help brands make money. So, rightfully, they also want to be paid.
Influencer-preneurs Deserve More Information
When brands begin to pay influencers and change their orientation about influencers to entrepreneurs, it opens up a new way of thinking about how to train and coach influencers. When influencers were hobbyists they were treated like journalists – unpaid but largely undirected. With an influencer-preneur, brands should think of influencers are co-creation partners. Therefore, brands need to:
- Share their business and marketing goals
- Set clear expectations
- Provide clear parameters
- Provide directed feedback
Feedback is one of the primary requests from the influencers we interviewed – and its logical. A brand to brand relationship has a natural feedback mechanism and a lot of feedback as a result. This makes both partners better and the same is true in influencer marketing. When influencers are given strong and consistent feedback, they feel it improves their craft and enables them to better deliver on brand results.
Lower Funnel Influencers Are More Effective
With the broad drive to increase follower count, followers have been purchased. This cycle of advertising dollars driving falsified follower count has skewed the effectiveness of influencers at the top of the influencer funnel (i.e. those with high follower counts) and instead we are seeing mid and micro-tier influencers being the most effective brand partners because a.) they have the most accurate follower numbers, b.) they have more loyal followers and c.) they have different expectations on pricing for content and distribution.
As such, micro and mid-tier influencers can be the most authentic, with the highest conversion rates and the lowest cost. As brands think about creating influencer marketing campaigns, they need to look deeply at the influencer-preneurs who are not at the apex of the pyramid.
To find more results on the Dallas market, the first in my multi-market research project, please click here.