Aretha Franklin’s lyrics are perhaps even more poignant today when applied to one of the newest marketing tactics: the practice of influencer marketing.
The marketing landscape has seen many dramatic shifts over the years, and one of the largest is the change in relationship dynamic between celebrity endorsers and the companies they support. As millennials and other demographics become more wary of traditional advertising techniques, adaptations of old methodologies such as word-of-mouth are rapidly becoming important tools in the marketer's arsenal.
The Concept of Respect
Find out what it means to me…”
Paid celebrity endorsements are increasingly making way for micro-influencer marketing, where peers with substantial followings or a specific talent in writing, photography or design are paid smaller amounts promote certain products. The reason influencer marketing has become more effective than overpaid celebrity endorsements is inextricably linked to the relationship between the influencer and their audience.
This relationship works because audiences have personally chosen to follow the influencer as a peer. This is because they respect their views and are interested in their content. This respect is earned because the influencer’s posts are genuine and authentic in nature. Good influencers carefully select the brands they’re promoting – they have to be a good fit with their own personal brand. And brands carefully select the influencers they work with – their followers have to be a good fit for their own target demographics and their content has to be high-quality and relatable.
Respect is the core value that makes the influencer's message so powerful, and without this common value (or sometimes, we would argue, sadly uncommon), the entire campaign falls apart.
When working with influencers, companies often want to control the message. Controlling the influencer's message not only skirts the FTC's regulations on the use of influencers but also dilutes the impact of the message being sent. If the audience can sense that the influencer doesn't truly support the product they're promoting, they are much less likely to be engaged with the content, listen to the influencer or purchase the product.
Influencers understand how their audience thinks and what their likes and dislikes are. This allows them to produce content that respects their audience by delivering more targeted and engaging content without being overly aggressive or wasting their time with a plethora of irrelevant promotions.
So as hard as it is for brand’s marketing and PR departments to do, they have to start trusting their influencers to come up with and promote their own message. The way this works is if the influencer truly understands and respects the brand or product they're promoting and if there is a feeling of mutual respect between the influencer and the company.
While the influencer can control the tone of the message, brands don't have to completely let go of the reins. Having a close relationship with the influencers allows the company to educate them on the strengths of the product they're selling. The company can also request that the brand name is presented often within the content the influencer produces and can definitely check the influencer's content for accuracy and FTC compliance before allowing the content to go live.
Sometimes, if you’re working with a number of influencers on a campaign, this can become time-consuming and things can fall through the cracks. That’s why an influencer management company can be a good investment. It not only helps identify additional influencers who might work well for your brand (and often become brand ambassadors) but it adds a relationship layer between the influencer and your brand which often results in more original and authentic content. Not to mention that influencer management companies often have the ability to syndicate the content produced in your campaign in ways you otherwise can’t…
Give and Take
Influencer marketing works best when there is a strong current of mutual respect between the influencer, the brand and the audience they’re trying to reach. The influencer can guide the subjective message by producing content that is aimed at their own audience, while the brand should ensure FTC compliance and the accuracy of any factual claims made.
When this relationship works, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. A respectful relationship between influencer, brand and audience produces product promotions that are genuine, heartfelt endorsements of the brand — one of the best ways to engage with potential customers and build lasting brand loyalty.