Have you thought about what influencers want to tell you, but don't?
This article originally appears on Forbes.com, on February 13, 2018.
If you want to know how someone feels, ask them. The unique nature of influencer marketing is such that influencers' enthusiasm (or lack thereof) can impact campaign results.
At Carusele, our specialty is influencer marketing for large consumer brands, and we partnered with TapInfluence, an influencer software platform company, to ask several thousand of our influencers what’s on their minds today. We gathered 795 responses (margin of error of 3.5%) and found five interesting trends clearly emerging in 2018 -- with five things influencers would tell brand marketers given the chance.
1. We love our blogs. You should, too.
Blogs were the favorite channel of influencers for branded content. In our survey, more than 36% of influencers selected blogs as their first choice, narrowly edging out Instagram (35%). The survey validates data from TapInfluence’s platform, which shows that more than half of the content produced there resides on blogs.
Brands should also continue to value blogs for two main reasons. First, they are the logical home for long-form content, giving influencers a chance to show the benefits of a product. Second, blog post views continue to accrue over time and quality posts can positively impact search engine results. For example, a featured snippet on Google (and, therefore, the very first result) links to an influencer blog post for one of our clients. Contrast this long-term value with the few hours in which most tweets thrive and the value of a blog is clear.
While YouTube can also be a powerful contributor to long-term search engine results -- people are projected to continue consuming more than five hours of video per day through 2019 -- only 1% of influencers named it their favorite channel. This is likely because of the additional time investment needed to create quality YouTube videos. In addition, the platform offers limited engagement, relative to other options.
2. Snapchat is out. Instagram is in.
As social networks and algorithms change, so does the importance of different social networks. Facebook has 2.2 billion monthly active users, far exceeding Instagram's 800 million monthly active users. However, the industry has taken note of Instagram’s high engagement and influencers are reacting.
In our study, 39% of influencers surveyed reported that Instagram generates the highest amount of engagement. No other platform was close, but Facebook, Pinterest and blogs each drew roughly 16% of responses.
If you’re thinking that Snapchat is the platform for the "cool kids," influencers do not agree. In fact, Snapchat was the only platform in the survey to receive zero votes for being the favorite. When asked to name their second favorite platform, only six survey respondents selected Snapchat. That’s less than 1%. Time will tell if Snapchat’s recent improvements to analytics for influencers will be enough to counter the negative publicity it's been getting from its recent redesign.
3. Influencers are professionals.
While only 46% of influencers surveyed reported the vocation as their full-time job, the majority is serious about the work. In fact, over 97% report they plan to continue the work “as long as I’m able,” and they aren’t using influencer jobs to hold them over until their life situation changes. There's even a new postgraduate degree program for influencers emerging in Italy.
Beyond that, influencers expect to be treated like professionals, but 53% cited low compensation as the biggest challenge when working with brands. This comes at the same time when brands are increasing their demands on influencers and trying to influence the tenor of content more than ever.
As most professionals do, influencers also want brands to provide them with a proper brief that outlines clear guidelines (dos and don’ts) but leaves room for creativity within those confines. After all, brands are hiring influencers precisely because of their creative skills. They don’t want to re-work content they spent hours on, but they also don’t want their creativity stifled. A good brief can avoid both problems.
4. We may not accept your assignment.
Eighty-five percent of influencers surveyed reported that they need to understand a product's benefits and why it’s relevant to their audience before they will accept an assignment. I’ve had clients imply that we could “just tell the influencers what to do,” but influencers worth using don’t work that way.
What’s more, influencers no longer work for free products or “exposure.” Fifty-nine percent of influencers surveyed spend more than 10 hours per week creating content for brands, and 90% say monetary compensation is how they get paid for their work. We’ve even had quality content creators balk at a free computer as compensation. They already have computers and need income to pay their expenses. A valuable product may reduce the compensation required, in my experience, but it rarely eliminates it.
5. You’re not the only way we get paid.
While your agency will work tirelessly to act as if you are their only client, 68% of influencers surveyed say they work on three or more campaigns in a typical month. Particularly around major events or holidays (such as fashion weeks or Christmas), influencers can become fully booked.
There are enough influencers in the market that we can generally find somebody to fill an assignment around these peak periods, but first-choice influencers are often booked. Brands that haven’t planned in advance might find themselves at a disadvantage. And as an agency, given that influencers represent brands you're working to increase the presence and image of, it’s best to get your first choice of influencers whenever possible.
Digital marketing evolves quickly and influencer marketing is among the fastest growing tactics in the toolkit. The content creators represented by us and other influencer marketing firms are on the front lines, seeing public reaction to their efforts on a daily basis. Influencers are willing to tell us what it all means from their perspective. We just need to listen.