Four mistakes brands make with influencers

Four mistakes brands make with influencers

Is influencer marketing truly influential, and does it always work in your favour? We take a look at the issue.

When Lindsay Lohan tweeted her Uber referral code back in 2014, the tweet did not go viral.

The news did, however. And it wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops (or free rides).

Lohan had been in and out of court for years for driving under the influence. It’s not really the kind of celebrity endorsement a taxi company lusts after. In fact, Uber were at pains to point out that there was no partnership at work.

What’s going on here? Along with top-tier vloggers and bloggers, aren’t celebrity endorsements supposed to be our holy grail of influencer marketing – and all the holier when they’re organic, rather than bankrolled? 

Surprise, surprise, it’s not that simple. Here are four mistakes people make with influencer marketing.

1. Your influencer isn’t a die-hard fan of your product or service

Though Lindsay Lohan wasn’t selected by Uber to wave the company flag in the faces of unsuspecting tweeters, there’s no shortage of deliberate celebrity endorsement campaigns that didn’t turn out as planned.

For instance, picking an expensive celebrity to endorse your smartphone, only for that celebrity to avoid your particular phone in public like the bubonic plague.

Just one offender among a horde of others; pro boxer Manny Pacquiao – an erstwhile Samsung spokesperson – was seen time and again tweeting from an iPhone. Whoops.

2. You’re undervaluing values

A harmonious alignment of values is not optional when identifying your ideal influencers. This extends well beyond the first-dimension alignment of common interests such as taxis or smartphones.

Whereas Lindsay Lohan isn’t the ideal Uber mascot, someone like Will Smith might be. Or Jessica Ennis-Hill?

Bearing in mind the need to exercise restraint when quoting Seth Godin, I have yet to find a better way than his to sum up how brands should think about connecting with consumers: "People like us do things like this."

It’s a simple way to track down your existing ‘tribe’. So you don’t value crime? OK, don’t rub shoulders with influencers who have drink-driving convictions.

3. You’re trying to hit a flock of birds with one boulder

As Godin further evangelises, the challenge is to think small. Be brave. Aim to appeal to the most concise and concentrated niche target audience possible, because if you aim for everyone, you will miss everyone.

So… can celebrity endorsements ever work internationally?

In a word, no. There are few figureheads out there (for example maybe, maybe, The Queen) with homogenous appeal across borders. Even if the celebrity is celebrated worldwide, the perception of that celebrity will differ in different countries.

4. Your message wouldn’t pass the blind taste test.

As soon as influencer marketing feels like a celebrity telling us to chuck our cash at some product or service they almost used once upon a time, it has failed.

Influencer marketing has to be credible. It should feel natural.

As soon as the warning alarm goes off inside our audience's heads, we have lost.

A soliloquy about this season’s latest lipstick should stand up to consumer scrutiny, irrespective of who’s saying it – the summer intern or beauty vlogger Zoella. If the message itself doesn’t fit, no echelon of celebrity will make it seem credible.

What about an example of influencer marketing done right?

Tim Ferriss is a tech entrepreneur and bestselling author who’s earned respect from millions of fans.

As part of his popular weekly podcast, he endorses a couple of products and services with the help of bespoke promo codes. One of them is a next-generation investment platform that combines tech smarts with human smarts and opens up wealth management to a new niche with deep pockets. It’s impossible not to share his enthusiasm.

Die-hard fan, check!
Alignment of values, check!
Tribe match, check!
Blind taste test, check!

Though I lack both the US nationality and the funds to give the service a go, I’d bet my next paycheque that the majority of his listeners are in a position to do just that.

The right influential people could have enormous power to amplify your brand message. If this occurs organically to boot, hurrah! The ROI can be significant. The wrong people, on the other hand, could cost you money – or your reputation.

Before you embark on influencer marketing, ask yourself – do you know your influencer inside out? Do they believe in you? And most importantly, will your audience believe in them?

Corissa Nunn Freelance Journalist CPL
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