Let’s get the basics out of the way early. Influencer marketing is nothing new. Marilyn Monroe being gifted a dress to wear to a media event where she’ll be photographed? Influencer marketing. Every band you’ve ever seen wearing shoes they were gifted for free or paid to wear? Influencer marketing.
The difference now is who the real influencers are… You may be surprised to hear they’re mostly people you have never heard of, that have built trusted online relationships with thousands (or even millions) of people across social networks. They have more influence over what sells or gets into the cultural zeitgeist than just about any TV advert you can name.
In the digital world, it started with bloggers, which evolved into vloggers and then smartphones and social networks combined with advertising and got clever. Now there are thousands of hugely influential people online, globally, every hour of every day.
There are two main forms of influencer marketing in the digital world: organic and paid. (You’ll notice more posts on Instagram now are tagged ‘ad’ and ‘paid partnership’). Features like this on socials mean that, as a paying advertiser, you can track far more insights and ROI. However, audiences do know when they’re being advertised to. The best ads don’t feel like ads but, have no doubt, influencer marketing is incredibly powerful if it’s done right.
I know a lot of record labels have had large influencer management agencies march in, demanding millions to have access to their influencers. But for the music industry, it’s not as easy as just placing a product with people. Unless you do your research and make that partnership feel completely authentic, it won’t work.
Then there’s targeting… Trying to force the wrong thing on the wrong crowd is pointless. It weakens both the brand and the advertiser. I’ve never understood people that pay thousands for tweets with a track link from a totally irrelevant celeb, but many folks have done it! Figure out who you’re trying to reach and take it from there.
Some labels ‘get it’ and invite influencers into their offices or fly them to shows to meet artists and hear music. Some make a ton of content with influencers to help with roll-outs and some have private Instagram accounts where they offer out opportunities for collaboration directly. I’m increasingly seeing promoters and managers embrace influencer marketing too, with gig invites, merch placements and interviews. Loads of events now provide specific areas and facilities for influencers to work in.
Campaigns with small budgets for influencer marketing can still harness some of their power, by figuring out who their most influential followers are on all social platforms (there are many tools to do this). Facebook have taken that up a notch with tools like Brand Collabs Manager opening up a world of opportunity. With Facebook rolling out in-stream ads on creator long-form content, it’s a new way to place ads to the right people, globally, and for artists to monetise as influencers themselves.
Whether it’s paid or organic, there are many, very obvious advantages to getting a paid shout-out from a megastar, but it can be just as impactful to spread the budget by using micro-influencer marketing. Smaller influencers’ audiences often show higher engagement rates than someone with a million followers.
Influencer campaigns in fashion have sold out global brands’ new lines in minutes. Some people are paid tens of thousands for a post and many big brands spend millions on a campaign, often getting many influencers to post at exactly the same time.
Timing is a really important component and it works organically too, on a much smaller scale, directly with fanbases. Tools have been available for many years now that allow your fans to release pre-pledged and pre-worded social posts at the same time.
Before you start, consider what you want to achieve with the campaign. Is it introducing a new track to people? Selling tickets? Merch? Raising profile? All require very different approaches and, most importantly, need to feel authentic. Throwing money aimlessly doesn’t work here. And yes, there are charlatans around. Respectable management companies, agencies, tools to identify fake followers and close inspection of engagement rates are your friends.
But, if you’re not having any success with influencer marketing, it’s 99% likely you’re doing it wrong.
Influencer companies you need to know...
Under Laura Richardson, one of the best new influencer marketing agencies in the UK with a specialism in music.
M&C SAATCHI SOCIAL
Global advertising powerhouse who’ve added influencers to their offering.
URBAN NERDS COLLECTIVE
Youth marketing agency who have perfectly transitioned to include influencer marketing for music, events and brands.
Highly acclaimed international network whose campaigns stretch from brands to entire countries and everything that’s in between.
FACEBOOK BRAND COLLABS
Facebook’s own offering to link creators with brands.