Influencers: How to keep it real

As part of Social Media Week London, we were joined by Gareth Hopley from Pizza Hut Restaurants, Sam Graham from Red Monkey and Influencer Anton Welcome, editor of Maketh the Man to discuss how brands can maintain authenticity in the marketplace.

As part of Social Media Week London, we were joined by Gareth Hopley from Pizza Hut Restaurants, Sam Graham from Red Monkey and Influencer Anton Welcome, editor of Maketh the Man to discuss how brands can maintain authenticity in the marketplace.

We had a full house last week for our Social Media Week Media Influencers event as we looked at how brands can avoid their own “Fyre Festival” disaster, and maintain authenticity in the marketplace.

Text100 – PR Social Media Week from Text100 on Vimeo.

So, what did we learn?

The times they are a changin’

Well, on the same day that Sophie Kasaei was ordered to remove her Instagram post by the ASA for misleading the public, hearing from influencer Anton Welcome about the ethos of Maketh the Man was a breath of fresh air.

We know what we are, who we are. We’re not ‘the jack of all trades, and the master of none’.

It was fascinating to hear from someone intent on maintaining their own authenticity, especially as audiences begin to turn away from falsehoods in their timelines.

The brand and influencer is a two-way relationship, and as an influencer, Anton knows to ask certain questions when deciding if to work with a brand:

  • Do we have a similar tone of voice?
  • What’s the story?
  • How do they want me to work with them?
  • What is about me that you want to use to help your brand?

Think long term. In building his personal brand, Anton learned that the best approach isn’t a couple of posts and a quick payday; Longevity is what his audience appreciates and they respond well to this. And the benefits of this? After working with BMW for years, his followers know he is telling the story of a brand he cares about.

It doesn’t always matter how many followers

Luke Peters, Head of Content and Social at Text100, explained the shift from broadcasting information to being a partner in the conversation; This is because of influencer marketing’s growing, well… influence.

So when a brand thinks about using an influencer, it’s only natural to want them to tell as many people as possible.

But stop and think. When looking for an influencer, think about depth of knowledge: This is so much more important than breadth of audience. Of course, these are not mutually exclusive; you may get an expert who has a huge following.

But the point is being able to influence people to the point of action. The more an influencer understands the subject matter, the technical angle of a product or service, and that brand’s world, the deeper the connection with the audience and the more benefit for the brand.

To be most effective, the relationship should be mutually beneficial with the influencer showing their knowledge to their audience over a sustained period. (We’re repeating ourselves but are you sensing a familiar theme here?) Using influencers is becoming part of marketing strategy in its own right; it must sit alongside traditional methods, rather than replace them.

Don’t neglect everything else – influencers are part of a wider marketing mix.

Advice from the Middle Men

Sam Graham from Red Monkey, an agency that finds the best influencers for specific brands, told us the biggest challenges with building relationships between brands and influencers and how to avoid them.

  • Brief: A lack of clarity around brief and expectations. Be clear!
  • Budget: Be honest if you can’t afford it.
  • Communication: Without clear dialogue, it’s easy to make mistakes

Where is influencer marketing heading? Well, it’s starting to grow up. Increased transparency and legitimacy on social media took a big step forward with the introduction of a native ‘sponsored post’ flag on Instagram.

People trust people, not brands

The above statement couldn’t be truer. You don’t listen to Samsung that the latest TV is great – of course they’ll say it is. You listen to the person next to you, your friends, your family, people you relate to. The same goes for pizza. Which is why Pizza Hut Restaurants introduced their VIP card, for people that love Pizza Hut and can influence their target audience – millennials – to visit.

If a VIP card holder posts on social media, it’s because they want to, they are not paid to; This natural, relaxed relationship has made the initiative successful. So much so that Grime artist Stormzy approached the brand and asked for his own card!

Of course, if millennials arrive at their local Hut only to find the experience isn’t as promised, then it’s all for nothing. The entire experience, not just the food, must be at least as good as expected; otherwise it’s a losing battle.

We’re all influencers, in some way, and there will always be a role for it. As we strive for a more authentic marketplace we can’t predict the future, but we can at least say that it is changing for the better.

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