BY: COURTNEY CANFIELD
Just a few years ago, influencer marketing was still a bona fide buzzword. Essentially a 2.0 version of word-of-mouth, influencer marketing has since evolved and proved its place in the marketing mix. An end-of-year survey of marketers uncovered that 84 percent consider influencer marketing to be effective, and 67 percent reported that they are increasing their influencer budgets for 2019. If your brand has been hesitant to jump into the world of pet influencers, get ready—2019 is going to be your year to take the plunge.
According to influencer marketing company Collective Bias, consumers are three times more likely to consider buying a product endorsed by a pet influencer than one endorsed by a traditional celebrity. As an experienced influencer marketing and social media strategist who is also a seasoned pet influencer, I can personally attest to the power of a well-executed influencer program.
For any pet industry brands and distributors about to embark on a journey into the wonderful world of influencers, here are seven things to keep in mind:
Get real with your budget. And yes, this means allocating funds for cash compensation of influencers. While smaller nano-influencers (1,000 to 10,000 followers) may accept free products in exchange for a sponsored post or product review, influencers with larger followings generally expect to be compensated for their efforts, in addition to receiving free products. Anticipate paying pet influencers around $100 per 10,000 followers.
Size isn’t everything. Audience size, that is. It might be tempting to go after the influencers with the biggest followings, but unless you have thousands (and thousands) of dollars to offer, they will be out of reach. Instead, set your sights on nano- and micro-influencers (with followers ranging up to 300,000) for your campaign. Not only do they cost less than celebrity or mega-influencers (1 million-plus followers), they get higher engagement rates, too.
Look at your brand advocates first. Do you know who your brand advocates are? They’re the ones tagging you and using your brand hashtag in their Instagram posts. They’re the Facebook users posting pics to your page of their furbabies enjoying your products. They’re anyone who is tweeting about how much they love your brand. Who among these users could also be great influencers? By partnering with content creators who are already credible brand advocates, you build a level of authenticity into your campaign that you can’t get anywhere else.
Develop a clear, concise brief. Influencers require basic information about your brand, messaging guidelines, plus any content requests and restrictions that will impact how they create their sponsored posts. Outline how many posts they agreed to, the channels and dates they will publish, and other miscellaneous requirements in a one- to two-page brief. Don’t overwhelm them with your brand story or a two-page rant about your brand’s mission, no matter how important it is to you. Provide the basics needed to understand the campaign and let their creativity take over. Do your best to avoid dictating their creative output or process; this will result in inauthentic content, not to mention a super frustrated influencer. Trust me, I’ve been there—just recently, in fact. It’s not fun for the influencer or the brand.
Respect the creative process. Influencers are first and foremost content creators, and their influence is a byproduct of their craft. Sure, you should set reasonable expectations for when content will be delivered and posted, but don’t spring last minute requests or changes on them. I usually require at least seven days to create my content; if a brand needs my content sooner, it will cost them more.
Go long! Long-term, that is. Did you hear? The “one-and-done” influencer campaign is so last year. You know when a brand engages some random influencers that post once or twice about a product and then never speak of it again? It’s been proven that brands that engage influencers in long-term activations versus those stale one-and-done campaigns see higher engagement rates, impressions and conversions. Why? Well, think about it: Followers are more likely to engage with a brand they see and hear about often from their favorite influencers, versus a brand that randomly appeared in their favorite pet blogger’s content one day and then never showed up again.
Stay in touch. Make a point to stay in touch with your pet influencers even after a campaign is done. Mail them holiday cards and mark their birthdays (and their pet’s birthdays!) on your calendar so you can send them a thoughtful note. Consider creating a quarterly newsletter for all your current and past influencers, as well as brand advocates who have expressed interest in partnering with you on campaigns. Let them be the first to know about upcoming activations, product releases, events and partnership opportunities. Maintaining these relationships isn’t just a nice thing to do; it also makes it easier to call on them for quick-turn activations and other projects that require an influencer’s or brand advocate’s expertise.
Consider these seven tips and you’ll soon be on your way to running a “pawsome” influencer marketing program.