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Five influencer marketing trends for 2018

Nic Forster

Head of PR & Communications @ Forward Partners

In the era of “fake news” and as trust in traditional media reaches an all time low, it has never been a better time to widen your audience communication channels and consider new ways of engagement. 2018 represents an opportunity to fully grasp influencer marketing for your startup and bake it into your wider comms strategy - to gain the most out working with the next generation of online luminaries.

Key takeaways

  1. Consumer trust in traditional media outlets is at an all time low - it’s a key time to broaden your view and your communications mix

  2. Look outside hackneyed influencers and rather look to those who speak to a smaller, more relevant, core audience

  3. Authentic relationships and storytelling is key - relationships must be seamless with brand values and spirit

  4. Data is key in determining who to work with and the results you have achieved

    1. Rise of the micro-star

We’ve heard a lot about global influencers such as Zoella or Gianluca Vacchi, influencers who can charge upwards of £100,000 per social post and who can take brands to millions of Instagram or Twitter followers globally. Unfortunately the commercials attached to these relationships often put them far beyond the reach of any business which doesn’t have a multi-million pound marketing spend.

Another concern with working with this type of influencer is the rather hackneyed territory they inhabit - the Zoellas, Kylie Jenners and Body Coaches of this world are no strangers to posting product endorsements (#ad) and that can make followers adept at screening out posts which they see as yet more advertising ‘noise’.

For me, the most exciting development in the influencer space is the new wave of ‘micro-influencers’ (those with an online following of sub 30,000). These individuals offer a powerful way to talk to niche audiences and take your business or product to a smaller audience of core consumers to whom you are offering something perfectly relevant.

Not only are these influencers often more relevant and relatable to your core audience, they’re also much more realistic in terms of the commercials attached to brand partnerships.

Start looking at micro-influencers relevant to your business and audience - who is really speaking to that core consumer, who are they following and is there an individual who represents synergy to your brand and an opportunity to work together?

2. Real advocacy (not an #ad)

The most valuable way of working with influencers will be underpinned by creating real advocates & genuine, cohesive stories to communicate with audiences.

Over the past two years, as influencer marketing has grown and audiences have become savvier, clumsy influencer campaigns with individuals chosen more for their star-power than their alignment to core messaging no longer cut it. Social media audiences are now looking for genuine, interesting and real partnerships that go way beyond just cutting someone a cheque to say nice things about you.

Influence marketing should be approached through the lense of PR - you would never pay to get a journalist to write a story about your business - rather you focus on building a relationship with a view to discussing mutually interesting opportunities and story topics.

Influencers must be approached in the same way - whilst there will likely be some form of commercial agreement in place - 2018 will be the year that brands take micro-influencer fully into their teams and work hand in hand with them to produce genuine content that really resonates to both the influencer and their audience. Think a cult interiors blogger posting on tips to use your products to create unique living spaces or a respected consumer affairs journalist speaking to how your proptech startup is a handy solution for the current generation of struggling first time house-buyers.

3. Data is still key

Do not get blinded by the perceived cool of landing your ideal influencer or solely focused on your beautiful content going into the social ether. Data will remain absolutely key and should underpin and inform any influencer marketing strategy.

Ensure you’re getting what you think you’re getting - we live in a world of fake social accounts and bumped up followings - ask any influencer you work with for data on the traffic they receive and the traffic they drive elsewhere.

It’s important to keep a firm handle on what results your influencer marketing is driving - check what is resonating and what isn’t and then tweak the activities accordingly. It’s important here to bring influencers into the discussion - nobody likes being told what to do and what not to do - it’ll make for a far more fruitful relationship if there’s plenty of two-way communication on what you should do more of and what perhaps could do with a rethink.

4. Think cross channel

More and more we’ll see the most innovative players utilising the micro-influencers that they work with across all of their communication channels. The days are gone where a sporadic post on Instagram feels genuine or delivers what it needs to. Far more valuable will be working with a core micro-influencer or a group of micro-influencers across above the line advertising, PR as well as your social channels and website.

This again comes back to the modern consumer’s search for genuine, authenticity - if you’re working with an influencer on one channel, you should really be able to see them fitting seamlessly across all of your channels.

5. Budget smart

Don’t neglect influencer marketing in your annual budget planning as you’ll need some resources set aside to ensure you can develop truly valuable activities and ongoing commercial relationships.

As influencer marketing has become increasingly ‘proven’ as a valuable activity in its own right, more brands have moved into the space and it has become more commercial. However, there is still real value in the micro-influencer landscape; most micro-influencers understand that startups do not have the same marketing budgets as global brands and are open to interesting partnership proposals.


Nic Forster

Head of PR & Communications @ Forward Partners

Nic is Head of PR & communications at Forward Partners. Over the course of a 10 year career in communications, he has worked with global brands including Orange, Warner Bros., BBC, and Amazon. Nic also headed up the PR team at one of the UK's fastest growing e-commerce businesses, notonthehighstreet.com. He now leads communication strategy on behalf of Forward Partners whilst also working with our startups, helping them to conceptualise and tell their brand and business stories to both press and the target consumer.

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