Recognizing The Power of Influencer Marketing

If you’ve been on Instagram, basically ever, you’ve likely seen the #ads that feature a product or service in the context of an influencer’s beautifully curated life. The number of these sponsored posts increased by 133 percent in 2018, and as brands are expected to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2020, it’s clear that this method of connecting with audiences is continuing to grow.

To explore how influencer marketing can benefit brands of all sizes, Jackson Spalding hosted two panel discussions on the subject for friends of JS in both Dallas and Atlanta.

Our panels consisted of:

  • The Coca-Cola Company – Alex Ebanks, Manager of Brand Public Relations
  • Topgolf – Brian White, Director of VIP Relations
  • Orkin – Lia Conrad, Senior Marketing Manager of Communications & Reputation Management
  • Mattress Firm – Melissa Rivers, Senior Manager of Content Marketing
  • Chick-fil-A – Jackie Jags, Director of Public Relations
Real Talk panelists Alex Ebanks, Lia Conrad and Brian White at the Dallas Comedy House.

One common theme between the two events was the idea that successful influencer partnerships are about much more than follower count – brands are looking for a natural fit and alignment of values.

As Lia Conrad from Orkin mentioned, they were exploring a partnership with an influencer but then decided it was in neither party’s best interest after realizing how often she alluded to being “crunchy and granola” because pest control does rely on chemicals, after all.

And for an iconic brand like Coca-Cola, finding true fans is also critical, but beyond that, “we look for those who embrace our brand values,” said Alex Ebanks. Influencer partnerships have to be authentic in order to be impactful.

We also learned that offering unique experiences in lieu of monetary compensation can be incredibly successful. Jackie Jags from Chick-fil-A explained that in order to drum up attention about a store opening in New York City, they invited hyper-local influencers to an exclusive grand opening event. Influencers not only attended the event, but also posted about the new store on their channels. Similarly, Brian White from Topgolf said that inviting influencers to special events and store openings is a key part of their awareness strategy.

Real Talk Panelists
Moderator Charles Edwards, Lia Conrad, Jackie Jags and Melissa Rivers at the Atlanta JS office.

Another key take-away was that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to an influencer’s audience. Most consider a micro-influencer someone with at least 10K followers. This might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to macro-level influencers with millions of followers, but the content produced by micro influencers tends to generate much stronger engagement and allow brands to connect more directly with their consumers.

“When I think of macro-influencers, it’s putting a face behind a brand. When I think of micro-influencers, you are giving the brand more of a voice,” remarked Jackie Jags.

At the end of the day, we’re all looking for ROI. Luckily, influencer marketing provides plenty of opportunity for tracking and reporting on its effectiveness. What you measure – and how successfully your campaign performs – are directly linked to your campaign objective. Beyond likes and impressions, these campaigns can report on resulting web traffic, inquiries and even direct increases in sales.

As Melissa Rivers from Mattress Firm put it, “The fact that we were able to see that influencers were actually driving people to the stores was really big and definitely started changing the mindset [around influencer relations] internally.

If you’re on the fence about this trend that has morphed into a full-fledged marketing strategy, try starting out with an inexpensive, small-scale campaign. And if you need help brainstorming options or getting started, our influencer relations team is all ears.