Continuing our pre-conference speakers’ interview series, today I am pleased to highlight Rachel Honoway of Fress Press Media.

Seven days from now, at our very first Influencer Marketing Days conference, Rachel will tackle the subject of negotiating with influencers; but today she was kind enough to provide really thoughtful answers to a few of my questions. Below you may find the interview.

Question: So, in your opinion, what is the biggest misconception that brands tend to have about influencer marketing?

Rachel HonowayRachel: Many brands don’t seem to understand why Influencer Marketing is so successful. They hear it’s successful, and they jump to conclusions… influencers would make great spokespeople for us, they’d be great distributors of our message, they would be great affiliates for us, etc.

All of these assumptions miss the mark. Influencers are an entity of their own. You can pay Samuel L. Jackson to ask “What’s in your wallet?” – he’s a spokesperson, not an influencer. You can pay Facebook to distribute your post to your target market in their feed – Facebook is (along with being a social network) an ad distribution platform, not an influencer. You can offer a product reviewer a commission on all sales generated from clicks to your site from his post about products like yours on his product review site – he is an affiliate, not an influencer.

Influencer Marketing is successful because Influencers aren’t spokespeople, ad distributors or even affiliates. Influencer Marketing is successful because influencers build trust with their readers and followers based on telling authentic stories and sharing unique perspectives on topics that matter to them and their readers. Expecting them to abandon their creativity, honesty and authenticity but generate amazing results is unrealistic. If you want Influencer Marketing to be successful for your brand, you need to focus on what makes influencers great, and support them, not try to make them do things your way.

Question: What top 3 mistakes should advertisers be aware of as they look into getting their feet wet in/with influencer marketing?

Rachel: The three biggest mistakes I see advertisers make are neglecting to set goals, choosing influencers based on flashy stats and requesting that bloggers be less than honest.

Too many advertisers jump into Influencer Marketing without thinking through their goals, what results they want to see and how Influencers are going to help them reach those goals. They’ve just heard good things about the strategy, and want to give it a try. Unfortunately, they don’t spend the time to set real goals and a plan to reach those goals. They end up throwing money at Influencers, don’t track results and aren’t sure how to feel about the experience.

Even when they have a clear set of goals in mind, advertisers seem drawn to influencers with flashy stats. Maybe they have millions of pageviews, or hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram… but the higher the numbers, the more attracted to them advertisers are and the more they are willing to spend to work with them. Sure, there’s
some logic behind this – but the numbers only tell part of the story. Niche and engagement are much more important. Bigger isn’t always better. Influencers that target a niche and engage with their audiences have a much better chance of creating a message that resonates with the target consumer.

Regardless of how they choose influencers to work with, the last big mistake I see advertisers make is to request that influencers be less than honest. This comes in a few different forms. They may ask that the influencer only post positive remarks. Listing the “cons” along with the “pros” is one of the ways that bloggers maintain authenticity and separate themselves from an advertisement. Advertisers also ask influencers to use specific wording or language. Again, this takes away from the blogger’s ability to create authentic content in a voice that resonates with their audience. Finally, the most dangerous request for dishonesty comes from advertisers who don’t want influencers to tell their readers that they received the product free, or that they were paid for the post. The FTC is actively monitoring for these instances and cracking down, so don’t omit the disclosure.

Question: What is the biggest overlooked influencer marketing opportunity, in your opinion?

Rachel: I’ll admit I have a bit of a bias here based on a decade and a half in the Performance Marketing space, but I think that a hybrid of Affiliate Marketing and Influencer Marketing is a hugely overlooked opportunity.

Brands have been employing Influencer Marketing in their PR and SEO strategies for years. As always, PR is still a tough strategy to measure from impression to sale, leaving advertisers with little to no ROI data when analyzing the success of influencers in their PR campaigns. SEO can be tracked, but with Google now recommending no-follow links from paid placements, influencers can’t be used the way that they previously were.

I think that this is great news for the Affiliate Marketing industry. Here, we can work with Influencers, compensating them on a performance basis, and give advertisers solid ROI data from impression to click to sale.

Question: With 2017 just around the corner, what would you recommend for advertisers to consider implementing as soon as Q4 is over (a New Year’s influencer marketing resolution of sorts)?

Rachel: I love this question!

Q4 is a crazy, mad rush. Influencers are bombarded with requests from advertisers, and consumers are overwhelmed with the number of messages
coming at them from millions of brands, their ads and their surrogates. So, even though Q4 is when the most people buy most product categories, it’s the worst time to try to create relationships and get your message through.

So, in 2017, plan on spending time throughout the year reaching out to influencers and establishing relationships with them. Offer them the opportunity to work with you on smaller campaigns, send them a sample of your product and invite them to share their ideas with you. They’ll have more time to really dive into your product and your message when they aren’t handling the Q4 rush. When Q4 comes back around next year, you’ll have established a relationship and those influencers will be more apt to choose to participate in your campaign over the hundreds they have to say “no” to. Plus, their audiences will have heard of you throughout the year – so when it’s time to buy and they see your brand again, they are primed and ready to act.

In other words, my suggestion for a 2017 Influencer Marketing Resolution is to use the whole year to build relationships and communicate your message.

Question: Give us 1 key reason why marketers should attend your Influencer Marketing Days session.

Rachel: My session is focused on negotiations. Whether you’ve been working with influencers for years, or you’re new to Influencer Marketing, you are likely struggling to understand the costs – there is not an established market rate or scale to work from. I’ll provide you with a variety of strategies you can use to create your own scale and negotiate a fair rate with influencers.

Question: If you were to leave brands with one piece of influencer marketing advice, what would it be?

Rachel: Don’t confuse influencers with other marketing partners and channels. They are different. Don’t try to change them to make them fit into other strategies, changing what they do and how they do it changes the results they can produce.Strive to understand what makes them different and support them in doing what makes them great.

Rachel Honoway at IMD

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