Influencer marketing should be called relationship marketing, here’s why.
In episode 79 of Tourism Upgrade I speak with Debbie Mundell, Head of Content at HYLAND, a Sydney based communications agency, about all the dramas that have been going on of late with Instagram – with fake accounts and fake followers – and cut through to why and how influencer marketing should be called relationship marketing.
The article that promoted this discussion can be read here http://behindthequest.com/instagram-created-a-monster/
HollyG: Now I’m very excited to talk about this on topic topic because I know we’ve been talking online, lots of people in the social media world online have been talking online, about influence of marketing and a few specific things, mainly related to Instagram. Now the reason that we I guess started this conversation is because probably about a week or so ago a travel blogger, or a blogger called Behind the Quest, released an article on her blog saying Instagram created a monster and she was saying a no bullshit guide to what’s really going on on Instagram. And I’ve seen a few other articles sort of which I call a confession article from Instagram as lately sort of saying, “Look, this is what’s really going on on Instagram.” What is the story with all these articles? What’s sort of going on here?
Deb Mundell: Yeah well I think it’s actually a topic that’s been bubbling under the surface when it comes specifically to Instagram I would say for a couple of years. Because you know specifically Australian Instagrammers that I know and also that I follow and I’ve worked with, I’ve seen conversations that they have been having between themselves. It’s very much been driving around what specific Insta-users are actually doing to grow their follower numbers and grow their engagements and the bots and the apps that they’ve used to do that. And in the last couple of months it’s really come to the fore because there’s been a lot of travel influencers and I think it has crossed over into some other categories as well, but I’ve seen it mostly from a travel point of view, where they’re basically just wanted to … I guess it’s them wanting to express their authenticity and actually share with their followers what they actually feel about these fake accounts, about the bots that are being used, about the different tactics that are used by influencers on specifically for Instagram and how that’s affecting their engagement.
And so people are basically just coming out and saying, “This is what’s happening, I don’t like it.” Or, “This is what I’ve done.” For example in this article that we’re talking about with Behind the Quest where she actually did talk about things that she has done, because I think she wanted to just come out and just be open and say, “Yes I’ve tried this before, I’m not doing it anymore.” Or, “I’ve seen people do this, I’ve never done it because of X, Y, Z.” And it’s yeah, it’s really them saying I want to be open and I want you guys to know why I’m not doing something and why you know … I’ve read articles about people saying this is why I don’t have 50,000 followers, because I don’t do this and I don’t follow these sorts of strategies.
HollyG: And what I think is really interesting is how this is come out from within the industry, from other Instagrammers. And basically it seems like at the moment there’s a lot of Instagrammers putting their hands up and saying, “Okay,” you know, “Don’t judge me with everyone else.” Because there’s been so much Instagram bashing I guess saying you know, “We don’t know if people are real, we don’t know if people are fake, blah blah blah blah blah.” And the industry’s saying you know you can’t all put us in together. Yes, let’s be honest, these are the things that are going on in the industry, but that doesn’t meant that it’s happening to everyone. And we’ll get on to that in a sec.
But the other thing I wanted to talk about, which I think a lot of brands might not know about, was the platform Instagress. Instagress?
So I’ve found, over the last couple of weeks, this company or this tool called Instagress closed its doors. So basically however it closed down, it closed down. And after that happened I found, I also saw a lot of other Instagrammers going, “Wahoo, it’s gone, thank goodness.” Because that was sort of a tool that was really driving a lot of fakeness on Instagram. Is that your understanding as well?
Deb Mundell: Yeah, exactly. So they’re by no means alone in what they provide in terms of assisting users to grow their follower numbers and their engagement numbers. And that includes things like going round and actually liking images on other users’ posts and adding comments on other users’ posts
HollyG: So a computer system doing it. A bot or something like that doing it rather than a real person.
Deb Mundell: Exactly. Kind of ties in with what Instagram seems to be doing online at the moment is that they as a platform also seem to be wanting to take charge of getting rid of these bot accounts. And there’s been another topic that’s been a big sort of conversation piece in the last few weeks, especially kind of around Easter, is shadow banning.
Yeah, and that’s around hashtag use and also sort of about accounts. So I’ve even kind of been impacted by it with one of my clients where it seems like what Instagram has been doing is if a hashtag that they sort of say suddenly gets, starts being used by lots of separate users, like quite sort of surprisingly all of a sudden-
HollyG: Like some random sort of thing.
Deb Mundell: Yeah, like say for example it’s a static number and the brand’s using it on a daily or every two days sort of basis on their own posts and then all of a sudden there’s a big surge in people that are using that hashtag that they’ve been going in and actually sort of thinking, “Ah, maybe it’s a fake hashtag,” and that it’s a bot. And so they have been cutting that down and stopping access to those hashtags. So although there’s kind of lots of conjecture around what they are actually doing it actually ties in with this kind of story around Instagress where they’ve been asked to shut down. Where as Insta seems to also be taking it upon themselves to be doing it too.
HollyG: It’s a little bit scary. You know like especially if you know I know what we do in tourism is we want a hashtag to take on. We might be doing a specific campaign where we’re trying to encourage a whole bunch of people to use the hashtag. So it’s a little scary to hear that, isn’t it?
Deb Mundell: It is. It is. There’s a few questions around all of that.
HollyG: Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how that one rolls out. There has been quite a few articles about shadow banning and you know what’s happening there as well. So in light of this whole thing that you know as a brand we want to work with influencers in adverted comers and you know we know that it’s important for our brand’s story to be told through lots of people’s eyes. So we want different perspectives of our brands, we want our brand story told in different ways. You know we want to get the message out there and working with people who have bigger profiles can be a great way to do that. How do we manage this in the age of so much fakeness out there?
Deb Mundell: Well I guess first of all when you look at you know an over action strategy for a brand and say they’re launching a new product or it’s a campaign, if influence and marketing is regarded as being a core element that you want to use to actually be part of that campaign, be part of the media that is actually being used. The first thing that I would say and this sort of [inaudible 00:09:15] in a proposal sort of sense is just research, lots and lots of research as much as [inaudible 00:09:23]. You need to make sure that you look at every social channel that they have. You also look at their blogs. You obviously look at their YouTube if they’re V-loggers. You know any kind of forms that they’re a part of.
Because you want to make sure that influencer, yes, is legit, in terms of that they’re not, they haven’t you know gained 100,000 fans because they’ve paid them. And is there something weird going on when you look at their engagement numbers on different posts. So you need to, you know you really have to analyse their posts and also their engagement numbers and their follower numbers just to make sure that yeah, they are legit. And the other thing is you know know your category, know your influencers that are amazing in your category and be constantly keeping an eye out for the up and comers. Because quite often they are also really awesome to use in a campaign or in a promotion for a brand because they … and this is again another I guess topic is the micro-influencer, where you might mix in a big and a really strong and well-known influencer. But then you might want to utilise someone who isn’t as big in terms of maybe strength of awareness and follower numbers yet their audience is super loyal and very, very engaged.
So yeah I would say my first tip is definitely research, and it’s something that you need to make sure that you’re given the time to do that. And yeah you’ve got a really strong opinion about that influencer.
HollyG: It takes me back to my PR days, that it is all about building relationships. And we can’t be treating influencers any differently. We should be making sure we’re going to the events where we can network with them and get to know them. We need to be building relationships with influencers in our industry whether they’re the big guys or keeping our eye out on who’s up and coming and watching it and growing with them. A lot of the brands that I’ve worked with have been you know smaller or might have had smaller budgets and it’s the micro, the smaller influencers, where we have been able to get traction. And what ends up happening you build relationships with those smaller guys over time and before you know it they’re the top of the tree.
Deb Mundell: Yeah.
HollyG: And I’ve seen that so many times. We’ve just got to get over this whole big number thing and I think that’s what started a lot of the problem in the first place. When you were first on the platform of Instagram it was so much easier to grow your following and to get that traction and you know we see that with the influencers or the Instagrammers that have been on there for a long time that have those big numbers. But you know if you’re coming in now in the last year or so it is so much harder to get those big numbers. So we’ve really got to look at just beyond that big number, look beyond that reach and think about what else you are getting.
Deb Mundell: And that again comes back down to your research. And again sharing that with the clients so that they understand that engagement and the positive community and follower base is exceptionally important when you’re trying to you know when you’re promoting your product, you’re educating the consumer about your product or your destination or whatever it is. But you want that to be going through to obviously your target consumer and that’s why you’re wanting to work with that influencer. But also that they are the right person and if they don’t have 100,000 followers or 50,000 followers or whatever it is that that’s not a bad thing, that’s actually fine. And you know you can prove that by sort of showing that their engagement levels are huge and they they have a really proactive and nurtured audience.
HollyG: And you know often you’re working with these people because of their creativity as well.
Deb Mundell: Exactly.
HollyG: They’re displaying a level of creativity that you’re not on a day to day basis. Or it’s shown in a different way so it’s gonna cut through in a different way.
Deb Mundell: Yeah exactly. And I think that’s also one of the criteria that when you’re looking at influencers and in that sort of first research stage is that you need to understand you know the content quality is like that they produce. And also you need to assess the different types of formats that they publish. Because a lot of the campaigns that you start to see rolled out more and more are the video star, whether that’s a long form or a short form video, you want to also make sure that when they produce videos that they’re of a high quality too.
HollyG: So one thing I wanted to mention was around the new advertising standards around working with influencers that came out in Australia. So now people need to clearly label their sponsored content. How is that rolled out for you guys working with influencers?
Deb Mundell: That’s something I’ve been asking them to do for at least a year already. Like I actually in my breaking forms one of the kind of criteria as a must is I’ve been asking them to include a hashtag sponsored or SP or ad, because I was reading a lot about what was happening in the States and I just kept thinking to myself it’s going to get rolled out here for sure. And so to me it was kind of no surprise that it eventually hit us. So to me it hasn’t really affected us because it’s something again that when you are creating content that that’s in the captions that you’re making sure already that it’s really evident. So that everybody is safe and aligned.
HollyG: Because the onus isn’t on the Instagrammers or on the influencer, it’s really on the brand. And I know that if a breach of this carries a maximum fine of I think $200,000 for the influencer, but over a million dollars for the brand. So if you are working and paying influencers you need to make sure that that content is acknowledged. And what I’m mainly seeing is people using the hashtag sponsored or SP’s another one which I think is a bit weird. I think sponsored’s probably a little bit more transparent.
Deb Mundell: Yeah, or ad.
HollyG: Or ad
Deb Mundell: Yeah and I think again I’ve seen articles where influencers have called out to their audiences and have actually said, “I hope you don’t think I’m selling out,” and that sort of thing. And those influencers who have a genuinely loyal and regarded as trusted in terms of their authenticity already by their followers they’re not actually the followers and the communities are actually saying and coming back and commenting and responding and saying, “You know what? We can see that it’s a sponsored post, but we trust that you would only ever promote a product that you believe in and therefore you know we’ll believe in. And that’s why you’re recommending it. So yeah, if you start promoting something which is not aligned to who you are in any way then yes, we’re gonna call you out. But if you’re not, then we can see it and we’re fine with it.”
HollyG: Yeah. So to sort of wrap up a few things or just go over the key points, what we’re saying is that there is people on Instagram that are buying likes or buying followers and all that sort of thing. And as a brand you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on out there. If you want to work with influencers you should make sure they’re real, not fake, by developing a relationship with them or working with people who have relationships with these people. And also from a brand’s perspective making sure that you are aware of your responsibilities legally in terms of sponsored content and that sort of thing. And you know being up on what’s happening in Instagram world by reading some of these articles that Instagrammers are talking about.
Deb Mundell: Yeah. And I think the other thing is you know be an active member of your favourite influencer communities that are in your category, where your clients are. Because again it’s going to mean that you know really fast and you know you might even have a list of who you would go to straightaway for that client because you’re an active user. You’re an active member of the community, sorry. You’re therefore, you know, you understand the inside out already. So you could go, “Yes, they’re perfect for your brand because of X,Y,Z.” So yeah, be part of their communities and follow them and chat to them and drive a conversation.
HollyG: And I guess the final point is you know influencer marketing can be a great thing if it’s part of … if you identify that it’s part of your overall marketing strategy.
Deb Mundell: Yes, yup, yeah. And again if you … it’s like should Programmatic be part of your marketing mix or should Out of Home or whatever it is. Because every campaign is slightly different and your objectives and your overarching sort of theme that you’re wanting to message and communicate is specific. So if influencer marketing or social media is regarded as being core to the success and the way that you’re going to achieve your objectives and you’re [inaudible 00:19:45] totally go for it, use it. And be really smart and really effective with it and you’re going to get really good results.
HollyG: Cool. That is great. So where can people get further information about you or connect with you if they want to pick up this conversation further?
HollyG: Perfect, easy, that’s great.
Now it’s time for our thousand dollar bonus question. I normally ask my guests one, a bonus question and the question is: if you only had a $1,000 marketing budget what would you spend it on?
Deb Mundell: Ooh, if I think specifically say about Tasmania, that I would commission potentially like a local photographer to ask them to go out and shoot X number of shots or images that could be shared across the brand’s social channels and use that almost … you could almost start it off in a niche sense that you’re just talking about one location. And then if you start to see the results, and sorry would also allocate some of that budget to use for promoting the posts, so investing into Penn media because then you know you know that it’s going to, it can be boosted and amplified out to a new audience as well. And you’re then going to grow awareness about who you are and see your follower numbers increase and also engagements. So I would potentially do that. I would actually start with a photographer shots that are commissioned that you could … I would start it out as being able to be used across social channels and boost that content.
HollyG: I like that answer.
Deb Mundell: And I’m a veery social person so I almost immediately think about social media.
HollyG: Well that’s what we mainly talk about so you’re in good company. Well it is interesting because I do ask that question to most of my guests and so it is … I normally don’t put them on the spot as much as I’ve put you on the spot so sorry about that. I do normally give them some warning. So it is always interesting to hear what they say.
For the show notes for this episode, head to HollyG.com.au. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast service.