Over the past few years, influencer marketing has galvanized itself as a legitimate and effective marketing strategy, both through luck and an expansion of the industry supporting it. Whether its companies like Julius (that's us), or agencies representing influencers, the business of influencer marketing has exploded onto the scene—and it's here to stay.

Now that influencer marketing is more common than ever, mistakes abound despite all the success. These mistakes are derived from the way we conceive influencer marketing; what it is and what it isn't. Check out these 5 helpful tips to improve your understanding of influencer marketing, and to make your campaigns everything they can be:

1) All Social Data is Self-Reported

When it comes to social media research, the industry has a tendency to obsess over analytics. We fret about engagement rates, bounce and conversions, audiences and demographics: the list goes on. While these metrics are important, one thing we tend to forget is that, at its core, all social data is self-reported. That is, a lifestyle influencer is only a lifestyle influencer because they said so.

If an influencer doesn't clearly state their interest in fashion, both through their content and their preferences, we wouldn't know. On the surface this seems both arbitrary and obvious: of course we only know what we're told. However, the stakes rise the more unique the interest you're seeking is.

If your brand insists that it finds influencers who are over 6 feet tall, between the ages of 10 and 17, and make more than $150,000 a year, the verity of these details comes down to the trust you put in self-reported data. Beyond broad strokes, it is not very likely that influencers will report vast amounts of personally identifiable information that can be mined and analyzed without herculean efforts. And if they do, the verifiability of this information rests on your belief that they are telling the truth—as well as their audience's. Simply put, it's the internet; people lie. This is less a commentary of human nature and more an observation of social media, and important to bear in mind.

2) Just like high school, it's good be unique—but not too unique

Your brand may thrive on its uniqueness: how it addresses a particular problem, how it fits a particular type of person, or how it represents a particular image. You may feel inclined to represent this in your campaigns to tell the best story—the true story—of your brand. Being specific is vital to the success of your campaigns, especially when it comes to finding the right influencer.

However, being too specific can be a detriment to your search, and perhaps even to your campaign. Piggybacking off the previous tip, when data is contingent on self-reporting, the more specific and revealing it is, the less likely it'll be shared. It's part and parcel in the industry to attach any imaginable adjective to the word 'influencer,' but communities can't be willed into existence, especially not in a way that will be easily monetized and marketed.

An influencer sharing a detail of their life does not automatically include them in a community

The Julius platform catalogues data that are as granular as possible: whether it's the most obscure disease or the most distinct cause, we probably have a tag for it. However, just because it's reported (a dubious science at best and a convincing case for having human eyes on it), doesn't mean it's marketable.

3) Know who is and who isn't your audience

In digital marketing, there is a great divide between advertising to the audience you want and the audience you have. In influencer marketing, the divide is arguably even greater. Because potential consumer perceptions are so amplified on social media, it is vital to find the proper audience for your product, lest it falls on deaf ears. While a good portion of a campaign's success can be chalked up to the way a product or brand is marketed, the targeting of the advertisements is just as important.

Knowing the audience for your product is a twofold endeavor: the demographics of people currently interested in or loyal to your product, and the demographic of people that could be, based on what you have. This differs from the demographic you want in that opportunities are not always seized. But if you believe all business is good business (Subarus in Seattle, anyone?), leveraging your social audience is key to finding success in influencer marketing.

4) Authenticity Over Everything

As we mentioned before, the tendency to lie, fudge, and exaggerate on social media has placed a resounding emphasis on authenticity, especially for brands. When devising and framing your influencer campaigns, it is of utmost importance that an influencer's audience believes the influencer genuinely cares about the brand. If it's not a believable campaign or relationship, it can all be for naught.

Authenticity, despite its definition, is a tenuous thing to achieve. We expect our influencers to have credibility over their topic of choice, that their lifestyles and content are a form of social proof, and that despite their status, are still relatable to the audience they cultivate. It is no secret (but certainly not easily quantifiable) that influencers are often attractive, well-to-do, and have strongly formed identities. These qualities appeal to the base instincts of many of us, and you don't have to be well versed in psychology to acknowledge this.

 

Authenticity can be achieved by incorporating your brand into the lifestyle of an influencer

Achieving authenticity through your campaigns is achievable through transparency about your brand's values, beliefs, and methods. If these match the image an influencer has developed, it can be perceived as authentic. Just like finding the right audience is key, finding the right influencer to tell your brand's story is of equal importance.

5) Long term relationships trump one-time posts

To truly make a relationship feel authentic, it should be established, transparent, and ideally long-term. An influencer posting one time about a brand can seem inconsequential in the face of all the noise inherent to social media. Establishing a transparent and indefinite relationship with an influencer combats this, not only by increasing the frequency that their audience will interact and engage with your brand, but by also incorporating the brand into their identity.

The image and perception of an influencer is where they derive their market shaping power from, and the reason we as marketers care so much about it. Infusing your brand with their online persona tells an audience that this brand is more than just a paycheck, it's a part of their lifestyle, and should be a part of their audience's too. Though there are indeed benefits for one-time posts, the efficacy and return on investment of these are dubious at best. Word of mouth marketing is important, but blasting your brand one time to a massive audience will not reap the same rewards as consistent incorporation into a highly engaged social feed.

Incorporate these tips into your next influencer marketing campaign and maximize your investment, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more tips, articles, and news on the industry.