Instagram is a major force in retail, and shoppable social is now mainstream with 29% of millennialsin the UK and the US buying this way. The platform has disrupted ecommerce, allowing smaller brands to dramatically boost their reach without the financial clout heritage labels possess. This has been supported by the rise of influencers who, when used carefully, can improve brands’ performance. In fact, 49% of consumers say they use influencer recommendations when shopping.Brands have reacted swiftly. Now 57% of fashion and beauty companies use influencer marketing, with the practice a standard part of direct-to-consumer tactics. While influencers can deliver exceptional return on investment (ROI), there are some things marketers need to consider so their campaigns don’t flounder, or worse actively damage their brand.

Be crystal clear

Any good marketing campaign starts with a robust plan. Influencer marketing is no exception. Marketers need to be crystal clear on exactly what they want influencers to deliver and how this links to business and/or communications objectives (do they want reach, clicks, traffic, sales?). There are multiple different factors to measure campaign success. It’s crucial to decide which ones to aim for before you start identifying, let alone speaking to, potential partners.

Target audience niche

Once planning is locked down, selecting your influencers will be easier as you’ll understand your customers and know what they engage with. Any potential partner has to be a natural fit. Providing a clear brief is also key so influencers know exactly what the brand wants from them. That way they’ll create content that works directly to achieve campaign goals. Understanding your audience is half the battle. Your target demographic will have different segments, and a tailored approach is needed to effectively engage with each one. Micro-influencers are part of the answer. With smaller follower numbers than celebrity influencers, they are, however, hyper-focused on a niche following. This can lead to superior engagement rates, despite their reduced reach. Using a combination of micro-influencers with direct target audiences can drive better results across all segments. Tools such as are available to help identify specific influencers for each audience niche.

Proving ROI

You’ll need to prove return and attribute what happens during the campaign. We all know the quote “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; trouble is I don’t know which half”, however, advances in digital marketing appeared to correct this. It’s important we don’t let it back in with influencer marketing, as 84% of marketers say proving ROI is a headache. Part of this requires deciding whether to treat partners as paid, earned or owned media. With the recent Competition and Markets Authority ruling on transparency, I believe that if payment (even in kind) is involved, influencers need to be treated as a paid channel and influencer activity can be boosted through the use of paid social.

Boosting your social commerce

Once you have planned out what you want to achieve, who to work with and how to measure ROI, it’s time to think about tactics to boost your social commerce. Instagram has introduced shoppable features on the app, making the journey to the checkout basket even shorter. A consumer who is lazily scrolling their newsfeed with no intention of doing any shopping that day can have their attention grabbed by a post displaying a product. A few simple taps later and they’ve made an order. At the moment influencers are unable to add shoppable tags to their images, however, brands repurposing influencer assets in their own channels can. You might find that these authentic images, often more relatable than polished brand shots, could attract more shoppers. While other platforms have introduced shopping features, brands would be wise to focus on Instagram due to its superior engagement rate. According to research, Instagram’s average engagement is 0.779%, compared to Facebook’s 0.084% and Twitter’s 0.062%.

Be wary of the pitfalls

Finally, marketers need to be aware of potential pitfalls with influencers. While they can deliver excellent ROI, they can also do harm. Make sure you don’t fall foul of the ASA, which has launched guidelines for social influencers after a slew of warnings. While it’s important to make sure your partners explicitly mention your product, it’s now required they also make clear it’s an #ad. Fraud is another issue, so be wary of fake followers, which Instagram recently cracked down on, but that’s a whole other story. Otherwise, a brand will shell out for an influencer whose posts are mainly being showed to bots who probably won’t be wearing your latest apparel. When paying an influencer to represent your brand, you are trusting them with your brand image. You don’t want them to have contrasting values so choose carefully when looking to enhance your social commerce. 
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