The lockdown situation across the globe has meant more eyeballs are online, consuming more influencer content than ever, which doesn’t look set to change, but in turn, this means more opportunity for scrutiny of the influencer industry. However, what we have seen is how working with influencers can help brands be reactive, flexible and resilient, giving audiences relatable content they want in real-time. Therefore, as an industry, we need to develop a more transparent and authentic way to identify the relevant content creators creating content that is more meaningful.There are several points that we need to address when looking for a solution to sourcing the most relevant influencers. 

Sourcing relevant influencers

Firstly, for a while now we as an industry have talked a lot about data and using data to make recommendations. However, can we solely rely on data to show us the best possible collaborations, or is that ‘gut feeling’ of industry expertise still a key part in the decision-making process? For me, it is a mix of both. You need the data tools to research and identify the right creators and influencers for your campaign or brand. Ideally looking at data points such as content relevancy, brand alliance and audience match. But you also need to have the insight to know they are the right fit, which can only come from knowing the brand, the influencer and the industry you are working in. 

What approach to take with influencer vetting

Secondly, should Brands be adopting an ‘independent only’ approach to influencer selection? What I mean by this is having an unbiased and impartial approach. This might mean working with agencies that do not own talent or have financial links to talent agencies so that brands and influencers are always being sought out for the right reasons and offered work on merit. This cements a stronger authentic approach and supports transparency, which is what we as an industry are striving for.  It is often cost-effective to work with creators that are owned by the communications or creative agency, or creators that come as a package via their management. But this approach does not reflect the idea of authenticity that we talk about so often and does not mean content is going to land in the right places. The Covid-19 world has meant that we need sensitive brand messaging that is relatable and honest. An independent approach to selection can go a long way towards this.   

The next wave of metrics

Thirdly, we need to think about the next wave of metrics that we should be striving for to support the most considered influencer and brand partnerships. The recent changes in the world have seen a natural increase across social metrics in many places, as more people have been online; however, we have also seen a pivot in content tone and style. It has moved away from aspirational, heavily filtered and high production content to rawer, sensitive, and empathetic content.  So how do we truly measure these more feeling-based posts and campaigns we are seeing more of? We have been talking about moving away from the aptly named ‘vanity metrics’ (such as reach and impressions) for some time, instead of moving to engagement as the fundamental measurement gauge. But is this really going to tell us who the right creator is for brands right now? If we are talking about relatable, raw and reactive content, we should be considering a feeling based metric – sentiment. Sentiment has always been tricky to measure, it can be time-consuming without the right tools and context needs to be considered. Nevertheless, there are several good indicators to look at which can quickly give an idea of emotional connection. What is the audience doing with the content, what are they saying and how are they saying it? For example, when reviewing the comments are people happy, are influencers receiving direct messages and what is the audience saying to them? Are people using the ‘saves’ function? What are the stories analytics telling us? Are people moving back and forth, to re-read or hear information? 

Find true partnerships that work for all sides

In post-COVID-19 and among other important events such as the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the influencer pay gap being highlighted, it is inevitable that consumers and influencer audiences will be more savvy as to who creators should or shouldn’t be working with. A recent survey by demonstrated that consumers who follow influencers want brands to be informative (47%), to be a source of positivity (41%), to stand for something/have a purpose (37%), and to be more human/have a personality (35%)Many of these global events have seen purchasing behaviours change too, spending online is up so the channels we reach audiences by, such as influencers and creators, must be reviewed, reorganised and strengthened to reflect this. If we haven’t already been, we now as an industry really have to take our research seriously, find partnerships that truly work for all sides, and carry out due diligence. In working together to create processes that match creators to the right brands, influencers are able to produce more meaningful content that will truly resonate with audiences, resulting in behaviour change and impact. 
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