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How Any Brand, Large or Small, Can Effectively Partner With Influencers

Learn how the influencer market has become democratized

If you go back in time to 2013, when AspireIQ was founded, the idea of influencers and marketing on a platform like Instagram was limited. Traditional brands were much more comfortable with the usual channels, such as television, radio, and print advertising, which, according to Eric Lam, the co-founder of AspireIQ, says left an opening in the social media world that eCommerce brands and AspireIQ could take advantage of.

“Back then, the only brands doing this were these emerging ecommerce brands,” Lam says. “They can’t compete on traditional advertising, so Instagram had become this place where they discovered that consumers were coming there to learn about what to buy, what to do, where to go…. In our early days, what kept us going is that we talked to so many ecommerce brands and consistently what we heard was the biggest channel that they were focusing on was social media and specifically influencer marketing.”

Those eCommerce brands were clearly onto something, because today, 93% of brands utilize influencer marketing, and AspireIQ is now a leader in the field of influencer community building and management. Lam says that the influencer market will continue to grow as time passed bygoes on, but he says that not everyone will have success with their influencers, especially if they don’t have the right strategy to utilize them.

“When you’re talking about the bigger brands in the industry, the Fortune 500 brands, a lot of them struggle with the idea of merging their influencer strategy with their creative strategy, because they typically have this really rigid process of guidelines and brand safety that they apply usually to $25,000 to $50,000 photo shoots, and they want to apply that same framework to influencers,” Lam says. “At the end of the day, that just doesn’t work because people are smart. Consumers are smart. Consumers know when something is super forced and inauthentic. At the end of the day, the whole point of working with influencers is that you’re co-creating a narrative. You’re supposed to be harnessing the personality and the creativity that’s unique to each person, and by forcing them to kind of fit in this tightly defined box that is so clearly branded, that just leads to poor performing content.”

The brands that are utilizing influences to their fullest potential don’t rely only on the “influencers” with the biggest followings or the most “likes.” Instead, Lam says a good influencer is someone who authentically can connect to your brand or your products. Who that person is might change over time. Today you might be working with a small-time celebrity who loves your product, and tomorrow you might find that an avid customer or expert in their field might be your best advocate.

Ultimately, the point is that the idea of who or what an influencer is will constantly change, and that’s a good thing. Lam explains that the rise of different types of influencers is good for the business world, as well as for the regular folks who now have a chance to have an impact.

“When you look at social media, everyone can create this amazing content that’s just as relevant and meaningful as what’s done in studio, and it’s completely democratized, giving a voice to anybody with a mobile phone and social media,” Lam says. “I wanted to work on something following that, that could take advantage of or capitalize on the fact that the world is essentially changing from what I call companies to people. Because when you open your phone, you look at most content nowadays, chances are it’s something that a regular person made. It’s not a company.”

Regardless of who is creating the content, brands are using it, and those in charge want to know whether the content they are putting into the world is their bottom lines. Lam says that determining the ROI of influencers is one of the biggest challenges of working in the industry. But at AspireIQ, he believes they have found the best way forward in that regard.

“We build a combination of indirect and direct metrics to give you a sense of how your program is performing,” he says. “There’s definitely lots of ways to measure direct conversions. There’s link tracking, coupon code redemptions, affiliate links, landing page sign-ups. Typically, those are very good ways of seeing directly attributable sales…. But a lot of the times, when you’re talking about influencer posts, because there’s not an easy way to click out of the posts, we tend to look at more indirect measures because a lot of times what happens is a consumer sees a post, they see the brand and then they exit to a browser and they go directly to the website. We look at the indirect measures like referral sources from social channels… Then of course, there’s the value of the content itself, which has been really interesting. A lot of ecommerce brands are looking at these influencers as content creation vehicles, and so there’s obviously the cost that it would’ve cost to create, potentially, hundreds of purpose-built photos and videos. But what’s even more is, what’s the value of having 10 times the number of assets to personalize all these digital customer journeys from your paid ads, your ecommerce, your email marketing? Almost always what we see is our performance marketing clients will have an overall increase in their ROAS.”

The future of influencers is still being written, and there’s a good chance that AspireIQ will have a lot of say in where it goes. To learn more about how and why, be sure to tune into Up Next in Commerce.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

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