What is an “Influencer”? And how can your brand benefit from influencing them? Melissa Maker and Chad Reynolds, the creators of Clean My Space, and Gemma Stafford and Kevin Kurtz, the creators of Bigger Bolder Baking, outlined for CHESS attendees how social media celebrities can assist housewares marketers in reaching key audiences to help build their brands.
Melissa Maker and Chad Reynolds described how they created Clean My Space. Melissa, the face of the online brand, quit her job in commercial banking in 2006 and started a company—a cleaning service, because she hated to clean. Chad, the creative director and executive producer of Clean My Space, worked full time in marketing and made videos in their basement to promote their cleaning service. These videos became their channel and established their brand. They now have a full-time team of six, and still maintain their cleaning company. Their YouTube channel has more than 770,000 subscribers, and their videos have been seen 116 million times. Their clients include several IHA members, and they were the first contributors to IHA’s The Inspired Home website.
Gemma Stafford learned to cook at home in Ireland with her mother and was trained as professional chef in County Cork. She traveled around the world to work as a chef in varied settings including Michelin-rated restaurants. She came to the U.S. nine years ago and established her own catering company in San Francisco. Then she and her husband, Kevin Kurtz, created Bigger Bolder Baking, one of the largest online baking communities, and encourage viewers to bake with confidence. Before Kevin met Gemma, he worked for 15 years in the media and entertainment industry, managing franchise licensing projects to build great brands and foster fan communities. When they got married, they combined their passions for great food, great media and entertainment to build their own brand. They quit their “adult” jobs, moved to Los Angeles, and, with little production experience, created an online show, which now broadcasts every Thursday at 8:30 am. They have two million fans across all media. They also create content for IHA’s The Inspired Home every month and have worked with companies including KitchenAid and Walmart.
Melissa began the presentation by outlining how they work. Influencers are not just bloggers, but real people who share their struggles with home tasks with their audiences. As their followers respond to authenticity, they feel a responsibility to that audience, building on that established trust. They create communities and content as they engage with their audience. Their viewers look for inspiration, or watch because they’re relatable and accessible. Influencers’ biggest power is their ability to sway an audience. Momentum builds by with building trust. Trust is the currency.
An influencer can bring your message to life and deliver it to your target market. They can help you manage triggers to purchasing and influence sales.
Gemma then described their methods: We create original content ideas with products that align with our brand. We know what our viewers like and don’t. We create our content for our audience that is up close and personal. We build trust with our audience; our followers are engaged and come back. We receive thousands of messages from viewers who say they can trust my recipes and share with friends and family. This word of mouth nurturing of a community is important. Our audience is invested in our brands, are part of our journey, and are excited to see us grow. We engage with our audience across all social media, and our site allows viewers to submit photos of what they baked. They make our recipe and post the results!
Melissa then asked, “So how does this help you?”
- Influencers create content that includes your product.
- Product messaging is then delivered to a targeted audience.
- Influencers’ opinions hold weight—they are trusted and loved.
- But! It’s got to be done right.
Brands are fortunate today because they can leverage influencers to reach micro targets. They send us products to try out. They don’t tell us how to make it look amazing; we use it and show it in our own voice. We nudge viewers as we instruct them. We’ll use a product in a video, put in a link, and then track that link to see how many clicks were sent to that brand’s website. Our followers don’t have to do the research – we did the research on their behalf and recommended the product. Our audience trusts that we wouldn’t work with a brand if we didn’t believe in it.
Be mindful with choosing an influencer. Audiences won’t listen if they sense we are getting paid, or if the message is scripted by a PR agency. Some influencers promoted too many products. If an influencer mentions Brand A one day and Brand B the next day, audiences will wonder about loyalty, losing trust long the way. We want long-term relationships so we can help you build trust with your audience.
Top Five Ways to Work with an Influencer to Take Your Brand to the Next Level
#5: Have Clear Objectives
- Every campaign begins with clear objectives.
Kevin explained that Gemma did not accept sponsorships for 1.5 years until she found products she loved to use. Once they worked with a great partner who came in with videos, photos and recipes – the program looked beautiful. But, one week the objective was brand awareness, the next week the objective was clicks on a website, and then they wanted to build sales. They didn’t know why they wanted to work with an influencer. Your goals and objectives are our objectives as well.
- Know what you can do and cannot do.
- Measure, analyze, improve.
- Engagement is the metric for trust.
When determining success, traditional media measures reach and frequency. The metric for influencers is engagements such as likes, shares, and posts. The interaction back and forth with the audience is a beautiful circle. Engagement is also a metric for trust, the most effective way to reach objectives. Influencers can help you win hearts and minds of customers with the content they create.
#4 Pick the Right Influencer
- Influencers must align with your product/service/messaging
- Is their audience the one you want?
- Gauge previous performance of their videos/engagement.
Look for their number of followers and who they are – their age and location. They might be outside your target audience. If an influencer hits the perfect audience, but the videos aren’t good, you might have great subscriber numbers but have a low engagement. Find an influencer with the right audience and produces the right content.
- Are you comfortable with their voice?
Look for natural delivery. Is it authentic? Choose someone who understands your company culture and aligns with your brand.
- Review previous engagements and data.
Gauge how they relate to their audience. Start with the important numbers on engagement, such as the number of comments and likes. Find this kind of information.
#3 influencer Balance: One vs. Many – Choose who best suit your needs
- Choose who best suits your needs.
- The RIGHT one/s might be a significant investment.
- Choose the best quality for maximum reach across categories/communities.
Fewer influencers get better reach. Focus and you will get a better campaign. Too many creators will be too hard to manage. You’ll need a lot of time for back and forth communication. Less is more; the right person is the most important.
#2 Set Key Components for Your Campaign
- Your influencer = mini agency
- You pay for what you get
- Work with your influencer on a 360 degree campaign
- Leverage influencer’s other platforms to maximize exposure
Influencers have their own distribution network to reach their communities. They might have large audiences on more than one platform with audiences that don’t overlap.
Influencers don’t have rate cards. They customize campaigns and create assets for your website or partner’s website. They add value and content you would have to create otherwise.
#1 Don’t Mess with an Influencer’s Style
Influencers are loveable for their quirks and silliness. They figure out how to bring in viewers. TV actors are scripted, and audiences find it hard to connect with that. That approach doesn’t translate online.
- Influencers are trusted and loved for their unique style and voice
- Too much meddling upsets the audience
- Let the influencer shine
- Influencer wants this to be successful for brand and audience
Melissa and Chad have been friends a long time with Gemma and Kevin and with other influencers. All agree that the best experiences for their channels and their brand partners happen when they are given creative control. That’s when we get the best results. Set your expectations.
Influencers create content, have the brands review, and then post online. Viewers are chomping for new material. They watch what we choose. When there’s meddling, they know from past experience that it doesn’t turn out well.
Melissa once put together a script for a client who then wanted to highly edit the content, so by the time it was done, it lost all authenticity – she had turned into a commercial actor. But as they had an agreement, they went ahead and posted the content. Within four hours, the video received more hate and dislikes than they had ever seen before. The videos was removed, and the experience proved that meddling doesn’t work – you simply can’t tell an influencer how to talk to their audience. They are 100% committed to having it work well – you are their clients, and they have to make sure you are happy while at that same time making sure that their audience is also happy. It’s simply too easy for them to unsubscribe or stop watching.
Influencers can’t work magic. Too many factors make a video go viral. The Ice Bucket Challenge or Gangnam Style were never created with the aim to become viral.
Don’t offer an influencer free product as payment. YouTube is a big business. You get what you pay for.
Monitor an influencer for a period of time. Take time to check out the influencers and their organic content to see how they utilize their platform.
Find additional creative ways to leverage influencers. Take time to allow creators to create. Allow them to do their work and flourish.
Influencers are not consultants, PR companies or social media managers. They have built an audience through trust and that’s what they specialize in. You can leverage this. They’re here to help if you are willing.