Insense. July 16, 2019

What Brands Can Learn From Influencers & Creators

Dane O'Leary
The term "influencer" has a lot of connotations. Initially, an influencer was merely anyone on social media who had somehow accrued a lot of followers, by doing anything from posting silly memes to their own hot takes on celebs or current events. But brands realized that these people had massive captive audiences, so they began to partner with them and weave branded messages into their content. But surely, nobody predicted that influencers would become progenitors of a new era of social media, digital tastemakers with their fingers on the pulse of pop culture. But here we are, and more and more companies are realizing that in this current landscape of hashtags and sponsored content, partnering with influencers is virtually essential if you want to take marketing for you brand to the next level.

As it turns out, brands can learn a lot from these self-made curators of content and style who thrive by building (and sustaining) loyal, highly-engaged communities. With that in mind, here are five things that brands can learn from social media influencers and content creators, as well as additional insights from @melsays, one of the many awesome creators on Insense.
Building a Community

Being able to build a community is a skill all influencers must have. After all, part of an influencer's success depends on the ability to turn a few followers into a full-fledged community.

There are different considerations to building a community on social media, but authenticity is a major one. The majority of influencers have to be sincere and earnest, or at least be able to portray themselves as such. They need to be "real" to the audience so that followers can feel like they have actual connections and relationships with those influencers.

Quality of content is another factor. Of course, there are different types of content, and each influencer has his or her own speciality, whether it's photos, video, or even text. Part of the journey to becoming an influencer involves figuring out which type of content is best for a specific audience and honing the ability to product content of a consistent quality within the influencer's niche. Content that is emotional, memorable, and exudes personality gets new eyeballs, while keeping existing followers coming back for more. High production value isn't as important as content that is emotionally resonant.

Speaking of consistent quality, consistency is another factor that helps an influencer build an audience. When someone followers an influencer, it's because that person liked something he or she saw on the influencer's account and wants to see similar content in the future. This is why you typically see influencers who live squarely within a certain niche or industry; cosmetics influencers don't often create sports-related content, and health influencers don't often create gaming content. By sticking to a specific niche, an influencer builds credibility with the audiences and are eventually seen as an authority figure in that niche.

The strength of their communities is one of the main reasons why brands love to partner with influencers. However, it can be hard trying to find the right influencer(s) to partner with. Fortunately, Insense helps brands to align themselves with influencers whose audiences complement or overlap their own. With Insense, you're getting access to influencers and creators who have built careers on their ability to keep their loyal audiences engaged with compelling content.

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Authentic, Personable, Natural

People follow influencers because they value the expertise and unique perspectives that those influencers offer. If the audience gets the impression that an influencer partners with any brand willing to write a check, that influencer becomes just another billboard and, as a result, loses his or her audience.

The importance of authenticity is most obvious with influencers who have proven to be incredibly inauthentic. Take Marissa Fuchs' global engagement extravaganza as an example.

Fuchs became a prominent Instagram influencer known as the @FashionAmbitionist, sharing style and fashion content with over 150,000 followers. Then Fuchs' long-time boyfriend and soon-to-be fianceé, Gabriel Grossman, came up with an idea that would take her influencer status to the next level. Specifically, Grossman coordinated a spontaneous globe-trotting scavenger hunt for Fuchs, spanning multiple continents over three days and culminating with a proposal in Paris. Meanwhile, the trip would be broadcast on Fuchs' @FashionAmbitionist account on Instagram. In and of itself, the scavenger hunt wasn't the problem.

Over the course of Fuchs' grand adventure, a pitch deck for the proposal event surfaced, showing an hour-by-hour itinerary for the spontaneous adventure that was being casually documented on social media. If that wasn't strange enough, the deck was designed and delivered to prominent brands, offering them the chance to sponsor this momentous event. It became a chicken-or-the-egg problem: Was this proposal event a branding opportunity in disguise, or was Grossman simply trying to monetize something he would've planned anyway? The fact that this was even a question gave many people, including some of Fuchs' own followers, cause for skepticism.

This isn't the first time influencers have been caught staging a major life event that turned out to be just another monetization ploy. While influencers may see this as an opportunity to "level-up" their content, the bottom line is that doing this is like lying to the audience. Understandably, that's something most people won't appreciate.

For this reason, partnering with influencers who have not only built strong communities but have also established credibility and authenticity is crucial. As it turns out, Insense's influencers are some of the best creators around. They maintain their authenticity through each post and video, so you can be sure that the content they create for your brand will resonate. In fact, influencers consider their work with brands to be real partnerships and something they're passionate about doing. According to @melsays, "I love being involved every step of the way, from brainstorming to the actual execution of an idea."

Plus, Insense is as transparent and real as the creators featured on the platform; you'll never see any hidden fees associated with Insense, and you can always communicate directly with any influencer(s) you partner with.

Tailoring Content to the Platform

A common misconception about social media marketing is that you can post the same content on virtually any social platform. In fact, you've surely seen brands that run the same ads and graphics across all the major social networks. But that's a mistake.

According to @melsays, "it's important for brands to make their messaging more personal and impactful than just a sales or marketing pitch… [P]eople who feel touched… by [the content are] more likely to want to support a brand." In other words, it's important to tailor the message of your content to the audience you have on that particular platform. You can't assume that your followers on each social network are the same people or even that they have the same demographic makeup, interests, and preferences. Use the data that's at your fingertips — your analytic data will tell you what each audience is looking for.

Similarly, social content is more successful when it's created specifically for the platform where it will be posted. This makes sense when you think about the differences between a Facebook post and an Instagram post. Facebook posts can contain multiple areas of headline, caption, text, and links around an image, whereas Instagram posts are less text oriented, with the vast majority of the space dedicated to the visual elements; Instagram posts rely far more on visual presentation. So even before considering audience demographics and other metrics, it makes sense to approach content creation differently for each social network.

Every social network has its own optimal content, so you might think of influencers as people who are experts in creating the right kind(s) of content for their home platforms. So with influencer marketing, you want to partner with influencers who are fluent in content creation for the platform where your audience lives. According to @melsays, producing "all sorts of content on a variety of platforms is key."

Fortunately, Insense's network consists of incredible influencers on all platforms. Best of all, the Insense network offers powerful search and filtering capabilities, letting you find the influencers with the right background, experience, and voice for your brand.

Listening to the Audience

Brands have a tendency to see social media as a channel for one-way interactions, because that's how marketing traditionally went: brands delivered messaging, and consumers were passive consumers of that messaging. Influencers don't approach social media that way and, instead, see each Instagram post and tweet as the start of many new conversations.

What sets influencers apart from brands and even the average user is that influencers are always listening to their audiences. Since maintaining an audience is key to an influencer's ability to "influence," every post becomes a way for the audience to provide feedback that the influencer can use to improve and refine his or her content strategy. When an influencer shares something unique or new with the audience, it's important for the influencer to be able to read the audience and find out whether they want the influencer to continue to move in that direction. So on a very basic level, every piece of content an influencer creates and posts makes him or her a better influencer.

And it's not just about reading feedback in the comments of posts. The best influencers actively engage with their followers in the comments or by sending out polls to directly ask followers what they would like to see. In fact, this is a crucial part of being an influencer because, as @melsays succinctly put it, there is "so much content available out there. It's [not easy] to create something completely new… that will stand out." For this reason, influencers have to become experts in reading and interpreting their analytics and metrics, learning what their audiences like and want to see from engagement data.

Just as influencers "influence" their audiences with their product recommendations, influencers' audiences likewise "influence" the content that influencers create and share. It's a continuous conversation in a very two-sided, symbiotic relationship. But how can you be sure to partner with influencers who engage with their audiences in this way?

Each influencer on the Insense network has been personally vetted by the Insense team, ensuring that no matter which Insense influencer you choose, you're guaranteed to be collaborating with an influencer who's an expert at creating content for his or her audience. But even more than that, Insense influencers know how to bring a level of storytelling to your branded content that audiences will love.
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Video Content is Huge

According to recent estimates, 78 percent of all internet traffic on mobile devices is video. And there are a number of reasons why video has become so popular, but one of the main ones is because it lets the audience be passive spectators. Reading is a more active process that requires you to pay close attention, but watching a video is a passive activity; the audience can kick back, relax, and simply receive the information contained in the video.

Then there's the fact that video is a visual medium that's designed to be highly engaging. Think about the sorts of things that distract a person when they're reading: music and other sounds, people talking, nearby movements, etc. Notably, these are often elements seen in video, but instead of distracting, they keep the viewer's attention on the video.

Video is also very effective. Surveys show that 90 percent of consumers watch videos to help them make their purchasing decisions. As well, roughly 53 percent of people engage with a brand on social media after watching one of the brand's videos. On Instagram in particular, 75 percent of the audience take action — e.g. subscribe to the account, visit a website, make a purchase, etc. — after watching branded video content. In fact, 72 percent of consumers actually prefer to learn about brands, products, and services via video instead images or text.

As such, many brands have jumped on the video bandwagon: Currently, 93 percent of businesses consider video content to be crucial to their success. After all, video content has shown to generate 66 percent more qualified leads than other forms of content and creates 54 percent more brand awareness. Video even increases conversion rates by as much as 80 percent.

Of course, influencers followed the rise in popularity of online video content, which is why many prominent influencers create video content, either exclusively or as a central element of their content strategies. However, there's incredible value for brands in how influencers often approach video content.

Typically, we see slick commercials and branded videos with high production value on TV, but they're not very relatable. With influencers, you get branded content that's relatable and to which the audience can have a connection. Granted, some influencers do create videos with a very high production value, but the takeaway is that brands don't necessarily need to overspend on video production to create video content that's compelling. For many influencers, their most popular videos are the simplest and most relatable ones, which is the type of video that is often most effective at conveying a message.

Insense represents a wide variety of influencers who create engaging, highly-effective branded videos. Further, Insense influencers even represent a variety of different styles of video, from sleek and stabilized videos with high production value to handheld videos that are more casual and intimate. And with the Insense platform, you can choose to partner with the influencers who produce the kinds of videos that best complement your brand. Much like your audience, Insense's influencers are creators who, like @melsays, "love [working with] brands that are good storytellers, that create stunning visuals and… have a positive impact on the planet."

Insense Influencers Bring Storytelling to Your Branded Content

Marketing is integral to most companies' success, and influencer marketing is proving to be the key to connecting with your target audience on a deeper, more emotional level. Whether you use Instagram, Facebook, or some other social network to engage your audience, you can build lasting relationships with both existing and future customers by partnering with influencers who create content that really resonates with the audience.

"Once you've found what really drives you, what you're really excited about, that's half the battle already," @melsays says. "Afterwards, the key is to remain consistent, work on storytelling, and build… a community."

To learn more about how Insense can help you grow your business with influencer marketing, contact us today.
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