If you have ever worked as the middleman in an influencer marketing campaign, as we do here at Mattr, then you often see the fight–the brand vs the influencer. Who gets creative control? Who gets the final decision? On the one hand, the brand knows marketing and their brand, but on the other hand, the influencer knows their audience. These two sides need each other, and the key to success is to strike a balance. But before deciding what that balance should be, it is important to understand both sides of the debate.
The first thing to know is that not all influencers are created equal, which is ok! Macro influencers have made this their career and tend to be more compliant to the brand’s needs. Mid-level influencers may do this as a side job and don’t necessarily need these sponsorships because they aren’t depending on this money. Therefore, they see the brand as needing them more than they need the brand. Micro influencers, who may enroll for free products or with programmatic influencer platforms are completely at the beck and call of the brand but typically have little passion about the product.
Mid-level influencers are the most sought-after now because their content is so rich and authentic and they can have engagement rates over 5%. Because of their high quality and their semi-pro status, mid-levels comprise the bulk of the back-and-forths with brand teams we work with. So we’ll focus on them.
Now, before you can truly see things through the lens of the influencer, you have to know that they, like you, are a brand. They have created their image from the ground up and have earned an audience who have trust in them. This is why the influencer will always work their hardest to have control of the content they create. They will do their absolute best to work the product seamlessly into the aesthetic of their page, a look and feel they have worked very hard to have as their own. And this is not just to benefit them but to benefit you as well. Influencers know what gets good engagement on their page and what doesn’t. Right away they can tell if an image is going to connect with the audience. And everyone, including the influencer, the agency, and the brand, all know that if done inauthentically, a sponsored post is can receive lower engagement than an unsponsored post. That is why an influencer will do their best to make this #ad not so much, well, like an ad.
Influencers and bloggers are learning quickly how big influencer marketing is getting. They know that brands need them to reach that niche audience they already have at their fingertips. So nine times out of ten if the brand dictates every part of the content, the influencers push back. After all, isn’t the point of influencer marketing to be marketing from the influencer’s point of view? If it’s meant to be authentic and real then it should come from the mind of the creator themselves. If you as a brand are wanting the ad to look like a print ad, it may be best to just advertise through a print ad. Dictating every part of the content means you could lose their audience and if you lose the audience in influencer marketing you lose what makes it so great.
Okay brands, it’s your turn. The influencer may know the audience, but you know the whole game. The influencer’s argument is always going to be about engagement. What image or video is going to get you the most ‘likes’ or views. And don’t get me wrong, engagement is obviously important. But what good are those likes or comments if they have nothing to do with your product? As I mentioned before, when an influencer takes control of the content they are going to make it fit with the rest of their page and not look like an ad. This might mean putting the product in the background or in the corner, basically making it not the focus of the image. And sure the final product might get 1,000 comments, but do those comments even matter when most all of them are talking about the influencer’s new outfit instead of the product sitting on the desk beside her?
Becoming a full time blogger, YouTuber, or travel writer have become some of the most sought after jobs, and a lot of people will do whatever it takes to win projects. This is where brands gain back some power. If someone wants to make a living as a full time influencer, sponsored posts are a part of the deal. You are providing them with what they need to continue having a job that many people dream of. Looking at it that way, you should be able to have most of the control. Influencers must also understand that these campaigns are a big deal for marketers, especially for brands new to influencer marketing. Therefore brands need to have some of the say in the content that is being created for them. It is going to take some time to let go and completely trust these influencers. Until then, many influencers need you and are willing to give up that control to continue their profession.
Creative control is in the hands of the side in power. Does the brand need this influencer more than this influencer needs the brand? Who is willing to bend the rules for their brand? The answer is not a simple one. Control is going to vary depending on the campaign, the brand, the influencer, and the ultimate goal. One thing to keep in mind is your target audience could help determine how much creative control you should give away. Older generations are used to seeing ads, and they respond better to traditional looking ads–even on social media. But if your audience are millennials, you need to be open to the idea of letting the influencer take over. We all know millennials hate ads and you’d be surprised how stubborn we are when we see one. It’s like product placement in a film; if it is so up front and in our face, not only are we less likely to engage, I know young people who will go out of their way to make sure and never buy that product. We don’t connect with in-your-face blatant advertisement, and it makes us feel like you don’t know us at all. You don’t need to necessarily hide the fact that it is an ad, but know that millennials appreciate the the art of subtle advertising, which many influencers are experts in.
Again, the important thing is to understand both sides and to know that brands and influencers ultimately want the same thing. You both want that authenticity that comes with influencer marketing, you just see different ways how to get there. Be willing to be flexible and open when deciding what is truly best when connecting to your audience. The key is balance. When an influencer can focus on your product, send your message to their audience, and do it in their own voice, that is the sweet spot.
MATTR is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.