The new arms race between the “Big Four” social media platforms isn’t for more advertisers, but for more influencers and creators. As social media platforms, brands, agencies and marketers continue to understand and recognize the value that influencers bring to an organization, they will need to invest in and optimize for those experiences in 2019 if they want to be influencers’ preferred brand, social network, or even influencer marketing platform of choice.
For social media platforms, influencer marketing platforms and brands alike, it’s not enough to simply design for the feed; influencers want the shot and the story that’s not available to the average user – and expect the tools and experiences to deliver it. This includes early access to new features, products and campaign ideas before they go to market to incorporate their point of view and feedback, and get those exclusive takes.
Over the past year, various social media and influencer marketing platforms have faced heavy criticism for failing to listen to and understand influencer’s needs. Facebook, specifically, has struggled to deliver in the area that matters most to influencers: helping them make money.
If Facebook really wants to bring influencers onto its platform (and keep them there), it needs to apply the same rigor and attention to the Influencer Experience on Facebook that it applies to its users and advertisers (i.e., post turn around can’t take longer than 24 hours or it will impact influencers’ abilities to make money).
By extension, Instagram, too, has been struggling to optimize for influencers’ experiences on the platform. However, the platform has recently begun testing a “Creator Account” concept with a select group of high-profile influencers. The account offers new, creator-specific capabilities that range from growth insights to tools to manage direct messages (DMs).
As Melissa Johnson, @BestFriendsforFrosting shared, “As a creator, I often feel the Business account is missing something. I feel that creators and businesses function so differently in the space. It would be great to see a visual difference when recognizing an account.”
Whether this is the impact of Facebook’s “community values” influence or not, Instagram is behind Snapchat, Amazon, YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook in the development of its influencer-first experience design. Per Instagram’s own Ashley Yuki: “We want to make sure Instagram is the best place, and the easiest place, to build fan communities and also build [creators’] personal brands… [the idea] was to create this space where we can now start to specialize the experience for the needs of creators.”
Here’s how you can optimize for influencers’ experiences:
- Rethink Physical Experiences and Train Employees
When in-store employees see someone taking a photo, they should ask how they can help with lighting, props, etc. because you never know who has influence (beyond that of your existing influencer network) and every piece of content matters. Keep in mind that the “Instagrammable moment” you just designed for your restaurant, hotel, or store likely won’t appeal to an influencer who is always looking to create new, original content.
- Invest in Long-Term Influencer Partnerships
Influencers value long-term relationships with brands and don’t want to work with brands for a one-off campaign; they want longevity, they want to contribute, and they want to be heard. Influencers’ value to marketers expands beyond content creation alone – marketers can leverage influencers’ unique knowledge about the business, industry, trends, consumers, creativity, and content to discover opportunities to gain a competitive advantage, increase market share, and further drive engagement.
- Bring Influencers In-House to Create Content
By working with influencers in-house to create content, your team will not only have easy access to editors, but also a cross-functional team to align departments and resources around a single initiative, which can be used for content creation, research, ideation, planning, and more!
- Think About Incentivizing Key Influencers Beyond Cash and Product
Influencers are so much more than just their handles. In addition to launching their own brands, they’re consultants, advisors, and investors in an increasing number of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands. Influencers are investing in companies seeking a new kind of “social capital,” beyond that of Silicon Valley. Since influencers are expert brand builders, it’s a win-win for both sides. Influencers get some level of ownership within an organization and brands get access to influencers’ intellectual capital in return (i.e., trend expertise, industry connections, strategic audience insights).
- Have an Always-On Approach to Surprise and Delight Campaign Management
Similar to how you map the different customer personas and lifecycle stages, map your influence personas and stages, as well. Think about what you can send them around certain times of the year to make them feel valued and appreciated (i.e., send them their favorite holiday treat around the holidays, send them a birthday card for their birthday).
What’s next for the influencer experience?
The past few years was all about optimizing for the Customer Experience (CX) and in 2019 that won’t go away. However, brands and social platforms will also begin optimizing for iX (think VIP events, influencer-led focus groups, and elevated experiences at places like hotels, restaurants, and stores). 2019 will be the year in which influencers become even more intertwined in all parts of a business – from research and insights, to ideation, and more – stemming beyond just content creation.
Download our latest Q4 2018 Influencer Marketing Quarterly Trend Report to learn more about some of the key updates and trends affecting the influencer marketing sphere and informing your influencer strategy.