Tim Jenkin of Social Pictures: why brands should work with online influencers in 2016

Everyone’s an influencer. I bet you’ve heard that in the last year. It’s true, and it’s no longer a secret. The cat is out of the bag, literally and figuratively. 2015 has set the wheels in motion and influencer strategies are turning out to be a powerful tool for brands to reach target audiences – especially those tricky millennials and even ‘centenials.’

Influencer marketing is still often left as an afterthought, but things are set to change. We are seeing substantial changes in how the creative industry utilises social photography and influencer networks, there has been a growing confidence in making the investment.

What was once ‘nice to have’ for forward-thinking fashion retailers, today accounts for a sizeable chunk of marketing budgets. In 2016 we’re expecting more than just uber-savvy marketers to join the bandwagon, on the contrary, it will be foolish to ignore. At Social Pictures we certainly feel that the creative industry will increasingly embrace this fear to engage ‘hard to reach’ consumers, especially on mobile.

Word-Of-Mouth on Steroids

Remember the phrase “word-of-mouth is the most effective form of advertising?” In our industry, it’s forever been the Holy Grail, getting consumers to do the talking for you. This still holds true more than ever before. We see influencers as the great reincarnation of word-of-mouth – it’s on steroids – like much else in the age of digital. The point is that YouTubers consistently get more views per post than the BBC. At the end of last year, it was revealed that Zoella (below) – a girl from Wiltshire who used her channel to go through shopping bags – got the nation talking and proved that an influencer can easily have the reach of a national media outlet. Not only that – Zoella has been featured in almost every major publication there is.

Examples like this have served as an industry wake-up call and there has been a growing confidence in making the investment in influencer strategies. We are seeing less people dipping in their toes – and more people jumping straight in. There is a collective confidence that influencer marketing can’t be ignored, but a lot of brands still don’t know quite how they should be working with influencers.

In our opinion, collaborations with influencers need to be more than just head scratching over demographics. The most valuable relationships are those that are built because of genuinely shared values. By knowing who your audience is, and who they listen to, rather than who everybody is listening to. So it’s not about finding the first account with over a million followers. Engagement with a targeted audience is much more important than any amount of followers.

Be a Needle in The Haystack

Brand ambassadors are nothing new in our industry and online creators are really just brand ambassadors with louder voices and a further reach. So how come many are struggling to figure out how to work with influencers?

First of all, as already mentioned, everyone is an influencer. Which makes it harder to find that needle, harder to navigate the seemingly endless ocean of possibility. Brand ambassadors are selected because their ethos is in line with that of a brand, or their association is enough in itself. Working with influencers should be no different. Choose someone who inspires you, someone you can learn from. Work with those who genuinely know how to get the most out of a platform and its audiences.

Secondly, this sphere is in many ways still in its infancy. Although adland loves talk about bravery and risk-taking, the thought that a 14-year old Instagrammer knows more about achieving levels of engagement than your strategist may be uncomfortable to say the least. Collaborations of this kind definitely require a new set of translators, a breed that is still in the making. But we are increasingly seeing clients working alongside artists to refine an output rather than being overly prescriptive with briefs.

Influencers are often talented artists in their own right. They know what they are doing and they know how to communicate that to their audience. Importantly, they are often experts in knowing how to catch the social over consumer’s eye. In the new year we think many will smarten up to the fact they can be commissioning influencers not only for their reach, but also to produce content for their own channels.

Under The Influence

It is no surprise that the big question on many lips for 2016 is; ‘How do you reach pesky Millenials or – even – Centennials?” We certainly feel this question should be viewed through a social lens. Working with influencers is an exciting way to utilize the way consume social to your advantage.

By the way, an adblocker won’t stop an influencer.

unnamed-1Tim Jenkin is co-founder of London ‘influencer agency’ Social Pictures.

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