By now, your DTC company has probably tested out influencer ads. After all, it’s all the rage and even Instagram has jumped into the fray with their Instagram Branded Content Tool. Whether the results have been good, bad, or mixed, influencer ads present a compelling experimental channel for DTC marketers who want the benefits of influencer content without any of the headaches with scaling an organic influencer program. While content costs still commands the vast majority of influencer budgets, influencer ads are quickly becoming the media darling for DTC companies who care about one thing: driving sales.
Even Instagram, which recently expanded their program to eliminate likes, no longer sees engagement as the metric of choice for influencer marketing. A sustainable influencer strategy should be grounded in measurable performance. The key is to use your finely tuned Paid Social skills in conjunction with the great content and relationships from your influencer team or PR firm to optimize sales and maintain RoAS as you scale your efforts.
We’ve talked to some of the fastest growing DTC brands to get their take on the top 10 strategies to effectively integrate influencer marketing with paid social. Whether you’re an up and coming DTC marketer or a seasoned vet, the tips below should make you look good at the next budget review. And although we can’t promise the promotion, these new and effective strategies and will certainly pique the interest of your boss. 81% of executives don’t feel that their company is leveraging the power of social to its full potential.
Standard procedure is to retarget prospects that have clicked on your brand ads with more brand ads. Ad fatigue, anyone? What if there was a smarter way? Mix influencer ads with branded ads in the same Facebook campaigns and ad sets to keep the images fresh and give different points of view. Influencer content comes across as more authentic while brand ads should be more ‘sales-y’. The two complement each other by moving the consumer down the sales funnel. Use a retargeting strategy or mix the two together in the same Ad Set. It’s up to you to test out to see what’s most effective for your brand.
Piper Parsley, Head of Marketing at Appaman, agrees that getting Appaman back in front of consumers who have already been exposed to the brand is a big part of their strategy, and is instrumental in helping the company to re-engage with consumers. “These ‘warm audiences’ were crucial in helping us drive results throughout our entire marketing funnel,” said Parsley.
One of the huge benefits of obtaining influencer whitelisting permissions is the ability to create custom and lookalike audiences based on users who have engaged with the influencer’s content or visited their profile. For DTC companies hungry for new, relevant audiences, this opens up an array of fresh options. Once you do your due diligence to make sure your influencers are on-brand and their followers fit firmly in your target demo, you can build custom audiences that drive home results. Influencer lookalikes audiences also tend to perform just as well (and in many cases better) than the custom audiences.
As an added bonus, since you are activating multiple influencers (hopefully you’re not using only one!), you can create blended custom and lookalikes which are even more powerful. Mix them into your first-party and Facebook audiences and you can really have a lot of fun finding your brand’s recipe for success. For example, if you are running an influencer campaign with 50 influencers, you can leverage the audience data of all 50 while only putting paid media behind 5 of the top performing creatives.
This one is kind of a no-brainer. Why use one when you can use several? Mix in brand ads, in-feed placements, stories, and it really gives the impression that everyone is using your brand. Seeing several influencers wearing your summer bikini fashions or a few that are drinking your organic mushroom coffee (yep, that’s a thing), is a great way to create hype. Throw in a brand ad into IG stories and drive the sale home.
What’s the magic number for how many influencers to activate? We recommend using at least 3 influencers per ad set, however, one company, Plated, activates as many as 20 influencers per month and uses 5 to 10 influencer posts per ad set. One of the biggest pitfalls marketers make in this channel is restricting themselves to one influencer in one ad set and only targeting that one influencer’s audience. Don’t make that mistake!
As Instagram moves towards eliminating likes, the shift is on to video and stories. Stories are the fastest growing channel with over 500 million daily users and ad impressions growing 33% in Q2, according to Facebook. Paid ads are limited to 3 frames of 15 seconds each, but that’s more than enough time to get your message across to consumers. Build in a UTM tracking link and stories views can very quickly turn into purchases.
Organic influencer content and IG’s Branded Content Tool share one big, gigantic limitation for marketers: the inability to edit content and copy. Not so with influencer whitelisting. Although it’s great to hear about how beautiful the sunset is on your influencer’s Maui vacation, marketers understand that it’s important to mention the brand in the first sentence and include a CTA. Also, while 50 hashtags is great to make organic content discoverable, it has a terrible impact on direct response KPIs.
This also gives you the opportunity to A/B test different creatives and copy. Previously only available to brand ads, influencer dark posts allow you to work all those marketing tricks you learned in college and discover what content moves the needle.
Of course, it’s important to ensure you have the correct permissions in place and that influencers are cool with the changes. There are now tools available to give influencers visibility over content changes to ensure everything is on-brand for both the influencer and the brand.
You also have the opportunity to test different headlines. Will a 10% discount move the needle? 20%? Does a headline focusing on “Free Shipping” deliver better results than one that describes the unique benefits of your product?
Again, that these can all be tested via dark post to see what will generate the most sales gives your Paid Media team a lot to work with. Mac Enright, who runs paid influencer campaigns for Plated and M.Gemi, says “We see improved headlines as a big driver of results for our clients.”
Many brands use dozens of micro influencers to connect with consumers in a specific geography, age-bracket, or lifestyle. Something as simple as selling hair care products in a humid GEO like Florida versus an arid climate like Arizona will require a slightly different message. Local consumers will also connect with the sites, culture, and happenings of the local area. They speak local, live local, and they can drive sales from each local targeted demo too.
Try using 3 influencer identities for each ad set, and testing out over 2–3 GEOs. Once you find the right influencers and content that match each GEO, you can scale out and the sky is the limit.
As previously stated, when you have whitelisting permissions for influencers, you also have access to create custom and lookalike audiences. While it may cost big money to run ads from a celebrity influencer’s handle, you can run micro-influencer ads to the celebrity’s custom or lookalike audiences.
Rather than pay Steph Curry to promote your new sportswear, run influencer ads from micros to Steph Curry’s engaged followers and lookalikes. You’ll need to have the correct permissions in place from your influencers. The best thing about micro-influencers is it’s incredibly cost effective. These are the influencers who are trying to make their mark on the world, and many (if they like your brand) are willing to post for free and provide whitelisting partner access for the added exposure. After all, what better way for influencers to get work then to tell an interested brand “My content was so good, my last client boosted it to millions of people even though I only have 10,000 followers!”
Instagram’s carousel posts allow for up to 3 images. Instead of having 3 pictures of the influencer, be sure to include a photo of only your product. You can move the consumer down the purchase funnel by taking them through the carousel photos and driving them to your shopping cart.
You can also turn your carousel to slideshows, which turns your static photos into a slideshow video. Added bonus is that slideshows allow for in-stream placement on Facebook and their audience network which would otherwise be unavailable to photo-only content.
Many of the previous strategies can be mixed and matched to produce great results. For example, use hyper-local influencers (#6) and target local celebrity audiences (#7). Of course, once you match these with your current best practices, the opportunities are endless.
Laurin Hicks, Director of Marketing at Benefit Cosmetics, says that using influencer ads “Ensures our target users were seeing our best creator content multiple times throughout a campaign.”
Hopefully, these strategies will help you turn influencer ads into a top performing channel to grow your eComm business.
Note: These strategies are not available via Branded Content Tool and require whitelisting.