The Influencer Perspective on Brand Collaborations
Lumanu and Collectively recently partnered to survey over 400 influencers regarding Whitelisting, Boosting, and Amplification. The results were illuminating for brands in the influencer media world (click here to view the stats and our industry insights), but we also walked away wanting to know more:
1. What tensions exist between brands and influencers, and can they be alleviated?
2. What do creators expect to see in their contracts, and how does that impact the working relationship?
3. What does a successful influencer marketing campaign look like to creators?
We realized that understanding the influencer perspective is crucial to running effective influencer media campaigns. Here are the key insights from Julia Berit (@julia.berit) on Relieving Partnership Tensions, Robin Jones (@withrobinj) on Contracts and Positivity in a Changing Industry, and Meg Biram (@megbiram) on Successful Campaign Strategies.
Julia: Relieving Partnership Tensions: How to make Usage Rights and Different Motivations build trust rather than break it
Julia is a successful plus-sized model and actress. She got into the game the way many influencers do: a photo of hers went viral and brands haven’t stopped offering her work since. Her portfolio includes prestigious brands like Savage X Fenty, Fashion Nova, and more. She’s achieved great success and built a name for herself in Los Angeles and across the country, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had her fair share of contract breaches, ownership debacles, and lack-of-transparency frustrations. Julia got into the gritty details with us, describing a time that “Brand A” posted a photo of hers (after asking permission and getting it). The only problem? Her face was cut out of the photo and she wasn’t credited. Oops! Or another time that “Brand B” breached the contract, selling her photos to repost pages. She didn’t receive compensation, nor was she informed by any of the involved parties that her work was being used that way. She noted that prestige of the influencer doesn’t seem to matter- she hears about influencers with all kinds of follower counts facing similar usage issues with brands.
Julia now works with an agency that negotiates usage rights on her behalf, and rarely experiences the obstacles mentioned above any more. On top of her contracts being enforced and her image being protected, she’s enjoyed the hours of extra time on her hands; where she used to send emails into the void for A- and B-type companies, she now has more time to create, take on more projects, and connect more positively with her following.
Problem solved? We asked her if ending tensions with brands was as simple as getting someone on her team to manage contracts. Her answer came in two parts, and part two shocked us.
Is ending tensions with brands as simple as hiring someone to manage contracts?
She made it clear that there’s a hierarchy: the brand employs the influencer after all. Having a contract makes the terms of employment clear, but it doesn’t change the fact that brands and influencers have radically different motivations for being in the industry. “The brand is trying to cut costs, and I’m trying to pay my rent. Different motivations lead to conflict, that’s just how it is.”
The natural follow-up question? If tension is always there, why are you in this industry? What are the campaigns you love? Julia didn’t hesitate to tell us the one type of campaign where tensions disappear.
The best campaign is when the influencer gets free reign. Julia describes how when she creates without standards or boundaries, the results are better.
- Authenticity between influencer and followers is kept intact. When Julia creates the photo and caption without abiding by specific standards (edit, layout on page, etc), her followers aren't jarred. They see the influencer they love showing off a brand they love.
- The results are better. Julia has found that when she designs a post from idea conception to final image and copy, the brand gets what they asked for more than when they call the shots all the way through. More link clicks, more purchases. It’s that simple.
- It’s fun. When her followers see her creating in a way that brings her joy, they want to be part of it. The result? Refer back to number 2.
Every campaign done this way has given the brand better results.
She admitted, “It almost sounds too easy, doesn’t it?” But the numbers don’t lie: every campaign she’s done this way has given the brands better results. Her message to brands is to encourage these sorts of campaigns. “You’re hiring us for our personal relationships with people, let us do what we do best.”
Robin: How Clear Contracts and Positivity make the industry stronger
Robin Jones has been a full-time travel, lifestyle, and fashion blogger for nearly 3 years. Today, she considers herself a content creator as well, working full-time on brand campaigns and blog posts that seamlessly integrate with her social sites. Robin has had similar experiences to Julia; her content has been posted without credit to her, her friends have seen themselves on billboards that they never approved or were compensated for, and more. But Robin has a uniquely positive perspective that she claims is her key to success. That positive perspective might just change the way you view your brand/influencer partnerships.
If contracts make three things clear, issues with misuse disappear.
Although Robin has experienced content misuse, she says that if contracts make three things clear, issues with misuse are all but eradicated.
- Content rights cost X
- Brand may use the content in this way: Y
- If Brand wants to use content in Z manner, Brand must contact Influencer for pricing and further terms.
So what is her positive outlook? Robin believes that misuse of content stems from contracts that just aren’t clear enough. She believes that content misuse is the result of a misunderstanding. Since she started to focus on contract transparency and really hammer home the three details above, she’s seen benefits beyond proper content use; Robin spends less time with back and forth emails discussing technicalities (it’s all in the contract), worries less about content misuse (the brand is bound by the contract), and has been able to enjoy longer partnerships than before (contract leads to proper use, proper use leads to trust, trust leads to longer working relationships).
Her message to brands and influencers alike? Give each other the benefit of the doubt. This is still a new industry and all parties need to develop trust if we want it to last: go over contract details, and make sure there are rules everyone understands and can play by. “Influencer advertising doesn’t have to be the Wild Wild West anymore, we have standards.” If those standards of use are met, campaigns can last longer and be more effective than the industry has ever seen.
Meg: Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign Strategy
Meg Biram started her blog in 2007. Three years later that blog started to make money. Soon after, blogging and working collaboratively with brands became her full-time job. Meg has seen the influencer industry evolve from day one, and we’d like to end this series with Meg’s tips for influencers and brands to ensure successful campaigns.
Influencers, don’t underestimate the value of relationships in the industry
To influencers: You probably know that developing a connection with the people who follow you is key for success, but don’t underestimate the value of relationships in the industry. Enjoying your relationships with the people behind the brands will not only teach you about the industry, but these relationships will open doors to more work opportunities better than rapid fire emails into the void of brands’ inboxes ever will. One real connection could turn into a long-term contract that never stops paying off.
Brands, focus on finding the right influencer for your brand, the results will follow.
To brands: You look at numbers too much. Start looking at the influencers as more than their follower count and figure out if they're the right fit; the right tone, the right personality, the right message for your product. Push influencers to be creative with how they promote you; there’s so much more to consider than the number of times you’re featured on a story and the number of impressions a post gets: quality, not only quantity.
A campaign is so much more than a transaction of influencer services for cash.
To everyone in the industry: A campaign is so much more than a transaction of influencer services for cash. Influencer marketing took off because it was a blend of the influencer’s personality and a brand’s product, so let’s keep it that way. And yes, campaigns that run on this mindset really do result with better metrics.