Product reviewing: how to utilise digital influencers

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Credible and reliable endorsements are now, more so than ever, vital to a brand’s success.

Identifying and using the appropriate influencers in your marketing strategy is pivotal to ensuring that your brand and product are being seen in the right place, at the right time and most importantly, by the right people.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that brands are choosing to recruit digital influencers to act as their ambassadors. Previously, brands would try to on-board a celebrity to become the face of their brand or product – so why, in recent years, have we seen a shift to digital influencers?

Perhaps, it’s because digital influencers are still often seen as ‘regular people’ which makes them more accessible to their followers. Many influencers still work a day job, run a household, have children and engage in everyday social activities that, in the eyes of their audience, make them more relatable.

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A survey of the fashion and beauty industry by Econsultancy at the start of the year showed that almost 60% of fashion and beauty brands already have an implemented influencer marketing strategy, with a further 21% planning to invest in developing a strategy throughout the course of 2016.

When asked, ‘What role do influencers currently play in your marketing strategies?’ 27% responded that product launch is ‘critical’ when it comes to influencers with another 42% placing high importance on the use of influencers. So, with 69% of brands saying product launch is top priority, should you be incorporating it into your marketing strategy?

So what are the benefits of product reviews?

In a report published last year it was estimated that more than half of UK adults use online reviews and that 6% look at a blog or a vlog before committing to a purchase.

If you get product reviewing right the ROI can be monumental for your brand. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increase in traffic to your site
  • Building brand and product awareness
  • Increase in sales
  • Growth of social media channels
  • Credibility for your brand amongst your desired audience
  • Access to a new market
  • Long standing relationships with influencers

But product reviewing doesn’t come without risk.

You should be under no illusion that because an influencer has agreed to produce a review that it is going to be anything but truthful. Inviting an influencer to review is asking them to provide an honest opinion of your product. If they don’t like it, they are probably going to say exactly that.

In the recent ‘The Voice of the Influencer Report’ what influencers want and need from brands became very clear:

  • 60% of influencers assess brand reputation before entering a relationship. If your brand has a bad reputation influencers are going to be more wary
  • 47% said that personal development and being their own brand is of utmost importance
  • 93% believe influencers should be controlling the narrative, not the brand
  • 67% said that being authentic is the key to building influence

Rules for staying on the right side of the law… and Google

In addition to the above, as outlined in the Blogger Crackdown: The New Commercial Laws Simplified Google issued these rules around how influencers must disclose sponsored promotion and reviews:

Use the nofollow tag where appropriate. Links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes.

Companies sometimes urge bloggers to link back to:

  • The company’s site
  • The company’s social media accounts
  • An online merchant’s page that sells the product
  • A review service’s page featuring reviews of the product
  • The company’s mobile app on an app store

Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide free goods or service in exchange for a link). Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.

Disclose the relationship – 

Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content. Also, there are laws in some countries that make disclosure of sponsorship mandatory. A disclosure can appear anywhere in the post; however, the most useful placement is at the top in case users don’t read the entire post.

Create compelling, unique content –

The most successful blogs offer their visitors a compelling reason to come back. If you’re a blogger you might try to become the go-to source of information in your topic area, cover a useful niche that few others are looking at, or provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources.”

So how do you choose the best digital influencer to review your product?

Understanding your own audience is the key component when it comes to selecting the right influencers to align with your product. Not only who they are and what they like, but also where they consume and engage with content.

Is it social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram or is it long form blog content? Once you know your own audience inside out, it becomes much easier to start selecting the best digital influencers to do a review of your product.

At this point, research is key. Building up a database of bloggers, vloggers and social influencers is all well and good but finding the most appropriate for your audience is a different matter altogether.

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What may seem like a laborious task in the beginning will prove to be extremely beneficial in the long run. Take time to get to know the influencer you are planning on reaching out to.

Read their blogs, watch their vlogs and follow their social channels, get to know their writing style and tone of voice. Have they done product reviews before? If so, who were they for and how were they received?

The three main things to consider when looking for key influencers are:

  • Relevance – How relevant is the influencer to your brand? Will the review they provide be one of authority and affinity in the context of your product?
  • Reach – How many people are consuming their content on a regular basis? How many unique visitors do they get to their blog on a monthly basis? How big are their social media followings? Are there any channels they have particularly strong engagement on? It’s important to remember that those with the biggest following don’t always have the most meaningful.
  • Impact – This is the influencer’s ability to provoke actions from their audience. How will their audience engage with your product? Normally if you get the relevance and reach aspects of your chosen influencer right then this part is easy. The audience of a digital influencer are defined as an ‘opt-in’ network – they chose to consume the content put before them.

The next step is to make a meaningful connection with the influencer you are hoping to collaborate with.

Make formal, but personalised contact with those influencers who align best with your brand, and really sell to them why you feel the product you have to offer would be of interest to their audience and of benefit to them to review.

If they like the sound of your product from the beginning, and can understand why their audience might be interested, they are more likely to work with you in giving a fair and balanced review.

The highly acclaimed fashion journalist Louise Roe recently detailed in her latest webinar with Fashion & Beauty Monitor that the brand collaborations who offer a phone conversation or coffee to discuss the initial brief are the most successful.

I can’t stress strongly enough how important your initial brief with the influencer is. You need to consider the collaboration in every last detail.

For example, if you need the posts to go live at a specific time in order to reach an audience in a different time zone then make sure they know in advance. If there is certain terminology you need including or avoiding, put it in the brief. A pet hate for bloggers and influencers is having to go back into posts and edit.

Once a digital influencer has taken part in a product review, measurement and evaluation is key. Ask yourself:

  • How did my product come across in the review?
  • How was the review received by the influencer’s audience? How did they engage with the blog/vlog/post?
  • Have I seen growth in my social media channels?
  • Has there been a spike in traffic to my website?
  • Would I work with this influencer again? If not, then why?

So who is doing it right?

Florida Marriott

Florida Marriott wanted to increase their brand reach online and spread the word about their 14 Florida hotels. Working with eight hand selected bloggers, Florida Marriott provided them with a unique authentic experience within their hotels.

Florida Marriot made sure that they tailored each blogger’s experience to their specific following in order to connect with their audience in a meaningful way.

A specific hashtag was created – #BloggingFL – which allowed the influencers to openly communicate with each other and share content with their respective audiences.

One thing that is worth mentioning about this campaign was the effort spent on Marriott’s social media channels of sharing the influencer’s content. If an influencer is taking the time to write for your brand, you should ensure you are sharing their efforts as far and wide as possible. The more eyeballs on their content, the better.

The outcome:

  • 39 blog posts
  • A reach of 1,043,400 unique monthly visitors
  • The hashtag reached 8 million Twitter timeline deliveries
  • On social the bloggers reached an audience of 30,000 people through their audiences
  • 8 loyal bloggers- Florida Marriot now have a network of bloggers who would be happy to work with them again in the future

Try The World

Try The World wanted to raise awareness for their range of food subscription boxes. They decided to collaborate with popular YouTuber Missy Lanning, who has over 500,000 subscribers on her channel. Missy was commissioned to post a Taste Test Challenge Video featuring one of Try The World’s subscription boxes.

The video has had almost 700,000 views and a high level of engagement among Missy’s YouTube following.

This is a prime example of how partnering with mid-level influencers means you can stick within the means of your marketing budget but still receive a good return on investment for the money you’re spending.

Iceland

Supermarket chain Iceland are the perfect example of how major brands are shifting from celebrity ambassadors to digital influencers. Iceland exclusively partnered with parenting social network Channel Mum which meant they got three months’ exclusive access to their vlogging network.

“Pre-TV advertising, word-of-mouth was the most powerful form of marketing and [the rise of influencers] shows the strength of social networking and the fact that customers are more comfortable with taking views from their peer group,” said Nick Canning, joint managing director at Iceland Foods.

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Channel Mum users are asked to try Iceland products before producing a video on the topic of family food. What is interesting about this campaign is that Iceland has absolutely no control over the content that subsequently appears online about their brand. Canning has accepted that the word of an influencer can be quickly lost if their message starts to lose authenticity and identity.

This is a great example of letting the influencer run the narrative. Although you do run the risk of a few negative comments the trust it creates among your desired audience is priceless.

To conclude

In summary, product reviewing is on the up. The way in which it’s happening may be evolving, but ultimately the principle is still the same; get the right people, at the right time, in the right place to review your product and you are on to a winner.

Loyal followers of digital influencers soak up their content and whole heartedly buy into their recommendations. Embrace digital influencers as part of your marketing strategy and view them as being the mutual friend that will introduce your brand or product to your desired customer base.

Ellis Carr is a Digital PR executive at Zazzle Media and a contributor to SEW.

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