Nowadays, the word "influencer" is part of most people's vernacular. Ten years ago, however, this wasn't the case. Influencer collaborations as a marketing vehicle have skyrocketed over the last decade, primarily because it plays heavily on the age-old tactic of word-of-mouth marketing. At the onset of influencer marketing's rise to prominence, many consumers felt strongly connected to their favorite influencers. They viewed influencers as their trusted friends and not the digital billboards many argue they've become. Say what you will about influencer marketing, but you can't argue with its popularity among marketers. Influencer marketing is set to be a $13.8 billion industry in 2021, up almost $5 billion from 2021. Influencer marketing isn't going away anytime soon. Yet, there's still a huge missed opportunity within influencer collaborations, and many brands are not utilizing those relationships to their full potential.
The Real Value Of Influencer Collaborations? Think Long Term:
What Makes for a Successful Influencer Collaboration?
What is it that constitutes a successful collaboration? Is it a boost in followers? A brief spike in traffic to the website? Is assigning a CPM or a "media value" the best way to measure it? Is it bottom-line sales? Some brands are just happy to know that their brand is being showcased in front of a targeted audience.
All of these components are important, and we don't mean to trivialize them, but if they're the only things you're focused on, you might be shortsighted. The value of the influencer-generated content and its reactivation across marketing channels is criminally underrated and should be the central component of brands' influencer strategies. Many of the complaints around influencer marketing are that it can seem like a flash-in-the-pan approach. Brands grow frustrated when they spend a valuable budget on an influencer collaboration, and, poof, it's over. Sometimes, it can be successful in hitting your KPIs. Many times, it is not. It's important to understand that influencer content has a long lifespan past a one-time post and can be used to drive results when repurposed correctly.
It's not uncommon for brands to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on professional photo and video shoots. Somehow, they still find themselves starving for content. On top of that, many see their stock creative growing stale and underperforming. Turning to lower-priced influencer content and empowering highly creative influencers to be visual storytellers on behalf of the brand can fill the content gap and boost content performance.
Common Objections to Repurposing Influencer-generated Content
Assuming lower-priced and higher-performing content is appealing to all brands, why don't more marketers repurpose influencer content? The most common pushbacks from marketers on the subject of reactivating influencer-generated content are the following:
1. "We lack creative control of influencer content."
First, consider that having "creative control" may not be necessary. Start by building trusted relationships with influencers who are thoughtful, creative, and have taken the time to understand your brand's aesthetic. If you're looking for specifics in the content, lay them out in a brief for the influencer to review before creating it.
Avoid the urge to be a complete control freak, but don't shy away from providing feedback on how you'd like them to alter or refine their work in an ongoing relationship. Influencers appreciate the input and have commonly told Cohley they prefer over communication to limited instruction.
2. "The content quality isn't up to par, and we don't trust influencers to do a good job."
Regarding the video or photo quality being lower quality compared to professional content, consider the success of user-generated content (UGC). Studies have shown that ads featuring UGC have up to 4X higher click-through-rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than average ads. Those are powerful figures. AdWeek reported that 85% of users surveyed find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos.
The power of UGC, which is by definition not professionally produced, is well-documented and understood. So why not just use UGC and skip the influencer content? Here are few reasons:
- With UGC, you can't control the inbound flow of content and which products are featured
- Small brands don't typically garner enough UGC, while big brands have too much to sort through
- On average, only 1 in 10 UGC photos is considered "usable"
Influencer-generated content perfectly bridges the gap between UGC and professionally produced content.
Also, remember that quality is subjective and varies from person to person. It tends to be more about whether the content fits within the brand aesthetic or not. If you find influencers that are talented content creators but don't necessarily align with your aesthetic, don't require them to post on their social channels. Instead, work with them with the sole goal of repurposing the content. An influencer's feed is sacred to them, so they typically don't like to stray too far from the aesthetic they've worked hard to build. By skipping a social post altogether, you're making it easier for the influencer to follow your brand's guidelines.
3. "The influencers we work with are too expensive".
On the influencer pricing front, you can shift the perceived value of influencer collaborations by thinking about both the long-term benefits of partnerships (content acquisition) and the short-term (follower growth, web traffic, etc.). It should be considered "working spend" because the content is being pushed out to each influencer's audience. When influencers speak to their audiences, they tend to listen.
Consider working with micro-influencers who have smaller social followings but are still quite capable of creating high-quality content. While sponsoring an Instagram post with Gigi Hadid has obvious appeal, consider opting for 40 to 50 collaborations with micro-influencers for the same cost.
What Does it Mean to Repurpose Influencer Content?
You can repurpose influencer-generated content in a variety of ways depending on the desired result.
Most commonly, influencer-generated content is repurposed on organic social channels because it already looks and feels native to the platform. Repurposing influencer content can inject some much-needed authenticity and relatability into a brand's social media. CVS Pharmacy, for example, repurposes influencer-generated content on their Instagram feed frequently.
For paid media, try repurposing influencer content within digital ads. Test influencer content against your current content and analyze the results. The results will inform you what types of content resonates most with your audience and which influencers to keep collaborating with. The beauty of using influencer-generated content in ads is that it allows you to quantify the success of your influencer collaborations. As we all know, executive suites are most interested in clear ROI that directly impacts the bottom line. Engagement and impressions are great, but return on ad spend will give more credibility to your influencer strategy. PATH collaborates with influencers to create and share testimonial videos that speak to their environmentally-focused mission against single-use plastics. PATH then takes those videos and repurposes them in social ads on Facebook and Instagram. This strategy provides PATH with a two-pronged approach that achieves brand awareness and content to drive ad performance.
Marketing emails are also viable channels to repurpose influencer-generated content. At Cohley, we work with brands that test influencer content against in-house creative within their cart abandonment emails. Sijo Home, for example, found that the influencer-generated content increased click-through rates by 37%. The point isn’t that Influencer-generated content becomes a brand's top-performing content. That may not be the case. The point is that it provides a diverse pool of content to test, learn what’s connecting with an audience, and take those insights and turn them into growth.
Repurposing influencer content on your website showcases your brand's story directly at the point of purchase, which is critical. Expanding on the notion that influencer generated content is very similar to UGC, it's essential to call out that featuring UGC on a website leads to 10% more conversions and 90% more time spent on the site. FHI Heat uses influencer-generated content on its homepage and product details pages. Influencer-generated content works as a form of social proof, which builds trust with the consumer and leads to more conversions.
An Important Tip for Repurposing Influencer-generated Content
Repurposing influencer content isn't necessarily rocket science, but it's essential to ensure you have the proper usage rights to extend the content. Make it clear in your negotiations with influencers that you'd like to use the content on your channels, and be prepared to pay more for it. It's well worth it, and you'll be spending a fraction of the cost of professionally produced photo and video content. If you can, try to gain full content rights in perpetuity. The reason for this is twofold. First, you never know when you'll want to use a specific piece of content again. Second, you won't have to keep track of when rights expire for different influencers and content pieces. Gaining content rights in perpetuity whenever possible will help you avoid unnecessary headaches down the road.
Putting a Bow on Influencer-generated Content
Today's demand for content is historically the highest it's ever been. Digital consumption is up, screen time is up, and traditional marketing content is becoming less effective in this highly saturated market. For brands to stand out, they need to serve highly relevant content at every step of the buyer's journey. The challenge lies in the fact that in-house content often lacks authenticity and is challenging to scale. Influencer-generated content is the solution to this challenge.
Influencers, aside from being great brand megaphones, are incredibly talented content creators who can tell your brand's story in a way that's authentic and relatable. Framing influencer collaborations as long-term content suppliers will help you get the most out of your influencer strategy and connect with consumers on multiple channels.