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A guide to influencer marketing on Instagram for PRs

22 January 2016

Takumi, a free app which aims to “revolutionise the way brands engage with influencers on Instagram, launched in October 2015. Three months on, and with clients including Lastminute.com and Radley, Mats Stigzelius, co-founder of Takumi, says influencer marketing works when its "raw, honest and personal". Here he offers five top tips for PRs who are launching an influencer marketing campaign for brands.

A guide to influencer marketing on Instagram for PRs

Bigger isn’t always better

On Instagram, marketers can make the mistake of looking at the number of followers an influencer has instead of the level of engagement.

The traditional PR approach has been to target celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers, with the belief that this will translate into buzz. However, while these names have a lot of followers, they lack high-quality engagement – comments, likes or reposts on their photographs.

Takumi has analysed more than half a million Instagram accounts and the numbers are surprising. Engagement rates are on average around 4.5% on accounts with between 1,000 and 4,000 followers. This drops to 2.4% on accounts with between 4,000 and 100,000 followers. This goes down to just 1.7% on accounts with more than 100,000 followers.

When accounts reach a certain size, the influencer engages less and less with their followers. As much as they may want to, they simply become too big to respond to every comment or question.

With this in mind, we’ve identified a ‘sweet spot’ of influence – users with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. This level of influencer guarantees a certain amount of reach while also maintaining strong levels of engagement. These are people who have influence beyond their circle of family and friends but still retain high levels of interaction with their followers – which is an extremely important factor when it comes to influencer marketing.

These ‘micro-influencers’ are the most effective group to work with at scale, and will deliver the most value for money for marketers.

Don’t be fooled by false followers

A big watch out for brands is fake followers. Nowadays there are companies which ‘sell’ followers, and even engagement, from fake accounts. It’s become very sophisticated and consequently pretty hard to spot. Our developers have spent a lot of time creating tools which alert them to any suspicious activity on accounts ensuring campaigns run through Takumi have the amount of reach you are expecting.

The obvious dodgy accounts are those which grow from a few thousand to, say, ten thousand followers in just a few days, but others are more subtle. Sadly, some fantastic Instagram accounts with beautiful feeds are falling into this trap. Brands might think, by securing a few extra thousand followers, this will open more doors for them in terms of brand work - but it results in quite the opposite and undermines the work of genuine influencers with genuine followers.

An easy way to spot something iffy going on is to look at engagement levels – if someone has 100,000 followers but their photographs are only achieving a few hundred likes, there is something going on there, and it’s worth investigating further. It’s definitely worth looking at this before agreeing to work on paid-for campaigns with influencers.

Don’t be afraid to use social media marketing as a listening tool

The brands which get the most out of influencer marketing campaigns are those who are flexible and open about the type of influencers they are targeting. Something that is unique to Takumi is that it gives the influencer the freedom to choose the brand campaign they work on – rather than the other way around. Sometimes brands feel uncomfortable with this, as they’re used to actively selecting influencers to work with.

However, the benefits outweigh any negatives. Firstly, the posts are much more authentic – as an influencer will only choose a campaign that their followers are genuinely interested in hearing about.

Secondly, this process enables brands to find out who their influencer set is. For example, a health food brand may think it wants to target fashionable lifestyle influencers from London. But, for instance, "male cycling influencers" might be a good way to get to an audience. It’s a lesson in finding out who is interested in your brand.

Also, comments on influencer posts are often fantastic feedback for product development. It’s a journey of discovery and an invaluable social listening tool which helps shape brand identity.

Let the influencer have as much creative freedom as possible

Some brands get twitchy about relinquishing creative control for influencer marketing campaigns and opt to write detailed and complicated briefs incorporating their brand guidelines as well as reams of rules, and dos and don’ts. However, creative freedom is exactly what’s great about influencer marketing. It’s not supposed to be preachy or prescriptive – it’s supposed to be honest, raw and personal.

Influencer marketing isn’t a one dimensional discipline. It’s more than just getting a product into the hands of the right people. It’s about how these influencers see the brand, and how they interpret a brief in their own style that appeals to their followers. It’s about a product fitting seamlessly into an influencer’s curated world without it disrupting it – and the only way that this type of marketing will be authentic and effective is if the influencer is given the liberty to see the product through their own eyes.

It’s about tailoring content to fit the influencers’ aesthetic, rather than shoe-horning a square peg into a round hole. Brands need to let go, and trust the influencers… and the more they let go, the more pleasantly surprised they’ll be with the results.

Don’t be afraid of paying influencers! Respect their art and value what they do

Some brands are staunchly opposed to paying for influencers to post about their products or services. What’s important to remember is that the influencers they should be engaging with aren’t amateurs. They are professionals and they need to be valued as such. You’d pay a celebrity to endorse a product, so it makes sense to apply the same logic to smaller influencers. It’s about respect and recognition for the art that goes into creating a successful feed and beautiful photography. We named our platform Takumi, after the word ‘artisan’ in Japanese, to ensure that the talent of these influencers is at the forefront of people’s minds when working with them.

Many forward thinking brands are recognising the strong commercial impact it has on the bottom line. Our research has shown that half (54%) of all consumers have actually bought products after seeing them on Instagram, with 18 to 24 year olds most (68%) influenced by the popular photo-sharing platform. Over half (51%) of Brits admit they are more likely to purchase items after seeing them on Instagram.

In order to see the best results from influencer marketing it is crucial for relationships to be authentic and for brands to be bold and brave. Keeping these simple tips in mind will really help marketers navigate the minefield of influencer marketing and make their campaigns as successful as possible.

For more information, contact brands@takumi.com