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The Influencers

Your guide to the ins and outs of influencer marketing.
By: Wendy Lewis


Influencer marketing is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in coming years. Influencers represent a new frontier in marketing; one where brands rely on the popularity of an individual within a specific niche, and then leverage that influencer’s relationship with their audience to reach a target demographic. They don’t have to be celebrities (although that can help). An influencer can be anyone with a strong following and the ability to sway. Your goal is not to just reach a wider audience, but rather to engage and invigorate the group of individuals who are already interested in your products and services.

Make Your List and Check it Twice

Influencer marketing has sired a cottage industry with firms that specialize in identifying and engaging social media influencers, but your influencers are likely hidden in plain sight. If you really want to find out who influences your patients, just ask them. They will point you to sources that actually make an impact on their decisions. What blogs are on their must-read lists? Whose Instagram pages do they eat up? It is widely understood that Instagram is the No. 1 social media platform for brands and companies to hunt for influencers.

FOLLOW THE FTC’S INFLUENCER RULES

The FTC mandates that:

• Influencers can’t talk about experience with a product if they haven’t tried it.

• If an influencer was paid to try a product and thought it was terrible, they can’t say it’s terrific.

• Influencers cannot make claims about a product that would require proof the advertiser doesn’t have.

• Some influencers use hash tags like “#spon” or “#ad” in posts to denote all of some the above. The FTC prefers the word “sponsored” to shortening it so it becomes unrecognizable, as in “sp.”

Remember, a large following alone does not necessarily an influencer make. Followers can be bought, engagement can’t. Once you have developed a list of potential influencers, take a deeper dive into their level of engagement, organic mentions across social media (other fans and followers talking about the influencer), and their standing with like-minded individuals of importance to your target audience.

People who post a lot of content that is obviously sponsored risk losing their credibility quickly. Choose someone who is very selective about whom he or she partners with and discloses their affiliations in accordance with Federal Trade Commission regulations (See sidebar).

Reaching Out

Don’t start off by emailing influencers offers to “partner with them.” They generally do not tend to like that approach. Instead, flirt a little. Take small steps to make your presence known. Make it a priority to engage with each on their social media and blog posts.

Make comments, ask questions, and try to contribute to the conversation. Notice who responds and who doesn’t.

As you build relationships with potential influencer candidates, ask them to review your product or try a complimentary treatment, and even create content for you.

Pay for Play

Compensate your influencers by acknowledging them, promoting their work, sharing links, tagging them, or offering treatments and discounts, but most influencers today expect to be compensated the old fashioned way—with cold, hard cash.

The real challenge is how to compensate this new crew of wannabe celebs. There is no financial baseline to follow, nor any standards for the price of influencer marketing. For example, a Kardashian may charge $100K for a single post, while one of the Housewives of (fill in blank) may ask for $10K. A local beauty blogger, however, may be happy with a series of IPLs to write about her experience in your practice. Start by designating a part of your marketing budget to working with influencers.

Where possible, try to develop a personal relationship with the influencers you have identified on your own, and work out an agreement that seems fair to both parties, with clearly defined parameters to avoid any potential misunderstandings. You do not want to enter into a relationship that goes south, especially with someone who has 50,000 fans to whom he or she can air grievances. Measuring ROI can be done by assigning unique trackable urls for each influencer, or supplying them with their own promo codes. This will let you know who is swaying and who is playing.

Betting on the right influencers can elevate your practice profile to the next level.

Wendy Lewis is President of Wendy Lewis & CO Ltd, a marketing and social media boutique in New York City, and Founder/ Editor-in-Chief of beautyinthebag.com. Reach her at WL@wendylewisco.com.