April 25, 2023
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10 mins

Choosing the right influencer for your brand

Fruitful influencer partnerships require two main things: Brand and audience alignment. Here's how to create and nurture both.

Every Monday on my morning walk, I look forward to the same thing: Listening to a new episode of my favorite podcast, The Rich Roll Podcast.

As I lace up my sneakers, I hit play and hear the familiar, ethereal musical intro. Rich Roll introduces this week’s guest and shines the spotlight on a profound quote from the conversation to follow. The guest could be The Office’s Rainn Wilson on spirituality or 100-year-old world-record-holding runner Mike Fremont on his vegan diet. Rich sets the tone for the next two hours of conversation, and I begin to head out the door.

“But first…” Rich says, “let’s acknowledge the awesome organizations that make this show possible.” 

I’ve been listening to The Rich Roll Podcast for years, and I frankly can’t remember a time when Athletic Greens hasn’t been a prominent sponsor—and The Rich Roll Podcast is far from being the only place where I have noticed their partnerships with top content creators. 

The ubiquitous powdered green drink is on every Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube feed. People chug it before workouts, use milk frothers to mix it up as part of their “that girl” routine, and sing the praises of AG1, Athletic Greens’ supplement touted to “fill nutrient gaps and deliver the foundation for better health.” 

“Though I felt the power of influence at play, I held onto the memory of that minute-long ad,” wrote Isabelle Eyman for a recent AG1 review titled “Instagram Finally Got Me—Here’s What I Learned From a Week on Athletic Greens” for The Everygirl. “If all I had to do was buy, mix, and drink liquefied powder for enviable energy, then maybe I was being naïve, but I wanted in.” 

All of this to say, influencer marketing can be incredibly powerful, and Athletic Greens is a brand that has created true partnerships with many of its creators. Alyssa Meyers, from Marketing Brew, spoke with Athletic Greens’ CRO Jonathan Corne and learned that early sponsors like Tim Ferriss and Andrew Huberman now even have greater roles within the company, Ferriss as an investor and Huberman as a medical advisor.  

Consistency and commitment are what led to these kinds of unique business-enriching partnerships: “What we don’t want to do is cancel anything,” Corne said. “We want to make sure that we stay, because we want to continue to build more and more relationships.” 

Regardless of whether AG1 lives up to the hype, it’s undeniable that Athletic Greens has created conversation; clout; and, most importantly, revenue from its influencer marketing efforts. 

So you’re a marketing manager who wants to make your brand the next AG1. 

What should you keep top of mind when looking for the right influencers to partner with? 

Pump the breaks: Before you can even start to think about brand partners, you need a brief. Activating any marketing channel without a clear idea of the objectives, KPIs, audience, channels, and key message is a futile act.  

The creative brief

There are so many amazing resources out there on how to create a creative brief, that I am going to leave it to the pros to get you up to date on this. Check here for everything you need to know about the what, why, how, when, and who around creative briefs…plus a template.   

My two cents: The creative brief is the foundation for the work you’ll be doing with an influencer. The more confident and organized you are with your objectives, concept, and KPIs, the better result you’ll get from your partnership. 

Creating audience and brand alignment

Here’s where alignment is crucial for valuable influencer partnership:

Audience alignment 

Elevate your POV

Before you start looking for influencers, it’s important to define your target audience (something you should have done in your creative brief). By partnering with influencers who share your target audience, you’re making sure that your message is landing with the right people. 

You’ll also want to consider the size of a creator’s following—and it isn’t fair to assume bigger is better. Partnerships with micro-influencers (influencers with around 10,000 to 100,000 followers) have proven to be great investments for brands. 

48% of brand marketers named influencer audience relationships as the most important factor when running campaigns in an Influencer Marketing Hub survey, and with an average engagement rate (average number of likes divided by the average number of followers) of 6%, micro-influencers are much more likely to interact directly with their audiences. 

Snapshot of Kylie Jenner’s influencer metrics in Koalifyed.

Take, for instance, Kylie Jenner (who probably doesn’t need an introduction) and Haley Nahman, a Brooklyn-based culture writer that I like to follow. Using data from influencer management platform Koalifyed, I can see that Kylie, despite having a following of 387.7M, has an engagement rate of 1.08%. Haley, on the other hand, has a much more engaged audience with a 5.1% engagement rate and 91.7K followers.

Partnering with Kylie would cost significantly more (it has been reported that it cost $1.8 million to snag a spot on Kylie’s coveted grid in 2022), and while you can’t undersell her nearly 400M-strong audience, her followers don’t get the same kind of attention as those of mico- or nano-influencers. 

I’ve been following Haley’s career for years and am currently a paying subscriber to her monthly newsletter and podcast. She has numerous outlets for her readers to interact with her directly: Call into her podcast with a problem you want her to weigh in on! Chat with Haley and other readers in the Substack comments section! Go to a meetup she’s hosting in a city near you! 

The power this kind of creator has is different than someone like Kylie—so you’ll want to take into account not just the people you want to target, but also the relationship you want your audience to have with a creator. 

How to create audience alignment

The first step to creating audience alignment with a creator is knowing and clearly defining the audience you want to attract, which you did in the creative brief ;) 

The second is digging into a creator’s audience analytics. 

Going back to Koalifyed, I’ll take a look at some of the following audience data: 

  • Geography
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Language
  • Brand affinities
  • Likes and interests

As well as dig into the true size, credibility, and engagement levels of the influencer’s audience:

  • Followers
  • Credibility score (percentage of the audience that can be defined as real people, not bots or fake accounts)
  • Estimated real followers (total follower count – number of true followers estimated by the credibility score)
  • Average likes
  • Average comments
  • Engagement (average sum of likes on the last 30 posts)
  • Engagement rate (average number of likes divided by the average number of followers)
  • Audience overlap (compare multiple influencers’ audiences to see how they overlap and where they diverge) 

See how the creator’s audience stacks up to your desired audience. Digging into the data is critical here!

Pro tip

Ask influencers to report on their metrics and engagement, but also do your own research. Leverage influencer management platforms to take deeper dives into influencer metrics so you can make informed decisions around your partnerships. Influencers can provide a snapshot of their reach and campaign performance, but there are also plenty of tools that allow you to perform always-on research into their audience and influence.

Brand alignment 

Elevate your POV

Building and maintaining true brand authenticity isn’t something that happens overnight—and a brand can break in the blink of an eye. 

One dicey partnership, one cringey post that reeks of #paid #ad energy, one incident that puts an influencer you’ve partnered with under fire, and your hard-built brand can take a hit. 

When you work with an influencer, they become an extension of your brand, so doing whatever you can to identify (and foster) brand alignment is crucial. 

“When you can really transition someone who loves the product into a true ambassador is where the magic happens.” —Julianne Fraser, founder and CEO of Dialogue New York

Extending your brand through the right influencer can be a huge boost to your brand’s brand equity, though, and the fear of something going wrong shouldn’t stop you from throwing your hat in the ring. But be smart about it. Julianne Fraser, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Dialogue New York, noted that as more performance marketers try and turn their efforts toward influencer marketing there is an oversaturation of turnkey marketing in the space. 

This is an opportunity for brands to stand out by creating meaningful brand alignment: “When you can really transition someone who loves the product into a true ambassador is where the magic happens,” she told influencer marketing thought leader Jason Falls on his podcast Winfluence. 

How to create brand alignment

First of all, you need to make sure you are clear on your own brand and objectives before you ask someone to be a steward of your brand. 

“When we kick off with any client of ours, we do a pretty extensive brand audit, and we like to really understand the brand spirit, mission, voice, and really plug into the different facets of its marketing calendar and what’s upcoming,” said Fraser. “With that understanding, we start to craft what is called ‘curation checklist.’ It’s a combination of demographics, interests, and categories as well as statistics on industry standards of engagement rates. It’s across the board where we look at what is really important to the brand and connect them with influencers who are genuinely aligned with their mission and love and use their product.”  

But brand alignment doesn’t always come with a checklist or metrics to help guide you—a lot of times it’s trying to suss out whether a creator has the same values, aesthetics, and tone as your brand. This requires diving deep into all of their channels and looking for any aspects of the creator’s brand that are at odds with your brand values.  

This doesn’t mean that a creator’s brand has to be the same as yours. Especially if you are trying to expand to a new audience or break into a new segment with your product, you may be looking for creators outside of your typical category. 

Think of a newly launched collaboration between Evian and Balmain. The brands worked with ballerina and model Violetta Komyshan to create a video where she leaps across a New York City rooftop wearing an Evian X Balmain swimsuit (Violetta has worked with brands like Rag and Bone, Revolve, Fendi, and Victoria’s Secret in the past). 

A ballerina isn’t a far reach for a fashion house and a luxury water brand, but both brands are also tapping into new audiences with this partnership. Evian will come across the screens of all the young ballerinas who follow and admire Violetta, and a set of ready-to-wear Balmain items will appeal to the fashionistas who aren’t yet perusing the runway but are looking to Violetta for inspiration. 

The key is finding alignment in your values (The venn diagram of values for Balmain, Evian, and Violetta’s brand has massive crossover between all three: luxury, elegance, and beauty permeate each of the respective brands.) Without that, your partnership will come across as phony pay-for-play, and audiences are more sensitive to BS than ever. 

Lastly, providing a brief that outlines your values, goals, objectives, and vision for a project is a great way to set the creator up for success and create brand alignment. Don’t leave them in the dark about what your brand is and the things you stand for—having conversations about this early on in the process will keep you on the right collaboration path. 

Pro tip

Fraser recommends setting up meetings between your influencer partners and the company founder or executives. By giving creators time to speak with the people behind the brand, you’re giving them additional insight into your product. This will help them build their own unique takes on the value your company brings and share them in a more authentic way.

Importance of brand / influencer alignment 

Long-lasting, impactful influencer partnerships don’t come to life by giving a creator generic copy to post under a photo of them smiling and holding your product. Great, creative work begins when there is both audience and brand alignment: Without these two things, you’re leaving revenue, brand building opportunities, and true creative collaboration on the table.  

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