Q&A: Influencer Marketing Advice from Paula’s Choice and DripDrop
This is a recap of the second panel that we hosted with Influencer Marketing Hub. If you missed the overview of our first panel, you can read it here.
What do leading brands consider the most important factors when it comes to influencer marketing? What are some of their pain points? And how do they see the space changing?
In a Q&A, Frances Lowne, Social Media Strategist at Paula’s Choice, and Tara Pate, Brand Marketing Manager at DripDrop, shared their experiences planning and executing influencer marketing campaigns with our very own Kari Lincks Coomans, Senior Campaign Manager at AspireIQ.
Panel 2 – Influencer Marketing from a Brand’s Perspective
Kari: Why did your company as a whole start investing into influencer marketing?
Frances: While Paula’s Choice is really well-known in the beauty and skincare community, we’re kind of like the “best kept secret” among other industries. So we started looking for a way to reach a wide variety of audiences, and that’s when we tapped into influencer marketing through AspireIQ.
I was also seeing so many beauty brands being started by influencers and seeing them post on Instagram. I realized it’s so important to be playing in the influencer space now, because, honestly, if you don’t have a presence on Instagram, your brand is basically irrelevant.
Tara: At DripDrop, we rely on three critical components for influencer marketing: brand awareness, trial of product, and content. As marketers, it’s really important to think about what your deliverables are. We started asking ourselves ‘what do we want to see from this campaign?’ and ‘what does success look like?’
And what that has allowed for us to do is focus on one goal and build peer-to-peer relationships at scale. You know, we all turn to our friends for advice on our purchase decisions. But influencer marketing has allowed us as a brand to build relationships through our influencers, who tell our brand story as if they’re your best friend.
Kari: And from your experience, what are some of the pros and cons of working with influencers?
Frances: Some of the pros have been the relationships we’ve built with the influencers we work with and by extension, the amazing conversations we’ve had with their followers. It’s so rewarding to see your brand reach a wider group of people and see your numbers increase. The results we’ve seen are incredible.
The cons — Without a tool, it’s really time consuming and hard to scale. There’s just so much back and forth with influencers and their agents. And because of that, it can sometimes be difficult to show that you accumulated positive ROI through those influencers.
Tara: For us, the number one pro is hitting our numbers! But also to echo Frances’ statement, making long-term relationships with some of our influencers has been really meaningful for our brand. DripDrop exists to donate our hydration products to those in need, so we frequently go on mission trips to places like Costa Rica and Zimbabwe. Now, we even invite influencers (who, for example, used us for their workout and genuinely love the brand) to come on these mission trips with us and give DripDrop to the community. And that has been really exciting.
One negative factor is that some influencers will manipulate their numbers to seem like they have higher engagement rates. The plus side is that you can use an agency or platform to do the vetting process for you to get past that.
Kari: Yes! At AspireIQ, we really value the authenticity of each influencer. To be an influencer on the platform, you have to reach a certain percentage of engagement. And if we see a spike in your followers, we look into that to see that they aren’t fake.
Let’s discuss some of the past campaigns you’ve done. What were some of the surprising results that you found while working at scale like this?
Frances: Before working with AspireIQ, we had a set idea of who we thought Paula’s Choice influencers should be. But when you’re trying to achieve scale, you have to work with a wide variety of influencers. We actually saw some of the highest engagement rates from people we didn’t expect.
A couple of those influencers came to an influencer event we had in New York a couple weeks ago, and they’ve created content for us again that has repeatedly performed well. It’s been really exciting to see the results after pushing the boundaries on who we thought was the Paula’s Choice influencer.
Tara: For us, working with the AspireIQ team has meant that we have 10 times the brain power working on a single campaign. At first, I was worried that outsourcing would mean that a quick pivot or a change in strategy would be hard to achieve, but it was the complete opposite of that. The AspireIQ team was really flexible about shifting our dollars and our strategies depending on our experiences with specific influencers.
Kari: Yeah, I think sometimes you expect a campaign to go a certain way, but it goes in a completely different direction. So it’s good to find a team—whether that be an agency or in-house—to help you pivot.
Also, to touch on Tara’s point about these long-term partnerships you’re establishing with influencers — I want to point out that influencers want this too! I’m seeing more and more influencers saying, “Is this brand interested in a year-long contract? I really love this product and I want my audience to know about it and believe in it too.” They don’t want it to be one-and-done.
This is beneficial when you think about it from the consumer side as well. If you see an influencer post about a product once, you may just think of it as a brand deal. But if you see them posting about it several times, it seems much more authentic. I think as we look toward the future of influencer marketing, the focus will be on long-term rather than short, one-off kind of approaches. But we’ll touch more on this later.
Tara: I completely agree. When you find those truly influential people for your brand, hold on to them! Just think about what else you could do with them. They could even become a brand ambassador for you.
Frances: Yes, there was an influencer we worked with for Paula’s Choice whose content we repurposed for our feed. The content performed so well that we decided to start putting her content on our ads, and it’s been doing really well! It’s great too, because she’s an organic fan of the brand.
Kari: So with those learnings, how have you leveraged influencer-generated content (IGC) to make it work for you?
Frances: For a long time, we didn’t have enough UGC or IGC to help our paid social team. We were just using static, flat-lay product shots. So with the campaigns we’ve been running with AspireIQ, we’ve scaled that IGC on our organic social and we’ve been able to double our social media content just by repurposing IGC! That has really empowered our paid social team.
Tara: It’s tricky for us, because our brand exists in a very different way than a typical consumer brand does on social media. Our product is medical-grade, so we want to remain highly efficacious and talk about the lives we’re saving. But, at the same time, what we want our influencers to talk about is so different because we want them to be authentic and show how they use it in their daily life. So, we’ve been repurposing their content on our ads, rather than our own feed.
And to go a step further, we’ve been asking influencers for additional photos, like product shots, that they don’t need to post on their own channels. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to a creative agency, we now approach influencers we’re already working with for more content that fits our aesthetic. And they’re more open to do it because they don’t have to post it on their feed. In fact, IGC we sourced from AspireIQ is our top performing ad so far!
Kari: Yeah, I think you can get creative with these campaigns, because influencers are usually open to doing things for brands they love. Typically, influencers are excited when their content is leveraged by a brand in some special way.
Now, to dive deeper into the future of influencer marketing — where do you see influencer marketing going with your company? And do you see any trends?
Frances: For Paula’s Choice, we’re definitely focusing on creating long-term partnerships with macro-influencers. We want to work with those who are authentic and transparent and those who will help us regain our position and authority in the skincare industry. But at the same time, we’re going to continue working with micro-influencers on AspireIQ to help us get that scale and to boost our key product launches.
Tara: I would say the same thing. When you’re trying to test this “wild west” space of influencer marketing, you’re constantly focusing on the number of impressions your brand is making. And when you start having macro-influencers who are truly influential post about your product, you can see your analytics shoot up.
But we don’t just want to have one post. We want to think: what can we do in-person? How can we bring this audience together? So now, DripDrop has been looking to bring our partnerships off digital and more in-person.
Frances: Yes, we’re definitely doing that as well. We’ve collaborated with influencers to host master classes and invited them to meet us in person. I think it’s really important to build that connection and really make them feel like part of the brand family.
Kari: I think what you’re both saying is that this term “influencer” is shifting to “spokesperson” — a true collaboration, where you’re not just using this person on social but you’re partnering with them for long-term campaigns in person.
We used to think of celebrities as spokespeople for brands. But when you think about it, you don’t really know that person. With influencers, it’s a different story because you feel like you know them and you can relate to them. Now when I see someone I’ve been following post about a product, I connect with that more and even consider it as a purchase.
There’s just a lot more investment into influencers — maybe in a smaller way, but in a deeper way.
Tara: I agree. You see a lot of influencers getting exclusive collaboration deals with brands like Nordstrom. I look at these brands doing it right and think: how do we, as some of the smaller startup brands, really hone in on making an influencer someone who is a true extension of the brand?
I think there’s just so much room for growth here.