It’s likely that you’ve heard about of the growing number of blog writers, YouTuber creators and social media users who are harnessing their audience and the influence they have on their follower’s purchasing decisions, to work with brands. But is it a good use of your marketing budget to pay these content creators for their time, and where on earth do you start? I’m going to discuss the opportunities that influencer marketing presents for those working in the pet industry and how you can set a strategy that ensures clear ROI and long-term benefits.
I’ve been working with influencers on behalf of my clients, since 2011, back when most only had blogs and Instagram was never heard of. Over the years, I’ve watched beauty bloggers become product owners, YouTube channels get viewing figures like TV shows and mummy blogs turned into books. The market used to be dominated by fashion, beauty and gaming, but as the years passed, an increasing number of interests and hobbies are being shared by these content creators, who are building their own communities and following. I realise all this can be overwhelming if you’ve never dipped your toe into this side of marketing before, so here are my top five ways to setting up a successful influencer marketing strategy.
Finding the right people
Start with Google searches for ‘UK pet blogs’ and this will bring up lists other people have compiled. You need to decide on your budget at this point, as that will determine who you should contact. Talking dogs specifically, if your budget is in the low hundreds, contact dog specific blogs. They are niche and have relatively small audiences, but you know that the audience will be 99 percent dog owners. If you’ve more money and want to reach more people, look up lifestyle or parenting bloggers who happen to have dogs. They have a much larger following but the chances of their audience having a dog is reduced, as some may follow them purely for parenting tips or recipe ideas for example.
Two way street
I really can’t stress enough how important it is to approach building these relationships by thinking about how and why it would be of interest to those people you are contacting, and what the influencer will get out of it – not just the benefits for your brand. The very best results I’ve had is when we’ve involved the influencer right from the start. They know their audience better than you, they know what content would work best. Use their advice and factor in paying them for their time at this early stage. This personalisation aspect extends right through to the products you send out, in return for a review. Acknowledge their pets, put their names on the packaging. The little touches go a long way.
The right campaign
If I had a pound for every press release that has been sent to my blog, my dog would be eating fillet steak each month! There is nothing more likely to get deleted than sending an influencer something meant for a journalist. It needs to be personal, the start of a conversation and mutually beneficial. Good topics include products that are due to be launched, a competition you are running that their followers will be interested in, creative video campaigns you’d like to get more people sharing and opportunities to do something money can’t buy. I was once invited to meet two pet nutritionists who work for a pet food brand, one of whom had flown over from America. They talked with such enthusiasm and knowledge and busted myths about the dog food. This left me with a completely different opinion and one that I shared by word of mouth many times after the event. Unfortunately, the PR company who set it up didn’t ask me to write about the event on my blog, which I thought was a huge mistake.
Keep in touch
A lot of time has already been spent on the previous steps in the journey of harnessing bloggers, but it’s this stage that really needs your attention and can be the difference between ROI or being put off this activity in the future. As I explained above, I didn’t write a blog post about that event as I wasn’t asked to, or chased. And that’s the reality. You may host a great event or work on a fab idea with the influencer, but they’ll be getting hundreds of approaches a week and work commitments will be piling up. If you want to ensure you get the coverage you deserve, do not leave them to it.
Stay in regular contact, set clear deadlines of when you’d like to see the post or video live, and gently nudge them by email or social media if they go quiet. If you’ve worked hard on building that long-term relationship, they will honour their side of the partnership.
“Acknowledge their pets, put their names on the packaging. The little touches go a long way.”
Like media relations, influencer marketing works best on a long-term basis. Projects are great for new and exciting campaigns, but why waste the time and effort you’ve put in only to not contact the influencer again until next year. You want these people to become your brand ambassadors, so follow their social media accounts and subscribe to their YouTube channels. Make it a part of your day to monitor what they are talking about and you’ll also spot what your competitors are up to. The influencer will notice you are prioritising them and may come to share your news and products off their own back. I believe that working with online influencers should be part of your marketing strategy in 2018, but only if you can dedicate the time and resource to approaching the process the right way. And whatever you do, don’t send a Doberman a toy you claim to be ‘indestructible’, the review won’t be pretty!
Jessica is a director at PR and social media agency www.wolfstarconsultancy.com. She has over ten years’ experience working on creative PR and social media campaigns for clients including GHD, Staples, Hertz and MTV. Wolfstar’s proprietary influencer marketing software, Stashmetrics, helps source and manage the right influencers for clients such as Wax Lyrical, Monster Pet Supplies and Portmeirion Group.
She is also the proud owner of a seven-year- old Doberman named Lupo, who inspired her own blog www.velcrodog.co.uk