Influencing the Influencers

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From left: Sway Group CEO Danielle Wiley and iFabbo CEO Sinead Norenius-Raniere; combined, the companies boat about 75% of the top beauty bloggers.

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Facebook and Instagram are generating essentially zero organic brand reach, according to a new analysis from L2. As a consequence, brands are having to spend to boost audience. The result is a 50% increase in social media ad spending in 2016.

Beauty brands are supplementing this exposure by pursuing product placement on influencers’ feeds where, as in the case of Instagram, 87% of consumer-brand interactions occur.

This strategy has boosted the engagement of brands, such as Anastasia, Kiehl’s and Valentino, L2 has noted, with influencers sharing images of the companies’ products in their feeds.

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iFabbo’s stable of 3,000 “highly targeted” influencers will boost Sway’s network to about 90,000.

“Anastasia posts, on average, seven photos per day on the platform, and much of the content is reposts from makeup artists and models with more than 10,000 followers,” the L2 analysis found. “This product placement strategy is paying off for Anastasia in sales, placing it as the fastest-growing beauty brand in the first half of 2015.”

But collaborating with influencers doesn’t mean that brands have to give up control of their marketing identity. And, by working with influencer agencies, brands can efficiently leverage social channels to create targeted programs.

Influencer Boom

The demand for influencer partnerships has led to the development of professional influencer networks in recent years, with agencies such as The&Collective popping up to connect content creators and brands.

Now, Sway Group, a content marketing agency with offices in Dallas, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, has acquired fashion and beauty influencer network iFabbo, which boasts 75% of the top beauty bloggers.

iFabbo’s stable of 3,000 “highly targeted” influencers will boost Sway’s network to about 90,000. The acquisition will impact expansions of social channels and sampling programs, according to the companies.

Sway can educate influencers on working with groups, like Google Plus, provide best practices for emerging media, such as Facebook Live, and teach them how to ensure content goes viral wherever it appears.

The move was a “no-branier,” said Sway Group CEO Danielle Wiley during a conversation with Global Cosmetic Industry. She noted that iFabbo had built a sense of trust and community with its influencers, as well as a strong stable of clients that has included brands, such as Dermalogica, Strivectin, T3, Foreo, Becca, Dr. Brandt and Rodan & Fields.

“Beauty and fashion trends may be made on the red carpet, but it’s the influencers who bring the runway to their audiences online that drive consumer awareness,” said iFabbo CEO Sinead Norenius-Raniere. “With the growth of influencers continuing on an upward trajectory, a collaboration with Sway Group, as an established influencer network, was the logical next step for us to further the power of our niche fashion and beauty online community.”

What Does an Influencer Agency Do?

Wiley noted that Sway was conceived to cut down on the time brands were wasting on putting together social media influencer programs. The firm also ensures that influencers stay within brand specifications and handles mundane but critical services such as invoicing.

Just as importantly, Sway provides its influencers with education, support and community, according to Norenius-Raniere, along with access to paid opportunities with brands. Sway’s technological edge, meanwhile, offers “true support” for these entrepreneurs.

By using technology and data to track and support campaigns’ progress, agencies like Sway are able to impress upon brands just what kind of results can be achieved.

Because Sway and iFabbo have incorporated influencers with every type of reach, from small, targeted networks to massive audiences, education can be critical. Sway can provide influencers with practical support, such as showing them how to take stunning photography that will attract pins on Pinterest or likes and shares on Instagram.

In addition, Sway can educate influencers on working with groups, like Google Plus, provide best practices for emerging media, such as Facebook Live, and teach them how to ensure content goes viral wherever it appears. Brands, too, can learn these lessons from Sway and apply them to their marketing plans.

A Brand Resource

As an influencer agency, Sway partners with brands to “scrutinize” influencers and platforms to ensure social media choices make sense depending on the goals of a given marketing plan and confirm they’re where their end consumers are. For instance, millennials may be omnipresent on Instagram, but baby boomers are more likely to spend time with Facebook.

By engaging consumers through their preferred influencers, brands can tightly target campaigns and decrease product wastage. By partnering with experts like Sway, beauty brands can push themselves to think of novel ways to reach consumers or even to create unique content.

Norenius-Raniere, who once owned a brand, noted that social media and influencers in general have allowed indie brands to play in a space that was once reserved only for the largest companies.

Young people’s preferred recommendations come from social media.

While those interactions have traditionally been handled directly between brands and influencers, larger multinationals require more in-depth strategic input, research platforms and sophisticated metrics tools that can accurately track content engagement and performance across an array of social channels.

By using technology and data to track and support campaigns’ progress, agencies like Sway are able to impress upon brands just what kind of results can be achieved. As brands’ comprehension of infleuncer marketing grows, they increasingly incorporate the strategy into their overall omnichannel marketing plan.

Indie brands were always more nimble than their multinational counterparts, said Norenius-Raniere, and so were able to easily and organically connect with influencers to boost their exposure. But Sway can help some of these smaller niche brands, too, by latching onto up-and-coming bloggers to obtain the necessary targeted reach.

Engagement and Authenticity

Young people’s preferred recommendations come from social media, said Wiley. As such, Norenius-Raniere advocates a mix of product influencer partnerships and targeted product feeding to get organic reviews and feedback.

This mix of earned media placements and strategic alliances can build consumer intimacy. When done right, people should feel as if they can touch and feel a brand. This effect is incredibly powerful, Norenius-Raniere said, which is why some indie brands grow so quickly.

Choosing the right mix of influencer audience size is part art, part science.

In developing a marketing mix, Sway can leverage some of its mass-audience influencers, but real engagement tends to take place among the midlevel influencers who have between 200,000 and 600,000 page views per month. “We like to do a mix for different types of products and different sizes of audiences,” said Wiley.

Choosing the right mix of influencer audience size is part art, part science, she added, and depends on the specific goals of campaigns. While large-scale influencers can provide valuable reach, consumers can feel more connected to the midlevel influencers.

And, as marketers know, intimacy is everything.

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