Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, influencers are here to stay. The rise of social media has given every single person with access to it a platform to promote themselves and products and services that they are passionate about. It’s still a relatively new trend, but it’s rapidly becoming an essential part of the marketing mix for many brands and companies. But, where do you start? How do you use influencers effectively? And how do you avoid getting stung by those looking for a free ride? 

Why work with influencers?

This is the first question that many people want an answer to – why even bother using influencers as any part of your marketing spend? Well, there are many benefits, provided you work with reputable people who you can trust. For starters, influencers are independent and thus anything they do to promote your products or services potentially has more weight with consumers as it’s not seen as direct advertising – it feels more genuine. 

Secondly, it can help create more content for your brand in areas where you might not be that strong – an influencer could create videos or photography involving your products that you can use on social media or your website to boost traffic. 

They also get engagement. People are far more likely to ask influencers questions or advice about products because they are already invested in them and trust their opinion. Think about it, you’re more likely to ask someone you like and follow their view on a new Daiwa reel, rather than Daiwa themselves – you don’t want sales spiel, you want the truth. 

Lastly, if you’re not considering using influencers, then you may be getting left behind. A 2018 study by the Association of National Advertisers discovered that around 75 per cent of marketers already use them and many plan to increase spending on this method in the future. I guess if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, as the old saying goes. So, what are the basic tips for getting the best out of influencers?

Choose your influencers wisely

Like anything you choose to spend marketing dollars on, you need to do your research with influencers. Spend a few weeks seeing who is out there – how do they interact with their audience? Are they genuine? How large is their audience? Does their style fit with or complement your brand? It’s also good to check their presence on all social channels to make sure they are someone you can trust. The last thing you need is a bad PR story with an influencer associated with your brand. You also don’t want someone who is just looking to get some free tackle – you want someone who is a passionate creator. My advice? Pick up the phone and talk to them, or better still, meet them in person – that’s the best way to find out what someone is really like.

Don’t micromanage

One of the reasons an influencer carries weight as a marketing tool is they are not your company – they are independent (kind of). This means you have to let them have a reasonable amount of creative input to communicate to their audience. It can be a hard thing to give up control like this, but micromanaging an influencer could end up with them appearing like one of your staff doing a dry, purely promotional piece of content. The benefit of an influencer is that they bring their own natural voice to your content – a voice that their followers already trust and engage with. 

Make it measurable

It can be hard to measure something as abstract as exposure – but because most of what influencers do is on digital platforms it is usually measurable in some way. Set out some goals you want to achieve with your influencer from the start, and try to measure the success of different types of content. That might be how many impressions a Facebook post gets, or even asking people where they heard about you when they make a purchase – it can all provide valuable data to show if things are working.

Expand your reach

Using influencers could help you expand your brand’s reach outside of its normal parameters. Perhaps you could work with someone who is a big influencer in the hiking and general outdoors world and get them to do some fishing-based collaboration with you? The influencer trying their hand at a new outdoor activity may encourage their fans to do the same, thus giving you a foot in the door to a potential new customer base. 

Collaborate, don’t sponsor

In fishing, especially the competition scene, it may seem easier to sponsor an angler, which is a successful method in its own right. With influencers, you want that person to already be a passionate voice within the industry that you can work with without making it a formal and official employment or sponsorship. Sure, most laws say you now have to be clear about what is a paid partnership, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Using influencers is a more subtle way of getting exposure for your brand or product rather than have the Bassmaster Classic winner reciting the text from your catalogue in a wooden YouTube video. Remember, with an influencer, you are working with someone who already has an audience and is respected for their creativity. 

Concentrate on engagement

Like with other forms of digital marketing, using an influencer should be about meaningful engagement, rather than just reach. A handful of solid engagements that bring about sales or quality connections is worth more than thousands of anonymous people seeing a post and taking no further action. People clicking through or visiting your website or social media pages off the back of seeing you collaborate with an influencer is what you are really searching for – so consider this when setting goals.

Remember, it’s a piece of the puzzle

The other thing to remember with influencers is that they should only be a small piece of your overall marketing plan. You should never wholly rely on them (or any other one avenue) to produce the goods for you. They are not a magic silver bullet that will suddenly take you to the top of the sales charts, but used correctly, sensibly and in complement to your other marketing plans, influencers could help you achieve your aims.