The Do's and Don'ts of Influencer Product Seeding
Considerations Your Brand Needs to Evaluate Before Sending Out Products to Influencers!
5 Minute Read
Influencer seeding is commonplace in brand marketing, particularly for fashion and cosmetic brands. Influencer product seeding—the act of sending product to influential social media personalities without any specific ask or contract, in exchange for free publicity—gives consumers a chance to try a brand’s products, with the intent that influencers post on their social channels, forming an often mutually beneficial relationship.
While product seeding may seem like a turnkey process, there are many factors a brand must consider to effectively reach influencer communities in an authentic, measurable and impactful way.
Before diving into an influencer seeding plan, it is important to clearly establish your brand’s objectives and determine if product seeding is the most optimal route to achieve said objectives.
Will influencer seeding work for my product?
Certain industries are more conducive to influencer seeding than others. If an influencer receives an attractive watch, a beauty product they can include in their regimen, or a food box that allows them to make a mouth-watering meal, they’re more likely to include it in an Instagram post than if they receive a new razor or laundry detergent. While this would suggest that some products are incompatible with influencer seeding, it may only mean that the products are incompatible with a particular social media platform.
Audible—the world’s largest library of audiobooks—is a great example of a brand that leverages the correct social network for its objectives of driving both awareness and conversions. While Audible does have an Instagram account, it has primarily focused its efforts on strategically aligning with influential YouTubers across a variety of categories (Gaming, Entertainment, Film & Animation, People & Blog, Education, How To & Style, and Science & Technology). Audible wouldn’t receive the same success if it shifted its seeding efforts to Instagram, as the latter is more heavily concerned with aesthetic collections of photos/videos, rather than longer-winded content and viewers absorb 95 percent more messaging via video than photos.
This YouTube strategy has worked for Audible for several years, and it’s no surprise that brands are putting millions of dollars into sponsored YouTuber content – a 2015 study showed that over 60% of 13 to 24-year-olds would try a YouTuber-recommended product. Many beauty influencers integrate their Audible ad into their “Monthly Favourites Videos”, while others use their Audible-sponsored content in the form of Vlogs and Book Reviews.
How do I choose the right influencers?
It’s essential for sponsored content to appear as natural as possible—if a vegan posted an ad about bacon it would appear phony to their followers. While this is an extreme example, it paints the picture that the best sponsored posts are those by influencers who are likely already fans of the brand, or for whom the brand is a good fit. Collaborations are more authentic when there is a perceived “naturalness” about the partnership. Look for influencers who have integrated this naturalness effortlessly in previously sponsored content, as they are more likely to deliver on content than those who force it. As previously mentioned, there are ample opportunities for YouTubers to integrate ads in their content, but many influencers struggle to do the same on Instagram. Click HERE for an in-depth look at Influencer Authenticity from a previous MKTG blog.
One prominent example of misaligned influencer seeding to learn from was BooTea’s seeding efforts with reality tv star Scott Disick. Late last year, Disick literally copied and pasted the suggested caption that the protein shake company provided him, including the directions to post precisely at 4:00pm.
Apart from this caption blunder, it was quite obvious to Disick’s followers that he probably doesn’t actually use the products and instead, used the opportunity to cash in on a sponsored post opportunity.
As a brand, aim to select influencers who are a more natural fit for your products—large followings do not always equal maximum return on investment. Selecting influencers that are likely to already like your brand is really important – as 45% of influencers would “work of free” for brands that they like, and another 46% would do so if they liked the product they are compensated with.
How many influencers is the right amount?
Once you’ve established influencer seeding may work for your product, and have determined what types of influencers you want to reach, it may seem logical to send product to as many individual influencers as your budget allows for —more influencers means more potential for inclusion and more reach, right? While blanket seeding can work in some circumstances, it can prove detrimental in others—and depending on your brand, product and objectives, opting for selective product seeding may actually be the better route.
For example, if your makeup brand is launching a new product with a proprietary ingredient that your company has been working on for years, a more targeted approach via a smaller, carefully selected group of influencers, might be better over a blanket seeding strategy because you can be more attentive and expect better communication when it comes to getting across specific key messaging. This could involve selecting influencers who have a proven track recording of effectively integrating product messaging in their content, without coming across inauthentic. On the other hand, if your beauty brand is relaunching an old lipstick product formula with a new shade range, perhaps a blanket seeding approach would be better at disseminating your product. The objective of the former example was to educate consumers, whereas the latter is for them to try it and love it.
An example of where blanket-product seeding can go wrong is when Beauty Blender launched a new foundation. They sent the product to dozens of influencers and they did a lot of things right: the PR packages came in aesthetic-shareable packaging resembling their original Beauty Blender product, making it easy for influencers to showcase in images and video. But for a product with a limited range of shades, blanket seeding the foundation to a huge range of influencers became problematic.
Given the few colour options available for people with a darker skin tone, the foundation was largely ineffective for Latinas or people of colour. When YouTubers tried to showcase the product in their videos, many could not find a shade that worked for them, which led to negative YouTube reviews and a whole lot of bad PR… especially during a year that was rampant with brands extending their shade ranges to cater to wider customer demographics.
In some cases, it may be preferable to avoid blanket seeding to influencers with large followings altogether, and instead to opt for smaller groups of micro-influencers who may have smaller followings, but are perfectly aligned to the products and brand. In fact, micro-influencers can have up to 60% higher engagement with their content from followers than influencers with millions of followers, as they are more likely to be engaged with someone who is more relatable. Furthermore, brands run a risk when introducing a new product via blanket influencer seeding because reviews are not always going to be positive – and a negative review at the most crucial stage of a brand timeline can be absolutely detrimental to overall product sales and brand perception.
Although brands want to jump aboard the multibillion dollar influencer marketing industry, it’s crucial to do so in a calculated manner. Before spending budget on influencer product seeding, an Influencer Strategy should be developed to guide the product distribution process to influencers and determine the optimal social media platform(s) to leverage.
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