The influencers of today are a logical evolution of the celebrity endorsements of the past. Social media has given the average person the ability to garner an audience and have sway over people in a way celebrities never could. But are influencers just spoiled rich kids with unpredictable behavior, or are they gateways to your brand’s success?

Aren’t Influencers Untrustworthy?

Like most things, it’s impossible to stereotype all influencers. Ninja is the king of livestreaming, making over $500,000 a month on his craft. Yet he never flexes his house, his cars, or anything else. To his viewers, he’s just a guy who plays video games in front of people. Contrast this with a YouTube star like RiceGum. He probably once made real content, but these days his videos focus on how much wealth he got from, well, making videos. Both are successful content creators with great influence.

But which do you pick? Do you pick the down-to-earth gamer or the bombastic rich kid? Does it matter when they both have a relevant audience? This may be the hardest part of influencer marketing. Finding an influencer who matches your brand can be difficult, and not doing your research first can be a major blowback for your company’s reputation.

How is Influencer Marketing Different from Celebrity Endorsements?

Celebrity endorsements preceded influencer marketing by quite a bit, but some of the same standards apply. But why did traditional endorsement fall off the wagon, and why do we have a new term for it? After all, celebrities influence people, hence why they get paid to sponsor products.

Firstly, like the TV and movies that celebrities star in, celebrity endorsement is a one-way street designed to reach as many people as possible. They tell you how great a product is, but you don’t get to respond. You just get talked at. Plus, we all know deep down that celebrities probably aren’t even using the product they’ve been paid to promote, or know nothing at all about it. Influencers on the other hand offer a two-way communication. They get to tell their audience about a product, and then be available to answer questions about it.

They can also be subject-matter experts. While some companies throw their products at anyone with an audience, companies with a niche product can find a niche influencer to help them promote. Not only that, but influencers being knowledgeable about their field means that their audience is primed and ready to hear recommendations from them. If you found a YouTube channel because you wanted to learn about woodworking, you’re probably going to listen when the person behind the videos starts recommending a specific company’s tools.

So why are these things so great? Why would you want to work with an influencer?

The answer is simple: story!

Let an Influencer Tell Your Story

Influencers are able to give context to your brand, and show how it can be used in their daily lives. Many sponsored videos are specifically focused on that. An Instagram photographer may be sent a new camera lens and take some photos with that lens for their social media accounts. This shows them interacting directly with the product they’re promoting, and shows an authentic example of what that looks like.

Think about it with something like Proactiv. This acne solution seems to be endorsed by every celebrity out there. And yet wouldn’t it look so much better if an influencer was using it? A celebrity can say they used the product and it worked, but we don’t know that for sure. They just get paid to say that. But an influencer could start promoting Proactiv and say they are going to start using it. Then over time, they can use their Instagram or Twitch or YouTube to update their audience on their progress. This turns Proactiv’s one-touch model into a multi-touch, story-driven campaign. You can join your favorite personality on their journey through their skincare – a very relatable issue for teens and young adults.

Some creators excel at turning their sponsorships into a story.

Take a look at YouTube comedian Drew Gooden. His videos feature sponsored segments. He could just start or end the video with a 30-second pitch about the brand sponsoring him, but he doesn’t just do that. He creates a sketch, often lasting over a minute. It usually blends with the video, with the ad beginning without giving viewers a chance to realize it’s an ad. This keeps people from clicking off the video, because Gooden is telling them a story, not throwing an ad in their faces. We all want to skip through a sponsored segment in YouTube videos, but something story-based will hold our attention and make us curious. Even if he doesn’t use the products and services, it sure seems like he utilizes HelloFresh, Squarespace, and Express VPN in his daily life, because he creates an entire sketch based around how he supposedly uses them.

Go to 14:25 to see the sponsored segment in this Drew Gooden video.

It’s Not Always Easy

Some brands lend themselves well to influencers. Beauty brands have a massive selection of beauty content creators to pick from. Yet other companies have to get creative. A brand that offers construction services has to find a very specific kind of influencer with a specific audience. This might be harder to find, and harder to tell a story in. But even professional services can be promoted by influencers. There are professional events for marketing, hospitality, healthcare, and everything in between, and there are plenty of influential speakers and bloggers in those industries. Influencers are all around, it just requires a little bit of research to find the perfect ones.

Add to that the fact that influencers usually need specific instructions; they are not marketers. They might not have even had any job before they became an influencer. They may not know how to properly deal with a business. So don’t assume they will make your brand message stand out. If you don’t give specific instructions, then expect them to read your copy in a monotone voice while staring at their computer screen. That doesn’t exactly inspire an audience to check out your brand.

Working with influencers isn’t easy. If it was easy, there wouldn’t be companies that liaison between sponsors and talent. If it was easy, there wouldn’t be entire debates around how to deal with influencers and how to gauge ROI from them. Working with an online personality guarantees you an engaged audience that has embedded trust. This makes for a unique and potentially very profitable marketing tool that many brands are missing out on taking full advantage of.

And hey, speaking of social media, that’s something we can help you manage, at Storify. Let us talk to the influencers and handle the dirty work.