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Are You Taking Advantage of Influencer Marketing Properly? Taylor Jones, Music Industry Executive and CEO of The Hello Group Talks About Influencer Marketing

DALLAS, TX / ACCESSWIRE / January 28, 2019 / No doubt you've come across influencer marketing by now. Perhaps you've dipped your toe in the murky waters, or perhaps you're already committing significant budgets towards it. Either way, in an ecosystem that is often referred to as 'The Wild West', it's always useful to learn from someone with plenty of experience working with influencers of all levels.

Music industry executive Taylor Jones, who is the Founder and CEO of international entertainment agency The HelloGroup and Chief Commercial Officer at influencer marketing platform Post For Rent talks us through some insightful best practices. Taylor and the THG team have spoken as industry experts on panels at VidCon, SITC, Influencer Festival and Playlist Live, and have also been featured on the likes of RTL, BBC, entrepreur.com and others on similar topics.

The Hello Group is a talent-first company, whose clients include some of the world's foremost social media influencers, (counting millions of followers each, with an impressive combined reach of over 200M), Grammy Award-winning songwriters and producers (who have written hits for Justin Bieber, BTS, Gucci Mane, Flo Rida and Madonna), top tier sports stars, and more. The disruptive group umbrellas divisions in talent management, label services, digital marketing and tech development. This has allowed them to gain a unique insight from both sides of the influencer marketing playing field. Post For Rent on the other hand is a tech software that lends itself as a bridge between influencers and brands, while providing a streamlined project management tool for brands and creators alike, with some really unique features by the sounds of it.

Here are some top tips and cautionary tales from a music and influencer marketing executive who has navigated the quagmire of fake followers, sometimes extortionate rates, and temperamental egos, and emerged victorious:

  1. What would you say to someone who isn't convinced of the value of working with influencers?

It goes without saying that catching the attention of people online is crucial to getting your music heard, yet a lot of people still use outdated avenues to try and garner that attention. If you are serving your music to people in the usual ways with artist interviews, behind the scenes content and so on, you’re only going to get so far. The real magic happens when you harness a theme of the song and pair it with an entertaining piece of visual content, which becomes the compelling reason for people to stop scrolling through their feed and watch the video with your song in it. I’ve always been a fan of getting creative, and working with influencers takes that to another level.

On one hand you can supply the influencers with content for them to promote to their audience such as a video clip you’ve had made around the song, which works well for micro-influencer campaigns (although I wouldn’t recommend running a micro-influencer campaign without using a powerful influencer marketing platform such as Post For Rent) as you can control the messaging more easily across the wide scale of that campaign. However, if you do that, you’re only engaging them as a basic marketing engine and you’re actually missing out on the core value of working with an influencer, which is in benefitting from their creativity and the knowledge only they have of what their audience love and will engage with. The influencer is an all in one content creation house - they conceptualise, film, edit and ultimately share that content, which of course has its risks, but also offers a much more powerful vehicle for delivering your music to the consumers you’re trying to reach.

If you buy a billboard, or ad space in a relevant magazine, will you really know who has seen it? Who has absorbed the message? Who has then gone on to check out the song? Which billboard from your campaign has been the most successful? All of these metrics can be measured when working with influencers, which not only provides extremely valuable data, but also allows you to make informed decisions at every step of the campaign. With influencer campaigns, we can answer questions such as: which influencer should we invest more budget in? Which type of content has resulted in the best conversion? Which demographic is proving more receptive to the song? How many items did that particular influencer sell, or how many streams on Spotify is that influencer responsible for. And so on.

  1. So what should someone consider when looking to work with influencers for the first time?

The most important thing you can do when working with influencers is due diligence. That’s where a lot of people come undone, because it’s very time consuming if you don’t have the right tools.

Unfortunately there are plenty of pitfalls that can render a campaign ineffective such as fake followers, a vague briefing, awkward brand fit, and incorrect demographics, to name a few. If you don’t know what to look for or you don’t do your research, you can easily end up with a set of influencers who have inflated numbers, influence that won’t match your goals, fans that don’t match your target, and very little traffic being driven to the place you’re intending. Just like any form of marketing, it’s still crucial to know what, why and where you’re spending your budgets before doing so.

There are plenty of valid reasons to use influencers and you can set more than one goal as an outcome of your campaign. Some campaigns are targeted at growing the artist’s socials and so an Instagram Story campaign driving followers to another user might be the most efficient, while others are tailored to growing streams of a particular song or sending people to the official music video. Sometimes it can be as simple as raising awareness of the song or artist ahead of a tour rather than driving traffic to a specific place. Whilst it’s tempting to want to put the artist front and centre of any promotion, it’s also important to remember that retaining an organic feel to the promotion will be far more effective, because if the promotion is too similar to a standard advert and provides no actual value to the consumer, they will move on and spend their attention on something else. If someone likes the music, they’ll put in more of their time to figure out what it is and perhaps even add that song to a Spotify playlist after searching for it. That’s what really gets you the true fans, so depending on the platform you're using for the campaign, sometimes it’s best to keep the music credit subtle and still reap great rewards.

At The Hello Group we’ve run campaigns for independent artists, major record labels, multi-channel networks, major brands, Shazam, and even teamed up with musical.ly (now known as TikTok) on promotional campaigns, to make influencer marketing more effective. At Post For Rent, we’ve on-boarded more than 30,000 influencers and are running campaigns for Netflix, Uber, Tampax, Costa Coffee and so many more, and so we really see a huge array of campaigns each with different incentives and focal points.

  1. So how can someone avoid these pitfalls? Are there any tools you recommend?

There’s only so much you can tell when looking at the public profile data of an influencer. We have used sites like SocialBlade to check for dodgy patterns of growth, the comments section is often a giveaway of fake accounts, and a quick browse into who follows the influencer can also be very revealing. Asking for screenshots of demographics and Instagram Story views is often an essential step for us, however it all takes up a lot of time and can really slow a campaign down, especially if you’re working on a large scale.

Beyond that, you’re also going to want to make sure that the influencer is actually a fan of the type of music you’re promoting, which is often the hardest part! If an influencer isn’t known for associating with that type of music, not only are they less likely to promote it authentically, but their fans will also sense the "forced" nature of the collaboration, reducing the likelihood of them interacting with it. I would always advocate finding influencers who are fans of the artist or style of music first and foremost as they will be much more likely to go above and beyond to create a successful collaboration with you. Pragmatically speaking though, finding those influencers is extremely difficult without the right tools.

We use an influencer marketing platform called Post For Rent for our campaigns, which our company is involved in as a team, taking an executive role in commercial strategy and expansion. Executives from THG working on the Post For Rent project include myself, Ed Brew (The Hello Group’s CCO) who heads up strategic partnerships and Kyran Jones (The Hello Group’s COO) who oversees talent partnerships. Ordinarily, we would rarely get directly involved with an influencer marketing software, though we’ve found Post For Rent to be so efficient and disruptive that is just made sense for us to lend our expertise into the development of the project. On the platform we are able to get influencer credibility scores in an instant, which saves a huge amount of research time as it follows the same processes we would, but in a fraction of the time and then gives us a score to inform us on just how genuine the ‘influence’ of that influencer is. Beyond that, it also enables us to search influencers by content vertical, allowing us to get straight to the right talents for each campaign, and has filters to enable us to find the right influencers to match the budget or reach goals we’ve set for the campaign. We can check previous campaigns they’ve done if the brand has made the results public, and tend to work with verified users as we know they are trustworthy.

One of our favourite features is the one-click reporting tool which generates a full report for the campaign in seconds, including all of the content, engagements and demographics, which we can then customise and use to report back to our clients with - that’s a HUGE time saver! Very soon it will be updated for influencers to display favourite artists and specific music genres that they like, which will provide invaluable insight into influencer music taste.

  1. So would a tool like Post For Rent be more for large scale campaigns and high expertise levels rather than those just starting out working with influencers?

The beauty of Post For Rent is that it is designed to help at all scales and experience levels. Those new to the space can use the platform’s ‘Reach’ campaign tool to have the platform auto-generate a campaign for them based on the user setting either a budget goal, or a reach goal. You could simply say ‘I want to create a campaign reaching 5million people in the music vertical’ and the system would build that campaign for you in an instant. We’ve not seen this anywhere else.

Similarly, for more experienced users, the platform provides essential data such as unique reach, allowing you to know how many individual people will be reached by working with your chosen influencers. You may want to create additional overlap by reducing the unique reach so that whilst you’re reaching a smaller total amount of people, you will be hitting them with multiple touch points, increasing the chance of them taking action around the song. Alternatively you may want to swap out some influencers to get the unique reach as high as possible, ensuring you’re reaching more individuals and gaining more potential consumers to convert to fans.

There’s always plenty of admin to be done around an influencer campaign from influencer identification and content approvals, to contracting, to payments and reporting, so we use it for campaigns of all scales as it saves time regardless. An additional bonus for us is that Post For Rent recently launched the ability to payout influencers in 3 business days, which is a game-changing when you compare it to the usual 30 or even 60 day turnarounds that are commonplace elsewhere. This means we’re not being chased by influencers for payment or risking damaging our relationships due to delays in the payment chain as the influencers are taken very good care of. That’s another important point to keep in mind when working in this area - the influencers all talk to each other, so if you end up messing them around, don’t be surprised if they tell their friends not to work with you. Offering influencers payment turn-around like this in conjunction with the other features and time-management aspects, means they actually prefer to participate in a campaign via the platform, which we love since it’s easier for us all.

  1. So beyond the data, why is influencer marketing so effective for music campaigns?

Taylor’s business partner, Ed Brew, co-founder of The Hello Group explains: It’s all about the journey the consumer takes. We’ve seen labels use tastemakers extensively for a long time now as part of their marketing campaigns, taking advantage of their ‘stamp of approval’ and built-in audience to help market new releases. The problem with relying heavily on tastemakers is that when that’s the first place that someone discovers your song, they will be listening to it with their proverbial "music expert hat" on, instantly putting them in a dismissive mood. Whereas if you are creating bespoke content through influencers to market the track, then the first time someone hears your song will be whilst watching a piece of valuable content, which also happens to include your song. The crucial difference is that when they watch content that isn’t provided by a music tastemaker, they don’t feel as though they are being "served" with the song, they instead feel like they are discovering the song for themselves, which creates a much more positive initial reaction and promotes an emotional connection with the song as they have a sense of ownership over it the same way we all do when we experience the thrill of discovery.

  1. Tell us about a previous campaign and the journey behind it?

One campaign that seemed extremely challenging at first glance but ended up being a lot of fun involved a totally unknown EDM artist, who wanted to market his latest release but had no engine to do so himself (and by no engine, we literally mean zero pre-existing social media presence). What also made this tougher was that the song contained very prominent explicit language, so a lot of promotional partners we approached were put off associating with it. We looked at what was trending online around that time to see if there were any sources of traffic or conversation topics we could hack into and harness for the release. At the time, the McGregor vs Mayweather fight was being heavily discussed on social media, so we decided to devise a strategy around that. In the end, we put together and released a video featuring edited footage of Conor McGregor training in a humorous way. The song was the music bed for the video, and it was seeded out across multiple content publishers on Facebook (the visual element negated the concern partners had over the risqué lyrics as the music enhanced the video’s tone).

The promotion gained millions of views within 48 hours and this traction resulted in the song being added to many of Spotify’s ‘Viral’ playlists, generating hundreds of thousands of streams and ultimately leading to a lucrative licensing deal for the song with a very popular label.

  1. What trends do you see in this space?

There’s certainly an increasing swing towards brands and labels seeing the value in working with micro influencers who they would previously have overlooked. This is understandable having seen micro talents generate equal and sometimes even greater results with their content as the macro talent, however working with them at scale is a logistical nightmare unless you have a huge team (which isn’t cost effective), or the right management tools . The amount of time it takes to arrange a promotion with a macro talent (over 1million followers) vs a micro talent (under 100k followers) is generally the same, which creates difficulty when you’re needing to engage hundreds of micro talents to reach the same amount of people as one or two macro talents.

Again, this is where we turn to Post For Rent. Instead of requiring a huge amount of manpower, we can oversee campaigns with hundreds of influencers using a minimal team, allowing us to really benefit from the communities of lots of smaller influencers, who aren’t posting brand deals every day, and who tend to have very strong relationships with their audience. Using micro influencers creates a more credible buzz around a song. We usually mix both tiers of influencers so that you have the macro influencers providing the big name brand association and weight to the campaign, with the micro influencers building credibility and fuelling the fire.

Prior to Post For Rent being at our disposal, we typically wouldn’t take on low budget campaigns for labels (which meant most of our influencer marketing activities weren’t focused on music promotion, despite us being so closely tied to music, as labels were only willing to experiment with smaller budgets, which really wasn’t cost effective for us). Now we are able to have our team run campaigns of all sizes including 4 figure, 5 figure and 6 figure budget campaigns and still retain an acceptable profit margin, whilst also ensuring our clients get the most out of their investment.

In short, it goes way beyond an influencer telling fans to ‘check out this track’. It’s at that moment, when the call to action is made, that all of the research and due diligence comes into play, because if you’ve got the wrong influencer, or the wrong audience, or the wrong content, that is when the campaign stops, and no further action is taken because you’ve fallen on deaf ears. That’s why it’s so important to invest. Invest time into doing your research, but also invest money in using tools that will help your campaign be a success. Both will save you immense sums in the long run, believe me!

Contact: shazir@svadvisorygroup.com

SOURCE: SV Advisory Group