Be Human, And Other Rules Marketers Must Follow When Enlisting Social Media Influencers



Carmichael Lynch, one of the biggest names in advertising, helmed a CMO briefing at SMWNYC and spelled out how marketing executives need to rethink their relationship with influencers, whose influence is already becoming stagnant.

Once upon a time, influencer marketing was a return to the days of prominence for word-of-mouth marketing. But although influencer marketing budgets doubled in size to $2 billion in 2017, the practice has lost some of its verve. Anyone who has seen a celebrity copy-and-paste the creative brief into their Instagram caption understands this.

Public trust and trust in marketers is at an all-time low. Celebrities are paying for their followers. Brands are making decisions on who to use as influencers based more on reach than on relevance. You can see the pattern here.

“Influencer marketing needs to reclaim its swagger,” said Whitney McChane, Vice President and Director of Research at Carmichael Lynch during a CMO briefing at Social Media Week New York. “It used to be an authentic human experience — not anymore.”

McChane and Cavan Reagan Reichmann, Managing Director at Carmichael Lynch, broke down the rules that marketers and CMOs must follow when enlisting the help of social media influencers:

The golden rule: Be human

This was a theme that Reichmann and McChane returned to again and again during their talk: The golden rule of influencer marketing is to treat everybody like the people they are.

“As our industry has become bigger, it’s become automated… so we really want to focus on how to make [influencers] feel loved and respected by the brand,” said Reichmann.

Need more specific advice? “Think partner, not promoter,” said McChane. “How would you treat this influencer if she were your sister? What about your best friend? Would it still make sense? When you start to treat people like partners rather than promotional units, they end up loving you.”

Find where and how the influencer is influential.

Social and analytics are helpful in finding out exactly how big of a reach an influencer truly has, and how much of that reach extends to fans who are engaged and, perhaps most importantly, real people.

Using a real-time listening platform is good for identifying microinfluencers and superfans who can amplify your content.

Give the influencer “guiderails” not guardrails

69 percent of influencers say the lack of creative freedom is one of their top three challenges when working with brands. You don’t want to box influencers too tightly into your vision, for two reasons. One, you can feel when their heart or effort isn’t aligned with the product.

And two, “Their brand is just as important as yours and their audience has an expectation of authenticity,” added McChane. Don’t value your own vision for the campaign over their brand, as that can end in disaster. 

Make sure the influencer actually likes the brand

The vetting process for using an influencer should include the all-important question of whether or not they actually like the brand. It’s one thing for someone to feel they can’t be authentic with “sponsored content,” but according to Reichmann “15 percent of influencers say ‘I don’t like the brand’ … And they won’t tell you that until after they agree.”

Get out ahead of that issue by ensuring the influencer can be a genuine influencer for your brand.

Monitor influencers even when they’re not working on a campaign

Not in a creepy way — keep up with them and continue your relationship even if you’re not expressly paying them at the moment. By cultivating these relationships, you increase the possibility that they’ll share posts about you organically, months after your work together is done, Reichmann said.

Get creative with disclosures

Nothing kills the buzz of an excellent influencer spot — maybe a beautiful photo, or a fun video — like a boring caption with a bunch of hashtags, the first of which is “#ad.”

Of course, to follow FTC guidelines, you need to disclose when a post is an advertisement. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or take away from the overall vibe of the post. Encourage an authentic, personal caption to go along with any Instagram post to provide the perfect capstone to a campaign.

“These aren’t things you should be doing independent of each other,” concluded McChane. “You should be doing these four things along with the golden rule of being human.” The last part is easy enough — the rest is up to you.

Carmichael Lynch create the unfair ideas that give our clients an unfair advantage.


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