As we begin a new decade, the world of influencer marketing is shifting (with high quality and emotive content taking centre stage). Fresh attitudes and a new breed of influencers are dictating the way people engage with brands. Customers are increasingly ignoring traditional advertising and instead placing more value in authentic, personal voices.
Businesses are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing (source). It’s a popular channel that offers a strong return on investment, and gives brands a direct line to very specific niches.
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The rise of the influencer
Like any new channel, people are still working out the specifics. A few years ago brands would simply shower influencers with gifts and free trips and expect to see an immediate uplift in sales. Some products went viral. Some flopped. Working with influencers felt like a roll of the dice.
Fast-forward to today and the approach is more focused and increasingly sophisticated. Brands are hunting out the right partners; looking for genuine voices whose followers have a real connection to their stories. That might mean foodie photographers posting about ingredients you can only find in Liguria. Professional skiers raving about the slopes in a Swiss resort. Or plus-size travellers seeking out providers who cater to their exact needs for a tour in Bali.
BorderlessLive is a social media conference and show that’s all about forging these connections. Let’s look at some of the connection stories from last year’s show, and what we can learn from them.
The creator story
Kirsty Leanne (@kirstyleanneuk) is a travel blogger with a unique niche: she focuses on plus-size travellers. And the combination of this niche with the networking opportunities at BorderlessLive was a winning mix for her last year.
“I started out blogging about six years ago now. I originally blogged about travel and then specifically plus-size travel. It’s very, very niche.”
Kirsty’s journey shows an approach that bears consistent results: find your niche and really concentrate on it. There are plenty of influencers posting white sand beaches and instagrammable cocktails, but this non-specific imagery doesn’t tend to engage followers with more specific interests and needs.
Kirsty says that talking to this audience means they’re much closer to making a buying decision. Rather than thinking ‘I’d like a holiday,’ they’re thinking, ‘Where can I go with a hotel that gives me exactly what I want.’
This is something brands are starting to realise. Kirsty says, “If I pitch a plus-size idea, brands can’t always see why they need it: they often just want the pretty pictures, the ‘look at this beautiful place.’ But when I explain it, they see ‘Here are people with a genuine interest in plus-size travel – and they’re ready to book’.”
Staying specific and knowing her niche helped Kirsty make a success of BorderlessLive 2019. She told us, “At the show, I didn’t speak to many people at all. Everyone was going to every stand, talking to everyone. Instead, I had a list of people who I knew I wanted to talk to. I spoke to three people altogether, and one of them was someone I already work with.”
From that focused planning, she arranged a collaboration to run a specific plus-size trip with her followers. Working with G Adventures, she’s checked that every single aspect of the trip is plus-size friendly – from transport and accommodation to destinations and locations. And the online buzz is already starting among her followers.
The brand story
Just a Drop exhibited at BorderlessLive last year. The charity has worked in 32 different countries to help communities get access to safer, cleaner water and better hygiene and sanitation – and social channels are essential to that effort.
Alice Mellar, partnership manager for the charity, told us about how a visit to BorderlessLive helped them reach more people. “Before BorderlessLive we’d never really worked with influencers. We weren’t entirely sure what we’d signed up to with the show, but we thought they were a good fit for our charity. We wanted to increase our reach, and that meant finding people in the travel space who had a lot of followers, and who could put our campaigns out and share our solutions in a relatable way.”
The show was hectic, but they started to make contact with influencers whose followers were interested in what the charity was doing.
The clearest example is Michael Gerber (@mcsgerber). With 190,000+ global travel-loving Instagram followers, the team at Just a Drop were really interested in collaborating with the Swiss vlogger. Together they created a video about the charity’s work, which engaged people they would never have reached otherwise.
“With Michael, it was a real opportunity to connect with a new audience,” said Alice. “His followers are people we would never reach normally. When we were talking about travel, we were talking about people in the travel industry – tour operators, destinations, that sort of area. Michael was talking to young people with an interest in travel. The sort of projects we support – like sand dams to store water for the dry season – are difficult to explain. Working with Michael made it simple to understand. It was a personal voice across things.”
With this success under their belt, Just a Drop are looking to build on it for the 2020 show. Alice says, “This year we’ll go in with more of an understanding of how we work with influencers and what we want from them. Our strategy is to build an influencer group and help people who are visiting our communities to showcase our work.”
The industry perspective
We spoke to Albertine Brandon, who gave a talk and hosted a panel on behalf of Blogosphere at BorderlessLive 2019. She explained the crucial role physical events can play in connecting brands and influencers, and providing inspiration for content:
“You get insight from people who’ve been in the industry for quite a while and have really seen it grow,” she told us. “You’re being taught about how to take your content to the next level, or make sure it’s nominated for an award.”
As well as the opportunity to learn, she says the networking opportunities are unmissable. “My advice? Go to the talks and the panels. One hundred percent. It’s your chance not just to hear from the experts in the industry, but also to talk to them afterwards. You can ask them your burning questions directly.”
“Everything in our world is online, and when you’re working alone you don’t always get the chance to meet people. At BorderlessLive, you can be there and build those connections with people who are influential within the industry.”
Influencers are only one half of the equation, though. Albertine also says the show can be a game-changer for brands.
“For brands, it’s about finding the right people to work with,” she says. “Everyone wants to travel, so there’s this feeling that influencers are just looking for a free holiday. As a brand, you’re worried you might say yes and all you get is a zero-return Instagram story.”
“But when you partner with the right people your destination or hotel can go viral. Look at Santorini. Marrakesh. Bali. Some people can go and then post, then everyone wants to go. BorderlessLive gives you the chance to meet the right influencers, to talk to them about how they work and what their aesthetic is. It’s so much better than just googling ‘top UK travel bloggers’.”
Making your connection
BorderlessLive is all about making the right connections between brands and influencers – and helping both improve their social engagement.
The influencer marketing conference and show brings together a broad-ranging mix of brands – from travel to food, and from lifestyle to fashion. They’re looking for collaborations that hit their specific audience niches, and this is the perfect context for influencers to pitch to them. Rather than sending an email into the abyss, the atmosphere encourages face-to-face conversations.
BorderlessLive has an in-depth programme for influencers, experts and brands to share their expertise. How do you measure engagement? Which channels are your customers using? What sort of content builds awareness, and what drives sales? Industry experts can help brands answer these questions and many more.
And of course, the show offers many different networking opportunities: on the show floor, in workshops and Q&As, and during networking events. It’s a chance to build connections for both brands and influencers.
It can only be a good thing that real, meaningful human connections are finally setting the agenda for marketing. Borderless Live is here to celebrate the moment — and the future. We hope you’ll join us for Borderless Live in London on 11-12 September 2020 and be part of marketing’s incredible new journey.
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