Who are you most likely to listen to when seeking a recommendation for a product or service? A nameless, faceless voice to which you have no connection, or a friend or family member with whom you share a close bond?
While the presence of a neutral third party may come in handy in certain situations, most people generally seek the counsel of someone they know and trust when they’re in the market for something new. Sure, an advertisement for a restaurant may mention the world-class chef in the kitchen or the locally sourced ingredients used in every dish, but when a friend mentions the ambiance was stuffy and portions were small, the interested party may be less inclined to check it out.
Consumers feel camaraderie with familiar individuals and tend to value their opinions more than someone to whom they just can’t relate. Thanks to widespread internet access, social networks have expanded beyond #IRL (“in real life”) relationships by enabling consumers to connect with like-minded people, aka influencers, around the world with just a swipe, click or snap.
Influencers have changed the way consumers interact with brands by tapping into the inherent human need for personal connection. Storytelling is a powerful tool, and influencers sharing experiences with their followers foster a level of product interest and loyalty traditional advertising can struggle to achieve. Through product endorsements and relaying key messaging, a woman in rural Ohio who blogs about being a soccer mom or an aspiring fitness guru in New York City may be a company’s greatest marketing asset, depending on its target audience.
Over the past decade, more and more brands—especially dietary supplement companies—have collaborated with influencers to better connect with consumers. Campaigns results are impressive and, as social media continues to reign supreme on the consumer stage, influencers won’t be taking their final bows any time soon. But are these master marketers friends or foes?
As any communications, marketing or media professional knows, risk management is a crucial component of any public-facing campaign. In the dietary supplement industry, responsible players know the strict regulations governing product claims and advertising—but influencers might not. Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead and stay connected throughout the campaign.
Here are two things the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has learned through engagement with influencers:
Work with an agency to connect with high-quality, responsible influencers.
CRN has had the pleasure of working with two incredible influencer marketing agencies, Clever and Mom It Forward. These agencies provide valuable services that make all aspects of an influencer campaign seamless, from creative development and content creation to relationship management and campaign reporting.
Earlier this year, CRN partnered with one of the agencies for a campaign called #MyWeekSupplemented wherein influencers chronicled ways they incorporate dietary supplements into their daily routines. After relaying its goals to the agency, CRN was presented with a list of carefully selected influencers who fit its specific criteria. The list included links to each influencers’ social media accounts, a tally of followers on each platform, a summary of monthly engagement and a short testimonial on why they were interested in the campaign. With this information, CRN was able to hand-pick the allotted number of campaign participants to ensure its messages reached the target audience. Audience matters! Without the agency’s help, we may not have gotten to work with such a broad spectrum of influencers to achieve the 18.4 million impressions and 12,200 social media engagements #MyWeekSupplemented garnered.
Review content carefully and don’t be afraid to say no.
When working with an external party, like an influencer, brands run the risk of having less-than-ideal or off-limits language and imagery amplified across the blogosphere. A questionable post could land a brand—and the influencer—in hot water, so meticulously vetting the campaign’s content is an absolute must.
In light of FDA’s recent crackdown on companies illegally marketing as dietary supplements products containing selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), a dangerous class of ingredients that can pose a serious threat to consumer safety, CRN launched a consumer education campaign called #SARMsCanHarm. Working with an agency to bring the power of influencers to the conversation, CRN was again able to hand-pick participants who could best deliver both a warning about the dangers of SARMs in performance-enhancing products and an educational narrative around the benefits of legal sports nutrition products. CRN reviewed each post before it went live to prevent inaccurate or misleading information from getting published. Thanks to the diligence of the influencers, the #SARMsCanHarm campaign saw more than 40 million impressions on Twitter alone!
The communications and marketing world is advancing at a rapid speed, which is why the dietary supplement industry would be wise to keep up with the latest trends. Influencer marketing is a proven way to ensure a company’s story reaches its target consumer audience. However, working with reputable experts and red-flagging any content that could be misconstrued are two best practices that will benefit a brand, the influencer, and most importantly, consumers.
Nancy Weindruch is vice president, communications, and Julia Shenkar is senior manager, communications, at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement industry.
Looking for insights on social media marketing regulations, effective messaging or audience engagement? Join us for the "Marketing Effectively & Legally via Social Media" workshop on Thursday, Nov. 8, at SupplySide West 2018.