Influencers can engage with audiences that are far beyond the average brand’s reach. But partnering with influencers isn’t an exact science. The murky waters of knowing who to partner with, what audience to target, and how to navigate the influencer/brand relationship can make even the bravest company hesitant to take the leap. But Ariel Vaisbort, Influencer Coordinator at OLIPOP, has plenty of firsthand knowledge on using influencers to grow a brand. In this episode of DTC POD, Ariel explains the best ways to collaborate with influencers and how influencers can pitch their services to a brand.
Ariel Vaisbort is the Influencer Coordinator at OLIPOP. After starting off as a part-time employee, Ariel quickly transitioned into running influencer coordination with OLIPOP full-time. Previously Ariel has developed social media for a number of companies including Her Campus Media, BANGS Shoes, and the Heritage School of Interior Design. She is also proficient in working with influencers and selling consumer products via e-commerce. OLIPOP is a beverage company that offers a healthy alternative to soda, focusing on microbiome and digestive health support.
6:48 – Don’t give people a script
The audience can tell when an influencer is just reading from a script. If you want people to engage with your product, you have to allow the influencer to speak authentically.
“When we work with influencers, we don't give people a script. As a customer, when I see someone reading the script like, ‘Here's the product, I like the product. It is so good.’ Snoozefest. That sucks. That sucks to watch. So for us, as a brand, we don't give people a script. We give people, ‘Here's information about the brand. Here's what you could say, but we want you to talk about what is most impactful to you as a consumer of the product.’ And the biggest thing that we look for when we're working with new people is, does this person know about the product? Have they tried the product? Do they like the product? Because then it's going to come across so much more genuine and so much more real. And so we have people, and we want them to talk more about how the product works for them. Is it getting them fiber? Is it replacing a soda for them? Is it a healthy treat that they switch to instead of drinking wine? And we're trying to lean a lot more into this storytelling aspect and into more genuine stories about why the product is making a difference for people.”
8:52 – Trust your influencers
Influencers know what their audience is going to engage with. Trust your partners to speak authentically to get the most interaction from potential customers.
“At the end of the day, the creators and the influencers know best what their audience is going to respond and react to. This isn't their first time doing a partnership. They know what their audience is going to purchase, they know what their audience is going to be excited about. And we've had conversations with people where I've said to them, ‘Hey, we want to use this content that you've created on our pages, but I totally understand if it doesn't work out for your page.’ If it doesn't fit with your page and your audience, that's going to be weird. And that's how you lose your audience's trust is by posting things that you think, ‘My audience isn't going to like this.’ That's just how it is. And at the end of the day, the biggest thing obviously that we measure in this industry is your engagement rate, the realness of your audience. So if your audience isn't engaged, and you're posting constantly stuff that they don't care about, nobody's going to want to work with you.”
11:31 – Approach influencers for specific needs
No single influencer can target your entire audience. Go to specific influencers so they can speak to specific audience types.
“If you're this amazing graphic artist and you're like, ‘Oh, I have this cool thing I could do for the brand.’ And we want to work with you. I'm not going to say to you, ‘Okay, here's your link and your swipe app, post these Insta stories.’ Because that's not going to perform well. So I think a big thing of being a brand is you can't expect everything from everybody, and you can't expect every content creator that you work with to fulfill every single one of your needs. There are going to be people who will have different target markets, there are going to be people of different interests. You're not going to ask a fitness influencer to, I don't know, post a recipe. That would be a little bit weird. You would go to a food influencer for that. So I think it's just playing to people's strengths, and that's something that's super important for me when I'm having these conversations and seeing, ‘Could we do a partnership? How would that partnership look?’ I want to ask people, ‘What are your goals? What do you feel like you're the best at?’ Because if you feel like you're the best at something, that's what I want to work with you on.”
13:31 – Work with a broad range of people
Don’t just focus on high-profile influencers. Partner with interesting people who can broaden the scope of your target audience.
“If we're only working with LA influencers or New York influencers, well, the target in Omaha, Nebraska, their sales are not going to be as good. That's just how it is. So we're working really hard to work with more people who are honestly just interesting people. We're looking a lot less than when we started, I think, at, ‘How many followers does she have?’ I look so much at, ‘What's her content like? Is this person someone I'd want to be friends with?’ I'm a pretty average Joe, I would say, I'm not buying $30 smoothies at Erewhon. I'm the Target shopper. I'm the consumer. When I'm looking at influencers, would I follow this person? Would I find value from this person? And so that's my biggest thing, especially as we work to expand and broaden our audience.”
16:25 – Support your retail
Tracking conversions can be tricky, if not downright impossible. Make sure the marketing that you do is ultimately supporting retail.
“That’s the trickiest part, tracking your retail conversions. We do a lot of podcasts then, too, and tracking podcasts can also be tricky because you don't know if, ‘Oh, I heard this on The Skinny Confidential Him & Her podcast.’ And six months later they're listening to that episode, they hear about OLIPOP, they go to Target, they buy it there. You have no idea where those people are coming from. So I think that that's definitely a tricky thing. It’s a tricky thing for us. A tricky thing for all brands is connecting the dots there. But I mean, at the end of the day, the marketing stuff that we're doing has to help support retail. And it's one of our goals. Obviously we want people to be coming to us on E-Comm and subscribing, we want people buying directly from us, and we'll do different things that will benefit the E-Comm specific shopper.”
19:09 – Build an online community
To connect with your audience, you have to build a community that they can reach out to. Building a community doesn’t mean spending a lot of money, it just takes time and energy.
“I think that building a community is so important. I think building that community, and creating that trust, and being a friend to people. I want people, when they reach out to OLIPOP, when they DM us, I want them to feel like, ‘I'm talking to Ariel at OLIPOP.’ I want them to feel like they have a connection there. They have a person there. You can accomplish a lot with gifting and seeding. And I don't want brands to be like, ‘Oh OLIPOP, I see their ads all day. Athletic Greens, I see their ads all day.’ These big brands, it's not day one for these brands. And I don't want people who are just starting to get discouraged by that, because I think that there are so many ways that you can build based on creating a community. And honestly, creating a community is free. Yes, it takes your time, it takes your energy. Sure. But dollar spend? Not really. You can create a big, juicy, amazing community with relatively low dollar spend.”
20:27 – Find brand evangelists
Influencers who stick with your brand long-term are your best advocates. So make sure to treat your most loyal partners with extra care.
“A lot of those people who started out as gifting with us from day one are still on the train with us. They're still fans of the product. They'll reach out to us and be like, ‘Can I get product for my kid's birthday party this weekend?’ Yeah, of course. Sure, I'm going to say yes to that. Of course. If you've been on the ride, if you've been on the train this whole time, at that point, those people are your brand evangelists. And if they want 20 coupons to pass out to their family and friends, I'm going to send them. It's pretty easy. I just feel like saying yes a little bit more, and seeing where you can stretch yourself, and saying, ‘Yeah, okay. I'll do it. Why not?’ It's a really great way to do it.”
22:55 – Stay personal
Reaching out personally to influencers over an Instagram DM is the best way to connect with them. How you respond as a brand will inform how influencers and customers alike see you.
“You can add all of the external platforms in the world. And we have added CRM, management tools, organizational tools. There is nothing that beats an Instagram DM. There's just nothing that beats the Instagram message. I have my affiliates, and I’ll send them an email, and then I'll send them a DM saying, ‘Hey, just sent you an email, check your email.’ I just don't think that there's anything that really beats that Instagram message. It's so easy to drop into people's DMs and just say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? How's it going? Let's chat. Let's be friends.’ It's so easy to do that. And I think that that's a really unappreciated art. And I think that the way that you respond to the stories you get tagged in, the way that you respond to people, that's what stands out. And there are some brands that do it really, really well.”
25:08 – Keep your brand’s voice consistent
Hire people who naturally speak with your brand’s voice. If you can keep your branding consistent and authentic, people will be naturally drawn to you.
“For official communications, our copywriter does an amazing job, but I think that honestly, for the most part and a big reason why I was originally brought onto the team, is because of my voice. The way that I talk and I interact is very similar to the brand and how we want the brand to interact. I'm going to send you a message that has emojis in it. That's just who I am as a person. And that's how the brand is. That's how we want the brand to be. We want it to feel like you're talking to a friend by removing that hoity-toity brand thing. It sometimes feels like a brand is talking down to you. And I really don't feel that with OLIPOP. And I feel like that's just because that boils down to hiring and who we're bringing onto the team, and are the people that we're bringing onto the team, do they have that same brand voice? Are they fun to be around? Do they send too many emojis? Awesome! That'll probably work for us.”
42:28 – Learn from your losses
Even if a promotion or partnership isn’t as successful as you wanted it to be, you can still learn from your failures.
“If you send someone two cases of soda and they don't post it on Instagram, how much does that really affect you? You still get to sleep at night. You're okay. Pick it up, move on. I totally get people who are like, ‘I spent a ton of money on this influencer and nothing came of it.’ That definitely sucks, but I think that you can look at that and you can say, ‘Okay, what did I learn from this?’ Maybe I shouldn't put all my eggs in one basket next time, maybe I should spend the same amount of money, but do it across multiple different people. I think there's so many different ways that you can play around with it. And also if you have someone who's listening to this and they're like, ‘Wait, this girl said some really cool stuff.’ Reach out to me, we can talk about it.”
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Ariel Vaisbort - Influencer Coordinator
Ramon Berrios - CEO of Trend.io
Blaine Bolus - COO of OmniPanel
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