By Chandler Bruns, Social Media Manager, Rooster Strategic Solutions

In 2017 model Kendall Jenner allegedly received $250,000 to promote the infamous Fyre Festival on Instagram. The promotion was executed flawlessly, with ticket packages selling out in record time. The music event, however, was more than a little flawed; after a series of embarrassing mistakes the organizers pulled the plug before the first note was played. Jenner is among a list of celebrities currently being sued in U.S. bankruptcy court.

This is a perfect illustration to discuss the power, risks, and misconceptions around social media influencer marketing. Start with the misconceptions – it’s tempting to believe that the world of social media influencers is a little pond filled with supermodels and fashionistas like Kendall Jenner and her sister Kylie, who reportedly receives as much as $1.2 million for a single Instagram post. In reality, this world is huge, and growing; some estimates suggest there are more than a million paid influencers working today, primarily on Instagram but also on Twitter and YouTube. More than two-thirds of U.S. retailers use some form of influence marketing. For younger viewers, these influencers are more recognizable than Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes, and elected officials.

The reason there are so many influencers is because the strategy works. A social media influencer lets you reach out to hundreds or thousands of potential customers and related audiences that you can’t easily reach on your own. These influencers spend a considerable amount of time and money building their audiences and providing them with engaging content: photos, videos, stories, blogs, and interactive posts. Over time they’ve built up a level of trust with their audiences – so if they speak positively about your brand, products, or services, it makes you look trustworthy, as well. This can lead directly to sales. In fact, a recent survey found that 34% of Instagram users bought something because a blogger or influencer recommended it.

To date, the companies most likely to use social influencers are found in the consumer space: health care, fitness, fashion, and travel. A few ag companies have dipped their toes in the water. For instance, the National Chicken Council recently partnered with dietitians and food bloggers, inviting them to visit and post from farms and plants. Other agricultural companies have contracted with the Peterson Farming Brothers and other well-known bloggers and social media accounts.

Should your company or your agricultural clients jump on the influencer bandwagon? Maybe – but only if you can find influencers that meet all the following criteria:

They can extend your reach. This is, after all, why you’re considering working with influencers in the first place. You can either look for influencers who have an audience that matches your customer base, or you can look for one who has a complementary audience that you want to reach.  And while it would be nice to have Kendall Jenner’s 100-million-plus Instagram audience, you can probably get by on less – a lot less. In fact, one of the fastest-growing segments is the rise of the nanoinfluencer – also called microinfluencer – who has as few as a 1000 passionate followers. These influencers are often seen as more authentic and transparent, and their followers more passionate and engaged.

Their vision matches yours. Social influencers have their own style, voice, and attitudes. They create interesting, engaging content that their audience enjoys, and as much as you’d like them to adopt your style and your voice, they’re likely not going to copy your advertising template. This is why you want to partner with them – remember, their audience engages with them because the content is engaging and authentic – but it’s vital that you find influencers who have a vision similar to yours.

You understand the risks. It goes without saying that when you contract with an influencer to represent your brand, they become an extension of your brand. If you collaborate with the wrong influencers, your brand will suffer. Most companies understand this, but still underestimate the time it takes to perform due diligence when choosing influencers and audiences. You also need to understand and follow government guidelines on disclosure and transparency; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has started cracking down on brands and influencers who don’t properly disclose their sponsorships.

You can afford it. One of the nice parts of an influencer strategy is the relatively low cost. As opposed to paying one of the Jenner sisters $1 million or more per post, you can generally find nanoinfluencers who have credibility with the audiences you want to reach and who are willing to promote your brand for $250 per sponsored post or less. Some will be willing to work with you in exchange for your company’s products or services.

You have time and manpower to spare. Vetting social influencers is the most important – and often most overlooked – part of a strategy. You not only need to have complete trust that their vision matches yours, you need a complete understanding of their audience and how it engages with the influencer and his/her sponsors. You’ll need a team to work closely with the influencers to recommend creative approaches, ensure compliance, monitor performance, and recommend in-time improvements. It can take several months before you’re ready to launch your campaign, and you’ll need dedicated personnel to run it.

Once you have a specific target audience in mind you can begin searching for the right influencers to help you build trust and drive more engagement. If you have any questions, or if you aren’t sure where to start or need a hand putting it all together, let me know how Rooster Strategic Solutions can help.