You know how you see your fave bloggers/YouTube stars/Insta-famous celebs thank brands for sending them products? Ever wondered how you can do that for yourself? We spoke with Asta Karalis-Fletcher, Membership Services Project Manager of CLEVER, and asked her what her agency looks for when it comes to approving and connecting influencers with the brands of their dreams.
Tell us about your background and how you got into CLEVER?
While in college, I was the marketing intern for a restaurant group in San Francisco where I realized I could translate my passion for photography into a career. Through this internship, I had the creative freedom to grow their social media presence. I also worked as the visual merchandiser for a new food marketplace, working alongside the marketing director to build a cohesive in-store and online marketing plan. I wanted to work for an agency to see how large brands were using social media. I fell in love with the company immediately upon reading the job description. The founders were bloggers first and pioneered the influencer marketing industry. It’s been a year and a half, and throughout the process, I discovered what I really enjoy–building relationships and being a connector. With CLEVER, that’s exactly what I get to do. I match brands with the right influencers for each program!
What exactly is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is engaging everyday people who are influential online to share brand messaging with their audiences through sponsored content. If you’ve ever read a review for a product or service, or a blog for a recipe, outfit, etc., then you have engaged with influencer marketing in some capacity.
Why do you think influencer marketing has become so popular in the past few years?
As consumers, we HATE being marketed to and we’ve become too savvy for traditional advertising tactics. (Ad blockers, amirite?) But we do trust our friends and family for product recommendations and helping us make purchasing decisions. And today, we consider social media acquaintances as our “friends.” Brands have always used celebrity endorsements because we tend to trust the celebrities we admire. Influencer marketing is actually very similar, we’ve just redefined what celebrity means. When influencers accept sponsored work they actually believe in and relate to (which influencers tend to do exclusively, versus paid celebrities), their endorsements are authentic and meaningful.
We've become too savvy for traditional advertising tactics. But we trust our friends & family for product recommendations.
Is influencer marketing only for bloggers?
No, influencers span across every platform and channel! Anyone who builds an audience has the ability to influence that audience no matter where. We work with influencers on blogs, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Facebook Live, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and are testing other up-and-coming channels all the time. 🙂
When it comes to the approval process, do bloggers need to have a specific number of followers?
No, we don’t require a minimum follower count to be accepted into our CLEVER network, but we do require a certain level of engagement. We need to see that influencers are actually influential — meaning their followers are actively liking, commenting, retweeting, and sharing their content—and the influencer is consistently responding to their followers. So while we do take follower numbers into account, it is not the sole or primary approval criteria. See #8 and #9 for more.
How important is having original photos?
With some verticals, having original photos are more important than others. Fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and food for example, are super visual so it’s a MUST. We have some influencers that post about finance or blogging/educational resources (which are more about content over imagery) so stock makes sense. But let’s say an influencer is applying to a fashion program and most of their blog is stock imagery. It’s going to be really difficult to tell how that person will bring a fashion program to life based on the images I see. Depending on a client’s objective, original imagery may be at the top of my list when selecting the right people to participate.
What can you become an influencer of?
My absolute favorite part of being at CLEVER and working in this industry is the diversity of clients we work with, and seeing how influencers can put their own unique spin on ANY topic. No seriously, anything. I’ve seen influencers make taxes look good. They break it down in such a way that you just get it. It’s the harder topics, or less glamorous industries, that really show you the power of influencer marketing. You can really become an influencer of anything!
We have worked with a variety of clients in the food & beverage, technology, insurance, automotive, pets, beauty, DIY/craft, retail, personal care, travel, financial, entertainment, and cause-based areas!
Do you have general guidelines when approving influencers?
Yes, some of our general guidelines include:
Guidelines To Live By
Having a clear point of view
Posting regularly and devoting at least 50% or more of your posts to non-sponsored content
Have been posting longer than ~6 months
Have at least two social media accounts
Are there things you look for outside of those general guidelines?
This is the really tough part about our job! Accepting influencers is not black and white. It’s an ever-changing industry, so we have to roll with the punches and listen to what clients are asking for at the time. We also consider an influencer’s aesthetic, site design, stock vs. original photography, consistency and cohesiveness in their topics, and vertical (travel, fashion, fitness, etc.) when considering them for CLEVER.
Can you make money from being an influencer? What are some specific ways you can monetize?
Yes! Influencers expect to receive compensation for their work. The compensation amount depends on what we’re asking the influencer to do and how big her audience is. As an influencer, you have various ways to earn money, including:
Different Ways To Monetize
Sponsored Posts and Video: A blogger or vlogger is paid by an agency or brand in exchange for sponsored content
Affiliate Links: An influencer receives a percentage of an online sale that was referred by a link on their blog, in-site ad, or social media channel
In-Site Advertisements: A blogger hosts ads on their website
Contributor: An influencer is paid for publishing original content on a brand and business’ site
Events/Speaking Engagements: An influencer is paid for attending or speaking at an event or conference
Brand Ambassador: An influencer is paid by a brand for a short-term or long-term, more exclusive project
Any advice for people who want to become an influencer?
If you want to be an influencer, be true to yourself at all times. Social media is founded on authenticity. We as consumers can easily sense when a promotion doesn’t seem candid or sincere, or when a product/service doesn’t align with an influencer’s area of expertise [insert any ad for Fit Tea]. Work with brands that align with your values and interests and only apply to programs you are really passionate about. You must be ready to work hard and understand that no one is an overnight success. You must create content people are interested in and post it regularly. The most successful influencers work full-time on their brand, and it pays off!