Who You Gonna Trust? The Ins and Outs of Influencer Marketing

Who You Gonna Trust? The Ins and Outs of Influencer Marketing

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It probably sounded like a good idea at the time. Hoping to “join the conversation” and demonstrate its social awareness, Pepsi created an ad in which reality star Kendall Jenner turned a street protest into a dance party simply by offering a cop a soda. He takes a sip, the crowd erupts in cheers, and whatever sparked the original protest is instantly forgotten.

Except, of course, that’s not exactly how it played out in real life. The ad was slammed for demeaning genuine protests, using the theme of social justice to sell Pepsi, and being incredibly tone-deaf. From actual civil rights leaders to late-night comedians, the backlash was so loud and widespread that, within days, Pepsi pulled the ad and apologized.

This incident will almost certainly be a case study in marketing classes in years to come, but in the meantime it serves as a cautionary tale about the rise and related risks of influencer marketing.

In a nutshell, influencer marketing is all about partnering with people who a) are passionate about a particular product or service, b) eager and open to promoting it on social media, and c) popular enough to generate large followings of people who might be swayed by a high-profile endorsement. Strictly speaking, the Pepsi ad was more about celebrity than influence — Jenner wasn’t chronicling her personal experience with the product — but it’s obvious that Pepsi hoped that her promotional love of the product would encourage others to love it, too.

These days, you don’t even have to be a reality TV star to be considered — or at least call yourself — an influencer. Consider the untold numbers of health, beauty, and fashion bloggers, who post about their experiences, tout the size and reach of their online audience, and offer to promote cooperative businesses in exchange for free products or financial compensation. Successful influencers can make six figures or more, although the vast majority labor away in relative obscurity, garnering a few likes here and there and providing questionable value to the brands that work with them.

All this should serve as a big red flag for aesthetic practices considering implementing an influencer-marketing program. Sure, it’d be great if you could get a Jenner or Kardashian to write about your work, but unless you already boast a celebrity clientele — and an appropriately large budget — that’s not likely. As for non-celebrity influencers, the key is to determine who provides real value (i.e., increased website traffic, more patient contacts), and who’s just angling for a free procedure.

Perhaps a better approach is to focus on people who actually influence others to take action. They’re not hard to find — and they’re far less likely to become an embarrassing internet meme:

Your staff: It’s a safe bet that members of your staff are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If what they share socially represents a good fit for your practice, they may be amenable to spreading the word. One or more may even have a blog or be willing to write a post for the practice blog or Facebook page. They should be forthright about their employment and any compensation or discounts, but the experiences they share can demystify procedures, help personalize your practice, and influence potential patients’ decisions.

The media: Trust in the media may be at an all-time low, but that doesn’t translate to local morning shows and afternoon talk-fests. Such shows not only draw large numbers of people interested in beauty, health, and well-being, they’re also always hungry for local content. Make yourself available as a resource when they need a quote, inform them about new aesthetic trends, and let their interest and enthusiasm inspire viewers.

Your patients: OK, so gathering and sharing reviews from satisfied patients isn’t generally considered “influencer marketing,” but really, there’s no escaping the fact that reviews have a major influence on people’s healthcare decisions. According to RealSelf data, 78% of aesthetic consumers consider reviews important before selecting a doctor, and 88% won’t even consider a doctor who doesn’t have visible patient reviews. With no sponsorship or quid pro quo involved, reviews from real patients are the real deal — authentic, believable, and exceedingly influential.

And they’ll save you from pulling a Pepsi and creating the next influencer-induced fiasco.

Join us for our latest webinar, “Reach vs. Impact: Social Media and the Bottom Line,” on April 25. 

Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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