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The Ins and Outs of Influencer Marketing

It’s a phenomenon of our generation to see everyday, normal, non-celebrities made famous through their social media identities. There’s usually a quality about them that drives their ‘Instafame’ – maybe they own a very cute French bulldog, they have an interest in yoga or they just lead a jet-setting life – and that helps them rack up their followers. Once they hit the 5000 follower mark they can be considered an influencer and start attracting the interest of marketers.

To discover more about this niche area of marketing I caught up with QUT graduate and business entrepreneur, Victoria Harrison, who is one of the founders and current managing directors of The Exposure Co, an influencer marketing agency.

“Influencer marketing is about leveraging off the power of social media identities and tapping into their engaged audiences,” explains Harrison.

Influencer marketing is fast becoming an effective, cost efficient and easy to analyse form of marketing where brands send products to ‘instafamous’ individuals to promote in their own network. The Exposure Co specialises in connecting products, brands and services to their target market through Instagram and Snapchat influencers.

The Exposure Co

After graduating from QUT with a Bachelor of Business/Journalism, Harrison went on to work in what she describes as ‘agency land’. It was here where Harrison met her two co-founders of The Exposure Co and where they first conceived their business plan.

“We really saw a rise of importance in influencer marketing and a few clients had asked us about it in meetings,” says Harrison.

Each founding member of The Exposure Co had a unique flair for marketing, which allowed them to pool their skills to form their business.

“In working with foodies, health and fitness and other smaller tier influencers, we’ve found it’s been really beneficial to build localised hype. You can get really targeted with those,” says Harrison.

Tara Kingi had been head of the social media team at the agency, Jared Bennett had been head of the SEO team and Harrison herself had been head of the content marketing team. It made sense to me that Harrison who had a university background in journalism would have excelled in this area of content-driven marketing.

“It worked well because we were from different teams. We all had overall marketing background but still we had different knowledge to bring to the table,” says Harrison.

Initially, the three continued their agency roles while working part time during the evenings on their own business. Since July 2015, Harrison has been working full time on The Exposure Co, which she describes as a hugely challenging yet rewarding experience.

Of the three founders, currently only two remain involved in the full time running of the business, which is split up between the remaining managing directors, Harrison and Kingi. The two have separated their roles into managing clients and in Harrison’s case, managing influencers.

As an organisation The Exposure Co has been working across a range of niches, including crowd-funding campaigns in the app and tech space, which Harrison explained can be difficult as you don’t actually have a product to work with yet. Their other clients, as expected, are in the beauty and fashion industry, as well as Brisbane-based cafes. Exposure Co specialise in what they call ‘intimate influencers’.

“They’re smaller influencers, often more localised influencers. In working with foodies, health and fitness and other smaller tier influencers, we’ve found it’s been really beneficial to build localised hype. You can get really targeted with those,” says Harrison.

Influencer Marketing

In order to make sure that The Exposure Co are providing a high quality service – that is connecting authentic influencers to the right markets – they follow a number of guidelines.

“For starters, the influencer has to have at least 5000 real followers,” says Harrison.

It’s Harrison’s job to ensure their influencers are genuine and authentic. I wondered what this meant and how you could determine, when you’re talking about such an extensive number of followers, whether or not someone was authentic.

Authenticity was discovered through a formula. Specifically, a measure of engagement rate, which for Instagram is likes and comments. I was surprised to hear that an engagement rate of anything over 1% was considered very substantial.

One of the selling points of the Exposure Co is that Harrison spends a lot of human time, as opposed to solely a computer audit, looking into who the influencers are. She gets to know them and their audience.

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Harrison explained that most influencers do have day jobs, but the top tier influencers who have more than 100,000 followers can, “afford to work full time on their social profiles and their blogs”.

“Often we’ll send a product to an influencer who will probably be doing an Instagram post on it, or perhaps a YouTube video. As they’re unboxing the product they’ll go – ‘look what arrived from such and such’, says Harrison.

“Tapping into that Snapchat audience has found to be really powerful.”

While Harrison is involved in connecting brands and influencers, the marketing process is still genuine, in that the influencer is responding to the product in an authentic way.

“I never want to give an influencer an already written caption,” says Harrison.

A large part of Harrison’s role is to analyse the results of the campaigns.

“The good thing about Instagram is that you do have all of those analytics there. If you sign up as a business you can get all of your analytics and insights into your top posts and where your audience is from, what their ages are, whether they’re male or female,” says Harrison.

Another influencer marketing tool is Snapchat, which according to Harrison, is not yet as saturated as Instagram.

“It is quite simple because we don’t have access to many Snapchat analytics at the moment. There are a few platforms where you can see how many view’s a story is getting, how many screenshots a story is getting. If people are actually finishing the story or they’re just swiping through.”

Creativity in Marketing

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Harrison uses creativity in her role to overcome challenges, mostly when clients want to promote a product that comes from a difficult niche.

“You do have to be quite creative in terms of how you come up with the campaign brief and the strategy for the client,” says Harrison.

Harrison explains how she learnt so much during her journalism degree in terms of communication. Being able to write well and fast are important skills she explains.

For someone who describes blogging and social media as being an “embarrassing obsession”, it seems that Harrison has found the right career path.

“Being able to take what I love doing and putting that into full time work is really fun and rewarding,” says Harrison.

In terms of what advice Harrison would give to current students, she says, “really just get out there, push yourself and do things that scare you.”

It’s clear that as a young entrepreneur starting her own business was a culmination of these things.

“I’d definitely say to anyone wanting to start their own business to definitely just do it. It’s going to be hard, and everyone is going to tell you that it’s going to be hard, but it’s all going to be very rewarding.”

To discover more about The Exposure Co, visit their website.