When I co-founded Vamp in 2015, the influencer marketing industry was still in its infancy. Instagram’s feed was still chronological, they hadn’t yet launched Stories and brands were just starting to realise the potential in collaborations with social creators.
A lot has changed in the past five years. For us, there’s more clients and less hoverboarding around the office. For influencer marketing, it has transformed from an industry worth $500 million to an industry worth $10 billion. You could say we’ve matured together.
You learn a lot in your first five years of a startup, but when that startup is within an industry as fast-paced and exciting as influencer marketing, you have to learn it even quicker! Here are my five key takeaways that have shaped the way we do business.
Never get comfortable
Social media is always moving, so the worst thing you can do is get comfortable. The second you do, there will be a game-changing development, like Instagram - hiding like counts or introducing Branded Content. You have to be looking ahead and constantly innovating to keep up with the changes - and be ready to adapt when they come.
Over the years, we’ve evolved our offering from purely influencer marketing to content creation, allowing our clients to use our creator community as a diverse network of freelancers. We’ve also learnt that amplifying organic campaigns with paid media ads can supercharge their results. Each new product we offer builds on our experience.
The marketers who we’ve seen achieve success have taken a similar approach. They’ve been the early adopters, continuing to test, learn and make use of all of the opportunities in social.
Content is (still) king
Yep, you might be sick of hearing it, but it’s the one thing that hasn’t changed in those five years. When it comes to stopping a social scroller in their tracks, quality content is the way to do it.
Thanks to changes to Instagram’s algorithm, which boosts posts that are highly engaged with in the feed, quality assets are even more important. It helps your posts reach further and drive more conversions. According to Facebook, 56% of a brand's sales lift from digital advertising can be attributed to high-quality creative.
Luckily for brands, high-quality content is easier, cheaper and faster to access than it was five years ago. Social creators are able to get their hands on better, more affordable tech, not to mention free editing tools. They can share their skills and pass on their knowledge of what performs on social to brands when they create their content.
In the early days of Vamp, when recruiting influencers was vital to our success, adopting a closed door, invite-only approach probably seemed counter intuitive. It certainly went against the norm. Yet as painstaking as it was, building a community of creators who not only produce incredible work, but are highly dedicated and professional, has certainly paid off for us - and our clients.
I’d recommend the same to any marketer investing in influencer campaigns or content. Be picky. Don’t settle for an influencer just because they have the highest follower count. Set your sights on a collaborator who creates awesome content, has genuine passion for your brand and has a loyal audience of genuine followers. There are plenty of creators out there and it’s well worth the time invested in finding the right one.
Audiences recognise and appreciate an authentic partnership. They know good content and are not interested in mediocre. Nor should you be.
Only results matter
Influencer marketing is disruptive, so has as many critics as it does advocates. We realised early on that in order to set ourselves apart from its ‘wild west’ reputation, we needed to achieve results good enough to silence those critics. In focusing on getting our clients strong return on investment, we’ve attempted to show - not tell - the validity of our offering.
We say the same to clients now. Focus on sales metrics, not vanity metrics. If your objective is to sell more products, don’t be distracted by the number of followers an influencer has, or the number of likes you might get. Focus on your sales uplift and ROI. Reject the myth that the influencer marketing results can’t be measured.
We’re no stranger to a big audacious goal at Vamp. Local campaigns, with just a handful of Australian influencers in 2015, have grown into campaigns with global brands and creators across nine countries, reaching millions of customers, in 2020. We couldn’t have done it without thinking big - or developing our tech.
Our platform has been crucial in scaling Vamp. Now that it is self-serve, brands can use the same software to run big campaigns of their own. Over the years we’ve realised simple briefing forms, transparent pricing and tracking tools are essential parts of a smooth campaign process.
If brands are striving to extend their reach - and stand out in a more competitive social space - they need bigger and better campaigns. For that, they need purpose-built tech. No more tedious spreadsheets or one-on-one negotiations.
It’s true that in business that you never stop learning. Luckily, I’ve been surrounded by the best team to help me do exactly that (another area in which pickiness has paid off). I’m excited to see what the next five years has in store for us and the influencer marketing industry.