Last year, Joe Gagliese, co-founder of the popular influencer agency Viral Nation, sat down for an interview with Vox. In the interview, Gagliese talks at length about the makings of a successful influencer career as well as a marketing campaign that converts, and there is useful information to be gleaned from his experience. Influencer marketing isn’t as simple as it may appear from the outside looking in. Gagliese can attest to this, as he’s seen campaigns go terribly wrong and has also learned over time that launching a successful collaboration takes a lot of creativity and hard work.
Viral Nation prefers to work with influencers rather than brands. This means that Gagliese has put much of the focus on building relationships with established influencers with proven results, not simply peddling content out on behalf of brands. For Gagliese, this creates a more suitable environment for long-term relationships.
We combed through the interview with Gagliese to pull out some main lessons that any digital marketer can take away and add to their toolbox.
Micro- and Nano-Influencers Have Power, Too
Many brands and users who don’t know much about viral marketing may be quick to write off an influencer with a smaller (under 50,000 followers) following. However, Gagliese cautions, this can often be a preemptive and unfounded worry.
“We actually believe influencers are more impactful than athletes and TV stars because they are more relatable and so their audience is more tapped in,” Gagliese commented in the interview. This goes for the smaller influencer, too, who can also command a few thousand dollars for a post. Micro-influencers are often perfect fits for niche industries or for specific target demographics, and these types of influencers often are able to show higher quality engagement numbers than their massive counterparts.
Quality Engagement Matters
Viral Nation won’t work with influencers who have purchased their followers. Gagliese says this is easy to spot — often, fake followers may engage in a post but will only do so in emojis rather than genuine comments. These types of red flags can signal that an influencer may not have a great performance in terms of conversions or traffic.
Another common pitfall of a poorly done influencer post is the quality of interaction that the post encourages. An influencer who simply posts a pretty picture but fails to put any sort of engaging content in the caption about the product may miss an opportunity to really educate their followers about the product they’re promoting. While every brand’s metrics may be a little different, failure to create content that sparks authentic conversation can be considered a miss in many cases.
Becoming an Influencer is a Full-Time Job
Gagliese is the first to admit that much of the standards in the influencer industry have to do with privilege and beauty. While he also says that there is change to be seen — body positivity is one example he uses — the industry does rely a lot on the aspirational look and feel of an influencer. However, he reminds us, the idea behind influencer marketing is the fact that influencers are more relatable than a celebrity. And while the ranks of top influencers more closely resemble a modern-day celebrity, the idea of achieving a level of authenticity that a traditional endorsement may not accomplish is still the end goal.
Influencer marketing continues to devour a large share of today’s digital marketing environment, but it’s a more intricate splice of the industry than may first meet the eye. Diving into the experience of industry thought leaders such as Galiese can help illuminate a path forward for brands looking to take a piece of the influencer pie.