What do Publisher Influencer Networks Mean for Marketers?

Clare Dyckhoff

Gone are the days when all it took for brands to convince consumers of their credibility was to tell them: “We’re caring, we’re ethical and our new range is excellent!”. “We don’t believe you” whispered the consumer.

With research from Nielson finding 92% people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands, marketers and brands have to find new ways to reach their desired audiences.

And here comes the influencer…with a sharp eye for content and an ever growing, loyal fan base, 2017 has already been claimed to be ‘the year of the influencer’. So much so it was recently reported that Cosmopolitan magazine has created their own influencer network to bring influencers and brands together on a variety of campaigns.
If this new approach is adopted by numerous publishers, the spotlight on brands and marketers to find and secure influencers themselves to inspire new audiences is going to shine brighter than ever.

The different sides to publishers and influencers

While this initiative is an interesting prospect, the reported relationship between influencers and publishers is volatile.

US Vogue came under fire last year when Sally Singer, Creative Digital Director claimed that digital influencers were “heralding the death of style”. Fast forward a few months however and MAC enlisted ten beauty bloggers and experts from around the world to create their own shade of lipstick for a new collection and Rimmel teamed up with 12 beauty influencers for a new YouTube road-trip series – signalling a less than ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to working with influencers.

But what does the new Cosmopolitan network aim to do? For Duncan Chater, Chief Revenue Officer of Hearst Magazines UK, it “allows clients the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with Cosmopolitan and our pool of influencers to generate bespoke content to help engage the women they want to reach.”
The first campaign, which works with River Island on their latest denim campaign, launching in February, allows River Island to gain access to both the influencers’ combined reach of 265,000 followers and Cosmopolitan’s audience of millions, across a variety of platforms.

The campaign will involve the influencers sharing a post on each of their social feeds and Cosmopolitan will style them with River Island’s denim collection for a double-page advertorial in their March issue. The influencers will also feature on three co-branded videos which will be shared on Cosmo’s Snapchat Discover platform. In this one campaign, the gap between publication, social channels and social publication has been bridged. And despite the current influencers being beauty, fashion and lifestyle focused, Cosmopolitan are keen to grow their network further to other verticals such as music, art and entertainment.

What the publishers know

The key to all content, be it brand, influencer or user generated is good storytelling. And it’s the role of the publisher and publications to know what type of content resonates best with their audience.

On the other side, agency teams working on influencer campaigns are responsible for finding a line between allowing creative freedom and ensuring the content is still aligned with the clients’ branding. Allowing the influencer to create content they know is authentic to them and will suit their followers and ensuring the client is happy with the brand message is of paramount importance.

As native and branded content online attempts to be as unobtrusive as possible, the loyalty and trust readers have in their publication of choice makes them more likely to trust their editorial jurisdiction when it comes to relevant content created by influencers or native.

Who has creative control?

Publications aren’t the only ones who know the preference of their audience. Through trial, error and lots of activity, influencers are well-acquainted with what resonates with their following and equally, what doesn’t. This forms the basis of their own personal branding strategy, established before any brands even began to approach them.

In the case of lifestyle bloggers like Hannah Gale, a former digital journalist before she started blogging full-time, influencers are writers, journalists, social media consultants and even SEO professionals in their own right, before any attachment of ‘influencer, blogger’ and ‘vlogger’ had been solidified. For this reason, brands should be brave when it comes to working with influencers – moving towards more of a content partnership than a regimented ‘we want you to do this and only this’ briefing process.

What does this mean for marketers?

With talent representatives, emerging influencer tools and now publication networks looking to combine the worlds of influencer and brands for clients, the influencer landscape will continue to change for everyone.

The relationships we have with the bloggers and influencers will need to be stronger, KPIs will need to be tighter up-front and evaluated metrics will need to be smarter. Performance metrics may be engagement and reach for more awareness-focused campaigns such as River Island’s, but remembering relevance, quality and any additional SEO value from any influencer campaigns should always be a strong consideration.

In her piece for Forbes, Deborah Weinswig describes the symbiotic nature of the relationship between brand and influencer; “as they help each other to grow and refine their branding.” In the fickle world of influencer marketing based on trust and relevance, all marketers working with influencers need to be adaptable, whether they’re working in an agency, in-house at a brand, or at a publication.

Because with the economy of trust comes fluidity. What an audience finds interesting today might not be the case in a week’s time, so marketers in all disciplines, regardless of infrastructure, will be required to be creative, communicative and versatile.