In this new interview series, Starcount speaks to business leaders, entrepreneurs and pioneers across industries about their greatest successes, hard-learned lessons and visions for the future of data science and beyond.
Starting off in the cosmetics industry as a brand manager for names including Paul Mitchell and Bourjois Paris, Hayley began blogging about all things beauty from an insider’s perspective back in 2010. Her unique tone of voice and outlook enabled her to find her place in the blogging world, being nominated for a Cosmopolitan Blog Award within four months of launching.
Over the last seven years she’s won many awards, been featured in numerous publications, worked with hundreds of brands and even set up her own blogger network that champions women over a certain age: THIRTY PLUS.
Having worked within digital media alongside running her blog at Saatchi & Saatchi, Hayley’s understanding of the social media and online landscape is vast. She now works as a brand consultant, public speaker and industry expert.
What makes influencer marketing so powerful?
As a society I believe we’re fed up of big powerful voices owning the conversation; we’re moving away from big name brands to more independent ones and seeking out new and interesting ways of connecting with each other. Influencers have fitted perfectly into this environment by offering personal insight, the ability to feel relatable and non-biased opinions on their latest purchases. Consumers respond to influencers because they feel like they know them and they trust what they have to say. Harnessing this provides an exceptional opportunity for any brand.
What are the ingredients to a successful brand/ influencer collaboration?
It has to be authentic and the influencer has to have the power to determine how the collaboration is executed. Audiences are increasingly savvy; they’ll call out those they think are doing it for the money alone. A powerful campaign should feel natural, use the influencer’s own tone of voice, cross multiple platforms and be long-term – not just a one off piece of activity. Most importantly, brands should never chase numbers or a certain ‘look’, but instead fit their brand with the right platforms to reach an audience that’s relevant to them.
On your website you lay down very clear rules for brand partnerships. What are the most common mistakes brands make when working with influencers?
The number one mistake is believing an influencer owes you anything. Influencers are now their own media outlets, so should be treated with the same respect and consideration as a journalist – and that does involve payment in some instances. Additionally, it’s the lack of story or reason to try a product that’s so often a mistake. What seems great to you, may actually be pretty boring to anyone outside of the boardroom. It’s essential to position a product or story to make it irresistible; know your audience.
There’s an increasing spotlight being put on influencers who buy fake followers and use bots to appear popular. How do brands avoid getting caught out?
It’s increasingly difficult, especially as the algorithm is constantly changing and the platform is now filled with so many spam accounts – it’s impossible for anyone to 100% identify rogue activity, so you just have to take an educated guess. Are they jumping up by thousands of followers every month with no explanation? Is their engagement lower than you’d expect? Are the comments all emojis or one word replies? One of the biggest indicators is actually views, as these will always be a lot higher than likes; if they’re not, or the number isn’t comparable to their follower number, it’s likely something dodgy is going on.
More and more people are talking about the importance of a ‘personal brand’. Do you believe that all influencers are essentially brands themselves?
The good ones are, that’s for sure! A personal brand is how you can stand out or ensure you’re doing something a bit different – it can be anything from your photography style to your tone of voice. With so many of us now it’s essential for everyone to have some kind of USP or face fading into the background. For me, it’s always been a no-BS approach to beauty; increasingly though I’m all about showing off fashion on a S16 body and celebrating being in my mid-thirties. Although that shouldn’t be out of the norm, in the world of blogging it is.
What drove you to found the 30 Plus Bloggers Network?
I was increasingly frustrated at brands using 23-year-olds to sell anti-ageing cream. I saw a Lancôme advert that celebrated ‘women of all ages’ but the diversity went as far as four white women aged between 26 and 43. As someone in her 30s, I felt like I was alone and that the bloggersphere was a place I was finding hard to connect to, even though I was one of the first in the UK. After talking about it with other bloggers it was clear there needed to be a way to connect with each other, educate brands and celebrate the ageing bloggersphere.
What’s the most effective way for brands to monitor the success of influencer marketing and partnerships?
It has to be long-term; asking for immediate stats or results just won’t generate what you want. Any campaign should be part of a longer term awareness project, so looking at sentiment and conversion over a longer period of time is a far better indicator. It’s also important to realise people tend to read multiple blogs, so often the success of an overall campaign is what’s important rather than an individual site.
What changes do you see occurring in the influencer scene over the next five years?
It’s always hard to predict, but I definitely see a change towards more integrated activity and relevancy across the board; paying for one Instagram post won’t deliver great results in the long term! I predict some kind of governing body or association that looks after our interests and champions bloggers in a wider context, but also an increase in the prevalence of older and more diverse bloggers. It’s always exciting to see new faces, but what we need are older / darker / bigger / less abled faces too.
Video is a huge trend amongst brands. Do you see video as being any more popular with your audience than written content?
No, and to be honest I find it frustrating that video is such a huge focus when it’s actually predominately the younger generation that’s consuming it. Anyone over 30 is generally reading content – not watching it. We grew up with magazines and love to digest words when we have the time to do so, so trying to reach an older consumer via video isn’t always the best idea. I’ve dabbled in video, but it’s not for me – or my audience.
What’s the one piece of data or insight that’s most changed your opinion or perspective?
‘60% of consumers now consult blogs, vlogs or social media before making a purchase’. It made me realise that we’ve not only revolutionised the way brands can connect with consumers and how we now discover or share information, but as influencers we’re now actually changing the way people shop. They’re standing in the aisles of Boots and googling for blog reviews before they had over their money. If that doesn’t prove the impact these individuals are having then I don’t know what does!