As a Canadian social media agency serving Vancouver brands and businesses, we know that influencer marketing can be a highly effective tactic. But if influencer campaigns were easy, everyone would do them. And we know that’s not the case. Here’s why.

Warning Labels | Creative | Hazards | Briefs | Influencers | Types

Influencer marketing can be a highly effective tactic for targeting 18-35 year old Canadians.

Influencer campaigns can be a highly effective tactic.

If you are a BC brand or organization seeking access to local Vancouver and Canadian audiences, look no further.

Getting access to one or more local influencers gives you access to a potentially great platform for your messaging.

We say “potentially” because when it comes to influencer campaigns there are things that those new to influencer campaigns need to consider. This is the reason for this guide.

Some very clever US brands launch campaigns in BC and Western Canada because there is a natural “spill” into the US. This can vastly reduce the cost of the campaign.

Read this guide. Then contact us to get started with your next Vancouver influencer marketing campaign.

Influencer Campaign Planning

Influencer marketing campaigns often require several different creative formats.

From the time you start looking for an influencer to the time the campaign launches there is a lot of planning required to ensure the campaign is the best it can be.

Eight weeks should be enough time to plan the shots, write the scripts and make sure all your different formats are covered. Sometimes you have to shoot different scenes for different formats.

For example, Instagram has a full-screen vertical format that looks incredible for Stories but if you are trying to adapt that format for instagram’s square “in-feed” format, you could have a major problem.

Do not overlook the most important component: The influencer’s audience. Prepping the audience can take weeks but can make or break any campaign. Make sure the audience knows the campaign is coming and what you expect them to do when it arrives.

Creative production is a key success factor

Influencer campaign quality is all over the map. One influencer will do a great job while another will simply hold up the phone like a selfie and record the entire scene in one take. Typically, influencers will be good at producing only one type of channel (ie Instagram only or Twitter only).

The quality of creative production is a major success factor with social media campaigns.

This is an important consideration if you are hiring an influencer for an Instagram campaign but they shoot their videos in widescreen (YouTube) format, you’ll want to know this ahead of time. You don’t want to launch an Instagram campaign that makes people turn their phones sideways. Or the video shows up in a little box in the centre of the phone. It happens all the time. And it shouldn’t.

Some influencers are holdovers from a YouTube era, which is now fading.

Some influencers spent years building huge audiences. But with TikTok engaging so many young users, Instagram and YouTube are paying the price. (TikTok may soon be banned in the US).

One way to check if your influencer is right for the social network you are selecting is to go to the platform you are using and look at their actual creative output. Ignore the number of followers; this can be misleading. Just because someone has 20,000 followers doesn’t mean they know how to produce an Instagram Stories Campaign or an IGTV video. If your influencer shoots in widescreen instead of vertical format, find another influencer.

There are a range of issues that relate to producing campaigns for Instagram Stories versus in-feed versus Live and IGTV, but we’ll get to that in a minute. This is another way of saying that influencer campaigns can be technically very challenging.

Influencer Marketing Campaign schedule for a 2021 US trade mission to Canada.
Influencer Marketing Campaign schedule for a 2021 US trade mission to Canada.

Three hazards of influencer marketing campaigns

Technical challenges are not the only hazard you need to consider. There are others, and none of them have anything to do with social media:
1. Hiring the right influencer
2. Expectations management
3. Managing the project to completion

We’ll unpack the specific issues of each hazard in detail.

Caveat Influencer

Hiring the right influencer is not easy. Finding one that seems to be a good fit is just the beginning of the process. Executing a campaign is often very difficult, even with contracts in place. Even a contract can’t keep an influencer from leaving things to the last minute. If you don’t have a lot of minutes to begin with, this can be especially problematic.

In the US, influencer marketing has been around for some time but in Vancouver the influencer marketing ecosystem is fairly nascent. Outside of certain popular sectors (food, travel), you may have a hard time finding a good influencer. Or worse yet, the influencer says they are a specialist in your category (let’s say food), but in reality they know food like you or I “know” food.

What they know is they have a lot of followers and can monetize them using “food” as a keyword. When it comes time you want to be sure they also have sufficient creative capabilities and insights with food. Again, if you find out too late in the process that they do not, there is not much you can do about it. You might also encounter problems with availability because they have another full-time job or response times. Response time is a huge factor. How long does it take the influencer to respond to e-mails or phone calls?

In our experience, finding the right influencer can take weeks. Contracts take at least a week. We use specialized contracts to ensure that everyone understands their roles, responsibilities, and delivery dates.

Adding a paid component to an organic influencer campaign

Depending on the type of Canadian influencer campaign you are executing (local vs. national, awareness vs. call-to-action), you may want to hire more than one influencer. Use more influencers to extend the campaign’s “Reach” and engagement to achieve objectives.

The “reach” of an influencer is the number of people that see the campaign. This is one of the most important metric for media buyers, but other metrics such as engagement levels (comments, likes) and number of views may be more important than reach. Is it better to have smaller reach but a highly engaged audience who comments hundreds of times on a post? Maybe.

It is wise to know what you want to achieve before you hire the influencer. If you are simply looking for big reach numbers, you may find it is much less expensive to buy the audience from Instagram.

This approach of adding a “paid audience” component is something we always recommend, especially if the influencer’s reach or engagement levels are not up to speed. A CPM calculation can tell you how much to allocate between organic and paid reach.

CPM calculation: divide the influencer’s audience size by the budget. An influencer with 20,000 followers with a $2,000 budget has a CPM of $100, which is very expensive. You can buy the audience from Instagram for much less.

You want to make sure that your campaign is delivering at least a minimum amount of views within a certain window, and adding additional influencers or a paid component can ensure that you are happy with the final results.

The Influencer Marketing Project Brief

Influencer marketing campaigns can be victims of uncertainty and unknowns. If you haven’t worked with the influencer before, a lot of the unknowns are a direct result of working with a new team.

Tight deadlines can exacerbate the dynamic, especially if the creative execution has not been clearly defined. With all three of these factors in play, the best way to reduce the uncertainty is through a written project brief.

Influencer Marketing Project Brief by Sky Alphabet Social media

A project brief articulates the key messages, the platforms used to deliver the messages, the ad and organic post formats, the production timeline, the approval process, and the contact information of all the working group. Our project briefs can run up to ten pages in length. The most important page is the production schedule. This is the first thing we cover when we host the project’s “kickoff” call.

When we know the exact timing of the campaign launch (sometimes the launch date is a moving target), we can reverse engineer what happens leading up to the launch.

There are a number of resources that impact a project’s budget and timing:

  • Do we need extra rental equipment?
  • Permits?
  • Licenses or insurance?
  • How big of a crew and how many locations will we be shooting at?
  • How much video editing and graphics time do we need?

Some of these things take time to obtain.

influencer campaigns almost always include capturing original images or video with audio.Include extra time for approvals, edits, and changes. There’s a lot that can — and probably will — go wrong.

Influencer Marketing Can Be an Attractive Alternative to Paid Ads

Social media platforms make money by charging brands to show content to audiences. This wasn’t always the case. At some point Facebook realized that its billion of users would pay to have their posts “boosted.” This exploded into a massive business. In the last three months, Facebook generated $17.4 Billion dollars from advertising revenue. Can you believe that? That gives Facebook 17 billion reasons to keep their money machine rolling through paid advertising.

This focus on paid social ads is the number one reason why brands are seeking out influencers to support their campaigns. Not only can influencers engage audiences in ways that are not possible with paid ads, but if you can find the right influencer and navigate your way to executing a successful campaign, you stand to reap the benefits that are only possible with social media campaigns. If done correctly, influencer marketing can be a win-win for everybody, including the consumer.

Influencer Marketing is Harder Than it Looks

What a lot people don’t know is that pulling off a successful influencer marketing campaign is a lot trickier than it appears. We’ll cover all the areas that every first-timer needs to know before taking the plunge and handing a campaign – and your brand – over to an influencer.

There are several things you need to consider:
1. Selection and vetting
2. Contracts and terms of engagement
3. Timelines and penalties
4. Creative and control
5. Execution of the approved campaign posts
6. In-app response policies, including trolls and negative comments

Our influencer marketing contract covers each of these six areas which have their own characteristics.

Influencer Apps

The meteoric rise of influencers as a marketing tool has given birth to a slew of “influencer apps.” These apps are available in the App Store or Google Play and promise access to influencers across different social platforms and industry categories. Beware of these apps! Many of them charge high fees for the privilege of searching an out-of-date database of low-performing people who are not particularly active in Vancouver, and certainly not active in your local market such as Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto. In our experience, the only way you can authenticate an influencer is to contact them on the platform you are looking to use for your campaign (i.e. Instagram).

It is important to contact influencers on the same platform you want to run your campaign because this gives you an important first clue about how responsive they are. If they don’t get back to you right away, chances are they don’t respond to their audience right away, either. Response times are a critical factor, because pulling off an influencer campaign with a total stranger in under a month is difficult.

It is not uncommon for us to reach out to a large group of Canadian influencers and to continue to receive replies three weeks after we made our initial enquiry. This kind of response time is a non-starter and is the primary reason why our cutoff period is 24 hours. If an influencer takes longer than one day to get back to us, they are cut from consideration.

Types of Influencers

As a social media agency, we interact with influencers all the time. Most of them fit into one of four categories. Some of these categories can be combined to create custom blends. These categories become important because many Canadian influencers aren’t full time influencers; they have other full-time jobs. This puts your campaign at risk.

1. Rockstars. These are a rare type. They are organized, easy to work with and professional. They get back to you right away. When they push back it’s for good reason.

2. Divas. The opposite of the rockstar, the diva puts their personal brand ahead of yours. If you don’t have as many followers as them, they don’t think your ideas are important. Divas believe you exist to help them grow their brands. Divas can hide their personalities until they land the job, making them especially dangerous.

3. Posers. The poser has a lot of followers but that’s about it. They don’t engage with their audience and as a result a typical post will have a low number of likes and comments. Posers won’t respond to direct messages and they do not care enough to post legally required language such as “this is a sponsored post.”

4. Amateurs. Working with an amateur can be a huge success or a huge disaster. For this reason you would be wise to have a Plan B in the event things go off the rails. The amateur is tough to spot because they have lots of followers and are extremely pleasant and agreeable – but only before the contracts are signed. With many amateurs, once the hard work begins they want to do everything tomorrow, or next week. Working with an amateur can be a great experience, but be sure to set the rules before you sign contracts and stick to them. Make sure they understand all aspects of the assignment and what they are expected to do. We use our agency contract to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Sky Alphabet social media excels at influencer campaigns because we provide first rate production of highly creative ideas.

You don’t meet rockstars very often and amateurs can be nice until timelines slip. Divas and posers? Run!

Influencer Marketing Requires Discipline

All four types of influencers emphasize the need for a disciplined approach to influencer marketing. Formal contracts are crucial. Some of them will not sign contracts. Others won’t honour them. Regular project briefs and updates are also important. Don’t expect all influencers to adhere to your process – they often won’t.

Social agencies are equipped to manage Influencer marketing campaigns. You’ll get the most out of the Influencer – and your campaign – by using a social agency.

@itsjosheats is one of the hardest working influencers in BC.
@itsjosheats is one of the hardest working influencers in BC.

Types of Instagram Influencer Marketing Campaigns

There are three types of Instagram influencer marketing campaigns: Stories, In-feed and IGTV. There is also a “live” option, but we won’t cover that option here. Each of the three campaign types has distinct creative options. For best results, combine all three.

1. Instagram Stories Campaigns. This is the most popular format because it is full screen, has lots of cool interactive features (polls, countdown clocks, DMs, GIFs, stickers, sliders) and is full screen. We mention that it is full screen twice because this is such a beautiful feature, especially on larger phones. Instagram will show the Influencer’s story to their audience for 24 hours, after which time it will disappear

Stories are fifteen seconds in length and are vertical (not widescreen like a television, but tall). Stories that use video not captured from a phone can cause problems. Don’t hire a videographer who shoots with a traditional camera (4:3 or 16:9). It won’t work out. Instagram is a mobile-only platform (you can’t post to Instagram using a computer) so the vertical format is actually a feature, not a bug.

For some creators, Instagram Stories is a true art form, and many influencers know how to create exceptional experiences. We compare Instagram Stories to the modern version of a TV ad, with the exception being Instagram knows exactly who is watching. You can (and should) place an ad buy with Instagram if you plan to run an organic campaign with an influencer who has less than 5k followers. Pro tip: consider bundling your media buy with Snapchat, which is 1/4 of the price. We’re not sold on TikTok because the audience is so young and we don’t trust TokTok’s metrics. One billion views in a week? Come on.

Instagram Stories has a slew of cool features that can keep audeiences hanging around.

2. Instagram In-Feed. When people think about Instagram they imagine perfect square after perfect square of carefully shot pictures accompanied by well-written captions that include lots of hashtags. Unlike Stories, in-feed posts don’t disappear after 24 hours, so they are a very good way to go, especially if you want to promote a future launch date or tease an upcoming campaign.

For example, if you have a Stories/In-Feed/IGTV campaign and you intend to launch it in one month, we would recommend that you plan several in-feed posts and some interactive Stories in the days leading up to the launch. Of particular interest is the countdown clock which people can interact with. You can convert Stories to In-Feed posts by composing the Story just the way you want it, and then clicking download.

In-Feed posts come in two formats: a single image which can be square (1×1), or rectangular (9:16) or up to 10 images stitched together in a carousel. Some in-feed campaigns are also “shoppable” which means if you register your inventory with Instagram people can click to buy from a landing page. It takes some legwork to accomplish this, so leave yourself enough time.

3. Instagram TV. Instagram debuted Instagram TV two years ago. Since then, it hasn’t exactly caught on, but it is a great campaign add-on because you can post full-screen videos up to an hour long. As with all Instagram campaigns, we recommend shooting in vertical format (tall) so that your video is 1080 pixels wide by1920 pixels high. IGTV is nice because the videos appear in a separate feed and do not disappear.

Influencer Marketing Campaign Planning

A lot of influencers aren’t full-time influencers, so make sure you agree on what you expect from them.

The dozen “essential elements” of great influencer marketing campaigns

Follow each of these and even the most amateur influencer will have a good shot of becoming a rockstar:

1. Creative process

who is responsible for making sure the campaign is accomplishing the stated communication goals? Who will write the key messages? How much leeway does the influencer have to change them? Who decides what visuals? Is there a process to reach an agreement? Does the influencer just get to “wing it” or are the formal expectations in terms of what ultimately ends up happening with the campaign creative?

2. Messaging

Instagram has a few different messaging types. We break them into “embedded” and “post” messaging. Embedded messaging appears within the creative, either as a graphic or as audio or an image. Post messaging is the text that appears near or adjacent to the creative. Instagram Stories and IGTV do not offer the ability to include text in a separate field as is the case with the in-feed format; it is all embedded. You can add location information, tags and other content through “stickers.” For this reason, you may have to design graphics so that your desired or approved messaging can be delivered within the context of these two video formats.

3. Approvals

Once something is signed off, typically it cannot be changed except with authorization. Is that the case or is there a different sign-off procedure? How much time does the client have to approve something?

4. Production schedule

It is critical to identify the key dates ahead of time and to stick to them. If there is a firm launch date for the campaign, things can quickly go pear-shaped if an early deliverable date is not met. In this case, what happens? Do you go to plan B? Is there a plan B?

5. Hashtags

What hashtags should be used? When should they appear (ie in Stories, in-feed and IGTV?) Should they be applied with stickers or is the caption copy sufficient?

6. @partners to tag

Are there other Instagram accounts that need to be tagged? How is this handled with each of the three formats?

7. Legal disclosure

Influencer marketing campaigns are subject to scrutiny by the FTC. They won’t make Facebook vet political ads for truth, but they will come after you if you haven’t disclosed that you were given a year’s supply of free pizza. The fines are steep so make sure you stipulate exactly what language needs to be used for each of the three formats. The requirements are very strict: the user should be able to see the disclosure without scrolling or zooming.

8. Creative review process

Creativity is at the heart of social media campaigns which makes influencer campaigns that much more difficult than standard pay-for-play campaigns. Because there are often multiple parties involved at once (the influencer, the end client, the end client’s partners, and the agency), it is very important to define who talks to who about what. In general, clients like to have direct access to the influencer but don’t want to deal with the usual gripes (can we have more money and more time). On the other hand, the Influencer often doesn’t want the agency telling it what to do. What gets squeezed in all of this is the creative, so it is important to manage this process up front and can be difficult after the influencer has made contact with the client.

9. Posting dates and times

What is the exact timing of the post or posts? Where is the post to appear (i.e. what is the name of the account)? And in what channels: In-Feed, Stories, or IGTV? What happens if the posts aren’t posted on time?

10. Creative requirements

Be specific about the use of video, still images, audio and logos. On its own, Instagram is not capable of sophisticated video edits, so “post-production” may be required. For example, let’s say the client wants an Instagram Stories post to show a bunch of logos. The logos are to appear in succession, one after the next. This is a job for post-production because you will not be able to time out the logos using the Instagram app. Talk to us if you require anything that is beyond the basics (animation, sound, special effects).

11. Metrics

What metrics will the influencer provide? Will they report on views, likes, comments, and reach? What software do they use (if any) to measure the campaign’s performance? Many influencers do not use software to track metrics such as reach. This is the metric most used by media buyers, so it is a good idea to understand if the Influencer will be using Instagram’s built-in metrics (which are pretty limited) or something else.

12. Rules of engagement

Be specific about the use of video, still images, audio and logos. On its own, Instagram is not capable of sophisticated video edits, so “post-production” may be required. For example, let’s say the client wants an Instagram Stories post to show a bunch of logos. The logos are to appear in succession, one after the next. This is a job for post-production because you will not be able to time out the logos using the Instagram app. Talk to us if you require anything that is beyond the basics (animation, sound, special effects).

Successful influencer campaigns require a lot of planning. Covering off these elements will give everyone a solid understanding of who’s expected to do what and when. It is the agency’s job to keep track of the moving parts and to make sure things are being delivered on time and on budget. This introduces another concept we won’t cover here: who is at fault if the campaign fails to execute properly because the influencer didn’t deliver?

It happens all the time. You should assume this will happen rather than assume that everything will go to plan.

Legal Requirements of Influencer Marketing Campaigns

US law governs influencer marketing campaigns. If you use Instagram, you are bound by this law.

This is one very good reason to pay for your audience, because from a legal standpoint you can say you paid Instagram to target your campaign at a specific geographic area. If you go the traditional route, realize that influencer campaigns are built on organic reach because the audience lives all over the place.

The influencer marketing laws came into effect because too many celebrities were pushing products to millions of people who didn’t know they were getting paid to push things that failed to deliver whatever it was the product was supposed to deliver.

According to the law, your influencer marketing campaign must:

  1. Be clear about your connection to the business, product or service you are promoting
  2. Be upfront and don’t bury the disclosure
  3. Make sure the disclosures are visible without clicking or scrolling

Failing to comply with the law could be a ticking time bomb because the authorities can come after you at any point in the future and who needs that stress? Nobody really cares if it is a sponsored post or not, so the more obvious and proud you are of the someone has paid you to run a campaign, the sooner you can accept the fact you can’t use #ad or #spons as the disclosure.

Influencer Marketing Campaign Strategy

Marketers use influencers for one primary reason: they provide easy access to niche audiences. Steak eaters, vegans, Do-it-yourselfers, fitness fanatics, young mothers, hustlers, the list goes on. The right influencer can put your brand squarely in the frame with an audience you could spend years and many dollars on, so for many brands an influencer marketing strategy is a great place to start building an audience list. For this reason, we advise that you have your analytics in place before kicking off any campaign. These analytics are available from Facebook, and consist of a few lines of code you put on your website. If you need help with placing our analytics or building your audience, email us.

The strategy you choose to execute will depend on the answers to three questions:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. Is your campaign local or national?
  3. What are your campaign goals? To sell products? Get signups? Build brand awareness?

Once you have answered these questions you will be in a good position to write a short brief that influencers should read. We recommend sending a direct message with a link to the brief so the influencers can visit your website and respond as they wish. We host such “brief pages” on our agency website, and remove them after the contract has been awarded to the winning influencer.

This is a good way of maintaining contact with the influencers and building good relationships. Sometimes they will help you with your campaign if you are respectful. Paying the influencer a small fee is also recommended, because some influencers will have ideas and you will want to compensate them for those ideas.

Final thoughts on influencer marketing in Vancouver

There are many attractive opportunities for brands looking to tap into networks of influencers found in local communities on social networks within Vancouver, BC. To deliver your next influencer campaign on time and on budget, consider using an agency such as Sky Alphabet.

Are you an influencer? Send an e-mail here to join our roster.