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September 22, 2021

Fashion Influencer Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

By: Peter Gregory

We’ve all heard fantastic things about influencer marketing, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? How does influencer marketing work, and is it right for your clothing brand? 

In this beginner’s guide to influencer marketing (in the clothing industry), we’ll show you what to expect when using social media stars to grow your business. 

We’ll share some examples of great influencer marketing campaigns, show you what can go wrong and help you decide if this is a strategy that can work for your label. 

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is all about promoting your brand with the help of bloggers and social media stars. It’s a sort of small-scale celebrity endorsement strategy that can help boost brand awareness, improve people’s understanding of a brand and increase a brand’s sales over time. 

Product Reviews

Most influencer marketing campaigns start with a simple product review. Product reviews are where you send free samples out to influential people in your niche and invite them to tell all their fans about how great your product is. For instance, if you are promoting a new ski jacket, you might approach a social media star or blogger who focuses on activewear and outdoor living. Just take a look at this ski jacket review on YouTube for an example:

Charitable Causes

Another great new form of influencer marketing is charitable causes. This is where celebrities team up with a brand to champion a cause. For instance Nicola Adams OBE recently teamed up with the Strong Roots food brand:

There are lots of different types of influencer marketing out there, so do some digging and see what fits your brand!

Does Influencer Marketing Work?

In theory, influencer marketing is a brilliant idea. For the cost of posting out a few free samples to influential people, you could potentially put your brand in front of thousands of new customers. Like all marketing strategies, however, there are no guarantees. You need to plan your influencer marketing strategy carefully, and work hard to ensure that your campaigns have a good chance of success.

Influencer marketing works best for brands that are trying to appeal to a very specific demographic. For instance, if you want to sell professional-grade gardening gloves, then an influencer marketing strategy that targets landscapers, farmers and horticulturalists could work for you.  You’ll probably be able to find a vlogger or social media star in one of those niches, and there’s a good chance that their fan base will match the interests and demographics of your ideal customer.  

Like all forms of marketing, influencer marketing works best when you’re promoting a product that is genuinely brilliant. If you send a clothing product to a blogger who has a reputation for truly independent, trustworthy reviews, that blogger needs to like what it is that you’re selling. Send out sub-par kit and you run the risk of a blogger telling thousands of their loyal fans not to buy from you.

Pitfalls of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has grown into its own mini-industry over the past few years. Today, there are thousands of specialist agencies, marketplace websites and social media stars who all make a living from this one specific type of promotion. 

Some of these companies are doing a great job, acting with integrity and making an honest living. Others are not. You have to tread carefully and make sure that the money and time you invest into influencer marketing has a fair chance of success. 

The most common reasons why influencer marketing campaigns fall flat include…

  • A bad fit. You need to pair up with an influencer who speaks directly to your target audience. If you sell heavy metal t-shirts, for instance, then a review on a mother & baby blog probably isn’t going to boost sales. Pair up with an influencer whose audience wants what you have. To do this, make sure that you have a firm grasp on your own brand, the niche you’re serving and what your customers want. If you’re still finding your brand’s voice, then it may be best to put influencer marketing on the back burner for a little while. 
  • A bad review. There’s always a risk that you get a negative review. Even if you make the most innovative and stylish garment the world has ever seen, not everyone is going to like it. Your influencer might simply not like the feel or the design and may give you less than five stars. You can’t cut the risk of bad reviews completely, but you can protect yourself by picking your influencer carefully. Read their past product reviews to find out what they do and don’t like. Make sure that they are going to be genuinely interested in what it is that you’re selling. 
  • Fake followers. Sometimes, an influencer looks like they have a massive number of followers, but in reality most of these followers are fake. The best way to protect yourself against this kind of behaviour is to look at the accounts of some of your influencer’s fan base. You’ll soon find out if their fan base is made up of real-life humans or spam accounts. Another good way to check that an influencer’s audience is real is to check their engagement (likes and comments). If a social media star tells you that they have lots of followers but everything they post is getting just one or two likes, then there’s probably something fishy going on.
  • No integrity. This is one of the most important things to watch out for. Influencer marketing only works when your brand is mentioned in an earnest, honest way. If the influencer’s fan base doesn’t trust their opinion, then you are wasting your money and time. An influencer might ask you to pay for a review, but they should never ask you to pay for a positive review. They also should be quite protective of their audience. If the blogger or social media star is willing to mention anything you’ve got to sell without first seeing it for themselves, then that’s a red flag. 

How to find good influencers

There are thousands of influencers out there, serving every topic and market niche imaginable. But how do you find the right ones, and how do you approach them?

First, you’ve got to pick the right platforms. Recent data from statistica.com revealed that almost all successful influencer marketing takes place on either Instagram, YouTube or TikTok (source). It’s interesting to see how Facebook doesn’t feature on this list. 

You then need to find influencers, on that channel, who post about topics that line up nicely with your brand. If you’re selling environmentally-friendly jeans, for instance, you might want to search Instagram for hashtags like #greendenim.

When approaching influencers about your latest design, try to remember that they are consumers first. Treat them as if they’re a person that you’re selling clothes to, rather than a supplier that you’re trying to buy an audience from. Be polite, patient and friendly. Show that you’re genuinely interested in their channel and explain how and why you think your brand is worth talking about. 

Finally, make sure you speak to more than one influencer at a time. You should aim to make contact with lots of different influencers if you want to make a splash. Every blogger and YouTube star has their own audience, and you want to put your clothing in front of as many of these people as possible, so stick with it and try to get one or two mentions every month! 

Should you pay your influencer?

A social media star may ask you for money. You need to tread carefully here. For starters, all of your promotional activity should be above board. You should never be asked to pay a ‘bribe’ for a good review. At the same time, a busy popular blogger may feel that it’s perfectly reasonable to charge you for the time they’ll spend reviewing your product. 

There are legal standards that  you have to meet whenever you pay an influencer. As a minimum, every paid promotion should be clearly labelled as such. The influencer should also have full editorial control over what they say about your brand. The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have a great explainer on their website (download it here).

If you have any ideas or observations about influencer marketing, please get in touch with us. This is still a new and exciting area. Things change all the time, and we’re always happy to share the latest knowledge with our customers. 

Thanks for reading!  

Pete

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