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How Influencer Marketing is Reshaping Retail with Paige Garrett

Bigeye’s forthcoming national study reveals that among those who follow infuencers, 9-in-10 purchase a product after seeing it used or recommended by an influencer. Paige Garrett, Assistant Vice President at RVD Communications in New York, explains how influencer marketing is reshaping retail and why it redefines the shopper’s path to purchase. Paige also shares which tactics yield the most positive ROI and predicts where influencer marketing is headed in the coming years. 

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

​​Paige Garrett: The fluff content is gone. Influencers are really doubling down on brands that give back or initiatives that, you know, they align with personally. They’re saying no to deals with brands that they don’t admire who aren’t doing well by society.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Alongside the growth of social media over the past decade, influencer marketing has gained popularity with audiences and brands. Direct-to-consumer brands were among the first to use influencers to drive sales, particularly among new customers. A survey conducted by Inmar and Social Media Today recently found that four in every five respondents had made a purchase based on an influencer’s recommendation. And that over two-thirds of them had spent $150 or more. Influencers have loyal followings across several social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and most recently TikTok, creating new opportunities for brands to appear in paid and earned campaigns that leverage influencers’ connections with their followers. Today’s guest is an expert in influencer marketing. Paige Garrett is the assistant vice president of marketing at RVD communications, based in New York City. She has over seven years of marketing experience across various industries, including fashion, fitness, hospitality, and lifestyle. Having worked at companies like Shopbop, an Amazon subsidiary, Obé Fitness, and more. In her spare time, Paige is a fitness trainer and integrative health coach. To discuss all things influencer marketing, Paige is joining us today from Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. Paige, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Paige Garrett: Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us about RVD and the kinds of clients you serve?

Paige Garrett: Yes, absolutely. So RVD is a progressive PR, social media, and brand-building agency. We’re based in New York City and work across the hospitality and lifestyle industry. So we’re working primarily with bars and restaurants in the New York area, but also across the country, as well as some bigger national lifestyle brands. We also have a really strong women’s health vertical, so working with a lot of leaders in that space as well. And in terms of our, you know, core capabilities, I would say editorial PR is actually our bread and butter. So that’s where, as an agency, we got our start, that said, we understand, of course, that PR and sort of no marketing channel happens in a vacuum, so over the past few years, we’ve expanded our capabilities and services to include other marketing verticals as well. So social media management, email marketing, and then, of course, influencer marketing, which we’re here to chat about today.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, you’re the assistant vice president of marketing at RVD. What does your role entail?

Paige Garrett: I oversee our influencer marketing division, which is actually our fastest-growing division, which is really exciting. I also help oversee email marketing, I worked very closely with the social media management team and our publicists of course because for a lot of our clients, we’re working on the same projects, just on different channels. And I also help oversee new business with our founder, Rachel Van Dolson. So putting together proposals and strategies for potential clients based on their needs or what they’re looking for, which is also a lot of fun.

Adrian Tennant: RVD has clients in the lifestyle, health, and hospitality industries. Are these verticals especially well-suited to influencer marketing?

Paige Garrett: Yes, absolutely. So I would say, really any industry at this stage, is fitting for influencer marketing, but where we sit across lifestyle, health, and hospitality, there’s so much opportunity because there are so many influencers who are leaning into, more of just that like snapshot into their everyday life. So I think that those industries and categories, in particular, touch every one of us at some stage in our day. So it’s a lot of fun putting together strategies and, you know, specific campaigns for our clients within those industries, but, definitely a lot of room across any industry for influencer marketing.

Adrian Tennant: Is that true of business-to-business brands, as well as business-to-consumer brands?

Paige Garrett: I do think that there are still a lot of opportunities because from a B2B perspective, the people who you’re still operating with, a lot of them are also still on Instagram or on Facebook, or, you know, are using those channels to find potential partnerships. So I think, obviously from a consumer perspective, there’s a lot more opportunity in terms of just driving direct purchase and conversion  and bigger brand awareness campaigns as well. But I do think B2B, when you think about who is the consumer on social at this point, it’s really everybody.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any categories at all that you found don’t tend to be as good a fit for influencer marketing?

Paige Garrett: At this point in time, really every industry can win from some form of influencer marketing. That said, it’s obviously more challenging for certain industries than others. So you know, there’s a lot of red tape or regulations for certain industries. For instance, the liquor industry, even with our women’s health clients or supplements, there is a lot that you can and can’t do when it comes to having influencers endorse your brands or products. So, as long as you’re really reading the fine print and staying up to date with those regulations, and they do vary from platform to platform, I think that there is a way to go about influencer marketing. It really just comes down to finding the right strategy, finding the right partners, really getting clear upfront on the goals of your program and what you’re looking for. And then obviously matching that back to what you are, and aren’t allowed to do from an endorsement perspective.

Adrian Tennant: Could you explain the differences between paid and earned influencer management?

Paige Garrett: Yes, absolutely. So at RVD, we run three different types of influencer marketing programs. So the first you mentioned is earned influencer marketing and what that means it’s basically a fancy way of saying, trade influencer marketing. So trading a free product or experience or service to an influencer in exchange for set content. And that’s probably the type of campaign that we’re all most familiar with, in the sense that we’re driving trials with our influencers and getting their real-time feedback via content. So with those engagements, obviously there’s no agreement in place, there’s no flat fee compensation. So while we do our very best to confirm via email, we don’t have control over what that final piece of content might look like. So, it’s really making sure that, within those campaigns that you either have established relationships with those influencers, you’ve worked with them before and I think that’s where an agency comes into play in the sense that when we’re working with influencers on behalf of our clients in an earned capacity, we have that trust established. They trust us in the brands that we’re working with. We trust them that they’ll follow through with the content that they’re promising in exchange for that again, complimentary product or experience. And it’s a great way to also establish relationships early on with influencers and also just learn a lot because it’s not, from a budget perspective, you’re not spending a ton of money. You’re really just trading again, that experience or free product for content. But then from there, there’s bigger paid campaigns. So that’s when, in addition to those complimentary services or products, you are also giving an influencer a flat fee payment for their content creation. So this is where you might be working with a bigger macro influencer who requires compensation, or you have a very specific campaign brief that you want to make sure that you get exactly the type of content that you’re looking for. So with the bigger paid campaigns, there’s an agreement in place. You have more control over exactly when that content is going to go live. A lot of times we’ll include reviews within our agreements or that we’re getting to see the content before it goes live and providing our influencers with a round of content edits. So there’s just a little bit more control, compared to the earned engagement. That said, I don’t think smaller brands need to have these bigger paid budgets so early on as mentioned, I think an earned or trade relationship is a great way to learn and then carry those learnings into a bigger paid engagement. But we also do a lot of affiliate influencer marketing as well, which is more of an ambassador program, which also works nicely because you’re incentivizing influencers just based on the number of conversions they drive. So that typically looks like a set commission of sales that they drive, whether that’s tracked through a discount code or a unique link. So those are the three main campaigns that we run for our clients at RVD.

Adrian Tennant: How does RVD categorize influencers by the size of their following?

Paige Garrett: So this is a great question and I think the answer evolves every week, in the world of influencer marketing. But for now, we typically equate a nano influencer to anybody who has zero to 10,000 followers. So those are smaller influencers, but they usually have hyper-engaged communities. So in those earned engagements or the trade engagements, that’s where we’ll be working mostly with nano influencers. Micro influencers we typically categorize as having 10K to 100K followers. There’s a new branch of influencer, which is the mid-level, which is a hundred to 500K. Macro influencers would be 500K to a million followers. And then there would be the mega macros, which have over a million followers snd those are typically more of the celebrity status of influencers. So we, of course, are very mindful of these different tiers. And as mentioned a paid campaign versus an earned campaign will kind of stipulate who we’re working with from a tier perspective. but we do also keep a very close eye on engagement rate. No matter if we’re working with a nano influencer or a macro influencer, because at the end of the day, you want to make sure that your content is being seen. So there are a lot of platforms that can equate engagement rate for you but the way you would basically go about finding that engagement rate is likes and comments divided by the total number of followers. So again, making sure that in addition to a lot of followers, all of those followers are hyper-engaged with that specific influencer’s content.

Adrian Tennant: For those listening, who haven’t yet worked with influencers, what are some of the issues marketers need to consider when planning a sponsored campaign for the very first time?

Paige Garrett: A lot of the clients we’re working with are brands that are just launching or who have never done influencer marketing before. So what we like to lead with is lead time. So it does take a little bit of time to nail down your strategy, align on the goals of the program. Is it brand awareness? Are you looking just for content to repurpose across your owned channels? Are you looking, of course, to drive sales, sort of like, what are the main goals of this initial campaign that you’re putting together? And then from there, really working backwards to find the right partners. I think really making sure that you’re doing your due diligence and researching to find the right type of influencer. For instance, we would never recommend a cheese brand to an influencer who is obviously dairy-free. So while it takes a little bit of time to do that manual research, of course, there are resources and platforms that help, it is really important to take that extra time to do so. And then from there, it’s also vetting those partners. Obviously, in the world that we live in, everything on social and everything online, it lives there indefinitely, so make sure that you’re doing a deep dive before reaching out to a potential partner to make sure that they’re fully brand aligned with your brand or your client’s brand. I think influencer marketing works very similarly to public relations or PR in the sense that you still need to proactively pitch your brand or your product or service to the influencer and get them to be interested. So, you know, just like how journalists are inundated with pitches every day, so are influencers. So what can you do to really insert your brand or product or service into that influencer’s day-to-day life? How can you personalize your outreach and make them see the value of what it is you’re offering to them? So really taking the time to craft that messaging, in the right way. And then from there, it can take a little bit of time to get that interest. So again, I think the overarching theme of my replies is time and research. Typically, once we have that initial interest, we’ll provide a creative brief, but also leaving ample room for that creator to use their creative expertise, because that’s why, you know, you’re approaching them in the first place. So, just making sure you have all those various aspects buttoned up before you even begin your outreach so that once the interest is there, once you start the process of collaborating with an influencer, you know exactly what you’re looking for and the value that they can provide to you and your brand.

Adrian Tennant: Thinking specifically about direct-to-consumer brands or retailers selling online, what types of influencer marketing campaigns does RVD typically run?

Paige Garrett: A lot of the clients that we’re working with are either new brands that are just launching or brands that are smaller and may have never done influencer marketing before. So for a DTC client, specifically, we typically start with more of an earned or trade engagement. So providing that product, just getting the product into as many influencers’ hands as we possibly can. Of course, again, doing our due diligence to make sure that they’re the right type of partners, the right influencers, who would genuinely as consumers value from that client’s product or service. So, within that sort of initial earned or trade campaign, it’s a great way for us to learn a lot, candidly. So before our clients have to put, you know, larger budgets behind campaigns, we can use more of this earned engagement to find out what type of influencers are really resonating with the brand or product? What type of content is working really well? What content might not be working as well? Who do we love, who loves us? Just really establishing relationships and learning in this initial earned phase so that when it does come time to do a bigger paid initiative or campaign, or even just build a brand ambassador program, we have all of those learnings in place. The beauty of DTC, as well as that obviously via stories, or even just via link in bio, if you’re working with a smaller nano influencer, you can link directly to your client’s website or the specific products that the influencer is recommending. So from a conversion perspective, it’s really helpful specifically for those DTC clients.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Lane Martin: I’m Lane Martin, graphic designer on Bigeye’s, creative team. Every week IN CLEAR FOCUS examines trending topics through the lens of consumer behavior. At Bigeye, for every engagement, we commit to really understanding our client’s target customers, using research to learn about their attitudes and motivations. As a graphic designer, I use these insights to guide my approach to crafting visually engaging solutions and inspiring effective campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the right people, at the right place, at the right time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, gender fluid, cis-gender, genderqueer, non-binary, trans-feminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2,000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY, reveals how beliefs across different generations influences the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to Bigeye.agency/gender.

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, trans-masculine, gender fluid.

Adrian Tennant: GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Paige Garrett, Assistant Vice President of Marketing at RVD communications. Paige, how do you calculate the return on investment for clients from an influencer marketing campaign?

Paige Garrett: I love this question. Of course, measuring success is extremely important and, you know, for our earned, our trade relationships, where we don’t have an agreement in place, we still typically like to use UTM links. So, essentially it’s first establishing, what is the goal of this program or campaign that we’re running? Is it capturing content? Is it driving sales? Which is usually the goal. Is it just driving bigger brand awareness for a specific initiative or partnerships? Sort of aligning on what the goal is upfront so that we can measure against that. But what we can use UTM links for is essentially, once our influencers are including that swipe up or the link in bio, we get to see what’s happening once a consumer leaves the world of Instagram or leaves the world of that influencer, and enters the world of our client or brand. So while again, these aren’t paid, we do have a lot of success with asking our influencer partners to use their UTM links, because the way we position it to them is that we, as a brand, want to create a longstanding relationship with you. And what this unique link will allow us to see is everything that you’re driving for us as a brand. And I think influencers are really active and receptive to that, which is wonderful because they also want to do right and do well by the brand. So basically what a UTM link does is codes all of that information into our clients’ Google analytics backend, so that we can see, obviously, who’s purchasing, if anybody’s purchasing or if they’re not purchasing, you know, when that customer is leaving the site, how long are they on the site for? It kind of helps from a UX perspective as well, especially for our brands that might have just launched. That’s typically how we will measure success in an earned capacity. From a paid capacity, there’s a lot more we can ask our partners for because we’re paying them and have that agreement in place. So we’ll always ask for their Instagram metrics. So there’s a lot that’s public in terms of likes and comments, but we also like to look at things like sends and saves. So, from an engagement perspective, how else are potential customers engaging with the content? I think saves is a great way to see that there’s obviously some sort of intent to come back to that content or learn more about it, read more about it, or purchase. The same goes with sends, in the sense that somebody is clearly sending that to a friend or to somebody else who they want to see that content. We also ask our paid partners: did anybody DM you about this brand? We look at the sentiment of their comments. So overall, just making sure that we’re capturing the full picture in the sense of what did this partnership drive from a website or conversion perspective, but also just from a bigger brand awareness and sentiment perspective as well.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, thinking about the types of clients you work with at RVD and obviously without giving away any trade secrets, what are some of the tactics or types of content that you find work consistently well?

Paige Garrett: Yeah. So we have a fun phrase that we like to say at RVD, which has gone are the days of fluff content. I think that, when influencer marketing first started a few years ago, especially on Instagram, there was a lot of posing with specific products or very curated content. And I think that while there are a lot of content creators who do create beautiful content that is very editorial and stylized, I do think that more real, authentic content is what is performing really well. And it makes sense because at the end of the day, a follower or a community that an influencer has, they’re looking to that influencer just for day to day inspiration. And they have that established relationship with that influencer. They know what their typical day is like because the influencer shares it every day. So when an influencer is promoting something that is so far from what they typically would share, or that clearly goes against something that a follower already knows about them, I think it’s really obvious to the consumer and it’s very unlikely that they’ll take action when it comes to that content. So for instance, we have an influencer who we work with quite frequently, who we had a paid engagement with recently. And her content was already pre-shot, we’ve, you know, approved the content. We were ready to go. And she actually, unfortunately, got COVID and it was during this time that she really used her channel to open up about her mental health, about the way that it was affecting her, obviously, physically, but mentally as well. It was such a beautiful thing to see in such a real and honest depiction of who she is as an influencer and the way that she wants to try to help others who are likely going through similar situations. And the content we had prerecorded just felt so wrong in that instance, because of this phase that she was coming out of personally. So instead, we decided to collaborate on, you saw value in the product previously. How do you see value in the products now that you’re coming out of such a difficult two weeks, a difficult time where you obviously spoke to your mental health, and how this has all affected you? And we kind of worked with her as a creator to reshoot the content in a way that felt really real and honest with where she was in her life. And I think that is a great example of the type of content that is resonating most, because it’s very authentic in a way that, followers and consumers are picking up on now more than ever.

Adrian Tennant: E-marketer estimates that influencer marketing sponsorships totaled around $10 billion in 2020. Given its popularity, are you seeing clients using influencer marketing in addition to ad campaigns or does that $10 billion reflect a shift in spending away from traditional and digital advertising and toward influencer marketing?

Paige Garrett: Yeah. I would say that the two definitely go hand in hand. I think it was about two years ago that it took 8 touchpoints to convert a customer. So I could only imagine it’s more like 12 now. Whereas as a society we are very distracted, we’re doing too much at once. It takes a lot to get somebody to finally decide to purchase something or to go to a restaurant or whatever that action is. So I do think that there is a reason to have both traditional and digital advertising in addition to influencer marketing. So I would say that, you know, bigger brands, they have that bigger advertising budget, but they’re also setting up a separate budget for influencer marketing. That said, I also think that for smaller brands or newer brands who don’t have as big of budgets, I think that the value of influencer marketing, especially early on in a business is so important. And I do think that a lot of our clients and a lot of the clients that we’re working with, do tend to allocate their dollars there first, because I think working with influencers, it’s almost like you have a group of beta testers to collect feedback from. Using our UTM links, we can see, is there anything broken in terms of our UX website flow that we should consider before you’re putting larger dollars behind advertising? And I do think also with influencer marketing, there’s a lot of content you can capture that you can then leverage for your owned or paid channels eventually. So, I do think again, the two work hand in hand, there’s a reason to be doing both, but as a smaller brand, while you’re just starting out using an influencer marketing campaign and more of that trade or earned capacity to start, is a great way to find your core audience demo, find what’s working from a content perspective. Use your influencers like beta testers, just like use that influencer campaign to collect a lot of data and information that you can then carry over when you’re ready to do more of a traditional or digital advertising run.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we can’t talk about social media and not discuss TikTok, the breakout network of the pandemic. Paige, what kinds of brands do you see performing best in this channel?

Paige Garrett: We love to talk about TikTok. It’s definitely a labor and time-intensive platform in the sense that if you’re going to be on TikTok, you really need to double down, and to be on TikTok. So what we typically recommend for our clients is making sure that you’re really ready and that you have enough content to fill in that channel. So, it’s obviously very video-heavy. There’s a lot of cutting and it’s also what we like to say as well as whereas with Instagram, there’s a lot of curation. It’s a very editorialized vision of your brand or product or service, and the same goes for influencers. I think that there are a lot of influencers who still take a lot of pride, artistically in their Instagram feeds and the type of content they’re producing on Instagram. Whereas with TikTok, it’s kind of like what Snapchat was like when it first came out, only it lives forever. It doesn’t go away after 24 hours, but it is a little bit quicker, a little bit more real, authentic, kind of like a BTS or behind the scenes look at, a real, authentic version of that influencer or of your brand. So, I do think that, you know, when it comes to influencer marketing on TikTok, we typically recommend not going too heavy until you have a presence as a brand on TikTok. That said, I do think it’s also a great way to test via influencers, what type of content is resonating on TikTok. almost using your influencers like a beta test to see what they’re producing on behalf of your brand on TikTok. So that, that can kind of get your creative wheels turning from your owned content perspective. Also leveraging that influencer’s TikTok content on your TikTok eventually. But when it comes to, let’s say, an influencer campaign that we’re running on TikTok for a brand that doesn’t have a TikTok presence just yet, we’ll also make sure that our influencer partners are repurposing that content via Instagram Reel so that they’re able to tag our brand of course, and drive direct conversion that way as well.

Adrian Tennant: For any brand that’s considering engaging with an influencer marketing agency or a communications firm to manage a campaign, what are some good questions to evaluate whether that firm will be a good fit?

Paige Garrett: I think that it’s getting very clear upfront regarding what you’re looking for with that influencer campaign. So, obviously, I think every brand is interested in sales, but depending on where you are in your business, do you just need content? You know, maybe you don’t have a budget for a big photoshoot or, you’re just a founder and you don’t have access to a full team. Is there a campaign you’re looking to mount just so that you can capture content for your own channels? Are you looking to drive sales? Are you looking for, you know, bigger paid campaigns? Just making sure that your goals align with the agency and the agency services and capabilities. I also think definitely asking about previous projects that they’ve done, case studies, making sure again, that the types of brands that agency may have worked with fits with what you’re looking for, what your brand vision may be, that they’re brands that you know and respect and admire in the space. And I also think it’s just making sure that you’re also set up to have a successful influencer program. So for instance, if you’re looking for a bigger brand ambassador program, do you have some sort of DTC component, do you feel equipped and ready to have enough product to seed out to influencers? If you’re doing a trade or earned program if you want a bigger paid campaign, do you have healthy budgets, making sure that, you’re aligned on all of those key components, in addition to, the goals of your campaign, so that that agency can give their strategic recommendation on what is or isn’t doable.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, looking at the next two to three years, how do you see the influencer marketing landscape evolving?

Paige Garrett: The fluff content is gone. I think that when an influencer is choosing to share content, whether it be sponsored or not, I think that influencers are really looking to add value and to open up bigger conversations, and use their platforms for the greater good. Whereas, you know, I do think there was a lot of curated interest in stylized content previously. So I’m excited to continue to see this where influencers are really doubling down on brands that give back or initiatives that they align with personally, they’re saying no to deals with brands that they don’t admire who aren’t doing well by society. Really just leaning into authentic, real content that feels good to them as a consumer, but also that they know that their community will resonate with. So I, for instance, would always rather an influencer say no, and we have had some, some no’s, because if it’s a dietary restriction or, a personal decision that they want to lean into a different industry, I would always rather hear, “No”, that “this is not brand-aligned”, then an influencer produce content that they don’t feel good about and that they don’t think their community will resonate with. So continuing to move in that direction, I definitely think video will continue to be huge. And I do think that video allows for that more authentic and real connection. Whereas, you can’t just hide behind a stylized photo. A movement towards the real is really what I think we’re all experiencing and especially after such a challenging few years, with everything going on, I do think that influencers want to leverage their platforms to do more than just share brands or content, to share resources. You know, I think that educational content will continue to be huge and just moving towards using social media for the greater good, rather than perpetuating unrealistic norms of a perfect lifestyle, which we all now know does not exist.

Adrian Tennant: So Paige, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about influencer marketing with RVD, where can they find resources?

Paige Garrett: Yeah, so you can visit our website at www.rachelvandolson.com. You can email us at info@rachelvandolson.com or find us on Instagram: @RVDCommunications.

Adrian Tennant: And if people would like to know more about your coaching services for fitness and integrative health, where can they find you?

Paige Garrett: They can find me at www.PaigeGarrett.com or on Instagram @PaigeAConnelly.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Paige Garrett: Thank you so much for having me. It was such a pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Paige Garrett, Assistant Vice President of Marketing at RVD Communications. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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