Navigating Varying Degrees of Influencers

The environment of influencers has grown lush with content and dense in population. With new brand pages and intenet personalities popping up seemingly every second, many find themselves looking for help navigating through this crowded territory.

For a brand considering a sponsorship with an influencer, this endeavor should not be taken lightly. These personalities, after all, will represent your brand without ever even applying to your company. Scandals can potentially derail a partnership, and even lead to the demise of entire launches and events (we’re looking at you Fyre Festival). While there is no uniform influencer equation, there are varying levels of influence and concrete ways to calculate the impact of their outreach.

At Home With A Local Influencer

Just a few short years ago, Stephanie Hollman was a dedicated wife and stay at home mother. Married to Hollman Inc. chairman and namesake, Travis Hollman, Stephanie branched out on her own upon being cast in Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise. This reality television juggernaut was headed to Dallas, and alas, would launch Stephanie’s Instagram career.

Stephanie Hollman appears on the broadcast of her Bravo boss, Andy Cohen. (Watch What Happens Live YouTube/Bravo)

With The Real Housewives of Dallas’ fourth season preparing to air this September, it’s safe to say that Hollman’s life has seen some significant changes. Boasting 373k Instagram followers, her page is an amalgam of tropical vacation snaps, glossy family pictures, and sponsored posts for brands ranging from mid-market to global presences.  

Stephanie counts Lyft and Nordstrom’s among her bevy of sponsors, and she holds a firm place on RewardStyle’s roster of influencers. Many of her posts are adorned with the #liketkit hashtag, enabling followers to shop her look on the app. Her footprint is noticeable, bolstered by the exposure that a hit TV show ushers in. Yet, Hollman’s following still pales in comparison to the apex influencers who can lay claim to fashion lines, brand collaborations, blogs, and follower counts in the millions.

The Like to Know it App has revolutionized the way that influencers promote brands by adding extra accessibility.

Top Model Among Top US Influencers

Those well-versed in the modeling industry will recognize Karlie Kloss’ name. She has spent the last decade cascading down high fashion runways as a darling to the world’s top designers. Her modeling career has been heightened given her lithe 6’2” frame, yet the detour she has taken as of recent is entirely dependent on her intelligence and social influence.

This ad collaboration between Wix and their sponsor Karlie Kloss aired at the 2019 Super Bowl.

Karlie broke new ground with her “Kode with Klossy” movement, helping motivate young women to enter the computer science industry. A sector notoriously dominated by men. Her passion for this cause positioned her as the perfect spokeswoman for Wix. She’s appeared in a host of print and video ads, including Wix’s 2019 Super Bowl Spot. The alignment between Kloss and Wix remains seamless, setting the bar of what a successful sponsorship should look like. 

Despite Kloss’ squeaky-clean image, she remains a sort of cautionary tale. By marriage, Karlie is connected to the current presidential administration. Her husband is the brother of Jared Kushner, the commander in chief’s son in law, who has been overtly vilified by the media.

Karlie Kloss, model, social activist, and influencer, is scene at a public appearance in 2017. (Laurie Laginess/ The Zoe Report)

Although she remains tight-lipped about this connection, it sheds light on the importance of researching influencers prior to partnering with them. Brands need to proceed with caution when it comes to any social personality, no matter how extensively vetted. A deep dive should be made into their history and affiliations. If they represent something that is not supported or condoned by your company, then pause should be taken before inviting them into your den of sponsorships. By doing the legwork beforehand, brands can avoid the pitfalls of influencer scandals, which have been a major issue so far in 2019.

Karlie’s 8.2 million Instagram followers are an impressive benchmark, yet an audience this size is still considered “second-tier.” Before she lands a spot amongst the world’s most elite influencers, Kloss will have to win over millions more followers to reach a broader global audience.

Global Success Underscored by Italian Finesse

Chiara Ferragni is simply the gold standard for influencers.

Emerging from the antiquated Italian market, Chiara arrived on a scene flush with older statesman who are as abject to change as they are overflowing with power. These factors make her success both a novelty and a surprise. Ferragni broke through in Italy as a streetstyle icon, setting the glamorous stage for her to emerge as the global powerhouse that she is today.

Chiara’s backstory is a commonality among many influencers, as her empire all started with a blog. The “Blonde Salad” was created while Ferragni was merely a student at the Bocconi University School of Law. Named after her eclectic style and assumed hair color, Ferragni began to stand out on the internet as well as on the Italian fashion scene.

Chiara Ferragni is photographed for a campaign in collaboration with Italian Brand Tod’s. (Arianna Chatzidakis/Grazia Daily)

Expertly segueing her domestic success into a larger platform, Chiara began to expand just as Instagram was soaring in popularity. Now Ferragni stands atop the influencer pyramid with 17 million followers, touting a blog with millions of monthly views, numerous fashion lines, and a Lancôme beauty collaboration amongst her many ventures. She lives her life between Milan and Los Angeles, a split that mirrors another divide in her life: the blurred line between personal and professional.

Even the quickest scroll through her Instagram profile begs the question: at what point is an influencer’s success a result of their personal affairs rather than their marketing prowess?

Chiara’s personal life is displayed as openly as stuffing on a Thanksgiving table. Her private affairs are devoured by millions given her marriage to Italian Rap star Fedez. Their relationship resulted in an on-stage, televised engagement and a heavily publicized wedding (#Ferragnez forever) thereafter. Another fixture on Chiara’s feed? Her adorable curly-haired tot named Leo, also a result of her relationship.

Ferragni’s greatest skill proves to be fusing together her personal and professional lives to create a synergistic effect. Even her wedding dresses (yes, there were two) scored the designer, famed French fashion house Dior, an estimated $5.2 million dollars of media coverage. Not even Meghan Markle’s royal wedding frock accomplished that. Ferragni clearly remains unfazed by this personal versus professional line, focusing instead on the resulting dollar signs.

Sponsored posts stand out more clearly on a page heavily loaded with ostentatious wedding snaps and yacht-friendly summer getaways, but it may come at an unforeseen cost. Aligning your brand with an aesthetic so heavily focused on personal wealth and leisure can turn off many hard-working, middle-class consumers. Brands searching to sponsor an influencer need to weigh this balance against the demographic of their target audience to prevent potential faux-pas.

Show Me the Money

Influencers’ profiles may be public, but the rules of monetization on the various platforms have long been held private. While garrulous gossip will always make its rounds, further fueling the speculation on influencer fees, where do you find concrete information on cost?

Companies who calculate the value and sponsorship fees of influencers are popping up left and right, but few have the impeccable reputation of Dallas-based rewardStyle. This company grants unparalleled access into an exclusive network of influencers. They support brands by providing historical performance data, brand consulting, and measurable results – all delivered by an “experienced team of brand marketers.” Over 4,500 retailers trust rewardStyle to drive their influencer marketing campaigns.

rewardStyle hosts an influencer conference each year called “The Con.” Highlights from 2018’s iteration are shown.

Clearly, there is a lot of choice when it comes to sponsoring influencers. What may seem overwhelming can easily be broken up into digestible segments. So, before you set sail on the seas of influence, take one last look at this article’s most important points:

  1. Decide between local, national, or global influencers for your brand’s marketing goals.
  2. Extensively research the influencer’s background, making sure it is scandal-free.
  3. Weigh the influencer’s feed. Is it too personal or too heavily sponsored already?
  4. Get concrete fees and costs, valued by a reputable company such as rewardStyle.