What makes an influencer? How is influencing changing? What are the common misconceptions, pitfalls and goals of influencing? In this episode of 15 Minutes With, we speak to Instagram Influencer, Public Figure and current Ms Great Britain Kat Henry on all things Influencer Marketing.
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In a recent survey of over 200 global ecommerce leaders, it was found that more than half had highlighted social media influencers as a preferred promotional channel for 2022. So to give us a peek behind the curtain on today's episode of 15 minutes with we've got social media influencer and current Ms Great Britain Kat Henry joining us. Kats experience in the world of influencer marketing gives us a unique insight from the other side of the coin. An established and professional influencer on TikTok and Instagram, Kat has a devoted following of 10s of 1000s of loving fans, being an influencer is not plain sailing. And the realities of COVID have changed the face of social selling in a variety of ways. So how can brands and influencers work together in this new landscape? Kat talks us through the influencer world from her perspective.Shelley:
So Kat what makes an influencer?Kat Henry:
To me, I think that anybody within the social media world has a level of influence, especially people that are using their own personal platforms to influence other people to either purchase something or speak out about a topic or just kind of use their own voice to elevate another person's voice. So I think for me, an influencer is somebody who can use their own personal skills to either upsell a product or who can sell a product or make a positive change within society.Shelley:
And how has COVID changed the influencer space? In your experience?Kat Henry:
I think it's definitely changed the way that influencers create content. I think that forcing us all to be at home put us in a position where we had to be a little bit more intuitive in how we put our content out there and how we actually provide engaging content when we're all stuck in our jammies and not really doing anything. I think it kind of did open the market for loungewear and pyjamas, a lot of home improvements, I think that kind of that kind of market definitely probably thrived throughout the lockdown. So I guess the types of things that are actually being, you know, advertised throughout lockdown was different.Shelley:
Everyone was stuck at home, right? And ecommerce went through the roof because everyone was buying stuff online and getting it delivered to the door. And as a result of that, I think a lot of people seeing other influencers, like you said, being able to wear pyjamas and having the lounge as the backdrop was sort of empowered to give influencer marketing a go themselves. But for established influencers, it was very, very difficult because it was almost like this expectation that you'd always have these amazing settings behind you one week, you're in Tahiti and the next year in Dubai. But how do you how do you do that when you're stuck at home?Kat Henry:
Yeah, I think it definitely did put a lot of pressure on people who are existing influencers, because you know, not everybody has the ability to have a beautiful backdrop we were as influencers, we were really discouraged from doing things, especially in the fashion industry for using like the mirror selfie, because it wasn't really an engaging piece of content, it wasn't high level quality content, that people would look at that picture on the grid and be like, Wow, I want to click it, I want to, you know, like it, share it. But actually, when you're stuck at home, you have no choice but not everybody has a tripod and or somebody who can take their photos for them. So your mirror selfie became your best friend. And that's how the content grew over the last two years, it was literally people taking pictures using the self timer on their phone or standing in front of a mirror and taking the best photo that they can. I also think that you know, it kind of lays pathways to putting a lot of pressure on influencers because not everybody has good surroundings. I mean, you know, I live in a flat. So for me finding spaces within my you know, four walls is very difficult to find, you know, picturesque beautiful images, you have to be intuitive and you have to think, okay, outside the box, how can I make this look engaging. And I think after about two months of struggling to find various different two places within my home, I got to a point where I've just realised that this is more relatable if I just tell the truth and be honest about it and say like, this is my bedroom, guys, this is what you get. That's all good. And actually I think more people started doing that, because they realised that life is too short to give a monkey's about how the backdrop looks.Graham:
And did you see from an audience point of view, kind of an uptick in engagement during the pandemic? Because presumably, well, the assumption would be that everybody was stuck at home using lots of social media all the time, or was that kind of counterbalanced by the fact that there were just so many other people doing the same thing that actually any increase in engagement activity was kind of dispersed between the existing influencers, and anybody new that came along?Kat Henry:
Definitely the latter. I don't think there was a specific spike in terms of engagement. I think that if I posted about certain topics, or certain levels of creation definitely got more engagement, actually, the more relatable stuff, where you're saying, you know, like I've had COVID or, you know, I actually lost my mom to COVID and that actually was probably my most engaging content because people found it relatable, those sorts of things actually thrived. Whereas the more glam pictures of me looking like a pageant queen or being a high fashion model or anything like that, that wasn't really thriving, because people didn't see that represented in day to day life. So actually, the level of content was different. And also, you know, the the amount of engagement that came from relatable content went up. But in terms of actual overall, I think what you said Graham towards the fact that there was so much going on, I actually felt like I was perhaps muted in various different scenarios, because I wasn't getting the level of exposure that I had been because there were lots more people doing it.Graham:
And one thing that I noticed that was quite interesting, it was probably in the middle of the pandemic, I would say, LGBTQIA community, there are a lot of influencers. I'm a member of the community, so live proud, but also portray a lifestyle of excess and putting the influencer on a pedestal look at my life, I want you to want to replicate it. And people started breaching COVID recommendations to be able to produce content. So there were people that travelled to parts of Greece or Spain to be at these gatherings. And actually, what happened is there was a massive backlash against that by the community, because they were seen as irresponsible. And as a result, posts started disappearing, and people started to kind of hide from what they were doing. And all this activity was kind of downplayed. Yeah, it's just it's interesting that, like you say, the stuff that you saw most positive effects on were the things that everybody was kind of going through or could get in touch with. And as soon as this aspirational content was put in front of people, it wasn't seen as I wish I was doing that it was seen as Why are you being so irresponsible, and it kind of people not listening to what's going on in the world. And the fact that the audience are a lot more savvy than they used to be.Kat Henry:
I think a lot of people, if they saw a picture of like me, personally, if I was to put a picture up of me in a bathing suit, I felt like I had to make a real real point of making it very, very known that this is a throwback, guys like I'm at home in my jammies. And I wish I was on a beach somewhere. And that in itself became relatable, because people were like, Yeah, I also wish I was on a beach somewhere. But we're stuck at home too. And three of my family members have COVID. And therefore, you know, we're in the same boat as you it's finding that balance and being honest and totally transparent with your viewers and your followers. Because actually, authenticity is what is the key here. And there's a level of filtering your life and adding filters to make it look better that actually reality will win all the time. It always will. And honesty is and integrity in this life has to be paramount.Shelley:
I find that really, really refreshing to hear. And I'm so glad that you said that Kat and that your experience is actually showing that for you. Reality is doing so much better, even content wise. And message wise, compared to overindulgence, I guess, in the sense of, oh, look where I am. And look what I'm doing, particularly over the past two years, when actually people can relate to struggle. And actually, they want to see other people not necessarily struggling, but they want to see people that they can relate to. They don't want to look at influencers and just go okay, they're just living this this life that isn't even aspirational for me at the moment, while I'm locked down. So with all of that in mind, how do you choose which brands to actually work with?Kat Henry:
For me, I think company ethos is really important, and how that they portrayed themselves on social media, and what sort of level of you know, responsibility and standing they have within the community. I think that those sorts of things play a huge part to me, because I would never take on collaboration that I didn't wholeheartedly believe in, I am not going to sell a product that doesn't align or attune with my own personal ethos. And I wouldn't also sign up to a campaign if I didn't wholeheartedly believe in what he was trying to portray. I think it's really important that businesses and brands are open and transparent about their their own business ethos. And when engaging with collaborators to actually be honest and transparent in what you're trying to portray with your campaign. And actually look for people that attune to that that ethos, rather than just picking the first person that you see, when you open up the Instagram. It's not necessarily about who's trending, it may actually be about who is the most relatable, or who's the best person to sell your product. That's essentially what we should be doing now is looking for the right fit, you wouldn't put somebody into a job role if they weren't the right person for the job role trying to grow or develop your business. So why would you not want the best person to help sell your product, and that best person might not be the person with the highest level of engagement or the most likes on Instagram, they may actually be the person that is a really, really sound background in what you're trying to sell. So yeah, I think research is really really important from a brand perspective to understand who they're looking for. What that influencer delivers, what their own personal ethos is and hope that they both collaborate in the middle on more than just money. It should just be also about how they believe in the product and actually making sure they're the right fit for it.Graham:
So once you've you've picked the brand that you want to work with, or the brand has picked you, I guess. How do you go about building trust between your established audience, the people that you've built over time with this new brand that they're being introduced to, presumably, if you're working with a brand multiple times, it makes it a bit easier? Because it's not the first time they're seeing it. But how do you introduce this promotion to your audience, and build trust between the two, so that you don't, one, put your audience at jeopardy, I guess, or kind of under deliver for the brand based on potentially what you've told them, you're able to able to do for them?Kat Henry:
Yeah, I pride myself on being able to negotiate from the outset of engagement when you start working with the brand as to what you can actually deliver. And being honest, and you know, sticking by your word, if you can't produce something, don't offer it, I would never want to over promise and under deliver, that's not something that I think anybody should aspire to want to do. But also be realistic with your own personal time, with your ability and your you know, you don't promise that you can produce, you know, high level quality drone effect, you know, footage, if you've got a hand cam, and you know, nobody else to help you produce it, you know, don't do that. Be honest in what you can provide. And actually a lot of brands would would prefer the honesty and the, you know, the ability to turn around and say, Okay, well, if that's all you can produce, then maybe I need to look elsewhere. Because there might be 10 other people that could produce that level of content that I haven't tapped up yet. But because you've got a really high level of engagement, that might be who they pick, when you're asking about how do you maintain that relationship with your with new audiences, I will never lie about product. If it's a rubbish product, I'm going to take that feedback, I'm going to take it back to the brand without posting anything on social media. Because actually, I think it's really, really important that if a product is not sound, that you feed that back to the company, so they have the ability to fix it before you take that negativity and put it out into the into the social sphere. Because actually, that damning review is not going to build trust in either you as a personal brand, or to your audience. Influencers have a huge responsibility to be honest,Shelley:
We've talked about how you've managed these relationships with brands. And we've talked about the changing landscape as a result of COVID as a result of all these new influencers sort of flooding the market, but also in terms of new platforms. So you were a really early adopter of TikTok, and I've personally seen seeing you on TikTok advertising, which is amazing. By the way, it looks it looked incredible. And so I just wanted to ask you, do you have any other sort of tips, insights, advice on this, any part of these topics of influencer marketing that we haven't covered that you think would be interesting, or relevant for people.Kat Henry:
I have probably a couple for each, but I'll go with from the brand perspective, don't just go with the people that you think are the highest level of engagement, do your research, find out who is who is the best person aligned for what you are looking for, and tap up, don't be afraid to tap up other people within the industry, because they may be a very, very valuable tool for you. But also, don't just go down the tokenism thing like you know, just because you are you understand that being woke in today's society is important. Don't just tap up, you know, the high level influencers who are from the BAME community, drill down a little further, do do the research, because I think it is really, really important. And I kind of understand why you just look at engagement, I get it. But it's not always the key. And it's not always the be all and end all and from an influencers perspective, don't be afraid to shoot your shot, you know, go out there, promote yourself in the best way possible. Send those brand emails, you know, I'm not a huge lover of all of the, you know, follow this strategy sort of thing. Like I take tips from the from the YouTubers and stuff as to how I can increase my content engagement and stuff like that. But essentially, find your niche, find what works for you. And don't be afraid to put yourself out there for every 10 no's there's going to be one yes. So keep going and remain resilient. And from the perspective of trolls, because we didn't touch on it really I think that you know, if you're putting I'm very, very grateful that in the seven years that I've been doing social media, I can probably count on my hands, the amount of times that I've had negativity thrown my way on my own personal platform. And that is because my platform is a safe space for me to sell products without asking for people's opinions. And I pride myself very, very highly in the fact that when I promote a product Whether it be an item of clothing or a makeup product or a hair product, you're saying, this is the product that I'm selling. And if you like it, here's how you can buy it. I'm not asking you as the person who scrolling through Instagram to weigh in with an opinion on my products. And the minute you ask people, What does this look like? you're opening up the gateway for people to offer their opinion. From the influencers perspective, stop asking those questions if you are becoming an influencer, because you want validation, or you're becoming an influencer, because you want free clothes, you're in it for the wrong reasons. If you're doing it, because you know, you can use your skills, your life skills to promote a brand, then you're in the right place. But I also think that empowering other people is really key. And you know, if you see somebody in the industry that's doing well elevate them share their content, because essentially sharing each other's content engaging with each other's content is how we grow.Shelley:
Love it. Absolutely. Love it. Thank you so so much your time Kat that was just it was so insightful.Graham:
Yeah, thank you. It's good to have this insight. Because, you know, as that report points out, there's so many people that are wanting to now take a huge part of their marketing budget and put it into into social media influencers, but I suspect the large majority of those people don't actually understand what they're about to do. So the information that you've given them will lead them on the right path to success. So yeah,Shelley:
Steering them in the right direction.Graham:
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for your time. That was social media influencer current Ms Great Britain, Kat Henry. Her insights as a social media influencer have been invaluable. And the key to making a success for both brands and influencers is to remain authentic, transparent and genuine with their audiences. We also need to be hyper aware of what's going on in the world, and ensure that we adjust our messaging to match the reality. If you'd like to download a copy of the report, you'll be able to find a link of it on our Insights section of our website. Thank you for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you join us on our next one.