How Do Brands Choose Their Influencers? - Ep. 60

James Nord
May 24, 2023
Updated Feb 09, 2024

Welcome to Negronis with Nord episode 60. James reveals Fohr's process of how we hand-pick influencers for brand campaigns, and it’s much more than just based on follower count. We lay out all the criteria we look for when recruiting influencer partners for a campaign:

Below is an edited transcript of the full episode for your reading pleasure. Make sure to subscribe to the Fohr YouTube channel to get notified of new episodes.

James Nord, putting in overtime

James: Welcome Negronis with Nord episode 60. This is, this is our second filming in a week.

Something I don't generally do, but I'm bringing the energy for you all today. We are going to have a great show. I was talking to someone the other day who said, "Oh, hey, I didn't know you all had a podcast." They also mentioned that they looked it up and found out that your podcast is in the top 2% of all podcasts in the world. I don't do it for the numbers, y'all. I do it for you. But thank you for following along, continuing to ask questions, and listen. Speaking of questions, we have some meaty ones today, so I'm just going to jump right into it.

How do brands choose influencer partners?

What’s important: followers, likes, comments? What’s a brand’s perspective on how they choose, and what might be no-gos?

This could be a whole episode, and depending on how long it takes to explain, it might end up being the entire episode.

Influencer selection is one of the most important things we do here at Four on the Services side, and it is absolutely the thing that brands are using our tools to improve for themselves.

Step 1: It starts with a Request for Proposal (RFP)

I'm going to speak about how we pick influencers because I think we're the best in the world at this, and hopefully, it can give you some insight into how these decisions are made. It's natural to think about what's important: follower count, engagement, and reach. However, content quality actually starts way before that. When we work with a brand, they generally come to us with an RFP, which is a request for proposal. They send that out to 5, 10, or 20 different companies and ask them to give a proposal on what they would do to help achieve these goals within a particular budget.

In this scenario, let's assume it's a $200,000 campaign. The client wants to collaborate with 20 influencers on Instagram and TikTok for a period of six months. They are a beauty brand launching a new eyeliner. Our first step is to develop a strategy that addresses the brand, the product, and their goals.

  1. Brand strategy
  2. The product
  3. Campaign goals

I know it may seem like I'm getting off track, but these details are crucial in selecting the right influencers. For the sake of simplicity, let's focus on the beauty aspect. We need to consider the brand and product. Is it a high-end luxury brand or a drugstore brand? How is the brand perceived? Where is it sold? These are the key factors that will help us identify the most suitable partners for this campaign.

Step 2: Brand positioning and campaign goals

Then we will discuss positioning and goals. How are they positioned? Is it a brand that's hyper-focused on product innovation, or is it a brand that's really focused on value and price?

These things are really important, and we would work with different influencers to address the different positions that the brand might have in the market. And what are their goals? They're launching a new eyeliner, but they might also say that they are a brand that has always stood for value, but they want to tell a product innovation story.

Now we have the brand and product. We understand the positioning inside of their specific niche, and we understand their goals. This drugstore brand is known for being an affordable option but not necessarily innovative. They are launching a new product that focuses on the innovation of this product, whatever that might be.

Step 3: Campaign strategy & influencer archetype

Then our team pulls together a strategy. We say, "Okay, given all those factors, this is how we think we would tell that story." So then we come up with a strategy, and this isn't going to be a good one, but let's say it's a value brand, and they are looking to tell an innovation story. And so we are going to work with makeup artists and people who are known for tutorials, right? This is not something we're going to work with, kind of more casual beauty influencers or beauty enthusiasts. We're going to work with people who are respected for their technical opinion about beauty products, right? And so now, again, we have an archetype. We have a type of influencer that we're working with.

We submit that RFP, present it to the brand, win the business, yay, ring the bell, are very happy, and now we get to work, okay?

Step 4: Narrowing the search for influencers using filters

So we've got the strategy, and we have to find influencers that fit the archetype we have pitched to the brand and fit their budget. The first thing we're going to look at is their following size, location, and platforms, right?

  1. Following size
  2. Location
  3. Platforms

We're looking for influencers with 50,000 followers on either Instagram or TikTok, and they're in the US. Let's say we want to focus on not tier-one cities, so we don't want to be in New York or LA. We take the 220,000 influencers on our platform and start to filter them down by removing New York people.

Now we're going to look for brand-fit content. What is your focus? What is the plan to ensure that you are the technical authority capable of telling the technical product story we want to convey?

We will search for makeup artists and those who create product-focused beauty tutorials. We will use content search to find relevant posts by searching hashtags, certain brands, and specific phrases that align with our strategy.

We will also look for individuals who have already spoken about our brand using Fohr’s Discovery platform. Ideally, we want to work with people who talk about not only luxury but also drugstore brands. If we find a great makeup artist who creates really good tutorials but only focuses on luxury, they may not be the best fit for us.

So we're looking at the brand for which we are doing the campaign, as well as other brands in that universe. Which other brands would they be talking about? Maybelline, CoverGirl, or whatever it might be. That's going to help us find the people who are the right fit. Now, we're going to look at data.

We'll examine your reach data, engagement rates, and demographics. We'll make sure that if we're targeting women aged 35 to 50, the percentages of your demographic are reaching those audiences. If the brand is targeting 35 to 50-year-old women and 70% of your following is 18 to 22-year-old men, that won't work for this campaign. We're also looking for reach numbers that are above average and engagement rates that are above average.

We are looking to maximize our clients' spending, so we're making sure to select people who we believe have the best data story to tell and fit all the other categories and criteria we have. We compile a list of these people.

Step 5: Pitching to the client

Now, let's remember that we want to work with 20 influencers and get 40 of them approved, which means we need to send the client 80 people. Our team conducts research and writes little blurbs about each influencer. For example, we love Nikki because she is a makeup artist in Boston with deep technical knowledge. She worked at Sephora for four years and has a highly engaged audience. We also love Brian, who is based in Nebraska and creates incredibly creative looks. He has a large following in the Midwest. We provide a little background and insight into why we are selecting each influencer and what we like about them, as well as their top-line data.

They range from 80 to 40. They choose their first and second choices for influencers. Lastly, we reach out, negotiate, and onboard. We start by sending it to their first choices. But as people come in above budget or don't respond to us, we negotiate and lock in, making sure we don't exceed the $200,000 budget.

It's complex, as I said, and it's the most important thing we do. The strategy and creative idea that a brand has been manifested in the influencer selection.

As an influencer, I think it's important to understand all the factors that go into choosing an influencer for that same brand, that same value-focused drugstore beauty brand.

If we have a different strategy instead of pitching, "Hey, we want to focus on the technical aspects and innovation of this." If the brand says, "We really want to tell a value story, and you know, we are half the cost of our competitor and we think the product's better," that's a different influencer. Same brand, same product, different focus, totally different influencers, right? Same brand, same product, same focus, different budget, totally different influencers, right?

4 ways influencers can improve their chances of being selected for campaigns

It can be frustrating as an influencer to see other people getting brand deals while you're not, and think, "Why? What is wrong with my feed? Why am I not getting picked for these things?" However, at its best, influencer selection is a complex and multifaceted process, and there are things that you can do to improve your chances of being selected.

Sign up for Fohr

Of course, signing up for Fohr can help ensure that your accounts are up-to-date and that you are well-connected.

Talk about brands you like.

That's the first thing we try to do, right? The thing that can increase your chances the most of working with one of our clients is talking about that client and giving them coverage. If we can find somebody who has already posted about the client five times this year and whose audience loves it, we know they'll be excited about a partnership. When they announce the partnership, their audience will be excited because they've already engaged with the content. That's the dream for us.

Fill out you dream partners in your Fohr profile.

I encourage you all to talk about your dream brands and be explicit about it. We have a section on Fohr profiles where you can write in your dream partnerships.

When we start working with a client, whether on the technology side or on the managed services side of the business, one of the first things we send them is the list of influencers who have listed them as a dream partnership because it's so powerful for a brand to know that you, as an influencer, were their dream partner.

The amount of passion and authenticity that you're going to bring to that partnership is just so much greater than just another brand deal, just another contract that you get. And so it seems simple to pick an influencer, right? I think a lot of people think it's about follower count or engagement rate, right? But you know, there are tens of millions of creators and influencers.

Focus on building your audience

Strategies are becoming much more specific, and that's why the best thing to do is to focus on building that audience. Share brands and things that you really love and just be true to yourself and that audience. Because for us, we have pretty powerful tools to go out and find influencers that support the strategies that we have pitched or that our clients have laid out as their strategic focus. The more you share and talk about what you're interested in, the easier it will be for us to find you.

How important is content aesthetic?

So the question is, how important are aesthetics? I would say they go into things like fit. Are you talking about this brand or brands that are in that universe? We would also look at the aesthetics of your content. Ultimately, we downplay that because we believe creators are best suited to define the aesthetic that can best communicate a brand's values to their audience. Running an inclusive and diverse campaign means being open to different aesthetics. Sometimes brand fit can stand in for a type of discrimination. It's like, "Ooh, that doesn't feel like us." So we try to push brands away from that kind of language. An example of a company that sells cowboy hats would want creators interested in western wear, who are riding horses and authentically living in that world, rather than just picking a random person and throwing a cowboy hat on them.

So in that way, aesthetics are important. Sometimes they will say, "Look, we're looking for more polished, professional photography." Other times, it's "We're looking for more raw or a mixture of both." That would be part of the brief as well. I think that was a long enough question to be a full episode, and I ultimately think it deserves its own space. Keep the questions coming, and when I get back from Cuba, we'll pick this thing up. Cheers.


Cheers, and thanks for watching.

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