We spoke with pet industry influencer Kristen Levine of, Kristen Levine Pet Living to get the inside track on how a pet industry professional can elevate him- or herself to the level of influencer within the industry. Kristen has more than twenty-five years as an influencer and working with brands and bloggers. She also shared information that brands can use to help ensure a successful campaign outcome.
Pet Industry Influencer Marketing Advice From An Influencer Perspective
Q: Kristen, what is an “influencer campaign”?
A: It is a program in which a brand has an objective and specific goals that will define what success looks like with a campaign. The campaign itself specifies the tasks the chosen influencer would need to deliver to fulfill the campaign objectives. Those tasks could be: blog posts, social media posting,
social media boosts or delivering a certain number of impressions. Those items would be those the influencer agrees to deliver to the brand.
Q: Are there different types of influencer campaigns?
A: There are lead generation campaigns. With this type of campaign we would do a giveaway with a twofold goal:
- To generate email leads for the brand
- To generate social media engagement for the brand
The objective is to reach a new audience for the brand. Many times when we work with a brand, it wants to reach a new audience of pet lovers.
There are also campaigns designed to reach potential customers outside the brands’ specific industry. That is more of a “social” campaign in which blog posts and social media shares are the important aspects.
Q; How can an influencer assure repeat invitations to work with brands?
A: Every time an influencer delivers a successful campaign, the brand is likely to come back and work with them again.
It’s always in the best interest of the influencer — within reason — to meet the goals. When brands have lofty goals, the influencer needs to communicate with them to let them know whether they think the goal is attainable. If the influencer doesn’t believe they can deliver, it’s best for them to speak up, in the beginning, and say, “I think we can do this,” or “I think this may be too ambitious, how about if we try this.” Don’t wait until the campaign is a few days before the deadline to communicate that you’re not going to be able to reach the goals. Early communication is key.
If a campaign doesn’t meet its goals, it’s not a failure, it’s a learning opportunity. Before another campaign is kicked off we work with the brand to delve into the reasons the campaign didn’t meet the goal and see what didn’t work.
Was it the:
- Wrong message
- Wrong influencer
- Wrong timing
- Wrong goal
- Wrong social platform
When a brand is looking to work on a campaign with an influencer the brand contact will want to know how previous campaigns performed; this helps them set a realistic goal. Determining goals are crucial for the influencer. If the influencer is aware of the goals and mindful of what the brand hopes to achieve it helps the influencer work to assure the goal is met.
In some cases, goals are too robust and it may be difficult for the influencer to deliver. If that’s the case, I might add more blog posts or I might boost specific posts in a paid campaign to help achieve the goal.
Q: What does a brand look for when seeking a potential influencer with whom to work?
A: In order to find the “right” influencer fit, a brand will:
- Find an influencer with a strong social following, BUT, that doesn’t necessarily make them a fit for your brand. The brand needs to make certain the influencer reflects the brands’ and its defined customer profile. (For example, if you’re a pet food company and the influencer you want to work with has a massive following, but that influencer is a raw feeder, it’s not a fit for your kibble company.)
- Look for an influencer and platform — whether Instagram, Facebook or the blog or a combination — that is relevant to the brand. The brand needs to look at the potential influencer and see what the influencer currently “talks” about online and assure it’s a fit. The brand also needs to know where its audience interacts the most: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and look for an influencer with clout on that particular platform.
- Seek out an influencer through word-of-mouth. Who do your colleagues and friends follow? Look at different brands, visualize your brand being shared by a particular influencer. Tap into an influencer who is already talking about topics of interest to the brand’s customers. For example, if you have a pet insurance brand and you identify with an influencer who advocates for preventative vet care or posts about pet care topics, that seems like it might be an ideal fit.
Q; What happens if an influencer simply can’t deliver on the campaign goals?
A: There are times when you think you have found an ideal pairing of brand and influencer, but the first campaign just doesn’t deliver. If that’s the case, I might work with that influencer on a smaller project and deliver a different message to their readers. I advocate giving an influencer more than one opportunity to deliver; if it doesn’t work after the second trial then maybe it’s just not a good fit.
There are some campaigns, with pet food brands, for instance that don’t always do well. The reason is, people need to be educated about the benefits of changing their pets’ food before they will take a chance on a new food. It is also important for an influencer to know which campaigns to say “yes” to; if they aren’t willing to change their pets’ diet they maybe aren’t the best fit to talk about a new food for their followers.
Q : What assets should the brand provide the influencer to help them succeed?
A: I love it when the brand offers the “obvious” asset of products or samples so the influencer can experience the item before sharing information with his or her followers.
If the brand provides the influencer with key message points to help communicate the message, but allows the influencer to “massage” the message to suit their unique audience, that is helpful.
Providing the influencer with links to the brands’ social sites and logos is useful; it just makes it easier for the influencer to tag and link. The easier you make it for an influencer, the more you will get from them. It’s best for a brand to let the influencer develop content, not search for your social handles.
Making certain the influencer has links to videos and other great content he or she can share helps make for a better campaign.
Q: How do you find the right influencer for the brand?
A: Consider this: Your brand is at a cocktail party, what other brands would it want to hang out with? When the brand finds who it wants to connect with at this cocktail party, then look at who else is hanging with that brand — those might be your potential influencers.
Q: When you’re looking for an influencer to work with a brand, what are you looking for? Essentially, what can a person do to become an influencer and take him- or herself attractive to a brand?
A: Potential influencers needs to think of themselves as a brand. They need to define their niche. They need to know their focus, whether it’s corgis, all dog breeds, stay-at-home moms with pets, etc. Stay true to your niche in your images, your posts, your advice and the experiences you share. When a potential influencer does that, it makes it easier for a brand to determine what you’re about and whether they can see their brand being shared in your messaging.
Many influencers have more going on in their lives than their social platforms would suggest, but if you’re all over the map, it’s hard to attract brands you want to work with. You need to figure out who you are and what expertise or niche you want to be known for. For example, I never share my personal life on my business networks — that would dilute my brand. Take a look at your social pages and determine if you’re diluting your own brand.
Also, grow your following organically — don’t falsely inflate your numbers by paying for likes. The size of your following isn’t the biggest impact, how engaged your followers are is what matters.
Be bold. Reach out and connect directly with a brand with whom you want to work. Make yourself known. Introduce yourself and show them some love — even before you start working with them. If you have a brand you love, write about them; show how you’re using their product. Give a brand a taste of what you could do for them and then share it with them.
Q: Is there anything we didn’t ask about influencers and brands that you think is important?
A: I think brands and influencers need to think outside their own industry and look to other industries where influencers gather that could still resonate with your brand. When I travel, for example, I fly Southwest and I have always thought Southwest should work with pet influencers.
If a brand steps outside of the pet industry, you may find you have less competition. Another example is if you’re an athletic company and your influencers are fitness buffs and professional athletes, that’s great. BUT what if you looked for a pet industry influencer who is very active with her pets and who would advocate for your brand.
Think broader than your narrow industry and both the brand and the influencer could create a cool out-of-the-box opportunity.
Kristen Levine Pet Living works with pet and veterinary brands and has done so for a long time. She is always looking for new partnerships and would be happy to collaborate on potential ways to help brands reach new audiences. Contact Kristen here.