If you’ve heard the name Alex Reid recently, it’s likely because of the social media strategist and business owner’s appearance on reality series Byron Baes.
Even before it aired in March, the Netflix-produced series faced controversy — including backlash from Byron Bay locals around its alleged portrayal of the affluent NSW coastal town as a mecca for fame-hungry creators and social media influencers.
While the hype has washed away in recent weeks, Reid says one of his key storylines in the show — around whether a Gold Coast influencer’s eye watering 1 million followers was as legitimate as they claimed — remains relevant.
Too many Australian businesses using influencer marketing are still failing to see return on their investment, he warns.
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“If a small business spends money and gets no results, they’re probably going to … spend money on influencers again,” Reid tells SmartCompany.
As the creator economy has boomed, an increasing number of businesses, ranging from global luxury brands to small independent businesses, are allocating marketing budgets to partnerships with influencers.
Almost 59% of brands disclosed having a standalone budget for content marketing in 2021, with 75% saying they intend to set up a dedicated budget for influencer marketing.
As the sector has grown, regulators have stepped in; particularly in Australia. In early March the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) advised influencers may fall afoul of its regulations if their posts promote health products or therapeutic goods.
In the same month, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released an information sheet with new rules for social media personalities creating investment content without the proper financial credentials.
Reid says that as the sector has ballooned, beefed up regulation has lowered some of the risks.
“Once people started to take them more seriously, then more eyes [were] on the space. It comes with more budgets and more credibility.”
But not enough small businesses are taking the time to vet social media partnerships properly, he says.
Reid has the inside track. For the past four years, along with business partner Tom Maynard, he has run Amplify, a production and talent partner for brands that focuses on Instagram and TikTok creators and has run global campaigns, including a recent partnership with Menulog.
“We like to think of ourselves as the leader in the creator economy,” Reid explains. “We represent some of the biggest creators across all social platforms.”
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Vetting an influencer’s audience is always worth the time and effort
Reid says when his agency brings on a new influencer, they request screenshots of audience numbers and breakdown, to gain an accurate picture of who they are speaking to through their content.
Amplify also uses third party platforms such as Klear, which scrape data from social media pages to create a detailed profile of the user.
“Sometimes when people start out, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors that go on,” Reid says.
Even if a brand isn’t working directly with a reputable agency, it’s worth the time and effort to not only validate a social influencer’s audience numbers, but determine whether that audience aligns with that of the business.
“I think brands need to be a bit honest with themselves” about the outcome they are likely to see from their spend, Reid says.
Beyond that, the appeal of making a deal with a creator with a massive audience rarely makes sense for a local brand.
“If you’re an Australian-based company that’s shipping only to Australia, and someone’s got an audience overseas, it’s like buying a billboard on a highway that’s facing away from traffic,” he says.
“It might look great in design, but it’s not doing what it’s meant to.”
Reid says that there’s nothing wrong with asking for a simple screenshot of audience analytics before beginning a partnership.
Another common trap involves the disconnect between many influencers’ content and the people that consume it.
“Sometimes some really popular female influencers have a very high male audience,” Reid explains.
“So selling female branded sportswear might not work with that creator, even though they look great, and they can create great content; it’s not going to land.”
It’s in a business’s best interest to have direct and honest conversations with social media creators before diving headfirst into partnerships, he adds.
Be clear on what success looks like
There’s a difference between being an influencer and being a content creator, Reid says, and it’s crucial for brands to be able to differentiate between a potential partner’s ability to drive an audience to take action and the ability to create beautiful imagery on Instagram.
“You really want the creator to be able to do both,” Reid says.
Social media creators know their audience “because they build them from scratch”, he explains, and this audience is as important to them as any small business’s customer base is to them.
It’s important to go through a transparent process with the creator to make sure the audience is relevant to who you are trying to target. “And the way you can do that is making sure that the insights and the demographics line up,” he says.
Reid also emphasises that if you are giving money to an influencer, “you need to be able to work with them”. This is about valuing and listening to their insights as a professional.
“You’re a guest in this creator’s world that they’ve built,” he says.
“So you kind of need to be prepared to be a bit malleable to fit into what they want to do. The more you fit into what they want to do, the better results you’re going to have.”
Reid gives the example of the recent campaign at Amplify where Tiktok creators filmed themselves receiving their Menulog order.
The campaign’s strong results came from the fact the campaign “played into what was natural to TikTok and natural to the creators” by letting them create content that was authentic to them and their brand.
Should every small business work with influencers?
Reid says businesses should also be willing to walk away from a partnership when a creative tells you: “it’s not gonna work”.
The creator knows their audience better than anyone else, Reid explains, so if either party gets to the point where they feel the message is going to be lost in the creditors’ audience, “then don’t do it”.
“We make sure that our creators and brands are happy to work together and the values align, and that there’s not going to be any sad faces at the end of the campaign because everyone knows what they’re getting each way.”