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Brands, Listen Up: Influencers Striking a Pose is the New Normal

Opinion: It’s interesting to take note of how influencers and brands have evolved working together over the past decade

As industry tentpole events, like New York Fashion Week, come and go in a flash, it’s interesting to take note of how influencers and brands have evolved working together over the past decade.

Last year, it was reported that 49 percent of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. So it’s no surprise that the rise of influencer marketing has exploded and affected the fashion industry in a pivotal way.

During last year’s New York Fashion Week, it was reported that 427,000 images were shared, generating more than 113 million social engagements. Of the top 10 Instagram images by total engagements, eight were taken by models and influencers.

A fashion industry colleague recently complained to me about what she considered to be an invasive presence of bloggers at a recent fashion show. She, unlike many other industry insiders, is not offended by the mere presence of bloggers in the audience. She did, however, take issue with a pair of bloggers Snapchatting everything, not paying attention to the runway and constantly blocking her colleagues’ view with their phones.

Fashion blogging is now a mainstay of the industry, and that includes having a continued presence at industry events like Fashion Week. Yet you certainly don’t want to be “that brand,” inviting annoying guests to your shows.

In a sense, fashion blogging is still the Wild West, and brands can do their part to impose some order by finding the right influencers and developing strong campaigns around tentpole events such as Fashion Week.

Make sure influencer partnerships are on brand, even for fashion shows

In one sense, this is what brands already do when choosing influencers to partner with on campaigns.

If you’re Vans, for example, you’re probably not gifting sneakers to bloggers who only photograph themselves in heels. If you’re Versace, you would not gift a brightly colored, body-con dress to a normcore blogger with a monochrome Instagram feed—no matter how many followers she may have.

Likewise, at the GenArt or VFiles events, you might anticipate a high degree of social engagement during the show. After all, those shows skew toward a more youthful, fun and informal audience.

For Oscar de la Renta or Marchesa, you could expect a more thoughtful, focused crowd. So, then, why would you have off-brand influencers attend your show?

In the same way that you want on-brand influencers for your products, you should have on-brand influencers at your shows. Moreover, you should reward the influencers you’ve been working with all year with access to the shows—not just the highest-following influencers that already get invited to everything (I’m looking at you, Leandra), but the smaller micro-influencers that you’re hopefully already collaborating with throughout the year.

Have a plan

In order to ensure that events like Fashion Week are a positive experience for all those involved, it’s vital for brands to pick the right influencers and develop compelling campaigns around events. Go into Fashion Week with a strategic plan in place.

Don’t just invite people into your shows and hope it gives you a boost: Share press materials with them and be exact about what the required deliverables will be, in order to guide what messages will circulate after your show.

Your plan should include additional programming, such as interactive social events, alongside runway shows where it’s déclassé to be sharing every moment. This could be a special event that’s “made” for Instagram and Snapchat sharing. A social event would feature runway models mingling with influencers and plenty of backdrops to ensure that your brand logo is seen beyond a small hashtag.

Then empower influencers with what they need to tell the story after the event and you’ll be surprised with how much they can do. Maybelline provides an excellent example of building an influencer campaign around Fashion Week. According to a Mediakix case study, Maybelline earned more than 3.5 million likes during NYFW 2016.

Think beyond Fashion Week

So what about the other 50 weeks of the year? We see great success when influencers are considered part of the team.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, L’Oréal is one of the first brands to recognize this wisdom and take it to heart. The recently launched “L’Oréal League” is a year-long partnership with 15 digital content creators.

How can you create this kind of engagement without the budgets (or staff) that L’Oreal has? By making a long-term plan and utilizing technology that helps streamline ongoing relationships with influencers.

These can help in a number of ways. They can centralize lists across the company, organize content and manage both approvals and compliance. They can also move communication from individual inboxes into a shared system and automate emails, payment and reporting. Most importantly, they can track performance across campaigns, optimizing them for continued growth and return on investment.

In the end, when a huge industry event like Fashion Week is approaching, it’s important that both your Fashion Week show attendees and the influencers you choose to invite are engaging at the event in the most positive and impactful way possible. Brands should work closely with influencer partners to help with everything from planning what content is going to come out around the show to seating them in places that best facilitate social media interaction without interrupting others.

Ultimately, the goal is for both the show audience and the online audience to have a positive takeaway of the influencer’s experience of the event and your brand overall.

Image courtesy of IS_ImageSource/iStock.