Author, A Lady in London and a Leading Travel Influencer
Julie is a London-based travel blogger and social media professional who runs an award-winning travel and lifestyle blog called A Lady in London. Julie has worked with many leading fashion and travel brands and has been featured in National Geographic, Intelligent Travel, Lonely Planet, British Airways' High Life, and other leading travel and lifestyle publications. Esquire listed her as one of Instagram's 20 Coolest Travel Photographers, and she features on Instagram’s Suggested Users list. Previously, Julie worked in finance at both Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund and she now teaches social media for influencers and bloggers.Read moreView Profile Page
Julie, could you just lay out the basics of influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is a pretty broad term, but it generally defines the marketing strategies in which businesses or brands or any kind of entity works with influencers. That could be YouTubers, bloggers, Instagrammers, content creators, in general, to achieve their marketing goals. That could be through a campaign that they’re working with them on, on creating content and putting it out to their channels. It could be something like a brand ambassadorship, where it’s a closer and more personal relationship with the brand. It takes lots of different forms, so there’s lots of different scope for doing partnerships and sponsorships and things like that.
How have you seen that evolve, since it started, I don’t know how many years ago, compared to how it is today?
Yes, it’s evolved a lot. I started doing this 13 years ago and influencer marketing didn’t exist back then. Nobody even knew what a blog was, when I started A Lady in London. Influencer marketing, kind of started coming into play, probably about 2013, 2014, for most people. Slightly earlier for some, slightly later for others. It depends on the vertical and the geography. It started out, very much, piecemeal. One-off partnerships or a brand would meet someone and they’d trust them, so they would do something with them, but it would just be that.
A few years later, brands started cottoning on to the idea that influencers could be really powerful in the marketing strategies and it became much more mainstream. Now, a lot of brands work with multiple people, they work through agencies, they have huge strategies for influencer marketing. There’s a lot more that they are doing with it now.
What do you think has fueled the growth?
In my opinion, the growth has been fueled by the success of influencer marketing, where brands have really seen their marketing goals achieved, whether that’s sales, community engagement or whatever it is, through using influences, as part of their marketing strategy.
Let’s say that I am a brand owner of a consumer product and I am looking to open up this new channel. What are the different types of relationships that are available, with an influencer?
It depends on what you are trying to do and what your goals are, but there are a lot of different types of relationships. It could, again, be a one-off partnership, where you have someone Instagram about your products or services. It could be having a blogger run a blog post that has SEO value, so it can be found for years to come. The same thing with YouTube. Or it could be something where you work with a lot of different people, on a micro-level, to get the word out at a grass roots level. There’s lots of different channels that you can go through.
Typically, it’s just a fixed fee, based on the audience or the reach?
That completely depends. One of the things about influencer marketing is that there is no real standardization to it; it’s kind of the Wild West. There are some influencer marketing agencies that will say, “Okay, you come to us with a brief; we’ll go to influencers and we’ll say that we will pay you X amount for X content.” But even then, there’s a lot of room for negotiation. Other times, it’s completely one-off and it’s a relationship between each brand and each influencer they work with and it can be, again, a different mix of content, depending on what the influencer’s strengths are. Obviously, every influencer is different, so you might approach one person to do a blog post, because they’ve got a blog. You might approach somebody else to do a YouTube video, because they’re bigger on YouTube, etc.
How would compare influencer marketing to the celebrity endorsements or that type of channel?
I think they are similar, in the sense that it’s working with somebody who has got a personality and a personal brand of their own, to get the word out about your products and services. But I think the main difference between the celebrity endorsement and the influencer marketing is that the celebrity is more untouchable, on a certain level of, I’ll never be in that realm. Whereas influencers are more seen as girl-next-door, boy-next-door. I could be your friend; I could be somebody you work with or went to school with or do something else with. There’s much more of that trust element of a personal recommendation, almost word-of-mouth marketing, as opposed to the celebrity endorsement, which is from a much higher level.
How important is trust?
I think trust is the crux of the whole thing. Influencers talk about this a lot, amongst themselves. If I, for example, started promoting products or services that were not good, on A Lady in London or my channels, people would stop trusting me and I would lose all my audience and then, obviously, I would lose all my sponsorships. The opposite is true too; if I really endorse a product, vetting the products and services really carefully, and making sure that they are things that I believe in, then my readers or followers have a good experience with those products and services, then it makes them trust me more and good things happen from that, too. Trust is really important.
What do you think the big brands missed about trust?
I think, some brands are necessarily looking to work with the right influencers. They want to work with influencers and they either do a big approach, where they work with tons of different influencers, without really understanding the specific influencers and their audiences. So they miss out on that factor, because they’re just working with people who aren’t a great fit. The brands, maybe, have a good product, but the influencer isn’t the right person to work with or their demographic isn’t the right one that they are trying to reach. I think, some brands just don’t quite see the need to really get specific about working with the right influencers and the people who are going to, firstly, both believe in their product and really endorse it, personally. Secondly, have the audience who is going to be interested in it and have a positive experience with it.
Is that because the brands are not up to speed on how the channel works or are not professionalized in choosing influencers yet?
I think it’s a bit of both. I think some brands are less sophisticated. They know that they are supposed to be working with influencers, because everyone is, but they’re not quite sure how to do it. So they just take the big, broad approach. I think other brands know that they’re supposed to do it and it’s harder and it takes more time, so they think, we’ll just skip that part and go with a bunch of influencers, who are either big, so they think they’ll get a lot of return on investment. Or they’ll go with influencers they haven’t fully vetted because, again, it takes a while to vet them. Alternatively, they’ll go with an agency who, again, doesn’t fully vet or just goes with whoever signs up with them.