What Makes a Great Influencer Post?

It all starts with a great story first and foremost--a story written genuinely from the influencer’s perspective, not spoon-fed from the brand.

There is a science to creating a great influencer marketing post.

It all starts with a great story first and foremost–a story written genuinely from the influencer’s perspective, not spoon-fed from the brand: That story has to be something the influencer dreams up, not something you manufacture for them. It’s perfectly fine to give them a theme so that you have some cohesiveness to your influencer campaign, but the last thing you want is 50 influencers out there creating practically identical content for you.

You build credibility and trust for your brand or product through multiple stories told from different angles. It showcases exactly how great your brand is and how well the brand or product fits into so many lives.

Always include a clear and conspicuous disclosure at the top: In compliance with Federal Trade Commission requirements, each post must begin with a tactful disclosure, ensuring that the influencers maintain their credibility.

It should be placed at the top of the post so that the reader knows from the onset of starting to read the piece that the post is sponsored content. The disclosure can include the campaign hashtags, as well.

The FTC is cracking down on nondisclosures, so it’s important to be diligent and make sure every post is clearly designated as sponsored or risk large fines.

But don’t worry about disclosures keeping the readers from engaging with the content. As long as the content is valuable, useful or entertaining audiences don’t care if it’s sponsored. In fact, millennials–a very hard-to-reach target–not only don’t care, but according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015, 20 percent said it had a positive effect on their view of the brand.

It starts with a terrific headline: Influencers get to know their audiences and the content they want. They also learn over time what words resonate and get the most click-throughs.

No, we’re not talking about clickbait. We would never prescribe for that. We are talking about keywords that not only drive search-engine optimization, but also push the reader’s happy buttons. Words like “easy, simple, lessons I learned, tips and family favorites” come to mind.

And don’t push the influencer to shove the campaign title or brand name into the headline. Remember: You’re trying to leverage an influencer’s authenticity, not turn them into a blatant shill for your brand.

Brand names, trademarks and naming conventions aren’t for influencer posts: Yes, we understand the need to protect a brand’s mark and trademarks, but insisting that the full name of a long product name be used every time the product is mentioned is overkill. In addition, it makes the post very stilted and less conversational. When reading really great posts, readers should almost be able to imagine the voice of the writer and what she or he is like.

Never dictate copy for insertion into content: There are elements of a sponsored social media post that an advertiser can exercise control over, and there are elements that must be kept strictly in the influencer’s authentic voice.

Think of it in “subjective” and “objective” terms. Objective terms are considered to be anything factual about the product, including ingredients, claims, etc. Subjective terms are the influencer’s opinion based on his or her experience with the brand or product.

The influencer should have the license to reword the objective materials, but never to the point where it misleads any audience with unsubstantiated claims. A toothpaste might have claims of whitening, for example, but if an influencer discovers that it also whitens tennis shoes, this is not considered truth in advertising and is out of the bounds of an influencer’s sponsored content, unless the advertiser can prove that the toothpaste whitens shoes.

In addition, in conjunction with our attorney, it is our interpretation of the FTC guidelines that any dictating dictation of subjective content is in violation of the FTC’s requirement that product endorsements “reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experience of the endorser,” and the disclosure that. “I was compensated for this. All opinions are my own.”

And this doesn’t allow the influencer to be authentic with their content. Prescribed messaging sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t allow the influencer to maintain their personal voice.

A great post begins with a large hero image: Just like an editorial in a magazine starts with a large eye-catching visual, so should a great influencer post. It has to work as hard as the headline in grabbing the attention of the reader.

The image should tell just enough of the story to draw the reader in, making them want to read the rest of the story. And never supply images to an influencer. It turns the post into a clear advertisement. Always let the influencer show off their creativity. Many of our advertisers love the surprise usage occasions an influencer can inspire.

Subsequent photos tell the story visually: The best posts tell the story both through words and photos. The influencer should walk the reader through the steps they took to create the subject of their piece or to enhance the story.

People tend to skim, first reading the headline and the subheads, and then going back to read between the lines if the content is compelling. It’s how the product is expertly woven into the content.

Today, content works because it’s relevant. Relevancy comes from being able to tell stories about the product and how it fits into the author’s life. Whether that is showing how they used the product in a do-it-yourself assignment or a recipe they made for a special family occasion, the best posts allow influencers to creatively weave the product authentically into the story.

Show and tell: Depending on the type of campaign, influencers should incorporate a recipe, tutorial or review into the post. This allows the reader to easily recreate the recipe, create a unique craft or learn and enjoy a new usage for the product. These tutorials or recipes should be accompanied by plenty of photos to show readers exactly how they made what they made.

Posts drive traffic to the brand’s digital asset: Influencers should weave links into their posts, driving traffic to specified social channels and websites or engaging readers to use a digital coupon. But these links should all be no-follow links to meet Google’s requirement.

Most self-respecting bloggers or influencers won’t take free product in exchange for a link. Influencers choose brands they are passionate about and feel are a good fit for their own brand. Who they work with starts with the brand and type of content first, rather than links.

Influencer marketing should be leveraged for audience growth, the content and the engagement influencers can generate at scale, not the links.

There’s even a plugin for WordPress that automatically turns links into no-follow links for influencers. And links with no-follow still build awareness and can be clicked over to the sites they are pointing to.

Great posts encourage engagement: Each of our influencers has an audience they’ve worked hard to curate and keep engaged. They encourage reader engagement through calls to action and convenient options for sharing or commenting.

Posts are retailer-specific: Posts can tie in specific retailers and creatively show where the product can be found in store.

Holly Pavlika is senior vice president of marketing and content at influencer marketing provider Collective Bias.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.