Why is that? – Zuza Śleszyńska reveals how to master influencer marketing.

Maria, a CEO and strategist at Kreatik, talks with the co-owner of the Lettly agency, about how to make Grzegorz Turnau an influencer, how TikTok stars will take over Instagram and what connects Zuza with random people on the tram. We encourage you to read! 

Let’s start with history – how did it all start? 

– Of course, by a complete coincidence. Immediately after graduation, I got an internship at a German company that dealt with software development for e-commerce, we made mobile websites and applications for online stores. Our task was to boost the Polish branch of this company. When we started, 7 years ago, mobile traffic in online stores was around 3% – it was already a big deal. Currently it is about 60%, so we were selling sand in the desert back then. But we did it, and in the first year we got 150 customers who were open to novelty and knew that the internet was shifting to mobile. I was an ambitious intern, hungry for knowledge, and after 2 years I became the head of the sales department. After another half a year, after my best sales month, an investor came and announced that from now on Poland will only support the activities of the American and German offices and I don’t have much to do anymore. It was at that time when my friends had an e-commerce and Instagram project on the horizon that I could take part in. I decided that I would try it – after 3 months I could always go to the corporation 🙂  

But you stayed. 

– We created an application that allowed online stores to sell via Instagram. In the USA, Instagram started to do such dedicated projects for sale for some of its clients, e.g. a pilot with Michael Kors, where, after liking a photo, an Instagram user received an email with the product to his e-mail. And we just recreated something like this. 

Did you decide to help brands monetize Instagram? 

– Yes. Instagram began to grow strongly after it was acquired by Facebook. We just noticed that this potential is very big. As we started 5 years ago, Instagram had 500,000 users in Poland – now it has 7 million! It was such a cute medium where there was no hate and everyone liked each other, and today even here crisis management has to be introduced 🙂 Instagram was also organically very good then, it had a chronological feed, and the algorithm was not so developed yet. We started working with online stores – friends or former clients first – or we hit brands that were open to new solutions. We have worked, for example, with the American profile of Inglot, Local Heroes, DeeZee, Worldbox. Back then, the only clickable place on Instagram was a link in a bio, which we cleverly transformed into a clickable gallery. We shortened the client’s journey from seven steps to three! We also introduced a newsletter – we entered the brand’s fan base and, after liking the photo, they received an email with the product. 

And how did it work? 

– At the beginning, we were very successful, because in the first year we gained 150 large clients and started to be considered as people who know Instagram – we happened to appear in various rankings, such as Forbes 30 Under 30, Brief: 50 creative in business, provide interviews. The application became more and more popular and brands realized that their competitors were using Instagram for sales, which meant that they came to us. Brands came to us and said: “We don’t have any e-commerce product, but you know each other on Instagram, so what can we do together?” From the beginning, we planned to cooperate with influencers. We wanted to redirect traffic from influencer to product, but it wasn’t technically possible at the time. So we started offering our clients a different solution in the form of image campaigns. In this way, we have become one of the first agencies specialized in influencer marketing in Poland. 

And you opened chapter 2.0.  

-Yes, now we are 100% dedicated to campaigns with influencers. We work with brands as well as directly with brand marketing departments or with agencies that are responsible for the entire strategy and 360 ° marketing. Our work has evolved a lot during these 5 years – at the beginning of a new campaign, a brand would come to us and say, “We have this much money and we want this girl, make it happen”. Now,  this “creative burden” is more and more often passed on to us, which we like very much. We also started to understand the influencer marketing itself more broadly. For example, we did a Skoda campaign with Grzegorz Turnau and Mela Koteluk together with the Isobar agency. And yet Grzegorz Turnau is not an influencer in the common understanding of the word… 

He is not on Instagramie all the time 🙂  

-Mr. Grzegorz has several thousand followers there, but if you walk along the street with him, most people will recognize him. So it’s not just the internet celebrities anymore. More and more often we engage people who create a specific value in the campaign. Recently someone put it nicely that if we turned off the Internet, these people would still have something to say and do all the time. This approach suits us very well and more and more often we make such quite non-standard campaigns. 

So what about people who will not have anything to do when the internet is turned off? What value do they give to brands

– They are the voice of a generation, they touch upon certain topics. Sometimes it’s only as much and yet so much as entertainment. Our approach to spending our free time has changed a bit. I do not like demonizing social media so much that it is entering into the lives of others, peeping or that it is untrue. We are just like that today. Today we have a smartphone in our hand, and 50 years ago we had a newspaper… 

…or a TV remote control. 

– Brands need different things, so if we want to use an influencer in ongoing communication, of course it comes in handy and it works. Now we also divide influencers into tribes – we look at what language they speak, what they speak, what excites them,  what they do in their free time. They just talk to their community, which is why smaller accounts are more engaging. Megainfluencer accounts with over a million followers will naturally create a community of very different people. For example, Maffashion is followed not only by me, but also by a 13-year-old girl with whom I am traveling by tram in the center of Warsaw, and we are connected by completely different things. Influencer marketing allows brands to quite accurately identify who they are talking to, unlike a TV where the whole family sits in front of a receiver. So, first of all, we teach clients and agencies to ask themselves what their purpose is. 

Why and why is it needed? 

– I understand that everything in the advertising industry is for yesterday, but we should consider whether it makes sense to burn through the budget. We also sometimes refuse to do acampaign and say: “Look, do you really need an influencer for this? Your product is targeted at people 50+ on Instagram, that’s 5% of users, so why not give it a rest or look for another channel?” So once again: “Start with the why”, says Simon Sinek. In the constant pursuit of the deadline, we forget about it. 

What can influencer marketing achieve in this arrangement? Especially in the current pandemic situation when many brands decide to shift their spending to digital campaigns? Is this a good time to start working with influencers? 

– Everything depends on what our goal is, because we have a lot of people who influence us in our environment – family, friends, celebrities, experts, even a lady in a pharmacy. We understand influencer marketing so broadly, i.e. we don’t just look at the internet, but at the entire context. During the pandemic, some brands began to cooperate with influencers because this was the only way they could reach their customers. For example, they had to give up filming, major TV campaigns or OOH. They turned to influencer marketing to stay in touch with their clients because it was the most effective (and sometimes the only) way. Several brands very efficiently went beyond communicating the product itself and entertaining consumers, such as, for example, Żywiec in the “ Meskie Granie at home“ campaign. 

 And do brands see it that way too and understand this approach? 

– We are just starting to educate brands in this area. There are people who are our visible fans, but there are also a lot of fans hidden. There are forums on Wizaż, the so-called dark social, where we share memes and links on Messenger, we recommend things in subgroups – and this is immeasurable. 

Here we are heading a little towards conversational marketing, which brands are not yet able to fully tackle. 

– We also include the term ‘advocacy’, where we treat all people who talk about the brand equally, and this is difficult for brand managers to perceive. But there are brands that are not corporations and have entered the market successfully – for example, my favorite cosmetic brand Glossier, which I mention in every presentation, did a great job: they have a channel on the Slack messenger, where they talk to 10,000 people who are their most faithful fans about new products, products, what does not work. They send them packages with products and premieres. If you tag them on Instagram, they will always write back to you. 

Isn’t it also the case that brands expect reactions and comments, but often forget that, in fact, users want them too? 

– This is a big problem with our influencer marketing – brands often think that they will pay for the post or cooperation and the publication is over – we count likes, comments and applaud each other. In fact, this is where the work begins – there are comments, crises, you have to react to how followers interact. Sometimes what seemed like a great idea on paper will not work in practice or the execution will fail – after all, we often make compromises with the client or with business partners, and it does not always turn out well. 

 So when is influencer marketing not a good idea? 

– It has to be part of a broader strategy, and it won’t work well when it’s a one-shot. There are exceptions that prove the rule – Jess threw Inglot eyeliner somewhere in her stories and this color sold out all over the country or Ania Lewandowska showed Badury shoes and the whole collection sold out. Fortunately, now the client is more educated to plan and measure such activities. Although there is still a really big problem with measuring. 

The pandemic is ongoing and this state of affairs will continue for the next several months. The time of influencer crisis campaigns is passing, we can actually talk about a new reality. How have brand behaviors and actions changed in this context? Are they fed up with the topic and return to the previous communication, or is it still the number one topic? What permanent changes in the approach to inflation campaigns do you see on the side of brands? 

– We definitely do not plan offline events – brands are still very careful here, although even large brands are shyly starting to plan slightly more intimate events. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty here – brands cannot afford an image crisis in the form of, for example, the spread of a virus at their event. The topic in the media is still hot and raises a lot of emotions, so nobody wants to take this risk. However, when it comes to the content posted by influencers, the situation is somewhat different. Already during the “hard” lockdown, we had signals from the observers that they were fed up with the pandemic and were looking for a respite in social media – then I think we all started cooking and baking sourdough bread 😉 In brand creations you can still see references to the “new reality”. In campaigns, we more often encourage shopping in online stores, not in brick-and-mortar stores. When it comes to the influencers themselves, of course, there has been a big change in the choice of holiday destinations, but we probably all noticed this among our friends as well. 

At some point during the lockdown, in the industry there was talk of a kind of bankruptcy of the influencer’s message. Without the possibility to go shopping, to cafes, or to travel abroad, some influencers, especially those categorized as lifestyle, experienced a certain crisis. Is it temporary or are influencer profiles also changing? 

– I would not dramatize that much, but of course this situation verifies whether the influencer has something to say beyond the advertising message itself. The time spent on Instagram alone increased by 30% during the lockdown – a sign that we were looking for a break from reality in social networks. We were all trapped at home, and it seems to me that some influencers showed their true face and gained more authenticity. Some profiles even found a new strategy – I do not know a person who would not improve his mood with a dose of stories from the guys from Make Life Harder. 

Let’s go back to measuring campaigns, how to do it? 

– We have several different options. When it comes to e-commerce, we can provide influencers with unique links where we will track traffic. You can also map e-commerce traffic, e.g. mark the moment of publication of a video on YouTube and examine the correlation between it and an increase in sales. Of course, this will only work for brands that have their own e-commerce and distribution is not disparced. We will not do it when we work with brands that are available from several retailers, on their own e-commerce and, for example, on Zalando. The largest brands attach great importance to buzz, i.e. how much engagement, likes and interactions a given publication will generate. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of buzz, because I believe that it does not always translate into sales, and in reports and presentations it is usually a bit of a vanity metrics. 

The quality of the influencer, i.e. how they build their fan base, also affects good results. What does influencer verification look like? 

– Of course. A lot also depends on the customer – e.g. in the case of banks, large institutions or corporations, there is a total screening. Which is a very good sign, corporations equip themselves with expensive software to measure and check influencers, which catches fake accounts or bot activity. In the case of larger campaigns that involve outdoor or television, there are even focus groups to select an influencer and such a process may take several months. We do not only rely on data, but also very often verify the influencer in terms of the so-called brand tone – whether it simply fits a given brand. I also strongly remind you that demography should not be the only indicator that we follow – an 18-year-old in Warsaw and an 18-year-old in Gdańsk may have completely different interests. You know how many different personalities you had in your class in high school – if we give the same message to thirty people of the same age, we’ll hit maybe two. 

As specialists in the industry, you observe in the US new functionalities of Instagram, Facebook or other tools that had appeared there earlier than in our country. And how does influencer marketing work there? 

– Of course, it’s bolder there – but for this you also need a brand that can afford something non-standard. When it comes to the influencer market itself, it is more diverse. We cannot compare ourselves to the United States – after all, it’s 400 million people versus 40 million – and that also allows for more freedom. In the case of high fashion in Poland, we have two people with whom we can promote it, and in France or Germany there are many more such people. Of course, there are also many more recipients. Sometimes we struggle with corporate guidelines that are completely inconsistent with the Polish market – we have to explain the reality and change the followers reach, which, unfortunately, are still the main determinant of the selection of people for the campaign. We have recently received feedback after a briefing that the client decided to work with another agency because it offered greater reach for the same price. My partner wrote back very consciously that we are not doing campaigns for ranges and total number of followers. We can only estimate what the reach will be, but we’ll really find out after the fact. Coming back to the question – when it comes to social media consumption, we are on a similar level. Certainly, Twitter is very large in the United States, and we have politicians, sports fans and home-grown sports commentators on it. Of course, TikTok is growing a lot .. 

I would love to stay with you on TikTok because I’m a huge fan of it! There was a moment in Poland when it was said about TikTok that this was the sexualization of children, that it was not known what it was about and how it was supposed to work. There has, of course, been enormous controversy recently over the US / China conflict. For me, this is a phenomenal new platform for kids to express themselves, which will soon turn into another place for brands and influencers to grow stronger. I am fascinated by the emergence of a new medium that forces a different way of working and a different way of thinking … 

– Exactly. We did a very nice campaign in collaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi for Carrefour, “Back to school”. Ideal target audience – the majority of TikTok users are young people. The creators are also younger, they do not necessarily have experience in working with brands, so we generally define what is going to happen in a given action, and the invention is totally on the side of TikTok stars themselves. On this platform, authenticity comes first and we don’t want to interfere too much with their ideas. There are so well done advanced forms, transitions, effects in this app and the creativity of the young people is amazing! Coming back to those favorite statistics of our clients, i.e. views, we get 500,000 views within 15 minutes! I couldn’t believe it! Of course, we are only just learning this medium, brands enter slowly and with a certain shyness. However, subsequent reports and case studies that we analyze show that the platform is very promising – Instagram itself saw a lot of competition in TikTok and recently implemented additional Reels functionality, allowing for similar effects. However, we must remember that the secret of TikTok are not functionalities, but a brilliant algorithm that selects the content displayed to the user in such a way that from month to month the time spent in the application increases by more minutes (now TikTok is already beating Instagram). It is also worth adding that TikTok is not only for kids – only about 40% of users fall into the lowest age bracket. In the case of TikTokers in Poland, they are also very big on Instagram or YouTube and these platforms mix. So I am waiting for new creators and interesting campaigns on this medium – there is a lot of potential. 

Zuza Śleszyńska – a co-founder of Lettly, an influencer marketing agency. A mentor in the Google Launchpad program for startups in the earliest stages of development, she also lectures at the university. Translator by profession. Privately, she could live at a music festival. She also travels, cooks and makes the best meringues in the world. 

14.01.2022

Maria Połońska

Tworzy strategie marketingu, sprzedaży i wejścia na rynek. Doradza startupom, buduje produkty digitalowe i prowadzi warsztaty w duchu design thinking.

Jest założycielką Kreatika. Jako podróżniczka koleją transsyberyjską dotarła do Pekinu, a Fiatem 125p do Stambułu, jednak jej serce skradła Korea Południowa.

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