Episode 49 of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast where Sammy Albon tracks his journey from creator to senior campaign direct at agency What They Said. 

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The Influencer Marketing Lab is a paid partnership with Tagger by Sprout Social a global leader in revolutionizing how top brands and agencies harness data and analytics to drive creator and influencer marketing strategies.

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Show notes

Welcome to episode 49 and a brand new season of the Influencer Marketing Lab - a weekly podcast tracking the growth spurts and growing pains of influencer marketing.

This podcast is a paid partnership with Tagger by Sprout Social a global leader in revolutionizing how top brands and agencies harness data and analytics to drive creator and influencer marketing strategies.

This week I'm in conversation with Sammy Albon, Senior Campaign Director at agency, What They Said

In this episode we discuss:

  • What authenticity means from the point of view of a creator and from a brand's point of view
  • Why A is for authenticity and affinity. But why A is for All
  • We talk de-influencing
  • The benefits of long-term brand collaborations with creators
  • How brands can effectively work with creators in their promoted media
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Sammy Albon biography

Sammy is the Senior Campaign Director at What They Said, leading the What They Said activation team in delivering award-winning, Less Ordinary, more meaningful influencer campaigns. 

Prior to joining What They Said Sammy was a Senior Creative Strategist designing and running global performance campaigns across entertainment, music, and gaming. 

Before shifting agency-side, Sammy was a full-time content creator for 8 years alongside his twin brother running 3 YouTube channels, and multiple Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Together they grew an audience of over half a million viewers. Sammy also co-produced and hosted BBC Radio 1's return to comedy with the Niki and Sammy Peachy Podcast which ran for 4 seasons (48 episodes) and featured a range of guests from Steve Aoki to Greg James, and even some Kpop Idols.


Useful links

Show highlights

Intro to the show. (0:00)

Differences between influencers and brand partnerships. (3:53)

What does authenticity mean to you? (8:29)

Passionate authenticity vs. transparent authenticity. (14:09)

Is influencing helpful or a hindrance? (17:30)

The shifting sands of influencers. (23:19)

Influencer Marketing Lab. (28:10)

How long term partnerships save time and money. (32:49)

Measuring the impact of influencer marketing. (37:55)

Balancing paid and organic influencers. (42:29)

three quarter length image of Sammy Albon - Influencer Marketing Lab podcast

Sammy Albon interview transcript

NOTE: This transcript has been created using AI technology. It may therefore contain a few errors. 

Scott Guthrie  

Welcome to the show. Sammy.

Sammy Albon 

Thanks, Scott. Can I just point out that you're probably the first person to ever say my name correctly first time. Everyone always says Albin so I'm enamoured. But no thanks for having me. And that was it's always lovely to hear such great things for the field like a lifetime ago. And the irony of having a comedy podcast where I'm not remotely funny will never be lost on me.

Scott Guthrie 

Well, let's dive straight into this. We're all pals here, so I'm not going to try and do a Paxman on you. It's just trying to open up the conversation. I'm not trying to trip you up. But as a creator and a marketer, you're in a rare position to be able to balance the equation and understand both what a creator needs from a brand collab and what a brand is expecting from forging a relationship with the Creator. What are the main differences do you think it needs and how can we narrow what expectation gap there is from either side?

Sammy Albon 

I think it's an interesting question because I don't really know if their needs are any different to one another. I mean, ultimately the reason an influencer is taking part in a brand partnership is was kind of twofold. If they want to monetize their content, that's why I did it, as well as potentially reach new audiences that you can't typically reach or have experiences that add value to your audience. And as a creator, my driving focus was, how do I give value to my audience? Because ultimately, what's more important to me, is my audience that I've built over the years, not that one off partnerships. So it's really trying to craft something authentic. And I know we'll talk about the a word loads, I imagine throughout this very word being authentic, of course, and authenticity. But for brands, I think they're very aligned, they want to reach engaged audiences that actually care really deeply about what their favourite influencers doing, saying, talking about and advocating for. So I guess both of them are really after the same thing, authentic partnerships that feel really native to their platforms. Sorry, I think he talked about at length, I think that there really isn't a difference between what the two wants from the partnership?

Scott Guthrie 

Well, let's tease apart some of the things you've just said. So you've talked about authenticity. But I think a brand wants its brand messages to be kind of smuggled through to an audience. What the two in common have got is an audience or a community. The brand, I would imagine once all these messages to be passed through to that community. And the creator wants to let's not sanitise them, at least that translate those messages into something that's palatable, and relatable to their community. So it's kind of a translation job, I'm guessing. And you might say, what, at one end of the spectrum, it might be the brand, saying, read out the script. And at the other end it say, you know, trust me, I know what my audience wants, let's co create this together, and then they meet somewhere in the middle, I really want to put words in your mouth. Is that Is that similar to your thoughts?

Sammy Albon 

A lot of this comes down to I think you touched on there, the affinity between the brand and the influencer, which has a knock on effect with authenticity, and what success looks like for partnership. And I think ultimately, it from the influencer side, we'll get onto Instagram and TikTok, and how that kind of don't cut ties the influence. But traditionally, influencers were typically quite choosy about the brands they partner with, because they really will need to align, they needed to find a brand that they were already fans off, or felt like it was seamless additions, that content has spoken about before, or offered something that would be really beneficial to our audience. So I think then, likewise, that makes it easier for the brand to impart a deeper understanding of their product or service or include that key messaging in a really authentic, credible way. So a lot of it is I think you've seen particularly the lockdown and how influencer marketing is scaled. There's a real focus on churn and burn models of like, Let's do scaled influencer campaigns, across the board across the gaming apps and all sorts which doesn't really speak to the magic of influencer, which is authentic endorsements and you've seen getting carried away it's got you've seen the rise of the influencing. I'd argue that's just taken us back to where influencer has always been

Scott Guthrie 

keep your powder dry on the influencing open up later in the chat. But whilst I've got you on a rant, let's try and harness that rant

Sammy Albon 

reel me in because I'll carry on

Scott Guthrie 

trying to focus it towards authenticity. We've used the word a few times. You've called it the a word to we've spoken over the years about authenticity and what it means. It's obviously a bedrock tenet of influencer marketing. But what does it mean to you? How do you define it

Sammy Albon 

is from an influencer perspective. And then I guess from a brand partnerships perspective, but for me, when I was a creator, authenticity was being true to the person that I was portraying myself to be online. I don't feel like I swayed too much from that. But obviously, there's an idealised version of yourself so that I was great online. So it was also understanding that my audience what they wanted, and I knew really intimately what they loved, liked and hated. What got me up in the morning and what got me excited, and the brands that they loved, as well as the brands that they would have hated to meet to see to see me align myself with. There was one instance where I was approached by a chocolate brand that I guess kind of positions itself as the world's leading nutrition, health and wellness company, I did have on their website that they wanted to pay quite a generous fee to create my face in chocolate, I mean, one unappealing thought or a terrifying concept, and then give that away to viewers, which again, I can't think of anything more appetising. But I turned it down on multiple reasons. And this was I think this was kind of in about 2014 2015, where that money could have made a real difference to me, but I turned it down, predominantly because of my personal values when it comes to sort of sustainability. I think they produce a lot of plastic, a lot of plastic bottles, and as well as to be seen to be endorsing a company that has quite questionable labour and manufacturing policies. Back then this is I guess, 2014 2015 the attitude for audiences now when they see a branded partnership is yeah, get that bag, get that coin back then it was Oh, that's really heavily scrutinised scrutinise this brand new partnership. So from an influencer perspective, I'd never wanted to step out of my audience. From a brand's perspective, I guess authenticity is, how do we seamlessly weave our key messaging. So we can hit our KPIs in content that works that successful, that feels like a seamless ad to the influencer. And I think brands can really fall short and do dirty with authenticity, when they don't appreciate that influencers really do understand their audiences so intimately. And this whole industry is just built on relationships between viewers that really trust their favourite creators. So it's it is a balancing act. And I guess, the agency's rolling that, if done properly, is a facilitator of those partnerships that safeguards influences tone of voice and type of content that typically create, and then also helps the brand, go on the journey with them, and shows them how they're going to implement call to actions and campaign key messaging within the content in a really effective way.

Scott Guthrie 

We said at the top that the a word was authenticity, but it also could work as affinity here, you're talking about sharing values, sharing beliefs, a worldview, from the individual from the creators point of view, but also from the brand's point of view. And that that is, you know, when they are true to themselves, you get that authentic content. Yeah, that's what that's what you say?

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, definitely. And I think the role the agency should play if this is the role I feel in the partnership processes, we've seen, obviously, data driven influencer selection is, you know, it's not a USP, of very minimum brands should know that their content is at least reaching the target demographic, but it takes I think you've seen the rise of AI, which is terrifying. Will we all be out of jobs, probably. But it really takes a human touch to find influencers that align on multiple different levels. So do they look and sound and Speak and Live? Like your target consumer? Are they going to be able to educate on a particularly difficult topic? Is it a financial service brand that we need to take some sensitivity around? You know, is it gambling is it has its own challenges, is it high fat, sugar, and so it takes a human touch to really find the right influencers. And it shouldn't just be, Oh, they've got a 70%. UK audience with 18 to 24 year olds, that's not enough. So it's finding brand influencers that have that very clear affinity. Perhaps they've mentioned Cadbury four or five times in the most recent content. And because the agency has done a great social listening job, they've picked that up, and they found a rising star that is a perfect partner for Capri, is going a little bit further than just putting names on paper. And it's building out those relationships and focusing on longer term offerings.

Scott Guthrie 

So the selection process may start with the data and but it ends with the human contextual intelligence of the practitioner. I think five or six years ago, there was not enough data. Now I think, there's this deification of data and we need to marry the two.

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, definitely. I think that, you know, we're in a moment where it's death by data. And obviously, we all have an insight. But I think influencer space doesn't go far enough sometimes. So what they said as part of the pretty green group, we've set up a DNI framework called the ACE rule framework, so any any influencers shortlist that we pieced together, based on the data and align demographic data and tone of voice and types of content, we go one step further, because we feel that any campaign should be representative. It's not a box ticking exercise, we want the beauty of influences that these people aren't seen on TV, these are unique voices faces, people that traditional media could only hope to include. So the ice roll framework is focused on how do we make sure that this is representative of age, gender ability, sexuality, age, as well is often omitted. And I think it's our, our, our driving force, from a position of privilege is to uplift influences that perhaps don't have the opportunity that many sorts of sis white straight creators would have, would have had. And that's really eye opening. It's something that we've really focused on in the past year. And it's really fulfilling, it's nice to see it in practice and seeing that in content strategies to

Scott Guthrie 

Well, it's, it's the right thing to do. And so it makes you feel warm inside, but it's but it's not purely altruism, because the wider you spread the net, the more representative, the creators are of the audience or the community that you're trying to influence. Scrolling back to authenticity, I read a chapter for an early influencer marketing textbook, published by Routledge, the influence of marketing, building brand communities and engagement if you want to rush out and buy it. I mentioned it because authenticity was mentioned 212 times throughout the book. So it is obviously it's a Bedrich. Returning to what we said at the top is a bedrock tenet of our industry, but in academia. Interesting Well, I'll say you decide whether it's interesting or not, but in academia, they distinguish between passionate authenticity and transparent authenticity. So we've talked a lot in this conversation about passionate authenticity that emerges when influencers are driven by their inner desires, their passions, more than by a commercial goals. And he said he, as a creator, you turn around, author of dollar signs and chocolate effigies, because it didn't shy with your worldview. That is passionate authenticity. Transparent authenticity, they say refers to the influencers ability to provide fact based information about the product or the surface, at the centre of the brand partnership. So it's interesting sort of teasing apart was similar, but not not the same.

Sammy Albon 

I think it'd be interesting to see how things change as well. I mean, you know, better than most Scott, firstly, I want to sign copies, please. So I can say I have one. But secondly, I think we've seen TikTok has just transformed things since well, obviously, the onset of lockdown, it was a very heyday moment for it, and it's still going. But what it did do is suddenly democratise influence anyone could become an influencer. And you know, I spent years trying to get an audience over 200,000 on YouTube. And that was, that was a real chore. But suddenly, you're seeing people get millions, if not 10s of millions of views overnight on a particular piece of content, and then perhaps not seeing that again. But what it did do is lower the barrier of entry. And then unlike YouTube, which the reason I mentioned it, there is no no obviously, there's a creator rewards programme, and they offer like monetary benefits to influencers when they reach certain criteria, etc. There's no ad share. So what that means is that influencer can have millions of viewers, but they're not getting ad revenue like YouTube would provide. So they're far less selective about the branding work that they do do. So I think it's changing the landscape. And it's not a problem specific to TikTok, which is why you see such a heavy focus on paid media on TikTok, obviously, to get the get the views when the algorithm doesn't treat the content particularly well. But then on Instagram, as well, obviously, there's less opportunity to earn revenue natively on the platform, the space is only once now because you've got YouTube creators who are earning AdSense that don't need to take every single piece of branded work. And this is why we're seeing the onset, I've said, and that's gonna be influencing. So I'm going to stop myself. But this is what we're seeing this revival of a trend actually was commonplace. So I wonder how this Authenticity will change. Over the coming years.

Scott Guthrie 

Neat segue, but before we dive in,

Sammy Albon 

I'm desperate to get there, Scott.

Scott Guthrie 

I'm holding hard on these reins because you're a fool to yourself. It's only because you said such interesting things a moment ago that I want to try and delve into that before we move on to the influencing influences or content creators, or one time being beholden upon either AdSense on YouTube, but if you said that's not the same one on other platforms, or they're beholden to brands for collaborations and I think increasingly, we're seeing lots of other potential revenue streams for creators creators, I'm not so on brand collaborations. Hopefully that means that they can pick and choose right that rant over let's dive into your your favourite question that you've been chomping at the bit to, to get into this year we've seen in the influencing blow up as a thing for us. It was called the hauling on YouTube five or six or seven years ago, but now on TikTok specifically, it's called the influencing is the trend helpful, or is it a hindrance to influencer marketing?

Sammy Albon 

Okay, so it's a de influencing, I'll say I'm a little over hearing brands and agents talk about it as if it's the newest thing and you rightly said Scott, like it's been a wrap, this common trend of advocating really for proxy do believe in and saying poopoo the ones that you don't most complaints on YouTube longer form content, I guess people are far more invested in what people actually think in my mind and I know echo Natalia from good egg because I saw some content she put on LinkedIn around this, I guess, all influencers originally did D influence they actively spoke about the things they really loved or those they disliked, but for the sake I sound old when I say this, but I guess Gen Z are too young to remember that and are sort of coming into seeing influences well past this phase of talking about these sort of things. So essentially, we moved away from that when when the new platforms emerged. And like I said, obviously, it then democratised influencers, suddenly more people were creators, obviously platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and Facebook to a degree because they don't support these influences in other ways. They just we just saw a deluge of like brand new partnerships on TikTok. So I guess authenticity took a real hit. And then came under the under the microscope if you will far more for brands and then obviously with the emergence of TikTok more brands are seeing it as a way to market to different audiences and want to get involved in influencer and it was cost effective or C TikTok to a lot cheaper was a lot cheaper to activate on so I saw a greater volume of branded partnerships. And I guess that's why authenticity suddenly became questioned and multiple partnerships from one influencer. As soon as the exclusivity period ended on that contract became the norm. My view is that the influencing has always been around. It's not a bad thing. And if anything, it's a moment for brands to sit back and think, Okay, how do we find these long term ambassadors, these people that can advocate for us on socials also behind closed doors and behind the scenes in closed channels, because they actually love what we do. And we've built a meaningful relationship together. So to answer the question, I think the inferencing isn't No, it's a good thing that we're starting to see more authentic, authentic endorsements, again, because I think authenticity did get pulled into question quite a lot since sort of 2018 with the rise of more people creating branded content. Yeah, I

Scott Guthrie 

think that's right. And I think that rise of you said, Mark at the sort of the high water tide of is that Instagram aesthetic, wasn't it and, and people rushing into the space? I think, again, the academics would call that role conflict. That role conflict crept into the equation. As consumers, we wanted the influencers we follow to be authentic and knowledgeable. We wanted them to be honest and unbiased. And this sometimes came into conflict with the sponsoring brands. We've touched this on the opening question. The brands wanted the influencers they work with, to say nice things about their products. And as role conflict increased, so did our weariness of influences sincerity and their their trustworthiness. Yeah. And I think it's this erosion of trust, push some influencers to reexamine their role, and to prioritise or reprioritize subject matter expertise and trustworthiness and credibility above the role of product seller. And as we've just touched on, as well, there's there are more avenues to create revenue as, as creators. Now, I believe progressive influencer marketers identified and selected influencers to work with based on at least as much about the creator's credibility and values and beliefs, everything we said in question one, as they did about follower count, and engagement rates and those sorts of things. I think it's a positive thing, it allows the industry to recalibrate. And to really go back to again, the A word of authenticity.

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, I think as well, that you're far more eloquent than I already speak about it. But I think we're seeing obviously influences the debate again, do we call them creators? I think there'll be a timeless argument, obviously, now we've got key opinion leaders entering the fray. And I think I guess to be a key opinion leader, can you really endorse so you're in the haircare field, you can't really go from endorsing one haircare brand to another in the next month? Particularly maybe if you're focusing on male hair loss or chiropractor? Yeah, like, can you? I think it comes back to what is the narrative of the content? What is this influencer trying to achieve? So yeah, as audiences get more niche as well, and say the mass that's going to true crime, but again, just for instance, I guess they need to have a clear affinity with one leading brand or product because it gives them credibility in the space as well. So it's definitely beneficial to both the brand and influences. Yeah, I

Scott Guthrie 

agree. I was gonna go off on a tangent. I think I will go off on a tangent about domain culture. And he you mentioned influences, and that's increasingly a pejorative term. I think the category Oh, now I've said that before. So we're wrapping up presents, we tend to facilitate even though we probably just use some stuff. From powerline, you know what we have over the floor rather than vacuum, we don't get the hot tub like you get in the Jacuzzi. So I think it's a category owner. But I think it's also about the shifting sands as well. We've moved from influence to create orders. It also depends on what platform it was like you as a YouTuber, probably thought of yourself always as a creator, whether it's Instagram, you might have been an influencer, you mentioned Kol, or key opinion leaders, that was always an Asian thing. But they also have internet celebrities, which I think the cold way hung in China. So they're different names different for slightly different elements. And different platforms might also be gender specific or hint towards a gender bias. Females are more influenced. And then the last bit is I'm increasingly hearing that influencers don't want to be called influencers or creators. Content creators is even a problematic because sex workers used to call themselves content creators so they could get past the algorithms. And that now increasingly, we've moved from influencer to creator to content creators, the creators or founders rather than other things, because of these different revenue streams.

Sammy Albon 

Well, who knows where to go next? I just know that when I was a creator, I hated I actually hated the term influencer because I thought it denoted a sense of like hubris, who am I to assume that I am the influencing anyone, I'm just making silly videos that I'm uploading to the internet to the YouTube to the to the internet three times a week and growing an audience and I think also mainstream media, rightly or wrongly, kind of classes or kind of typifies influencer in quotes. We have sort of X love Islanders, or people that have stumbled into influencing. So people that haven't grown communities, so you'll, I think most of the people on the essay hit list or the black list or the wall of shame, as it's called, tend to be x reality TV stars.

Scott Guthrie 

There's lots there that I want to come back on. So first of all, I love that that differentiated between influence and creative because you're right, creation is something is an output influences an outcome, isn't it? And how can I say that I'm an influencer? Because all I'm trying to do, isn't it? It's like calling yourself the world's sexiest lover, someone else has to someone else has to say, No, you're the world's greatest lover. You can't you can't go around calling yourself it. You know, it's not, it's not in your gift. And I think there's an element of that with it within calling yourself an influencer, you're a creator. You hope to influence but you're beholden on our community to do that. And that was another word that used a community. I think that I think in mainstream media, there has been a conflation over the years between lumping everybody into one bucket and influences when they mean, yeah. And to go back to that word community. And I think you're right, it is a creator is someone that is bought on social and has spent their time honing their craft, building a community, whether it's someone like, electro reality TV star has grown overnight success if you like on Instagram, that's why understandably, they make mistakes, because they're their heels aren't held to the fire, by a community say, Well, I wouldn't do that brand brand collab because it doesn't really tie with your values. They know they've got probably six months in the sun to sell anything to anyone, and so that they're not shackled by ethics. Yeah, that's why I think there's been this conflation certainly in the mainstream media talked about, I think ending up on the influence, I think it's worth mentioning that the influencing isn't the opposite of influencing Definitely. It's highlighting the power of influencing, isn't it? D influencing would be to show a powerlessness, and a weakness. You know, the hashtag, the influencing, for example, has been viewed over 200 million times this year alone. So to say that it's not it's the anti just seemed an anathema.

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I think it's also quite heartening, because actually, influences are showing the brands that perhaps maybe don't pay fairly or don't respect their time or value that actually know the power is still very much in their hands. And these communities love and invest in them. So let's let's build something slightly more long term. And I, I just think, I'd like to see more of it. And I think we should be fairly as viewers as well. As people consuming the content, we want to make sure that the people we're investing in are also really sharing their actual endorsements and not just someone that been paid slightly more to

Scott Guthrie 

 Let's shift on now and talk about long term relationships. The quest for forging long term relationships between a brand and create it's not new. I've been banging on about it since at least 2016. And I suspect you've been doing doing similar. But why are we still talking about it? What's in it for brands and creators?

Sammy Albon 

I think I was actually on a panel in probably about 2016. In in London was talking about this as bunch of brands and the brand, the agencies that I was on the stage with saying oh, all we do is long term partnerships. And I was gobsmacked because mostly my friendship circle were influences. They didn't exist. And they often still don't exist these long term partnerships. So I had to call them out. And I said no, you're not doing long term partnerships. And I know for a fact you're not doing long term partnerships. I think there's a real sense that our influence is still new. I mean, it isn't. But when brands approach it, there is obviously often a lot of inertia or internal convincing the influence is the right way to go. So from from my perspective, it's really refreshing because all I seem to do with what they said is sort of long term, annual or quarterly partnerships that are built out over multiple touchpoints. We're not just doing a flash in the pan here where we're testing and refining strategies with the same influences based on like a greed KPI framework. So the aren't just also us throwing names into the mix. These are deeply rationalised influences selections that are based on all the things that I've said about previously. But there's also like for for brands, and I think they don't see this as huge commercial benefit as well for for long term partnerships. And I guess you could break it down into like four or five key points. And I don't want to bore you, Scott, but I can easily go into it.

Scott Guthrie 

Don't worry, I'll edit the boring bits out later hit me with it.

Sammy Albon 

Well, obviously it saves time and money. So partnering with influencers for a longer period of time, they're more likely to you know, there's financial security for them in that. And you have to remember that not every influencer actually more influences than not have happy accident that they've got this audience. They've generated it. They aren't perhaps as business savvy, so locking them into longer term partnerships is really reassuring for them. And it helps them understand that you appreciate their input and their value as well. So it saves time, in terms of having to re brief them saves money, because they're likely to offer you a good deal helps them build trust with you and the brand. And also audiences trust them and Oxman because there's multiple touchpoints. My favourite part about long term partnerships is the experimentation that it affords so you can test new formats. So for us, obviously YouTube shops is a huge opportunity at the moment. So working with YouTube creators on a cross cross platform strategy, and then suddenly saying, Okay, actually, the this key campaign be really resonate on short. So why don't we allocate go five times enter the quarterly budget to test new platforms for for the client and or more formats for paid and also, and now ultimately, it does allow you to combat the influencing because you've got someone that's bought into the brand has a deep understanding of the campaign and their role in it and what you're trying to achieve. And they're invested in it. So they want to keep working with you work to the to the same end. And you often get a lot of additional value added value content from influences because they feel like they're working to the same goal. You're essentially fighting against the influencing its measurement. So it is relevant to this but it's around measurement. So if you've got any other points you want to go over for

Scott Guthrie 

when I was thinking about this earlier, I was thinking a difference between effectiveness and efficiency here you've combined the two nicely Yes, it saves time and money because a lot of influence of marketing, or at least the one workflow is front ended in terms of identification and selection and recruitment. We've talked about earlier that the conversation, and that takes expertise and also takes access to tools. And that's expensive. And one agency I was talking with estimates that they save 40% of billable hours by working with the same influencer on a long term basis for 40%. And that doesn't mean that they trouser the money, that means they put it into more creative content and more strategic work. Yes, I think you're absolutely right that the longer a brand and a creator works together, the deeper the understanding of each other. And then the more interesting the content comes out of that, I think you're more able to, to jump from trend to trend, if you see a micro trend erupting on TikTok, you're able to jump on that rather than trying to go out and do the identification selection and recruitment process by that by which time you have missed the trend. I think also you've mentioned about being cheaper pro rata and also works on both sides to be able to sort of ring friends, you know where your budget is being spent. And it can also block out competition. If you've locked in the most the biggest or the most interesting influencer in your space. That also obviously means that your competitor can't work with him. There's that as well. I think also in terms of jumping on micro trends there. We haven't seen it much. But I think we will increasingly see it in terms of crisis communication. If you're already working with an influencer with a creative, you have a long term relationship and you trust each other. If something goes wrong at the brand or the firm, a creator can humanise the problem and explain to the community what the brand is doing to rectify it. This is what they're doing. This is how long it's gonna take, I guess there's been a mistake. This is how they do have they sorted out. So that's a lot of efficiencies. But one more thing on effectiveness is the impact on memory, encoding. And recall from saying the same piece of content, or the same creators over the long period. And maybe that's what you're going to talk about, I don't know

Sammy Albon 

if it's like you've seen my notes. And we were so insane. But I think you're totally right. And I think a lot of I think we could probably argue about the origin of influencer marketing, but I reckon, has an educated guess that it was probably born out of PR, more so than any sort of media, agencies, etc. So if you think back to where that began, advocacy for longer periods of time was the norm. So it's like, we kind of we forgot that and we moved away from it. And now we're trying to rediscover that because actually, it works. You're right, proving the efficiency improving. Beyond old vanity metrics, yes, we've got 1000 clicks on this link, or there's 10,000 views. Measuring the Impact is difficult. You know, this as much as anyone else that one of the biggest problems facing influence there is that proving ROI is and it seems to be impossible, which is just obviously incorrect. But for us, I think probably about three out of four of our campaigns do tend to be longer term Ambassador programmes, what they say we have an insights and planning team is called studio that sort of underpins all that we do in terms of that strategic planning and, and measurability, etc. So from anecdotally, I know that multiple touchpoints, from influencer content is really valuable. But how do we quantify that? So obviously, you start beginning to look at social listening, but then more specifically, brand uplift studies. And I have anonymized some data here, but I found it super interesting, I wanted to share what we've seen. This is sort of amalgamation of across different campaigns. But you touched on essentially brand recall and spontaneous awareness. And for some of the campaigns, we've seen a huge change. So for those that aren't where, again, you said earlier, teach anyone to suck X but a brand up your studies measured against that before the onset of campaign activities that takes a sample group of so you've already aligned who your influences are. So you're either you write internally, or you're part of a brand new agency to take a sample of the audience of the influencers that you're going to partner with throughout the next six to 12 months, 18 months, etc. And they'll run a series of questions against them. And then you measure any sort of wave against that sample group. We saw huge uptick in sort of spontaneous sponsor Top of Mind spontaneous awareness, which is obviously recognition and recall as a direct result of influencer content was huge sometimes between 10 and 20%. Higher when you look at Brand consideration that can increase by up to 20 to 40% Sometimes, which is obviously driving stronger brand relevance amongst influences audiences. Some of the greatest uplift we've often seen is consideration and brand love against it. Amongst which, obviously, everyone's starting Gen Z and niche audiences, so those that may be slightly more marginalised than typical audiences. And we saw huge uplift in that. So our challenge is always taking measurability further and really proving the value of influence because a lot of my friends are still influences I want them to get paid well for the work that they do and the audiences they have. But brands need to see increasingly more so as they're scrutinised for budgets. How is this actually affecting business objectives? And how is it driving. So I've loved being part of this journey, just seeing how we're running brand uplift and how that is actually impacting the campaign and what audiences are thinking and feeling off the back of content, not just actions they're taking,

Scott Guthrie 

I love that that's a really strong report and relevant of it, stronger positive emotion, top of mind awareness. As exposure to Ambassador content increases over time, I think we become more invested in the creator's journey with that brand, I think we're less likely to feel bored, or we're more likely to feel a stronger connection. And ultimately, from a brand point of view, I think whilst the long term payoff is intent to purchase increases, as follows become more invested in that long term journey, one of the key

Sammy Albon 

metrics as well as studying sort of post campaign exposure action. So what our audience is doing after having seen or listened to or watched campaign content. And I think one of the campaigns we saw over half of them were willing to take an action like click link, and a quarter of them would have considered getting the product or service or at least taking a further visit to a site, which is huge, because often, I think, particularly on informants can focus campaigns, you could argue between 40 and 50% of conversions are trackable, because we know that people are watched content, and they will make a decision at a later date, and then you can't find it, or the only way to really track it is sort of assisted conversions through Google Analytics data. So you lose half the journey. So I've just loved seeing pins down and just seeing exactly what audiences are feeling after content and how it does work is moving

Scott Guthrie 

away from the vanity metrics towards the intent metrics, and ultimately, the impact metrics that's so powerful. Sadly, we got one more real question now. And then after that, we'll also go into the final furlough. Let's talk a little bit about promoted media, balancing paid and organic and how can brands effectively use or work with not used work with influencers in their promoted media?

Sammy Albon 

Obviously, this is this is increased massively over the past couple of years. What we've TikTok obviously, this summer, sparking content is so easy, it's so straightforward, it's effective, slightly more difficult on YouTube, but still accessible. Don't get me started on Facebook Ad Manager I'd rather know but never go near ever again. It's super confusing. There's kind of two ways that brands can work with influencers with paid but often I think brands get it wrong. It's my firm belief that paid should only ever compliment organic. And obviously, I've seen a huge number of agencies offering really competitive blended CPMs when they're talking to brands and prospect clients saying, Oh, we can get you the many impressions for a pound and super low. Not quite that low. But super expensive. CPMs. But you end up in a sticky situation. Because what you haven't done is prioritise the storytelling and the content and the creative world, we typically say that the less only group is that creatively, awardee campaigns drive, I think, between 11 and 12 times more market share than those that aren't. So how are you capturing the creative of the content and the storytelling, because if you go down the route of prioritising paid, you often abandon that you often end up with just content that is there that's quite functional, and perhaps is lacklustre compared to some really cool content that you've procured the usage rights for after the fact. And then you're amplifying in a really effective way. So I would prefer to see paid complementing a really effective call creative, organic strategy, where influencers are doing we're trusting them to be creative, they are inherently creative. So let's use that and come up with content that really sings about the product in a really cool way or service or, or whatever the campaign is, and then look at how we can repurpose that for paid or there is a separate paid brief, because I think more often than not brands come on stuck when they're focusing too much on sparking or boosting content. Obviously, we know the algorithm is relentless, so we are doing what we can, but making pay for assets there is there is an art to it, too. It's really balancing the crates tone of voice. I've said this again, but balancing what the Creator does so well with what the brand is trying to deliver as opposed to being super prescriptive and not allowing the freedom to move. Oh,

Scott Guthrie 

yeah, I love that last time we were in the final. Hang tough. I came to ask you what was I ask all my guests? How do you keep up to date with all of the changes in our sector? What are your go to sources? I

Sammy Albon 

just looked at your LinkedIn Scott. But is that just kidding? No, I, I generally LinkedIn is my is my go to. I find it so digestible. We're all strapped for time. Right? So unless you're sitting and watching your favourite influences, I find LinkedIn so useful. I tried to post on there as often as I can, but since December, I really haven't posted on there as much as I should.

Scott Guthrie 

You're part of the LinkedIn creator cohort. So you weren't just posting while you were doing post but you're doing video. So that took a lot of brainpower, but also production power on

Sammy Albon 

me and my iPhone. But it is a lot of editing. But that was Yeah, that's a great experience. But you know, I one of the reasons I left being influencers, I couldn't keep up with the that the relentless algorithms and I felt myself doing it again. So I was like, well, well, let's take a step back. I also have quite lucky to have quite a few my friends are still hashtag influencers. So getting the news straight, straight from them as well about what the platform changes are or the amount of times where they've had advanced access to a platform change before anyone else. I'm like, what's coming and they can share is really useful. Britain's Yeah, that's LinkedIn and influence of friends. So I recommend people get some

Scott Guthrie 

Brilliant Sammy, where can listeners turn to for more information about you, and about what they

Sammy Albon 

What They Said is the website. And we've always always posting on LinkedIn. And there's a lot in the works in terms of podcasts where to get your message got, we can collaborate, count me in. And we have our newsletter as well, which people can sign up to, which offers sort of fortnightly insights around trending sounds, themes, trends on each key platform. And then yeah, my LinkedIn, I'm trying to think this is something I've forgotten that definitely is, and we've got some upcoming webinar activity as well that will be posted on the on the website and for anyone that signs up for that newsletter.

Scott Guthrie 

Well, I'll be sure to include those links in the show notes accompanying this podcast episode, just Google the influencer marketing lab for further details. Sammy Alban, senior campaign director at what they said, Thank you so much for your time and for all your insights today.

Sammy Albon 

Thanks for having me, Scott. Cheers.

Scott Guthrie 

Thank you for listening to the influence of marketing lab with me Scott Guthrie. My podcast is in a paid sponsorship with Tagger by Sprout Social. Please subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. And for more information visit influencer marketing lab.com Sign up to the weekly newsletter at www.creatorbriefing.com. And if you want to see how Tagger by Sprout Social can work for you. Go to Taggermedia.com/request-demo

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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Episode 49 of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast where Sammy Albon tracks his journey from creator to senior campaign direct at agency What They Said. 

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The Influencer Marketing Lab is a paid partnership with Tagger by Sprout Social a global leader in revolutionizing how top brands and agencies harness data and analytics to drive creator and influencer marketing strategies.

Subscribe and listen to all Influencer Marketing Lab episodes!

Show notes

Welcome to episode 49 and a brand new season of the Influencer Marketing Lab - a weekly podcast tracking the growth spurts and growing pains of influencer marketing.

This podcast is a paid partnership with Tagger by Sprout Social a global leader in revolutionizing how top brands and agencies harness data and analytics to drive creator and influencer marketing strategies.

This week I'm in conversation with Sammy Albon, Senior Campaign Director at agency, What They Said

In this episode we discuss:

  • What authenticity means from the point of view of a creator and from a brand's point of view
  • Why A is for authenticity and affinity. But why A is for All
  • We talk de-influencing
  • The benefits of long-term brand collaborations with creators
  • How brands can effectively work with creators in their promoted media
Speakpipe Influencer Marketing Lab

Sammy Albon biography

Sammy is the Senior Campaign Director at What They Said, leading the What They Said activation team in delivering award-winning, Less Ordinary, more meaningful influencer campaigns. 

Prior to joining What They Said Sammy was a Senior Creative Strategist designing and running global performance campaigns across entertainment, music, and gaming. 

Before shifting agency-side, Sammy was a full-time content creator for 8 years alongside his twin brother running 3 YouTube channels, and multiple Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Together they grew an audience of over half a million viewers. Sammy also co-produced and hosted BBC Radio 1's return to comedy with the Niki and Sammy Peachy Podcast which ran for 4 seasons (48 episodes) and featured a range of guests from Steve Aoki to Greg James, and even some Kpop Idols.


Useful links

Show highlights

Intro to the show. (0:00)

Differences between influencers and brand partnerships. (3:53)

What does authenticity mean to you? (8:29)

Passionate authenticity vs. transparent authenticity. (14:09)

Is influencing helpful or a hindrance? (17:30)

The shifting sands of influencers. (23:19)

Influencer Marketing Lab. (28:10)

How long term partnerships save time and money. (32:49)

Measuring the impact of influencer marketing. (37:55)

Balancing paid and organic influencers. (42:29)

three quarter length image of Sammy Albon - Influencer Marketing Lab podcast

Sammy Albon interview transcript

NOTE: This transcript has been created using AI technology. It may therefore contain a few errors. 

Scott Guthrie  

Welcome to the show. Sammy.

Sammy Albon 

Thanks, Scott. Can I just point out that you're probably the first person to ever say my name correctly first time. Everyone always says Albin so I'm enamoured. But no thanks for having me. And that was it's always lovely to hear such great things for the field like a lifetime ago. And the irony of having a comedy podcast where I'm not remotely funny will never be lost on me.

Scott Guthrie 

Well, let's dive straight into this. We're all pals here, so I'm not going to try and do a Paxman on you. It's just trying to open up the conversation. I'm not trying to trip you up. But as a creator and a marketer, you're in a rare position to be able to balance the equation and understand both what a creator needs from a brand collab and what a brand is expecting from forging a relationship with the Creator. What are the main differences do you think it needs and how can we narrow what expectation gap there is from either side?

Sammy Albon 

I think it's an interesting question because I don't really know if their needs are any different to one another. I mean, ultimately the reason an influencer is taking part in a brand partnership is was kind of twofold. If they want to monetize their content, that's why I did it, as well as potentially reach new audiences that you can't typically reach or have experiences that add value to your audience. And as a creator, my driving focus was, how do I give value to my audience? Because ultimately, what's more important to me, is my audience that I've built over the years, not that one off partnerships. So it's really trying to craft something authentic. And I know we'll talk about the a word loads, I imagine throughout this very word being authentic, of course, and authenticity. But for brands, I think they're very aligned, they want to reach engaged audiences that actually care really deeply about what their favourite influencers doing, saying, talking about and advocating for. So I guess both of them are really after the same thing, authentic partnerships that feel really native to their platforms. Sorry, I think he talked about at length, I think that there really isn't a difference between what the two wants from the partnership?

Scott Guthrie 

Well, let's tease apart some of the things you've just said. So you've talked about authenticity. But I think a brand wants its brand messages to be kind of smuggled through to an audience. What the two in common have got is an audience or a community. The brand, I would imagine once all these messages to be passed through to that community. And the creator wants to let's not sanitise them, at least that translate those messages into something that's palatable, and relatable to their community. So it's kind of a translation job, I'm guessing. And you might say, what, at one end of the spectrum, it might be the brand, saying, read out the script. And at the other end it say, you know, trust me, I know what my audience wants, let's co create this together, and then they meet somewhere in the middle, I really want to put words in your mouth. Is that Is that similar to your thoughts?

Sammy Albon 

A lot of this comes down to I think you touched on there, the affinity between the brand and the influencer, which has a knock on effect with authenticity, and what success looks like for partnership. And I think ultimately, it from the influencer side, we'll get onto Instagram and TikTok, and how that kind of don't cut ties the influence. But traditionally, influencers were typically quite choosy about the brands they partner with, because they really will need to align, they needed to find a brand that they were already fans off, or felt like it was seamless additions, that content has spoken about before, or offered something that would be really beneficial to our audience. So I think then, likewise, that makes it easier for the brand to impart a deeper understanding of their product or service or include that key messaging in a really authentic, credible way. So a lot of it is I think you've seen particularly the lockdown and how influencer marketing is scaled. There's a real focus on churn and burn models of like, Let's do scaled influencer campaigns, across the board across the gaming apps and all sorts which doesn't really speak to the magic of influencer, which is authentic endorsements and you've seen getting carried away it's got you've seen the rise of the influencing. I'd argue that's just taken us back to where influencer has always been

Scott Guthrie 

keep your powder dry on the influencing open up later in the chat. But whilst I've got you on a rant, let's try and harness that rant

Sammy Albon 

reel me in because I'll carry on

Scott Guthrie 

trying to focus it towards authenticity. We've used the word a few times. You've called it the a word to we've spoken over the years about authenticity and what it means. It's obviously a bedrock tenet of influencer marketing. But what does it mean to you? How do you define it

Sammy Albon 

is from an influencer perspective. And then I guess from a brand partnerships perspective, but for me, when I was a creator, authenticity was being true to the person that I was portraying myself to be online. I don't feel like I swayed too much from that. But obviously, there's an idealised version of yourself so that I was great online. So it was also understanding that my audience what they wanted, and I knew really intimately what they loved, liked and hated. What got me up in the morning and what got me excited, and the brands that they loved, as well as the brands that they would have hated to meet to see to see me align myself with. There was one instance where I was approached by a chocolate brand that I guess kind of positions itself as the world's leading nutrition, health and wellness company, I did have on their website that they wanted to pay quite a generous fee to create my face in chocolate, I mean, one unappealing thought or a terrifying concept, and then give that away to viewers, which again, I can't think of anything more appetising. But I turned it down on multiple reasons. And this was I think this was kind of in about 2014 2015, where that money could have made a real difference to me, but I turned it down, predominantly because of my personal values when it comes to sort of sustainability. I think they produce a lot of plastic, a lot of plastic bottles, and as well as to be seen to be endorsing a company that has quite questionable labour and manufacturing policies. Back then this is I guess, 2014 2015 the attitude for audiences now when they see a branded partnership is yeah, get that bag, get that coin back then it was Oh, that's really heavily scrutinised scrutinise this brand new partnership. So from an influencer perspective, I'd never wanted to step out of my audience. From a brand's perspective, I guess authenticity is, how do we seamlessly weave our key messaging. So we can hit our KPIs in content that works that successful, that feels like a seamless ad to the influencer. And I think brands can really fall short and do dirty with authenticity, when they don't appreciate that influencers really do understand their audiences so intimately. And this whole industry is just built on relationships between viewers that really trust their favourite creators. So it's it is a balancing act. And I guess, the agency's rolling that, if done properly, is a facilitator of those partnerships that safeguards influences tone of voice and type of content that typically create, and then also helps the brand, go on the journey with them, and shows them how they're going to implement call to actions and campaign key messaging within the content in a really effective way.

Scott Guthrie 

We said at the top that the a word was authenticity, but it also could work as affinity here, you're talking about sharing values, sharing beliefs, a worldview, from the individual from the creators point of view, but also from the brand's point of view. And that that is, you know, when they are true to themselves, you get that authentic content. Yeah, that's what that's what you say?

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, definitely. And I think the role the agency should play if this is the role I feel in the partnership processes, we've seen, obviously, data driven influencer selection is, you know, it's not a USP, of very minimum brands should know that their content is at least reaching the target demographic, but it takes I think you've seen the rise of AI, which is terrifying. Will we all be out of jobs, probably. But it really takes a human touch to find influencers that align on multiple different levels. So do they look and sound and Speak and Live? Like your target consumer? Are they going to be able to educate on a particularly difficult topic? Is it a financial service brand that we need to take some sensitivity around? You know, is it gambling is it has its own challenges, is it high fat, sugar, and so it takes a human touch to really find the right influencers. And it shouldn't just be, Oh, they've got a 70%. UK audience with 18 to 24 year olds, that's not enough. So it's finding brand influencers that have that very clear affinity. Perhaps they've mentioned Cadbury four or five times in the most recent content. And because the agency has done a great social listening job, they've picked that up, and they found a rising star that is a perfect partner for Capri, is going a little bit further than just putting names on paper. And it's building out those relationships and focusing on longer term offerings.

Scott Guthrie 

So the selection process may start with the data and but it ends with the human contextual intelligence of the practitioner. I think five or six years ago, there was not enough data. Now I think, there's this deification of data and we need to marry the two.

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, definitely. I think that, you know, we're in a moment where it's death by data. And obviously, we all have an insight. But I think influencer space doesn't go far enough sometimes. So what they said as part of the pretty green group, we've set up a DNI framework called the ACE rule framework, so any any influencers shortlist that we pieced together, based on the data and align demographic data and tone of voice and types of content, we go one step further, because we feel that any campaign should be representative. It's not a box ticking exercise, we want the beauty of influences that these people aren't seen on TV, these are unique voices faces, people that traditional media could only hope to include. So the ice roll framework is focused on how do we make sure that this is representative of age, gender ability, sexuality, age, as well is often omitted. And I think it's our, our, our driving force, from a position of privilege is to uplift influences that perhaps don't have the opportunity that many sorts of sis white straight creators would have, would have had. And that's really eye opening. It's something that we've really focused on in the past year. And it's really fulfilling, it's nice to see it in practice and seeing that in content strategies to

Scott Guthrie 

Well, it's, it's the right thing to do. And so it makes you feel warm inside, but it's but it's not purely altruism, because the wider you spread the net, the more representative, the creators are of the audience or the community that you're trying to influence. Scrolling back to authenticity, I read a chapter for an early influencer marketing textbook, published by Routledge, the influence of marketing, building brand communities and engagement if you want to rush out and buy it. I mentioned it because authenticity was mentioned 212 times throughout the book. So it is obviously it's a Bedrich. Returning to what we said at the top is a bedrock tenet of our industry, but in academia. Interesting Well, I'll say you decide whether it's interesting or not, but in academia, they distinguish between passionate authenticity and transparent authenticity. So we've talked a lot in this conversation about passionate authenticity that emerges when influencers are driven by their inner desires, their passions, more than by a commercial goals. And he said he, as a creator, you turn around, author of dollar signs and chocolate effigies, because it didn't shy with your worldview. That is passionate authenticity. Transparent authenticity, they say refers to the influencers ability to provide fact based information about the product or the surface, at the centre of the brand partnership. So it's interesting sort of teasing apart was similar, but not not the same.

Sammy Albon 

I think it'd be interesting to see how things change as well. I mean, you know, better than most Scott, firstly, I want to sign copies, please. So I can say I have one. But secondly, I think we've seen TikTok has just transformed things since well, obviously, the onset of lockdown, it was a very heyday moment for it, and it's still going. But what it did do is suddenly democratise influence anyone could become an influencer. And you know, I spent years trying to get an audience over 200,000 on YouTube. And that was, that was a real chore. But suddenly, you're seeing people get millions, if not 10s of millions of views overnight on a particular piece of content, and then perhaps not seeing that again. But what it did do is lower the barrier of entry. And then unlike YouTube, which the reason I mentioned it, there is no no obviously, there's a creator rewards programme, and they offer like monetary benefits to influencers when they reach certain criteria, etc. There's no ad share. So what that means is that influencer can have millions of viewers, but they're not getting ad revenue like YouTube would provide. So they're far less selective about the branding work that they do do. So I think it's changing the landscape. And it's not a problem specific to TikTok, which is why you see such a heavy focus on paid media on TikTok, obviously, to get the get the views when the algorithm doesn't treat the content particularly well. But then on Instagram, as well, obviously, there's less opportunity to earn revenue natively on the platform, the space is only once now because you've got YouTube creators who are earning AdSense that don't need to take every single piece of branded work. And this is why we're seeing the onset, I've said, and that's gonna be influencing. So I'm going to stop myself. But this is what we're seeing this revival of a trend actually was commonplace. So I wonder how this Authenticity will change. Over the coming years.

Scott Guthrie 

Neat segue, but before we dive in,

Sammy Albon 

I'm desperate to get there, Scott.

Scott Guthrie 

I'm holding hard on these reins because you're a fool to yourself. It's only because you said such interesting things a moment ago that I want to try and delve into that before we move on to the influencing influences or content creators, or one time being beholden upon either AdSense on YouTube, but if you said that's not the same one on other platforms, or they're beholden to brands for collaborations and I think increasingly, we're seeing lots of other potential revenue streams for creators creators, I'm not so on brand collaborations. Hopefully that means that they can pick and choose right that rant over let's dive into your your favourite question that you've been chomping at the bit to, to get into this year we've seen in the influencing blow up as a thing for us. It was called the hauling on YouTube five or six or seven years ago, but now on TikTok specifically, it's called the influencing is the trend helpful, or is it a hindrance to influencer marketing?

Sammy Albon 

Okay, so it's a de influencing, I'll say I'm a little over hearing brands and agents talk about it as if it's the newest thing and you rightly said Scott, like it's been a wrap, this common trend of advocating really for proxy do believe in and saying poopoo the ones that you don't most complaints on YouTube longer form content, I guess people are far more invested in what people actually think in my mind and I know echo Natalia from good egg because I saw some content she put on LinkedIn around this, I guess, all influencers originally did D influence they actively spoke about the things they really loved or those they disliked, but for the sake I sound old when I say this, but I guess Gen Z are too young to remember that and are sort of coming into seeing influences well past this phase of talking about these sort of things. So essentially, we moved away from that when when the new platforms emerged. And like I said, obviously, it then democratised influencers, suddenly more people were creators, obviously platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and Facebook to a degree because they don't support these influences in other ways. They just we just saw a deluge of like brand new partnerships on TikTok. So I guess authenticity took a real hit. And then came under the under the microscope if you will far more for brands and then obviously with the emergence of TikTok more brands are seeing it as a way to market to different audiences and want to get involved in influencer and it was cost effective or C TikTok to a lot cheaper was a lot cheaper to activate on so I saw a greater volume of branded partnerships. And I guess that's why authenticity suddenly became questioned and multiple partnerships from one influencer. As soon as the exclusivity period ended on that contract became the norm. My view is that the influencing has always been around. It's not a bad thing. And if anything, it's a moment for brands to sit back and think, Okay, how do we find these long term ambassadors, these people that can advocate for us on socials also behind closed doors and behind the scenes in closed channels, because they actually love what we do. And we've built a meaningful relationship together. So to answer the question, I think the inferencing isn't No, it's a good thing that we're starting to see more authentic, authentic endorsements, again, because I think authenticity did get pulled into question quite a lot since sort of 2018 with the rise of more people creating branded content. Yeah, I

Scott Guthrie 

think that's right. And I think that rise of you said, Mark at the sort of the high water tide of is that Instagram aesthetic, wasn't it and, and people rushing into the space? I think, again, the academics would call that role conflict. That role conflict crept into the equation. As consumers, we wanted the influencers we follow to be authentic and knowledgeable. We wanted them to be honest and unbiased. And this sometimes came into conflict with the sponsoring brands. We've touched this on the opening question. The brands wanted the influencers they work with, to say nice things about their products. And as role conflict increased, so did our weariness of influences sincerity and their their trustworthiness. Yeah. And I think it's this erosion of trust, push some influencers to reexamine their role, and to prioritise or reprioritize subject matter expertise and trustworthiness and credibility above the role of product seller. And as we've just touched on, as well, there's there are more avenues to create revenue as, as creators. Now, I believe progressive influencer marketers identified and selected influencers to work with based on at least as much about the creator's credibility and values and beliefs, everything we said in question one, as they did about follower count, and engagement rates and those sorts of things. I think it's a positive thing, it allows the industry to recalibrate. And to really go back to again, the A word of authenticity.

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, I think as well, that you're far more eloquent than I already speak about it. But I think we're seeing obviously influences the debate again, do we call them creators? I think there'll be a timeless argument, obviously, now we've got key opinion leaders entering the fray. And I think I guess to be a key opinion leader, can you really endorse so you're in the haircare field, you can't really go from endorsing one haircare brand to another in the next month? Particularly maybe if you're focusing on male hair loss or chiropractor? Yeah, like, can you? I think it comes back to what is the narrative of the content? What is this influencer trying to achieve? So yeah, as audiences get more niche as well, and say the mass that's going to true crime, but again, just for instance, I guess they need to have a clear affinity with one leading brand or product because it gives them credibility in the space as well. So it's definitely beneficial to both the brand and influences. Yeah, I

Scott Guthrie 

agree. I was gonna go off on a tangent. I think I will go off on a tangent about domain culture. And he you mentioned influences, and that's increasingly a pejorative term. I think the category Oh, now I've said that before. So we're wrapping up presents, we tend to facilitate even though we probably just use some stuff. From powerline, you know what we have over the floor rather than vacuum, we don't get the hot tub like you get in the Jacuzzi. So I think it's a category owner. But I think it's also about the shifting sands as well. We've moved from influence to create orders. It also depends on what platform it was like you as a YouTuber, probably thought of yourself always as a creator, whether it's Instagram, you might have been an influencer, you mentioned Kol, or key opinion leaders, that was always an Asian thing. But they also have internet celebrities, which I think the cold way hung in China. So they're different names different for slightly different elements. And different platforms might also be gender specific or hint towards a gender bias. Females are more influenced. And then the last bit is I'm increasingly hearing that influencers don't want to be called influencers or creators. Content creators is even a problematic because sex workers used to call themselves content creators so they could get past the algorithms. And that now increasingly, we've moved from influencer to creator to content creators, the creators or founders rather than other things, because of these different revenue streams.

Sammy Albon 

Well, who knows where to go next? I just know that when I was a creator, I hated I actually hated the term influencer because I thought it denoted a sense of like hubris, who am I to assume that I am the influencing anyone, I'm just making silly videos that I'm uploading to the internet to the YouTube to the to the internet three times a week and growing an audience and I think also mainstream media, rightly or wrongly, kind of classes or kind of typifies influencer in quotes. We have sort of X love Islanders, or people that have stumbled into influencing. So people that haven't grown communities, so you'll, I think most of the people on the essay hit list or the black list or the wall of shame, as it's called, tend to be x reality TV stars.

Scott Guthrie 

There's lots there that I want to come back on. So first of all, I love that that differentiated between influence and creative because you're right, creation is something is an output influences an outcome, isn't it? And how can I say that I'm an influencer? Because all I'm trying to do, isn't it? It's like calling yourself the world's sexiest lover, someone else has to someone else has to say, No, you're the world's greatest lover. You can't you can't go around calling yourself it. You know, it's not, it's not in your gift. And I think there's an element of that with it within calling yourself an influencer, you're a creator. You hope to influence but you're beholden on our community to do that. And that was another word that used a community. I think that I think in mainstream media, there has been a conflation over the years between lumping everybody into one bucket and influences when they mean, yeah. And to go back to that word community. And I think you're right, it is a creator is someone that is bought on social and has spent their time honing their craft, building a community, whether it's someone like, electro reality TV star has grown overnight success if you like on Instagram, that's why understandably, they make mistakes, because they're their heels aren't held to the fire, by a community say, Well, I wouldn't do that brand brand collab because it doesn't really tie with your values. They know they've got probably six months in the sun to sell anything to anyone, and so that they're not shackled by ethics. Yeah, that's why I think there's been this conflation certainly in the mainstream media talked about, I think ending up on the influence, I think it's worth mentioning that the influencing isn't the opposite of influencing Definitely. It's highlighting the power of influencing, isn't it? D influencing would be to show a powerlessness, and a weakness. You know, the hashtag, the influencing, for example, has been viewed over 200 million times this year alone. So to say that it's not it's the anti just seemed an anathema.

Sammy Albon 

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I think it's also quite heartening, because actually, influences are showing the brands that perhaps maybe don't pay fairly or don't respect their time or value that actually know the power is still very much in their hands. And these communities love and invest in them. So let's let's build something slightly more long term. And I, I just think, I'd like to see more of it. And I think we should be fairly as viewers as well. As people consuming the content, we want to make sure that the people we're investing in are also really sharing their actual endorsements and not just someone that been paid slightly more to

Scott Guthrie 

 Let's shift on now and talk about long term relationships. The quest for forging long term relationships between a brand and create it's not new. I've been banging on about it since at least 2016. And I suspect you've been doing doing similar. But why are we still talking about it? What's in it for brands and creators?

Sammy Albon 

I think I was actually on a panel in probably about 2016. In in London was talking about this as bunch of brands and the brand, the agencies that I was on the stage with saying oh, all we do is long term partnerships. And I was gobsmacked because mostly my friendship circle were influences. They didn't exist. And they often still don't exist these long term partnerships. So I had to call them out. And I said no, you're not doing long term partnerships. And I know for a fact you're not doing long term partnerships. I think there's a real sense that our influence is still new. I mean, it isn't. But when brands approach it, there is obviously often a lot of inertia or internal convincing the influence is the right way to go. So from from my perspective, it's really refreshing because all I seem to do with what they said is sort of long term, annual or quarterly partnerships that are built out over multiple touchpoints. We're not just doing a flash in the pan here where we're testing and refining strategies with the same influences based on like a greed KPI framework. So the aren't just also us throwing names into the mix. These are deeply rationalised influences selections that are based on all the things that I've said about previously. But there's also like for for brands, and I think they don't see this as huge commercial benefit as well for for long term partnerships. And I guess you could break it down into like four or five key points. And I don't want to bore you, Scott, but I can easily go into it.

Scott Guthrie 

Don't worry, I'll edit the boring bits out later hit me with it.

Sammy Albon 

Well, obviously it saves time and money. So partnering with influencers for a longer period of time, they're more likely to you know, there's financial security for them in that. And you have to remember that not every influencer actually more influences than not have happy accident that they've got this audience. They've generated it. They aren't perhaps as business savvy, so locking them into longer term partnerships is really reassuring for them. And it helps them understand that you appreciate their input and their value as well. So it saves time, in terms of having to re brief them saves money, because they're likely to offer you a good deal helps them build trust with you and the brand. And also audiences trust them and Oxman because there's multiple touchpoints. My favourite part about long term partnerships is the experimentation that it affords so you can test new formats. So for us, obviously YouTube shops is a huge opportunity at the moment. So working with YouTube creators on a cross cross platform strategy, and then suddenly saying, Okay, actually, the this key campaign be really resonate on short. So why don't we allocate go five times enter the quarterly budget to test new platforms for for the client and or more formats for paid and also, and now ultimately, it does allow you to combat the influencing because you've got someone that's bought into the brand has a deep understanding of the campaign and their role in it and what you're trying to achieve. And they're invested in it. So they want to keep working with you work to the to the same end. And you often get a lot of additional value added value content from influences because they feel like they're working to the same goal. You're essentially fighting against the influencing its measurement. So it is relevant to this but it's around measurement. So if you've got any other points you want to go over for

Scott Guthrie 

when I was thinking about this earlier, I was thinking a difference between effectiveness and efficiency here you've combined the two nicely Yes, it saves time and money because a lot of influence of marketing, or at least the one workflow is front ended in terms of identification and selection and recruitment. We've talked about earlier that the conversation, and that takes expertise and also takes access to tools. And that's expensive. And one agency I was talking with estimates that they save 40% of billable hours by working with the same influencer on a long term basis for 40%. And that doesn't mean that they trouser the money, that means they put it into more creative content and more strategic work. Yes, I think you're absolutely right that the longer a brand and a creator works together, the deeper the understanding of each other. And then the more interesting the content comes out of that, I think you're more able to, to jump from trend to trend, if you see a micro trend erupting on TikTok, you're able to jump on that rather than trying to go out and do the identification selection and recruitment process by that by which time you have missed the trend. I think also you've mentioned about being cheaper pro rata and also works on both sides to be able to sort of ring friends, you know where your budget is being spent. And it can also block out competition. If you've locked in the most the biggest or the most interesting influencer in your space. That also obviously means that your competitor can't work with him. There's that as well. I think also in terms of jumping on micro trends there. We haven't seen it much. But I think we will increasingly see it in terms of crisis communication. If you're already working with an influencer with a creative, you have a long term relationship and you trust each other. If something goes wrong at the brand or the firm, a creator can humanise the problem and explain to the community what the brand is doing to rectify it. This is what they're doing. This is how long it's gonna take, I guess there's been a mistake. This is how they do have they sorted out. So that's a lot of efficiencies. But one more thing on effectiveness is the impact on memory, encoding. And recall from saying the same piece of content, or the same creators over the long period. And maybe that's what you're going to talk about, I don't know

Sammy Albon 

if it's like you've seen my notes. And we were so insane. But I think you're totally right. And I think a lot of I think we could probably argue about the origin of influencer marketing, but I reckon, has an educated guess that it was probably born out of PR, more so than any sort of media, agencies, etc. So if you think back to where that began, advocacy for longer periods of time was the norm. So it's like, we kind of we forgot that and we moved away from it. And now we're trying to rediscover that because actually, it works. You're right, proving the efficiency improving. Beyond old vanity metrics, yes, we've got 1000 clicks on this link, or there's 10,000 views. Measuring the Impact is difficult. You know, this as much as anyone else that one of the biggest problems facing influence there is that proving ROI is and it seems to be impossible, which is just obviously incorrect. But for us, I think probably about three out of four of our campaigns do tend to be longer term Ambassador programmes, what they say we have an insights and planning team is called studio that sort of underpins all that we do in terms of that strategic planning and, and measurability, etc. So from anecdotally, I know that multiple touchpoints, from influencer content is really valuable. But how do we quantify that? So obviously, you start beginning to look at social listening, but then more specifically, brand uplift studies. And I have anonymized some data here, but I found it super interesting, I wanted to share what we've seen. This is sort of amalgamation of across different campaigns. But you touched on essentially brand recall and spontaneous awareness. And for some of the campaigns, we've seen a huge change. So for those that aren't where, again, you said earlier, teach anyone to suck X but a brand up your studies measured against that before the onset of campaign activities that takes a sample group of so you've already aligned who your influences are. So you're either you write internally, or you're part of a brand new agency to take a sample of the audience of the influencers that you're going to partner with throughout the next six to 12 months, 18 months, etc. And they'll run a series of questions against them. And then you measure any sort of wave against that sample group. We saw huge uptick in sort of spontaneous sponsor Top of Mind spontaneous awareness, which is obviously recognition and recall as a direct result of influencer content was huge sometimes between 10 and 20%. Higher when you look at Brand consideration that can increase by up to 20 to 40% Sometimes, which is obviously driving stronger brand relevance amongst influences audiences. Some of the greatest uplift we've often seen is consideration and brand love against it. Amongst which, obviously, everyone's starting Gen Z and niche audiences, so those that may be slightly more marginalised than typical audiences. And we saw huge uplift in that. So our challenge is always taking measurability further and really proving the value of influence because a lot of my friends are still influences I want them to get paid well for the work that they do and the audiences they have. But brands need to see increasingly more so as they're scrutinised for budgets. How is this actually affecting business objectives? And how is it driving. So I've loved being part of this journey, just seeing how we're running brand uplift and how that is actually impacting the campaign and what audiences are thinking and feeling off the back of content, not just actions they're taking,

Scott Guthrie 

I love that that's a really strong report and relevant of it, stronger positive emotion, top of mind awareness. As exposure to Ambassador content increases over time, I think we become more invested in the creator's journey with that brand, I think we're less likely to feel bored, or we're more likely to feel a stronger connection. And ultimately, from a brand point of view, I think whilst the long term payoff is intent to purchase increases, as follows become more invested in that long term journey, one of the key

Sammy Albon 

metrics as well as studying sort of post campaign exposure action. So what our audience is doing after having seen or listened to or watched campaign content. And I think one of the campaigns we saw over half of them were willing to take an action like click link, and a quarter of them would have considered getting the product or service or at least taking a further visit to a site, which is huge, because often, I think, particularly on informants can focus campaigns, you could argue between 40 and 50% of conversions are trackable, because we know that people are watched content, and they will make a decision at a later date, and then you can't find it, or the only way to really track it is sort of assisted conversions through Google Analytics data. So you lose half the journey. So I've just loved seeing pins down and just seeing exactly what audiences are feeling after content and how it does work is moving

Scott Guthrie 

away from the vanity metrics towards the intent metrics, and ultimately, the impact metrics that's so powerful. Sadly, we got one more real question now. And then after that, we'll also go into the final furlough. Let's talk a little bit about promoted media, balancing paid and organic and how can brands effectively use or work with not used work with influencers in their promoted media?

Sammy Albon 

Obviously, this is this is increased massively over the past couple of years. What we've TikTok obviously, this summer, sparking content is so easy, it's so straightforward, it's effective, slightly more difficult on YouTube, but still accessible. Don't get me started on Facebook Ad Manager I'd rather know but never go near ever again. It's super confusing. There's kind of two ways that brands can work with influencers with paid but often I think brands get it wrong. It's my firm belief that paid should only ever compliment organic. And obviously, I've seen a huge number of agencies offering really competitive blended CPMs when they're talking to brands and prospect clients saying, Oh, we can get you the many impressions for a pound and super low. Not quite that low. But super expensive. CPMs. But you end up in a sticky situation. Because what you haven't done is prioritise the storytelling and the content and the creative world, we typically say that the less only group is that creatively, awardee campaigns drive, I think, between 11 and 12 times more market share than those that aren't. So how are you capturing the creative of the content and the storytelling, because if you go down the route of prioritising paid, you often abandon that you often end up with just content that is there that's quite functional, and perhaps is lacklustre compared to some really cool content that you've procured the usage rights for after the fact. And then you're amplifying in a really effective way. So I would prefer to see paid complementing a really effective call creative, organic strategy, where influencers are doing we're trusting them to be creative, they are inherently creative. So let's use that and come up with content that really sings about the product in a really cool way or service or, or whatever the campaign is, and then look at how we can repurpose that for paid or there is a separate paid brief, because I think more often than not brands come on stuck when they're focusing too much on sparking or boosting content. Obviously, we know the algorithm is relentless, so we are doing what we can, but making pay for assets there is there is an art to it, too. It's really balancing the crates tone of voice. I've said this again, but balancing what the Creator does so well with what the brand is trying to deliver as opposed to being super prescriptive and not allowing the freedom to move. Oh,

Scott Guthrie 

yeah, I love that last time we were in the final. Hang tough. I came to ask you what was I ask all my guests? How do you keep up to date with all of the changes in our sector? What are your go to sources? I

Sammy Albon 

just looked at your LinkedIn Scott. But is that just kidding? No, I, I generally LinkedIn is my is my go to. I find it so digestible. We're all strapped for time. Right? So unless you're sitting and watching your favourite influences, I find LinkedIn so useful. I tried to post on there as often as I can, but since December, I really haven't posted on there as much as I should.

Scott Guthrie 

You're part of the LinkedIn creator cohort. So you weren't just posting while you were doing post but you're doing video. So that took a lot of brainpower, but also production power on

Sammy Albon 

me and my iPhone. But it is a lot of editing. But that was Yeah, that's a great experience. But you know, I one of the reasons I left being influencers, I couldn't keep up with the that the relentless algorithms and I felt myself doing it again. So I was like, well, well, let's take a step back. I also have quite lucky to have quite a few my friends are still hashtag influencers. So getting the news straight, straight from them as well about what the platform changes are or the amount of times where they've had advanced access to a platform change before anyone else. I'm like, what's coming and they can share is really useful. Britain's Yeah, that's LinkedIn and influence of friends. So I recommend people get some

Scott Guthrie 

Brilliant Sammy, where can listeners turn to for more information about you, and about what they

Sammy Albon 

What They Said is the website. And we've always always posting on LinkedIn. And there's a lot in the works in terms of podcasts where to get your message got, we can collaborate, count me in. And we have our newsletter as well, which people can sign up to, which offers sort of fortnightly insights around trending sounds, themes, trends on each key platform. And then yeah, my LinkedIn, I'm trying to think this is something I've forgotten that definitely is, and we've got some upcoming webinar activity as well that will be posted on the on the website and for anyone that signs up for that newsletter.

Scott Guthrie 

Well, I'll be sure to include those links in the show notes accompanying this podcast episode, just Google the influencer marketing lab for further details. Sammy Alban, senior campaign director at what they said, Thank you so much for your time and for all your insights today.

Sammy Albon 

Thanks for having me, Scott. Cheers.

Scott Guthrie 

Thank you for listening to the influence of marketing lab with me Scott Guthrie. My podcast is in a paid sponsorship with Tagger by Sprout Social. Please subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. And for more information visit influencer marketing lab.com Sign up to the weekly newsletter at www.creatorbriefing.com. And if you want to see how Tagger by Sprout Social can work for you. Go to Taggermedia.com/request-demo