Olivia Markopoulos is our Head of Influencer Relations at Slope.
In this interview we talk with Olivia about everything from the hallmarks of successful TikTok campaigns to trends she’s noticing in the influencer marketing space—and, of course, why TikTok is such a powerful marketing tool.
Influencer marketing is a big part of what we do for our clients at Slope, so we're excited that Olivia gets to share a behind-the-scenes look at our strategy and process.
Describe your work as Head of Influencer Relations at Slope.
At Slope I deal with all things influencer-related. At a high level, I help our clients strategize how to best leverage influencers to promote their brand and become a key part of their overall marketing strategy. Brands approach us with a desire to work with influencers and my team helps them connect with the “right” influencers, negotiate the contracts, and generally streamline the process. We also rely heavily on data analytics to evaluate the performance of each influencer campaign and optimize strategy for our clients.
What are some of the most important things that companies should understand about influencer marketing, especially across tech, ecomm, and the DTC space?
Successful influencer marketing relies on content that’s organic to the feed. The more advertising/gimmicky the content feels, the less it will resonate.
It’s also important to understand the influencer and what type of content they produce—you want to strike a balance between giving the influencer creative freedom while also making sure they stick to the messaging brief.
Another thing I think companies absolutely need to understand is that a high number of followers doesn’t necessarily equate with a high level of engagement. Although one certain account might reach a larger audience (i.e. they have millions of followers), that’s no guarantee that those followers are really engaging with that influencer’s content.
And, of course, if your viewers aren’t engaging with your content, they ultimately won’t make a purchase.
There’s also a tendency to equate “influencer marketing” with just Instagram. The reality is that Instagram influencers aren’t the be all, end all of influencer marketing; there're multiple platforms where influencers can be insanely successful—Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and, of course, TikTok (more on that later).
At Slope, we do a lot of work on TikTok for our clients. Why is TikTok marketing such a valuable tool for so many different companies?
With over 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok is an amazingly valuable tool for brands for multiple reasons:
Although content creators are flooding to TikTok, it still isn’t nearly as saturated with content as other platforms (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.).
People think TikTok is just for targeting Gen Z; in reality, there’s a wide range of people who use TikTok, and brands can use the app to target everyone from Gen Z to middle-aged Mom’s, to Grandma’s. We’ve experienced success in this regard with companies like Hellosaurus, Dosh, and others.
TikTok’s use of algorithmic curation makes it more of a level playing field than Instagram. Whereas virality on Instagram is largely dictated by how many followers you have, how many people repost your post, and other factors, TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t work like that. In essence, really anyone can go viral on TikTok simply based on how people interact with your post.
Because TikTok’s such a new advertising platform, there’s really no “set rate” for influencers. On the other hand, the Instagram influencer scene has been around long enough that prices are relatively static (i.e. X number of followers = $X/post). TikTok doesn’t have these conventions because it just hasn’t been around long enough. This means that, on TikTok, brands generally don’t have to break the bank in order to work with great influencers.
Talk about one of your favorite TikTok campaigns (i.e. that you’ve run for Slope). Why did you like it / what made it successful?
I loved working with Nuggs (its parent company is named Simulate). Nuggs is a plant-based chicken nugget, known as the “Tesla” of chicken. In our campaign with them we had about 50 boxes of Nuggs that they made with the spiciest Carolina Reaper pepper in the world. We ran a “Spicy Nugget Challenge” limited-edition give-away with a select group of influencers.
They played up the spicy aspect of Nuggs—they wore gloves, the Nuggs boxes came out of dry ice—and they all had a super funny reaction to trying the nuggets.
At the time there weren’t lots of eye-catching challenge videos on TikTok, so the content performed super well. It was organic, funny, and overall just incredibly creative. We leveraged influencers like Durte Dom, Michael Uy, and others in the “Gen Z-prankster-comedy” space, and they generated millions of impressions.
People watched those videos and really wanted to be a part of Nuggs, try the nuggets, and have that experience. It was all about building a part of a community, about something you wanted to experience with your friends.
What are some rising trends you predict will happen in and around influencer marketing in 2021?
It’s always tough to predict trends, but I think we’ll see a couple of specific trends in 2021:
First, I think we’ll see a continued increase in videos on Instagram/IG Reels. TikTok has been incredibly successful, and Instagram realizes that. They have to compete. IG Reels are starting to gain more and more traction, and we’re seeing creators posting consistently on both platforms in order to magnify their reach. I definitely expect this to continue, and it’ll be interesting to see how each company tries to differentiate itself.
Second, I expect a continued emphasis on the “unedited aesthetic.” The minimally-edited, raw aesthetic has been huge, especially on TikTok. Look for this trend to continue. Influencers don’t throw tons of filters on their photos and videos; instead, we’re seeing a societal shift towards deconstructing this unrealistic standard of beauty, and influencers are following that trend.
Lastly, I think influencers will continue to promote products they actually use and believe in. There’s this misconception that many influencers just promote products for the money they get. That’s not the case. More and more we’re seeing influencers who really want to test the product out, understand exactly what they’re selling, and determine if they really want to support the brand. They want to talk about something from first-hand experience because that naturally creates a more genuine, natural feel. In other words, Kendall Jenner using proactive is just not believable. Influencers are really in tune, especially on TikTok, to what feels real and what feels gimmicky. Look for this trend to continue as we move into 2021.