Influencer marketing is becoming more sophisticated, and marketers are increasingly scrutinizing the space. If we want to continue building confidence and driving results in influencer marketing, we must work to avoid co-creating obvious, inauthentic or formulaic content. We need to aim for a higher level of creativity to make content authentic and engaging. Here are some lessons we learned from our work on a recent, successful project with PayPal.


it’s important to focus on the features of the brand that resonate with your target audience. The whole point of the PayPal project was to show how easy it is to pay friends back with the PayPal app. But we couldn’t simply create a vlog with a lifestyle influencer in which they go to a restaurant with a friend and talk about how they pay their mates back. It wouldn’t be a natural thing for most influencers to discuss on their channels. We wanted to make the content as natural as possible, while still highlighting what friends could get up to when the hassle of paying each other back is no longer an issue. Here is the process we followed to find our brand audience and influencer passion intersection:

  • Research your target audience:
    • What topics are they passionate about online?
    • Which social media platforms are they active on?
  • Research the client / product and define potentially relevant use cases
    • What features of the brand / product will resonate with the needs of the audience?
  • Identify influencers that can tick the criteria you have now identified
    • Research their content to understand what they typically create and what their audience engages with

From this process, we identified food as being one of the most popular topics online among our target audience of young millennials and found this food-passionate audience was mainly active on YouTube and Instagram.

With that information, we began to imagine how product could connect to this space. We saw the relevant use case of a group of friends going to a street food market and one friend paying for the others, a natural scenario many of us have experienced before.

This informed our influencer search: relevant YouTubers who create content around the key topic. For us, this was street food, which is how we found SORTEDfood. The key point then was becoming really familiar with their videos so we could naturally include the into their content. We quickly  realized that some form of challenge would make the PayPal content much more engaging for SORTED’s audience. Thus, #SORTEDwithPayPal was born.


It isn’t enough just to glance through an influencer’s YouTube channel and say you know their content well. We must become fluent in the content our influencers create to be able to make solid, creative recommendations for activations and to increase the likelihood of creating content that really appeals to their audience. If we ask an influencer to get a specific shot or film a specific scene, it is always useful to reference similar shots they have done in the past. We strive to earn a place as trusted creative advisor, really adding value and creativity for the influencers themselves as well as the wider team.


A brand can appear in one piece of influencer content – a feature. But the real value is in cases where you create engaging content that can be adapted and repeated again and again – a format. (A great food-related format is Buzzfeed’s Worth It – engaging and infinitely repeatable.) We study influencer content closely and work to incorporate the brand into a format that is engaging and in line with the style of content the partner influencers are known for. In this case this approach led us to a content concept that had a natural integration with SORTEDfood’s channel, while also providing clear branding: #SORTEDwithPayPal. The audience liked it so much that commenters have suggested this updated format become a regular feature on the channel.

Successful content will always depend upon partnering with the right influencer. But adopting a future-thinking mindset can lead to co-creating content formats that can help a brand re-engage with influencers and build long-term relations that lead to authentic advocacy over the long term.


Imagine this unfortunate scenario: you create successful content with an influencer and want to boost it with some paid spend . . . and then you learn the influencer has no capabilities for whitelisting content and little understanding of paid social. If paid amplification is a key part of your campaign (and it should be) and you plan for influencers to post on Instagram or Facebook, then it’s vital to ensure the influencer has access to the Facebook Tag Business Partner feature to make this a seamless process. Not all influencers have access to the feature, so ask this question at the beginning of your partnership to determine if you need to work with Facebook to set the influencer up with this feature.


In a digital marketing and influencer specialist role, we must find balance between being a client advisor and creative guardian. Brand teams and clients are the authority on key messages to be included, shots they need, brand knowledge, product features, etc., so their input into influencer content is essential. On the other hand, influencers are experts on their audience and the type of content that will be engaging for them. There’s a delicate art to balancing these needs. We must work fluidly between client and influencer to ensure brand needs and objectives are met, while the content created remains authentic and natural.

An audience will be quick to call out overly branded content, which can lead to negative sentiment, low engagement and potential ridicule for the brand online. Therefore, it’s vital to strike a balance between branded and natural content from the get-go. Some steps to achieve this balance include:

  • Hosting a briefing session with the client and the influencer that outlines all key messages and shots to be included. This helps get everyone on the same page.
  • Requesting an “episode guide” from the influencer after the briefing session, if appropriate. An episode guide is a step-by-step narrative of how the influencer’s content will look, where key messages will appear, etc. This can help further outline all the key information covered during the briefing session and helps the client visualize where key messages and brand inclusions will feature in the content.
  • Getting client feedback on the episode guide. Feedback here – before production starts – is worth its weight in gold as this can help us and the influencer film content that will likely be accepted straight off the bat.

Striking this balance will ensure great content gets made and all parties involved remain happy.

Influencer marketing is young. We’re all still learning how to create the best influencer content and how to collaborate with influencers while getting key messages across. These lessons from #SORTEDwithPayPal have allowed us to learn and improve as we go, informing our continued work and ensuring more influencer success in the future.