You’re probably reading this because you’re one of the 57% of marketers who say that influencer marketing is going to be integrated across marketing efforts in the next three years. The stats behind the growth of influencer marketing from Nielsen and Sprout Social are staggering:
92% of consumers trust a recommendation from an individual over a brand—even if they do not know them personally.
74% of consumers use social media to make a purchasing decision.
Furthermore, almost 50% of consumers use ad blocking technology, which means other online advertising efforts may go unseen by a portion of your audience. Influencer content skirts those roadblocks.
The simplest definition of influencer marketing is paid word-of-mouth advertising. Think of an influencer as a spokesperson—a well-known personality with a large following and sharing their thoughts and experience with a product, but doing so in a more genuine manner, in the right context, and with an audience that’s ready to engage.
While most advertising relies on disrupting whatever environment it’s placed in, influencer marketing relies on seamless, genuine perspectives from the voice of a trusted person to a target audience. Due to the authentic nature of influencer-created content, influencer marketing is an effective way to reach an audience without annoying them with a canned message or making them feel like just a number to a faceless company.
Influencers are experts on a variety of topics and share content focused on what they care about most. They exist on every platform where people consume content and have built up followings because of their unique point of view. People are drawn to them and trust them like a friend because they’re honest and have a unique perspective. Brands can strategically align with these influencers and ride on their coattails, even if they have tight budgets.
There are several steps to take to implement an effective influencer campaign for your brand.
Start with your business goals.
As with most marketing tactics, it’s important to start by evaluating your business goals and objectives. There are a number of different influencer strategies that can help you accomplish different goals, whether you want to build brand awareness, drive clicks to your website, or encourage foot traffic to a key retailer. Marketers can work with managed-service influencer networks to execute influencer campaigns, pick and choose influencers from a self-service network, or reach out directly to influencers that appeal to them and match business goals.
A large number of brands use influencer marketing to gain awareness and introduce their product in front of the right audience. Awareness tactics resonate when they don’t feel like a sales pitch, which is another reason why the genuine nature of an influencer’s voice proves beneficial to a brand.
When looking to drive trial or sign-ups, brands often equip their influencers with special URLs or a promo code. This further incentivizes an influencer’s followers to try something new in addition to receiving a recommendation from someone they trust.
Develop a content marketing strategy.
An influencer marketing campaign should not operate independently of your brand’s content marketing strategy. Without a content strategy for your campaign to ladder back to, your activation will feel more like a shot in the dark than a meaningful investment.
Explore vendor partners or choose to work directly with influencers on your own.
Marketers can work with managed-service influencer networks to execute influencer campaigns, pick and choose influencers from a self-service network, or reach out directly to influencers that appeal to them and match business goals.
Whichever way you choose to partner, keep in mind that there are some watch-outs.
Recently, the largest concerns surrounding influencer marketing revolve around the “follower model.” Professionals in the industry are voicing concerns over influencers who have purchased their followers and agencies promising millions of impressions based solely on influencers who appear popular by their follower count. Additionally, influencer audiences fail to match the requested targeting of clients, resulting in wasted impressions and dollars. To avoid these influencer marketing woes, brands must choose influencers or vendors who can verify audiences, and they must stay involved in the influencer selection process.
When partnering with a vendor or influencers directly, make sure they have a way to prove authenticity. Influencers who are authentic have voices that speak louder than the product in their content.The engagements on their social posts should seem relative to their number of followers. Influencers who create content that feels like a template that could apply to any brand will not deliver a meaningful message to their audience. It’s also important to pay attention to an influencer’s balance between sponsored content and original content. An influencer who only posts content sponsored by brands risks their sense of authenticity.
Find influencers that match your brand’s goals and strategy.
There are many different types of influencers with different focuses. Some have reached celebrity-level status through social media alone, while others have modest followings and are just getting their start. Some examples of well-known influencers in different industries are:
Adam Montoya, better known as “SeaNanners,” is a popular gaming influencer who records and livestreams gameplay during “Call of Duty” and “Minecraft,” and shares his videos on Twitch and YouTube. Adam often records while playing with other gaming influencers, and his commentary during gameplay includes his thoughts on the game and general banter—just like his followers and their friends would do! It’s relatable; in a time when consumers are laughing at brands that don’t present themselves as vulnerable or authentic, any chance to share genuine content is valuable.
Ellie Bullen (@elsas_wholesomelife) is a lifestyle influencer who shares high-quality images of her day-to-day life and unique experiences. Ellie’s audience relates to her content that showcases her love of delicious food, passion for living a life of adventure and love of animals. Not only does Ellie share interesting content, she makes herself accessible to her audience by taking time to interact with them in the comments on her content.
No matter what kind of personality a brand needs, marketers can find an influencer to help elevate their key differentiators and tell their story on their behalf. When asked by the ANA, marketers ranked Brand Fit as the most important factor when choosing influencers (5.19 on a scale of 1–6 ).
Choose influencers that can represent the brand well and are proven to resonate with the target audience. Then, let them do what they do best! You’re partnering with influencers because of their unique point of view. It is imperative that brands allow influencers to stay true to their own voice, even when talking about a product or service. Dig into an influencer’s past content and see if their voice jives with the brand’s. While it’s encouraged for brands to provide guidelines to an influencer, covering messaging parameters you would like them to stick to, don’t undermine the authenticity of their voice.
Don’t let a large follower count be your only deciding factor when selecting influencers. According to a study conducted by the ANA in November of 2017, marketers are most often engaging influencers that fall in the “power-middle.” These are influencers with 25,000–100,000 dedicated followers.
Write a detailed brief, with room for creativity.
When developing a brief for influencer partners, marketers should think about what their target consumers will find most valuable about their product or service. Conduct research about what the target audience is saying online and align your business goals to their needs. Your influencer strategy should touch on the synergies between what the audience wants and what your brand provides.
This is not the time to push out your brand message exactly as worded in your latest commercial. Part of the reason influencer marketing works is because it isn’t polished—and the reason you’re partnering with the influencers you’ve chosen is because of their unique perspective. Look at influencer outreach as a chance for the brand to humanize itself and build a lasting relationship with consumers.
Partner in content creation.
While partnering with influencers can elevate your brand, ask yourself how your brand can support the influencer and relate to them. Does your brand contribute to their image and their personal message? What impact does your business have on your influencers? While you may have an expectation of the content an influencer will produce during the campaign (a recipe, a use case, an explanation of their favorite product, etc.), you may find that their connection to the brand inspires them to share personal stories or create additional pieces of content beyond the campaign ask.
Involvement in the selection process and brainstorming content topics collaboratively will help you discover your influencers’ connection to your business and help you position your brand as a partner in their content creation rather than a dictator. This spirit of partnership can lead to an ongoing relationship with influencers that will eventually create true brand advocacy.
Launch the campaign.
Begin distributing content into the market and stay in touch with your vendor or influencers to gain insights into how your target audience is engaging.
It’s important to monitor your influencer marketing campaign as it’s running. Whether you’re coordinating your campaign in-house or you’re activating a campaign with a vendor, content should be reported on each week. Keeping track of key metrics provides several advantages to your campaign. Weekly reporting will reveal which pieces of influencer content are performing best and help determine how to distribute budget for paid support. Measuring the success of an influencer’s content can also help determine which influencers to consider for long-term partnerships in the future.
With the possibility of bot traffic and fake followers, it is also important to run campaigns with third-party verification tools like Moat or Forensiq, and use these tools as you’re measuring your campaign against goals. Verifying traffic generated by your influencer activation will help provide a true picture of the success of each piece of content and the overall campaign.
Influencer marketing is becoming a more prevalent way to engage consumers with an authentic perspective of your brand. When executed correctly, this tactic can elevate your brand and drive meaningful business results.
Interested in learning more about influencer marketing? Contact us using the form above!
—Emily Williams | Media Strategist