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CMO Insights: 5 Keys to Identifying the Right Influencers

Dec 22, 2016

Influencer marketing is a must-do for brands that wish to retain a competitive edge. However, getting valuable insights and tips on how to go about it is difficult. From our conversations with global leading brands, identifying the right influencers remains a challenge.

It is critical to collaborate with the right influencers to build genuine affinity.

For example, the CRM and Community Director at one of the largest entertainment companies recalls that among the influencers he had flown to the biggest industry event, some didn’t mention the brand on social and actually didn’t even show up at the brand’s stand. Finding the right influencers is key to avoid bad investments.

Equally,  one of our clients was contacted by a social media celebrity’s agent to discuss a potential collaboration. When meeting the influencer, our client asked her why she wanted to work with her brand and the reality was that the blogger couldn’t come up with a genuine response. Now, brand affinity is probably the most important factor to choose the right influencers. This is why our client politely declined.

So… How do influencer marketers face the challenges of influencer identification? Here are some of the best practices we have gathered from our conversations with marketing decision makers.

1. Identify the right conversations that align with your buyer journey

To find the right influencers, monitoring relevant conversations on social is a good place to start. And we can never say this enough: data is key. Many of our clients agree that analysing data is the only way to target the right conversations. The Marketing Director of an online booking platform explains that listening, profiling and segmenting are critical for his brand to understand the buyer journey and know how to engage.

As a next step, determining the criteria that make an influencer relevant before interacting is essential. Once she identified the key conversations to be part of, the Marketing Manager, Western Europe of a beauty group established an influencer pyramid, from top celebrity influencers to “egg-head” consumers, as did Coca-Cola.

Gathering relevant data and listening to online conversations are crucial steps one should not omit to segment influencers and reach success.

2. Focus on the “magic middle” instead of the “big fishes”

All our clients firmly agree that relevance is more important than reach.

Aiming for big numbers - influencers with millions of followers and likes - is one of the major pitfalls of influencer identification. This approach will not necessarily have an immediate and lasting impact. A well-known manufacturer of watches and jewelry representative supports that it was more efficient to collaborate with influencers from the “magic middle” than working exclusively with “big fishes” to drive sales.

A global high-tech firm explains that lower and middle ground influencers help them build long-term and meaningful relationships, with genuine and credible individuals:

We value larger sets of smaller influencers and focus on taking more time to choose and engage with the right ones, which certainly is more time-consuming but in return generates more success and is more cost-effective. We have learned from past experiences and decided to stop throwing big amounts of money to celebrity influencers, which proved inefficient. Our goal is to tie our influencer strategy with different touch points from the buyer journey.

On the same topic, one of our clients adds that the issue in their sector is that everyone is working or wants to work with the top of the pyramid, which proves less and less relevant and authentic. Her advice is to focus on young rising influencers with less reach and manage to grow with them, creating win-win situations.

It is riskier to bet on rising influencers versus established “big fishes”, but as one of our clients put it, “this is how you win.”

3. Drive more impact with a few quality influencers over a larger quantity  

Many decision makers wonder how many influencers their teams should collaborate with for a specific campaign. There is no magic formula.

Do you want to generate immediate brand awareness or create long-term impact for your brand? As long as the goals you set are clear and in line with the influencers you collaborate with, you know where you are heading to.

As the Global Social Media Manager of a high jewelry house points out:  

Micro-influence is an effective way to drive sales. It is sometimes more impactful to collaborate with 5 very relevant influencers than to work with all 20 influencers you identified. You build stronger relationships based on trust with a reduced number of influencers who can then generate great impact on your targeted audience.”

4. Pay for the craft, not for the influence

Our fellow influencer marketers were categoric on this one: money can’t buy authenticity. When working to identify the right influencers, never begin by paying for influence itself.

Some of our clients focus on hospitality by bringing unique experiences to their influencers, but only pay them when they effectively work for the brand. For instance, bringing their influencers in-house to collaborate on a project, whether an event or a piece of content, would require influencer compensation. Hiring influencers as an extension of the team is also becoming more common and a good way to make the most of their skills, expertise and network.

To sum up, the main take-away from our discussions with decision makers is to think about paying later… not before.

5. Overcome scaling challenges to deliver more operational efficiency

When you execute influencer marketing within large, multi-brand enterprises, new challenges arise. For instance, different brands from the same group may have a number of contracts with the same influencer.

Consistency at group level is essential. Competitive brands within corporations must work together to segment influencers efficiently and answer the question: ‘What level of transparency and confidentiality should we keep?’

A Social Media & Influencer Manager from the hospitality industry reckons that many initiatives were carried out with no global strategy whatsoever, wondering how to find a way to measure and compare campaigns at a group level.

Defining global processes, supporting multi-user, multi-brand, multi-influencer tier and multi-geography execution is therefore critical to overcome the challenges of building affinity at scale.

 Our client community shared many more insights on their influencer strategies. Subscribe to our blog updates for more views from the decision-makers! And for more help around matching the right influencer with your brand, have a look at our latest ebook, Influencer Marketing in Real Life, featuring insights from 24 top brand marketers and influencers.


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