Influencer marketing is a vital channel for many brands. As the practice has matured, brands of all sizes are viewing influencer marketing as an increasingly valuable component of their overall marketing strategy - transitioning influencer marketing from an experimental strategy into a key pillar of purpose-driven brands.
This article discusses how to build the type of impactful, advocacy-generating, brand-building influencer marketing programs that are propelling a new generation of companies and breathing life into heritage brands around the world.
Read on to discover:
Influencer marketing is the process of identifying, researching, engaging and supporting the people who create high-impact conversations with your customers.
Anyone can take out an ad on social media. The unique value that influencer marketing brings is the ability to collaborate with trusted, creative partners who have a connection to your buyers.
Building an influencer marketing program is a process with many considerations. Here are some foundational questions to consider as you start to explore influencer marketing.
Many brands face the challenge of developing an influencer marketing practice that aligns with their overarching strategy, regional needs and product launches, while also ensuring leadership has the data and reporting framework required to evaluate success and prioritize spending. That might seem like a tall order, but here are 5 steps to help you establish a foundation for your successful influencer marketing program.
The best influencer marketing strategies start by understanding and aligning with your business and marketing objectives. What is your organization trying to accomplish? What are the overarching themes my marketing leaders have set for the year? From there, focus on clear ways an influencer marketing program can help your team meet those goals.
State your intended goals and identify the most appropriate metrics to measure success. Establishing clear goals and aligning with your company and team objectives will clarify which influencers to look for and develop relationships with, what to measure, and ultimately how to steer your program to success.
Knowing your target customers is an integral step in kicking off any influencer effort. It’s important to define who your customer is; this includes their location, age and gender, to their marital status and interests. Understanding how they evaluate, discover and buy your product (or service) is essential for kicking off any influencer effort. You’ll use your audience personas in the next step.
Being influential is all about context. You need to find people who produce and share content that can impact your buyer’s decision making process. Ideally the influencers you work with should be an organic advocate for your brand, or someone who is highly engaged with your customers. The days of paying the influencer with the most followers to promote your product are in the past. Now it’s all about quality over quantity and ensuring you’re wisely allocating your budget. Data-driven insights make it a lot easier to find and vet influencers to ensure you are getting the best ROI possible.
Next, you’ll start building your influencer relationship. Following, sharing, and linking to your influencers will be the first step in a fruitful relationship. Next, you’ll want to reach out to the influencer by email. Based on your strategy, you may pursue organic or paid influencer collaborations. Some brands find that organic works best; gifting products to those who are already advocating for their brand, others require a blend. Whether you’re doing product seeding, promotional exchanges, or simply paid advertising, you’ll want an influencer relationship management tool to help you track your communications and budget.
Once you have established your influencer marketing program, it is time to take a step back and connect the dots - looking at the data to see what is working and what could be improved. Are your online relationships translating into more website views, purchases, social media impressions?
The most efficient way to find the answers to these questions and more is to have access to a data-driven influencer marketing software. These platforms allow teams to analyze the efficiency of their paid and organic influencer partnerships, track affiliate codes, connect their payment options, view organic and paid mentions history and more.
Being able to bring your influencer marketing efforts full circle by showing your marketing and business leaders the data that supports your program will allow you to grow your program further. Here is a great article on how to scale your program in-house.
The ability to find the right influencers to partner with is critical to the overall success of your program. Before you start your search it is important to first firm up what you need/want for your brand. What topics, themes, or industries do you want to reach with your influencer marketing program? For example, if you are a beauty brand are you only focused on cosmetics or do you want to also reach hair care and skincare? Or, if you are a fashion brand do you think it's important to build a key message around sustainability? Also, what type of audiences do you want to reach? What are their ages, where do they live? Do you have a list of keywords that are relevant for brand safety?
Once you have those important brand elements in mind there are typically three different angles you should use to find and vet potential influencer partners:
There are occasions when a brand's goal is to get in front of as many people as possible, so they pay a lot of money for a product placement with a VIP influencer. This is fine, as long as the goals are clear. However, there are huge, tangible benefits to taking the time to find the right influencer for your brand and building an authentic relationship with them.
Here are some tips to help you successfully build influencer partnerships.
Influencer marketing continues to gain popularity in 2020. Not only have marketers caught on to the ROI and relationship-building potential, but have begun to capitalize on it. But just how big is it? In 2018 a worldwide study of CMOs found that 30.5% are increasing their focus on influencer marketing in 2019. Brands are set to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022.
Here are a few key trends that have arisen in just the past year and what you can expect to see more of:
As the amount of money in influencer marketing increases, so has the amount of regulation surrounding it. The law requires that brands and influencers clearly disclose when posts are born out of “material connections”, and can be held liable when they do not. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) defines “material connections” as anything from monetary payment, to a free trip, a gift or even an ownership stake.
The FTC has taken action against celebrity influencers, sending them letters reminding them of advertising policies on social media, but ultimately they appear to be focusing mostly on regulated industries. It’s expected that they’ll aim their crack down on the advertising of vaping and tobacco products-- particularly those aimed at teenagers. Additionally, they have begun restricting the promotion of predatory detox tea, cosmetic procedure, and “miracle” weight loss companies.
As companies continue to expand their influencer marketing budgets and pay influencers purely based on audience size, the industry has inadvertently incentivized the rise of fake influence. In addition to purchasing followers, there is also the tactic of trading comments and likes amongst influencers. These are called Instagram pods, and while Instagram has worked to eliminate them, they still exist through apps like Whatsapp and Telegram.
The purpose of pods is to help influencers “beat” the algorithm so they are able to expand their audiences and impress brands with their engagement rate. Additionally, Influencers participate in loop giveaways to increase “real” followers, despite proof that there is minimal value in their new following.
It is widely understood that micro and nano influencers offer the most targeted, direct and engaged audiences. They’re also much more affordable, and their followers tend to trust them more than major influencers. This could be considered a trend, but we’re hoping it’s one that sticks.
Micro-influencers have under 100k followers. Typically, these are people who found their fame on the internet and have a highly trusted and engaged audience in their niche. Nano-influencers have under 5k followers, most of which they are connected to in real life. They’re a relatively new breed of Influencer, with influence in their own communities. Working with nano influencers can be beneficial to brands who are trying to work with influential community members. It’s also worth noting that this group has the highest level of engagement.
In the saturated influencer marketing space, it’s become increasingly important for influencers to have a niche. Not only does it increase their opportunity for growth, but it makes their account more desirable for brand partnerships.
Brands in 2020 are increasingly using their influencer marketing platform to identify and partner with niche influencers who are organically talking about their products (or similar products). This sets the foundation for an authentic partnership and the ability to reach a highly engaged audience.
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