Campaign Management

Scaling Influencer Marketing In-House

The Role of an Influencer Marketing Function
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Campaign Management

Scaling Influencer Marketing In-House

Explore how brands scale influencer programs with in-house centers responsible for influencer marketing measurement, standardization and cross-functional coordination.

As consumer brands see the impact of influencer marketing initiatives throughout the path to purchase, the pressure is on to develop sophisticated, measurable programs capable of supporting large-scale strategies. The challenge facing these brands is to develop an influencer marketing practice that aligns with overarching brand strategy, regional needs and the never-ending beat of product launches, while ensuring leadership has the data and reporting framework required to evaluate success and prioritize spending.

Often when a brand is bringing influencer marketing in-house, there is pressure from executives to demonstrate positive results before additional resources are allocated. This can lead to a chicken and egg scenario where a team finds themselves at a standstill because they can’t get the resources they require to deliver the results they need to move forward.

The solution to this situation is to start with influencer marketing measurement. Allocate resources in-house to benchmark the current state of your brand(s) performance among relevant influencers and measure the performance of your company's influencer marketing efforts. It’s critical that measurement ownership and the cadence for reporting be clearly defined. Such measurement should benchmark elements, including:  

  • Your performance versus competition,
  • Your performance today versus last year, and
  • Your performance by campaign and influencer type.

Once you've established your baseline for measurement, you’ll be able to make informed decisions on which influencer and agency relationships to continue investing in, and which to stop. Be sure to clearly identify key insights for your teams and create predictability for management in your reporting format and frequency.

Many consumer brands have opted to achieve this through an in-house influencer marketing team that manages measurement, insights and relationship-building, as well as, coordination across different areas of the business and with agency partners. This guide presents a blueprint for brands looking to establish their own in-house practice to enable scalable, strategic influencer marketing programs.  

A Cross-Functional Approach to Influencer Marketing

Influencers can impact audience engagement across the entire customer journey. As such, influencer marketing requires collaboration from all corners of an organization and necessitates a group of champions to earn executive attention beyond any one function. In our research report, Influence 2.0, based on input from over 100 global brands, half of those surveyed state that four or more departments engage with influencers now. It’s not unheard of for 5+ departments to be dipping their toes in influencer marketing before management decides it’s time to consolidate strategy, reporting and technology.

Given the cross-functional requirements of a successful influencer program, scaling influencer marketing within a brand requires a focus on standardization, systematization and coordination. While each brand’s implementation is unique, patterns are emerging. Most notably, the creation of a centralized hub for influencer analytics, which often originates within the consumer insights or social media functions.

A Note on the Role of Agencies

The reality is that scaling influencer marketing in-house is most often the only way a program will scale. Far too many agencies resist this change because it challenges their position and existing business. However, brands will never significantly scale their work with agencies until the core of their program is established in-house.

This dynamic can be seen in our latest Influence 2.0 report where we see both advanced and tactical organizations spending about the same amount of money with their agencies partners, however the nature of the work that advanced organizations ask of their agencies is very different. For example, advanced organizations, are significantly less likely to rely on agencies for influencer identification, activation and campaign measurement.

Far from resisting this trend, the most successful agencies are embracing their clients efforts to scale; remaining confident that the role of the agency stands strong, while the nature of their work evolves.

The 3 Roles of an In-House Influencer Marketing Function

An in-house influencer marketing team harmonizes influencer practices and enables the rest of the organization to work effectively with influencers of all types. This team will often engage directly with some influencers, as well as working alongside other teams, which will also have relationships with influencers.

The in-house influencer marketing hub acts as a gatekeeper for their company’s influencer community. The team consolidates influencer marketing requests from across the brand and translates multiple campaign needs into an organized, coordinated program that builds and maintains relationships with key influencers over time.

The core functions of this team include:

Establish & Maintain Performance Measurement

As brands bring influencer marketing into their core business, the need to accurately and consistently measure the performance of your investments becomes extremely important. Here are some of the top performance tips to keep in mind.

  • Maintain one central influencer database or “influencer CRM” to enable consistent and standardized measurement across programs and business units.
  • Provide program level performance measurement and benchmarking, consolidating performance reporting across the organization.   
  • Introduce a framework for compliance oversight by providing real-time visibility of all influencer marketing and sponsorship efforts.

Dissemination & Acceleration of Best Practices

With technology and reporting in place, the team can begin to provide data-driven insights to teams to maximize their impact. The in-house team will help optimize processes, stimulate collaboration across regions, brands and departments, and provide guidance on influencer endorsements and allocation of resource.

  • Develop your organization’s Influencer Strategy Playbook and establish the rules of engagement for influencer outreach, negotiation and collaboration.
  • Ensure your brands are working with the highest impact influencers by providing data-driven influencer discovery.
  • Surface lessons learned from campaigns across the organization and provide insights to teams developing new influencer collaborations.

Scaling Influencer Relationships & Programs

With measurement models in place and best practices documented, the in-house influencer marketing hub can focus on scaling and expanding influencer programs throughout the organization.

  • Ensure influencer marketing is integrated across functional areas within the organization including, but not limited to, marketing, communications and product. This team may be responsible for employee advocacy or other community management programs.
  • Provide a cohesive brand experience for influencers who are working with you. Coordinate with business units and regional teams to identify influencer needs based on brand goals and upcoming product launches.
  • Conduct training for internal stakeholders on influencer relations, outreach strategies and the technology available to them.

Case in Point: How amika scaled from a few vloggers to 1,000 influencers

When Chelsea Riggs, Brand President of amika, wanted to grow their influencer program, she knew their team organization needed to evolve. 

We restructured our marketing team from traditional silos to incorporating influencer marketing into every role. As a professional brand, we work with many celebrity and "insta-famous" hairstylists in addition to consumer influencers. Our PR team is not only focused on traditional consumer and trade media, but also with professional stylists who are influencers on their own and are often featured in press. Our social team is integrated to collaborate on content, community management and influencers, while each team member focuses on a specific type of influencer, such as micro influencers, unpaid vs. paid, or brand ambassadors.” 

Read more about amika’s influencer program in Staging A Brand Rebellion.

The Makeup of an Influencer Marketing Function

Regardless of where it ultimately sits within an organization, the talent required to scale and execute influencer strategies requires a new blend of skills including integrated marketing communications, social media, public relations and analytics.

Within a brand, the influencer marketing team is equal parts analytics warehouse, strategic advisory, and relationship builders. To support influencer marketing at scale, a core team of communications and marketing professionals must collaborate to deliver a unified strategy, methodology, measurement framework, and tool set that supports brand storytelling, product launches and community building for one or more brands.

Influencer marketing teams can sit in different areas of the organization, depending on the company. The most important part is that the team is able to collaborate on influencer strategies with all of the relevant groups.

Typically, organizations will start with influencer marketing organically taking place throughout the organization on an ad hoc basis. This phase is marked by little to no process or measurement standards and eventually consolidates to allow for scaling.

It typically evolves in one of two models: centralized or decentralized. Neither is right or wrong. What matters most is that the model you choose is aligned to your brand’s culture and organization.

Case in Point: Melia Hotels International Systematizes Influencer Marketing to Scale

“We used to operate a company-wide PR and social media strategy that was well established by brand and region but lacked a system approach and specific methodology to influencer marketing,” explains Santiago Garcia Solimei, Global Director of Social Media.

In January 2017, we made the switch to a system-based approach. The move was a response to the increasing number of influencer requests being received at the hotel, regional and global levels, plus the amount of time needed to evaluate, consider and respond to all those requests. Our systematic approach, driven by Traackr, has given us the benefit of a consistent method to identify, validate, respond and report on influencer related proposals. 

Read more How Meliá Hotels International Scales Influencer Marketing Across 7 Brands and 4 Continent.

Day-to-Day Operations of an Influencer Marketing Function

Members of an influencer marketing team support influencer programs by ensuring a solid foundation that provides, structure, insights and governance for the brand. Depending on the size of the organization, there may be several full-time positions dedicated to in-house influencer marketing. Here is a list of activities that an influencer marketing team will likely be undertaking on a regular basis.

Maintaining One System-of-Record for Influencer Management

Manage a brand-wide influencer database where essential information on each influencer can be stored including outreach, content and engagement tracking, as well as, task management and relationship history. To take influencer marketing from a tactical project to a strategic program, a brand should use a “CRM for influencers.” Influencer marketing software allows influencer teams to managed relationships at scale and make data-driven decisions about how to spend influencer endorsement, gifting programs and sponsored content budgets. Influencer marketing teams that are scaling an in-house influencer marketing program should be using a robust influencer marketing software every day. That data will become your best friend!

Providing Consistent & Regular Reporting

Provide a framework for consistent and readily-available measurement across influencer programs and campaigns. This includes building up strong historical data sets related to influencer activities that enable the development of attribution models. The in-house insights team may work closely with agency partners to ensure any work done externally is measured consistently.

Many brands are moving away from reliance on black box metrics like EMV to measure influencer programs. Instead they are taking a holistic approach to measurement that matches the right key performance indicator (KPI) to the program, based on business goals. If you are just starting out with influencer marketing, it’s best to demonstrate your commitment to measurement early on and take a “crawl, walk, then run” approach. Many programs begin by measuring activity (program inputs), then extending to outputs (direct results of your actions) and evolving to include outcome measurements (impact on business objectives).

Like all marketing programs, each influencer activation will have specific business goals and should be measured appropriately. Read more on best practices for influencer marketing measurement.  

Managing Data-Driven Influencer Selection

Leverage technology to provide crucial data about influencers’ audience size, demographics, behaviors and engagement rates, as well as, insights into which channels, brands and topics are most aligned to a specific influencer. Deliverables may include an analyzed short-list of influencers for brand leaders to evaluate (ex: benchmarking an influencer’s performance when discussing your brand or competitors.) It’s also critical for this team to assess influencer fraud risk and create a process around reviewing influencers. Read more about how Traackr helps you detect fraudulent influencers here.

Creating a Unified Influencer Experience

Ensure a unified experience for influencers with your brand. Product launches, events and campaigns all come and go, while relationships are built over time. Many brands hire influencer engagement coordinators to monitor for up-and-coming influencers, ensure influencer communications stays strong between campaigns and keep a pulse on which influencers generate organic brand mentions. From a business perspective, senior influencer team members will work with procurement and legal teams to put in place best practices for influencer negotiations.  

Ensuring Compliance & Governance

Work closely with legal teams to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, including disclosure, and monitor influencer engagements for contractual requirements where applicable. Beyond legal requirements, compliance extends to establishing and maintaining brand guidelines for influencer programs, including influencer vetting, content, compensation and engagements across the organization. Read more about how brands avoid FTC sanctions by tracking for properly disclosure.

Case in Point: Gin Pioneer Sipsmith Rolls Out Global Influencer Program

Shelley Macintyre, Global and UK Marketing Director is building Sipsmith’s influencer marketing program to scale internationally. She says, 

Traackr allows us to collate all relevant influencer information to use in a scalable way so that we can sense-check what is working, learn from it and apply that knowledge to international markets helping guide those local teams.” 

Read more about Sipsmith’s approach to scaling influencer marketing.

The Path Forward

The rising investment and global scaling of influencer programs requires marketing and communications functions to rethink the structure for how influencer work is accomplished across their organizations.

The role of an In-House Influencer Marketing Function is to provide a brand-wide framework for optimization of resources, coordination of efforts and mitigation of risks associated with scaling influencer strategies. Ultimately, these teams will support their organization’s transformation and empower all internal stakeholders to connect with their audiences in meaningful ways at scale.

If you’re just starting out, don’t get overwhelmed. Start by setting your organization up for success by establishing an influencer marketing measurement practice. As you develop your measurement framework and demonstrate consistent performance reporting, you’ll have a foundation from which to earn greater executive buy-in.

Your reporting frameworks will help your organization understand the impact of influencer investments and will enable the in-house team to provide data-driven insights to the organization to optimize influencer marketing.

Before you know it, your in-house influencer marketing team will be ready to scale to the next level, working authentically with larger groups of diverse influencers, across more business units and geographic regions.

Learn more about how Traackr supports influencer marketing at scale with an end-to-end influencer discovery, relationship management and analytics solution.

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