The internet has given us a lot. We’ve been bestowed with luxuries like one-click ordering and two-day shipping, an endless well of cat videos and real-time updates on important events. But there have been more relevant advances to the marketing industry than ordering bulk toilet paper from your couch. The internet has been an incredible boon to content creation and communication.
With few barriers to entry, it’s given people all over the world an unparalleled democratic platform for creativity. That platform gradually created niche entertainment and communities for just about any interest imaginable. In turn, it’s led to the rise of social media influencers.
You’ve probably heard that term before even if you’re not quite sure what it means. It’s actually pretty simple. An influencer is a person that’s cultivated an online presence with a loyal following in a specific niche. Followings can vary in size, usually depending on the specific niche. For instance, food, beauty and fashion influencers have relatively large niches and, therefore, larger followings.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands or marketers.
Opportunity for Brands
In the past, celebrities like movie stars, athletes and musicians were the go-to spokespeople for brands. Often, they still are. However, as brands supplemented traditional marketing and advertising with social media, an opportunity presented itself.
It became obvious that tapping into an influencer’s following could boost a brand’s profile on social media. These influencers have been able to drive engagement and word-of-mouth buzz at higher rates than typical organic approaches. As the Digital Marketing Bureau notes, influencers possess three valuable qualities: reach, resonance, and relevance.
Reach allows influencers to connect with an audience, or following, relevant to your brand. Resonance is exemplified by the audience engaging with content that influencers create or share. Finally, relevance is just what it sounds like, content and a presence that’s relevant to your brand.
This might seem like a fad, but research indicates otherwise.
A study by Nielsen shows that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from individuals over traditional marketing from brands. Launchmetrics’ study on the state of influencer marketing notes its recent effectiveness. Around 90 percent of marketing professionals surveyed said that it was either “effective” or “extremely effective” for raising brand awareness.
In the coming years, data suggests influencers will be especially important in wooing young consumers. Brands are increasingly looking at the generation of young people following Millennials, Generation Z. As we’ve noted, this generation would rather see influencers and “real people” than traditional celebrities in marketing and advertising. These influencers hold the social capital and authenticity necessary to make the connection they’re seeking.
It’s clear that using influencer marketing can be a very useful strategy. But it could also be disastrous if a brand aligns itself with the wrong influencer or if an influencer marketing campaign is poorly implemented.
We’re going to show you how to identify and approach influencers, how to plan an influencer campaign and how to measure the success of your campaign.
“Anyone with an online personality has the potential to be an influencer that brands want to court … but it takes hard work, focus and attention to develop the trust necessary to be effective. The right influencer, with the right audience, can have a huge impact. But hiring just any random person with a big following is a great way to waste your advertising spend.”
First, you need to know who you’re trying to reach. With the multitude of analytical tools available, you should have a pretty good idea of who your audience is. If you don’t know that, stop what you’re doing and start investigating. (Okay, you can finish this article first.)
By using predictive analytics, you can identify your potential customers but also influencers. For instance, you could develop a report for a keyword or multiple keywords by using Twitter data. This way you can quickly identify a user’s relevance in a particular niche or topic.
There are a number of tools and resources you can use to identify influencers, as well. BuzzSumo is one such tool. It analyzes what content performs best on any given subject. Not only that, but BuzzSumo has a dedicated influencers and outreach feature designed for identifying top influencers in your field. Several major brands and publishers such as IBM, Buzzfeed and National Geographic already use it.
Say you’ve found the perfect influencer for your brand, now what?
Influencers are in the business of connections. They built successful online presences by engaging and communicating with their niche community. It’s important to remember that when you approach one (or several).
First, before you get into business mode, create an initial connection. Interact with their social media posts with positive comments, retweets and shares. If they have a blog, leave a friendly, astute comment. After that, try to personalize your pitch (while keeping it compelling) and build a rapport. Don’t send a form email to everyone you’re interested in working with.
Furthermore, influencers aren’t going to work with you out of the goodness of their hearts. Ideally, you have a budget for an influencer campaign, but what’s the right price to pay for a leading influencer? Influence.co has some perspective on the matter.
The platform allows influencers, brands and marketers to connect in one place. According to the firm’s research, the overall average price per influencer Instagram post is $271. However, if you break down the price per post based on influencers’ followers, it fluctuates significantly. A micro-influencer, or someone with less than 1,000 followers, average $83 per post. A high-profile influencer with more than 100,000 averages $763 per post.
With the right pitch and a little charm, you’re on your way to an influencer campaign.
Planning Your Campaign
Defining your goals is the most important thing in planning a campaign. What do you want to accomplish? It could be anything from general brand awareness to engagement to lead nurturing.
From there, creating a plan isn’t too different than any other campaign. To start, you’ll want to define your budget and key performance indicators (KPIs) based on what you’re trying to achieve. KPIs to consider include:
- Website traffic
- Page views
- Likes, shares, comments, etc…
- Sales for new products
As the Launchmetrics’ study noted, marketing professionals have seen success using influencer marketing for brand awareness. It also revealed that marketers found it impacted sales but less significantly. Twenty percent of respondents said it was “extremely effective” in driving sales, while 33 percent said it was “effective” and 34 percent said it was “somewhat effective.”
Considering that, it’s most appropriate to focus on increasing referral traffic and engagement in the short-term. Increasing more significant actions like sales and subscriptions should be more of a long-term focus.
Next, select the social media platform or platforms to focus on. This will largely be decided for you based on the influencer with which you decide to work. It’s worth noting, though, that an annual report from Hashoff found Instagram was the leading platform for influencers. Of 300 influencers surveyed, more than 90 percent said Instagram was their No. 1 platform.
Once you know where you’ll focus, you need to adjust your editorial calendar appropriately. Consider your other marketing efforts, as well. If you’re going to invest in an influencer campaign, really invest in it. Do your best to tie in your other marketing efforts with the campaign to maximize its effectiveness. It could be the difference between being disappointed and seeing the results you wanted.
The groundwork has been laid, and now it’s time for your influencer to do what they do! Influencers should have creative license…to a point. Their creativity and personality is what earned them a following in the first place. That being said, brands should still retain the right to review (and if necessary, reject) any content before it goes live. Nothing dampens a campaign like having to put out a PR fire.
Make sure to promote influencer posts after they go live, too. Depending on the specifics of the arrangement, your influencer could also be promoting those posts. Speaking of promoting, don’t forget to check that your influencer is following all the appropriate guidelines when it comes to disclosing the brand partnership to his or her followers. If an influencer is being compensated to post about a product or service, the onus is on you and the influencer to ensure consumers are informed.
Once the influencer campaign is up and running, it’s not the time to sit back and relax. You still have to monitor the performance of your campaign to see whether it’s made an impact or not.
The only way to improve your marketing efforts, influencer or otherwise, is to constantly gauge their impact. At the outset, you defined your KPIs. Take a look at them see what you learn. You should consider building a performance dashboard for the campaign to aid your evaluation. The Content Marketing Institute offers this simple Google Sheets template.
This will allow your team to easily visualize the effect your campaign is having. It neatly maps out traffic, page views, engagement or any other metric that’s directly attributable to your influencer. With the available data, ask whether you’re making any progress. Look at what posts are most successful and which ones are underperforming. Use this information to continually optimize your campaign.
After your first campaign, you’ll be able to identify sticking points to avoid or improve upon. For instance, perhaps your influencer didn’t match your target demographic quite as well as you intended. Next time, double down on your initial research.
Maybe the content produced for the campaign came off as a bit awkward or stilted. People are savvy enough to realize when something’s too rigid to be authentic, and it will show in your campaign’s results. Yes, brands should have the ability to review content, but they shouldn’t be overbearing. Work with your influencers and truly collaborate. Allow them to work their voice and style into your brand, even if it’s a little beyond what you would normally permit. After all, the whole point of working with influencers is to try something different, right?
Your owned content might also be informed by working with influencers. Quality, relevant content and personality attract people to them. The concept isn’t too different from PowerPost’s view on brand journalism and owned content. With an investment in long-form content, brands can produce higher quality narratives that create deeper connections with consumers—just like influencers.
It always feels like a leap of faith when you try a new approach for the first time. But with our advice, you should be able to identify a relevant influencer to your brand, develop a campaign and measure its success.
An influencer campaign done right will help you make real, authentic connections with your audience, invigorate your organic content and drive a narrative that compels people to do business with your brand.
What do you think about influencer marketing? Let us know in the comments! For more insight on marketing and brand journalism, click here!