Influencer marketing may generate excellent returns on your advertising spending. However, there are quite a few challenges that a firm has to work through before it is ready to engage in it. Quite a few firms have jumped on the influencer marketing bandwagon without ever thinking about what they had to do, and as a result, these firms have had forgettable, unproductive and expensive experiences.
It is not that influencer marketing is difficult, or only valid for a niche selection of companies. It is simply that it is relatively new, and firms are still working out the best ways to benefit from the activity. One problem is that social media audiences are relatively sophisticated - the stereotype of the mindless pimply-faced Facebook user jumping between sharing cat pictures and slightly naughty videos is not likely to be the audience to whom you will probably be targeting your marketing.Generation Z, in particular, knows when they are being fed advertising, and knows how to switch their online allegiances to avoid blatant marketing. They are not impossible to reach, however. The difference is that these audiences want to feel that they have control. They are still happy to hear where they can buy those clothes that the influencer is wearing, or learn how they can pick up that coffee mug bearing their favorite slogan, but they want to do it on their terms.
Summary: Quick Jump Menu
- 1. Understanding the Different Types of Influencers
- 2. Operating In-House or Using an Agency
- 3. Proving the Value of Influencer Marketing to High Level Executives
- 4. Finding the Best Influencers for Your Brand
- 5. Convincing the Influencers Why They Should Work With You
- 6. Deciding How Much Control to Have over Your Influencers
- 7. Recording Your Influencers’ Activity
- 8. Measuring the Impact of Your Influencer Marketing
1. Understanding the Different Types of Influencers
It is important that everybody in your firm with an interest in your influencer marketing campaign understands the difference between micro, macro and celebrity influencers. Contrary to many people's beliefs, influencer marketing is generally not about using celebrity influencers for product promotion. As a marketer, you need to ensure that your CEO understands that you do not intend for the Kardashians to promote your health supplements or chocolate chip cookies.
While it is true that celebrity influence is undoubtedly the oldest type of influence, dating back to royalty promoting Wedgewood chinaware in the 1750s, influencer marketing has moved on a long way since then. It is only with the universal popularity of social media that other types of influencer have evolved.
Celebrity influencers still exist, of course, even in the modern social media world, and they often attract followings of 1 million plus on their social media accounts. However, they are usually celebrities because of their own talent and are the least likely type of influencer to promote a brand’s message. Macro influencers have more potential for brands. They tend to be bloggers, journalists or executives with followings of 10,000 to 1,000,000 on a social media platform. They tend to receive 5% to 25% engagement on their posts. Macro influencers usually have influence in major high-level topic areas, for instance, they may run a fashion blog, or be a journalist for a tech website.
The most important type of influencer for marketing purposes is the micro influencer. He is probably very normal in everyday life. His social media reach is not gigantic either, with an average of 500 to 10,000 followers per social media platform. However, he will probably be actively involved with his followers and generate 25% to 50% engagement per post. He will have a special relationship with his networks, and is particularly likely to promote brands with which he has a positive personal experience.
2. Operating In-House or Using an Agency
Some firms hire an agency to manage their influencer marketing, as they have always done for their different types of marketing campaigns. As a result, many traditional agencies have added an influencer marketing division. A few specialist influencer marketing agencies, such as Gary Vaynerchuk’s Vaynermedia, have been set up to help brands outreach to social media influencers.
Other businesses choose to keep their influencer marketing, and indeed often their entire social media account operation, in-house. This is particularly common with firms who have young, keen employees willing to take on the social media management role. Quite a few large companies, who happily pay advertising agencies to produce traditional advertising, have no qualms about designing their social media campaigns and performing influencer marketing management in-house. If you choose to operate your influencer marketing in-house, you are building up your own capabilities and building up your own influencer relationships.
3. Proving the Value of Influencer Marketing to High Level Executives
The marketing department of a firm may have an up-to-date understanding regarding types of effective marketing. However, the higher level executives and members of the C-team may be more traditional in their thinking. Until you can provide proof of success and a positive return on investment (ROI) you may face challenges from above about your participation in influencer marketing. Traditional, older executives, often will have no realistic idea of what influencer marketing is.
This may be particularly the case where management equates influencer marketing with celebrity endorsement and expects to have to pay out sums equivalent to celebrity endorsement fees.
4. Finding the Best Influencers for Your Brand
Industry research shows that most marketers believe that finding and selecting the best, most relevant influencers to be the most difficult part of influence marketing. As we have seen above, there are different types of influencer, and not all of them will give value to your brand. It certainly takes more than a quick Google search to determine who will make the most suitable influencer for you. In most situations, it would be wrong to place your focus on enticing a celebrity influencer with millions of followers. For a start, it is unlikely that he would take any interest unless you were willing to pay a considerable sum for his endorsement. Then there is the issue that he is likely to want to have near-complete control over his account. Also, unless your brand resonates particularly well with a certain type of celebrity, your followers are unlikely to greatly change their spending habits just because some superstar tells them to do so. Would potential buyers of your product change their buying habits simply because Justin Bieber suggested they should in a tweet? Unless you target teenage girls, I believe it is unlikely that would be a successful approach.
If you have decided to go down the in-house route, you need to delegate a staff member to research potential influencers whose following matches your target audience. They need to make hunting out influencers and following their progress a daily priority. If you are taking the agency route, hopefully, they have some form of automated platform that can match you up with the most suitable influencers. It helps if you select an influencer who regularly and genuinely uses your product. He needs to sound authentic to his audience. For example, if the audience regularly sees the influencer wearing your brand of clothing they will be more impressed than if the influencer tries to promote some brand of clothing they never see him wear.
One very important point to remember is that Number of Followers does not equate to influence. If it did, we would all be spending up large on those phony deals to buy social media followers you see promoted all over the place. Engagement and relevance of topics of conversation are far more important metrics when determining who would make a useful influencer for your brand. There is a common internet culture rule, known as the 1-9-90 Rule. This states that 90% of internet users simply consume content without contributing, 9% of internet users edit, modify and amplify existing content, leaving only 1% to create new, original content. In terms of your social media following, most followers make up the 90%. The 1% is predominantly your macro influencers (less about .001% who are your celebrity influencers). This leaves the remaining 9% to be your Micro influencers, who amplify social content to the masses.
Of course, it is essential you know your audience. If your product targets working mothers, you should place your focus on a totally different group of influencers than if your product targets teenage boys. Take a look at your target market. What kinds of people do they admire? Which social media channels do they most use? Be particularly wary if you personally do not match your target market demographic. You may have never used Snapchat in your life, but if you target teenage girls, they will use it frequently, as do many people that they admire and respect. If you sell photographic gear, then somebody who posts quality images regularly on Instagram and who constantly interacts with his followers, would probably make a good influencer for you.
There are quite a few tools you can use to help find you influencers. We have discussed some of these in How To Identify Influencers in Social Media. These include:
- Hey Press
- Little Bird
- Ahrefs Content Explorer
- PeerIndex and Brandwatch
Once you have found a list of potential influencers take a look through the types of posts they share and make sure that these align with the kind of image you are trying to portray. For instance, there is little point working with a food blogger to promote your meat products if it is clear that she is a vegetarian.
5. Convincing the Influencers Why They Should Work With You
Having decided which influencers could be of value to your brand your next challenge is to make contact with the influencers and convince them that it would be worth their while to work with you. You need to ensure that the words and phrases you use in any communication with them match their ethos. For instance, if you are hoping to work with influencers who target Generation Z, you definitely should avoid using any corporate-speak or buzzwords. You should try and get to know the influencers before you approach them. What interests them? What types of content do they usually produce, and what types do they share? You need to build a strong connection with them before you ask them to assist you.
The higher an influencer is up the celebrity scale, the more they will want in return for assisting your brand. Celebrity influencers will expect you to reward them very well. They are already well known and respected, and in all probability consider that any assistance they give you is solely for your benefit, not theirs. Of course, you may well find a celebrity who uses and likes your product, and in this situation, it will be much easier to earn his help. You may well find that he is happy to endorse you purely because of his own positive experience with your products.
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Macro influencers will often expect payment in return for working with your brand, too. Micro influencers are the bulk of people you will work with, and they are often happy to work with you for the recognition of their importance. For instance, they may be perfectly happy to create a YouTube video showing them reviewing your product, simply in exchange for samples of the product itself. You really will need to get to understand these micro influencers before you approach them, however. Share their content with your audiences and see if there is a synergy. Once they have become familiar with you, you can put your proposition to them. Most people still prefer to make their outreach about proposed influencer marketing via email. Brands must remember that influencers have put in a great deal of time and effort into creating their following in a particular niche and that they do not want their fans to see them as “selling out” to business. One of the reasons that they are influencers is because of their authenticity with their followers. They are not going to do anything that will jeopardize that authenticity.
6. Deciding How Much Control to Have over Your Influencers
A vital element of any influencer marketing campaign is the type of content that is created and shared. To be successful, the content needs to resonate with the audience.
Therefore you need to undertake clear negotiations regarding content with those influencers you use. In particular, you need to determine who is going to create the content - you or the influencer. If you create it, you need to work with the influencer to see how he is going to use it. It needs to come across as authentic with the audience. For instance, GoPro chose to give influencers GoPro cameras to make and share action videos.This had a far bigger impact than a centrally created GoPro ad would have had on that audience - they got to see the camera in action and saw first hand the results of its use. Of course, your business often has a far bigger budget and better resources than the influencers do, so the influencers may be perfectly happy for you to help with content creation.
Many brands have found the easiest solution is to co-create content with their influencers. That way the content remains on-brand, yet still feels authentic to the influencers’ audience.
7. Recording Your Influencers’ Activity
How do you know that your influencers are outreaching on your behalf? You are going to want to keep a record of what your influencers do for your brand. Otherwise, you will simply have a vague promise that an influencer is going to help promote your brand via their social media channels. This is particularly important if you are not an active social media user yourself, and you do not match your target market. It is also important for a platform like Snapchat, where posts vanish very quickly before you could otherwise see them. Some of the influencer platforms have tools available to help with this if you choose to follow that course. One example is Traackr where you can sign up to record, manage, expand, validate, and scale your influencer marketing.
Alternatively, you can create a spreadsheet to record any influencer messages, although you will probably need assistance from the influencers to provide you with much of the necessary data. You can use your tracking records to highlight which posts perform well, and which do not. This can be very useful for determining future marketing patterns - it gives you a good idea of which influencers you should continue to work with and which campaigns could benefit from an increase in budget.
8. Measuring the Impact of Your Influencer Marketing
With influencer marketing being a relatively new type of marketing, it has been difficult to come up with clear-cut ROI measures. It is not like traditional marketing where you can clearly see the value of extra sales generated by a particular marketing campaign.
The optimal way to measure your ROI will depend on what goal you set yourself for any particular influencer marketing campaign. There are many valid reasons for firms opting for influencer marketing. Therefore, the ROI for each type of campaign will differ. There is no point trying to calculate all possible statistics for your campaign. Many will be irrelevant to your particular influencer marketing campaign. You need to decide which metrics best align with your goals.
Some of the most common areas of measurement include:
- Audience Reach
- Engagement (Comments, Likes, Shares)
- High-Quality Content
- Conversions of some kind, e.g. sales made or sign-ups to a newsletter
Obviously, some of these metrics are easier to measure and compare than others. You want to be able to see the impact that the influencers have had on your target audience.