How to get the most out of your influencer marketing efforts. 5 tips you need to know.
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The prevalence of social media has been one of, if not the most dramatic catalyst to effectuate dramatic change in the marketplace. The rise of social has given way to an entirely new array of marketing tools, strategies, and practices.
As more businesses invest in “social-centric” practices there is one strategy in particular that stands out as our industry’s current buzzword of choice. Influencer marketing is all the rage these days and a quick Google search reveals countless blogs, whitepapers, and eBooks dedicated to teaching marketers (in every capacity from enterprise to agency to small businesses) the art of leveraging influential personalities to sell a product.
In fact, according to research by Tomoson, 59% of marketers are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months.
And yet, this practice is nothing new. As long as there have been products to sell, brands have looked to celebrities and authorities for endorsements. However, the proliferation of social and our increasing real-time connectivity with friends and family has altered where and in whom we place our trust. Many marketers are learning the hard, expensive lesson that budget spent on a big-name celebrity does not necessarily result in satisfactory ROI. Furthermore, they are finding that while there are innumerable “best practices” and posts suggesting any application of influencers will be the saving grace of their brand, these marketers do not have the tools available to adequately track, analyze, and assess the successfulness of these campaigns.
Regardless of the approach you take or strategy you use, a real-time social listening and analytics tool is vital to track engagement in today’s fast-paced social economy. We are all tasked with demonstrating ROI, and our use of influencers is no exception. A social media listening tool can facilitate an otherwise tedious reporting process.
That being said, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned about influencer marketing.
It is important to understand the differences between Macro and Micro influencers
To effectively utilize an influencer in your marketing efforts, it is vital to first determine the type of influencer that best fits your budget, campaign, and brand messaging. Just because someone has a large following does not guarantee that person will ultimately help you accomplish your goals. Macro influencers such as celebrities, for example, have massive followings but also charge a premium for endorsing a product or service. Their audience is far too big for significant emotional engagement. On the other hand, micro influencers are everyday people who have built up an extremely loyal, albeit much smaller audience through their blogs or Instagram accounts (usually thousands or tens of thousands as opposed to millions). They charge a fraction of the price and likely have a much stronger emotional connection with their audiences, thereby exerting a stronger influence and producing greater ROI. There are substantial differences in both cost and output between macro and micro influencers. Make sure to pick the best person that aligns with your business goals before exhausting your entire budget on someone that won’t provide the results you need.
ROI timelines vary
Far too often I see marketers prematurely abandon influencer marketing because A) ROI can be difficult to track without the proper tools and processes already in place and B) it can take time to see significant results. Business moves at a break-neck speed and due to pressure from leadership many marketers feel compelled to either report immediate campaign success or pull the plug and move on to the next idea.
Likewise, the complexity of tracking and identifying leads and sales generated by an influencer over a given amount of time can be a deterrent from truly investing the time and resources needed to be successful. Nevertheless, strategic influencer marketing, with the right product, audience, and platform can be extremely effective in boosting brand awareness, increasing traffic to your website, and driving sales. For example, with minimal investment one of our clients leveraged the influence of a few key loyal customers and niche bloggers to increase the social media conversation around their brand by more than 100%, increase social reach by 4x, and generate enough profit from their new audience to stay in business.
It would be reckless to suggest spending your entire budget and then looking at the data. It is important to find that line between patience and recklessness.
Understand the difference between influence and popularity
While Kylie Jenner may be extremely popular and have a massive online presence, her ability to influence her audience to buy your product or use your specific service may be extremely limited and not worth the exorbitant amount she would charge. Likewise, an industry blogger may only have a readership of 20,000 and yet would exert a much more profitable influence over their audience while charging a fraction of the price. It is paramount that you select someone who not only has a large audience but that this audience is comprised of your ideal market. You are not just paying for numbers, but for the potential sales that this person can generate by leveraging their influence over this group.
Figure out messaging before you start writing checks
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this next step. Far too often when asked why they abandoned influencer marketing, marketers tell me they simply had too many arguments over messaging. As it turns out, neither side had fully communicated their expectations for messaging. The influencer believed they had complete creative control and could be themselves, letting their personality and sense of humor come through in the content they produced. On the other hand, the brand wanted strong control over messaging to ensure it stayed properly aligned with brand guidelines. A failure to establish mutually agreed upon expectations and guidelines led to an unsatisfactory experience. You chose this particular person because of their online presence and influence over their audience; don’t smother their voice because then they won’t be as effective. Give them some structure and boundaries and then let them be creative and do their job. If you are worried about tarnishing your brand reputation, then perhaps you have chosen the wrong influencer.
Don’t just jump on the bandwagon
Finally, make sure it is the right strategy at the right time. When potential clients want to use our tool specifically to break into influencer marketing, our salespeople will first ask them why they want to use influencers and what strategy they already have in place. If the response is something like, “Well, everyone is doing it so we feel we should too” then we recommend that they reevaluate their marketing goals to see if this is really going to lead to success. Blindly hiring someone because they have a large following on Instagram and throwing lots of money is a great formula to quickly find your way to the unemployment line. Once you’ve decided that you do want to leverage influencers, create a strategy and put processes in place to monitor and assess ROI. Take it slow. Work with them to craft the right message and make sure that it is going to the right platform. That may be Instagram. But maybe it is a blog instead. Or it could even be a YouTube video. The point is, you don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. Your brand is unique (should be) and has a unique voice and personality. Find the right platform to reach your target audience.