What is influencer marketing and how does it work?
For those who haven’t heard the term ‘influencer marketing’ (where have you been?) or aren’t quite clear on what it means, here’s TapInfluence’s definition:
“Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay influencers to get out the word for you.”
In our opinion, influencer marketing is not just a buzzword; it’s a marketing behemoth that will only continue to grow.
A study by eMarketer backs up this claim. It found that this year alone, 85% of marketing professionals plan to launch an influencer marketing campaign. What’s more, 59% of those already running influencer campaigns are that happy with the results that they plan to increase their campaign spends next year.
We firmly believe that you need to make influencer marketing a key component of your marketing mix.
Not because everyone else is doing it. Because it works.
It offers huge ROI
ROI will always be ‘the daddy’ of KPI metrics, and influencer marketing comes out on top when it comes to pushing revenue.
A recent case study by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that influencer marketing generated $285 per 1,000 impressions, thus delivering 11 times more ROI than alternative digital marketing methods. Furthermore, the ROI that was generated through influencer marketing doubled after three months despite no extra investment on the part of the client.
This is because a blog by an influencer will still be available for people to find, whereas other ad types can fade away when your campaign ends.
It provides an alternative to other marketing methods’ limitations
Let’s unpack this. We’re not saying other marketing methods don’t work; they do work, but influencer marketing provides an antidote to some of their inherent drawbacks, which are outlined below.
Sometimes, amazing content doesn’t get picked up or doesn’t get the number of visits it deserves. Sometimes this is because you didn’t choose the right social media strategy for your brand, sometimes it is just plain bad luck.
As influencers have strong and regular readerships, collaborating with them will guarantee that your message gets read.
Paid ads are a proven method of generating revenue, yet modern consumers are increasingly using ad-blockers that prevent them from ever seeing your ads.
By placing ‘native content’ with an influencer – especially one who your target audience has elected to follow – you can be certain that your content is going to be discovered by the right sorts of people.
With earned media, there is no guarantee that your press releases will be picked up.
With influencer marketing, this is not the case. What’s more, as you are collaborating with the publisher, you’ll also have a greater level of control in regards to how your message is packaged and shared.
It adds authenticity to your brand
As Gabrielle Archambault, Senior Manager of eos explains:
“Influencers not only amplify your brand reach on social, they add an element of authenticity to your message. Though consumers can love brands, they have been trained to be somewhat skeptical of them and the content/message they distribute.
“Content and messaging created by influencers isn’t yet held to that level of scrutiny and is seen as more organic, even when ‘#ad’ or ‘#sponsored’ is included.
“As a brand, it’s one thing to tell consumers “I’m cool”, it’s significantly more powerful to have a person that a consumer admires say that your brand is cool.”
To add weight to Gabrielle’s point, a study by Social Media Explorer discovered that 92% of customers are more likely to trust an individual (influencer) over a brand – it’s no wonder that influencer marketing is so effective, then.
It increases engagement
Partnering up with the right influencer can pay dividends for all your marketing metrics, not just ROI.
A successful influencer marketing campaign will result in more people becoming aware of your brand, more people visiting your site, more people signing up for your newsletter, more people following you on social – pretty much all the stats that the board will want to see going in the right direction.
On top of this, you’ll also benefit from something that’s a little harder to measure: how people feel about your brand. If you pick the right influencer for your niche, you’ll find that you can leverage kudos from the partnership. Think of it as earning respect through association.
OK, this sounds great, but where do you start?
1) Research, research, research!
Any marketing team worth its salt will know who its target audience is (ideally they will have also created buyer personas), what content that target audience likes to see, and where they ‘hang out’ online.
Use this information to help you decide which type of influencer is best suited to partner with your brand.
2) Picking the right influencer
As well as being a good fit for your brand, they also need to have the right stats too.
- Is their following big enough to convey your message?
- Are they followed by a large enough proportion of your target audience?
- How many return visitors do their blogs receive?
- Do people engage with their social posts and comment on their blogs?
Using software platforms such as Buzzsumo and Follerwonk will help you to ascertain these facts and will guide you towards making the right decision.
3) Get their attention
A lot of the time, influencers will be inundated with brands looking to work with them. They often will turn down jobs if they are too busy or they don’t feel that your brand is the right fit for them.
To help increase your chances of working with the influencer of your choice, it’s a good idea to make them feel special before ‘the approach’.
Retweet their posts, sign up to their newsletter, share their articles, ask them to feature in some of your content. Basically, put yourself on their radar. This will increase your chances of working with them, as you won’t then be ‘just another brand’ in their inbox when you do finally get in touch.
This method is time-consuming but ultimately worth it in the long run.
4) Define success
Although influencer marketing uses different methods to traditional marketing, the basics remain the same – there’s no point in running a campaign for the sake of it.
Before you team up with your influencer, you need to decide what a successful campaign will look like.
Do you want conversions, traffic, shares, or simply brand awareness? Put this all down in a brief with your influencer, you can even draw up a contract stating your expectations.
If you don’t set your KPIs and goals from the beginning, you’ll never be able to measure the success of your campaign (which you’ll need to do in order to improve future performance).
5) Determine your strategy
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve from the outset will make it easier to determine what form your content should take.
Will a video be best? Or should it be a social competition, a podcast, or a blog post?
The thing is, if you’ve picked an influencer, odds are that it’s because you’ve been impressed with what you’ve seen from them. Now you know your KPIs, share them with your influencer and see if they have any creative ideas on how to hit them.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t have control.
Our usual approach is to give the influencer an outline of what we’d like to achieve, how we’d like to see the message portrayed, and any specific requirements (i.e. mentions of a certain service the client offers, or the use of a designated hashtag), and then we see if they can use their experience to add to what we had in mind.
After all, you picked your influencer for a reason, so why not see if they can add a bit of creative sparkle to your campaign?
6) Remember FTC compliance
Remember: just like with advertising, there are rules that you need to follow in influencer marketing campaigns.
The rules are clear. Be “honest and not misleading”.
In most instances, the FTC has agreed that having ‘#ad’ in the post sufficiently demonstrates that the influencer has been compensated in some way. With video content, the influencer must mention that they have been approached by a brand to test out a product or service.
You might think this will ruin the authenticity of the message, but it’s not the case. As long as the product being endorsed fits with the influencer’s brand, the audience won’t care. In fact, they actually want to see the products that the influencer likes and uses.
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