Influencers are prominent figures within a certain community, where people trust and value their opinions. And this is why influencer marketing is one of the fastest and most effective ways of spreading your brand message these days.
The process of using influencers to promote businesses or products is not just an aspect of marketing; it’s a part of our culture. Some of the most iconic brands in the world have used influencers to expand their messaging and become household names. What’s more, partnering with influencers generates impressive ROIs for businesses, averaging a 650% return.
What would Nike be without Michael Jordan?
Calvin Klein without Mark Wahlberg?
Or Liberty Mutual without Wilford Brimley?
Luckily, thanks to social media, this concept has become much more accessible (and effective) for companies of all shapes and sizes. In fact, a joint study conducted by Twitter and Annalect found that nearly 40% of Twitter users claimed they’d made purchases as a direct result of a branded tweet from an influencer.
The beauty of social media is that it provides an easily-accessible avenue to efficiently distribute all messages from influencers to followers in an instantant. Riding on the power of visuals (with innate celebrity appeal) to generate emotion, popular social platforms like Instagram make influencer marketing easy for brands.
As great as the results of using social media influencers can be, it’s hardly a one-size-fits-all strategy. If you are planning to partner with one, keep these crucial concepts in mind:
Find influencers that relate to your market
One of the biggest sins you can commit when choosing a social media influencer is basing your decision strictly on follower count and reach. This is very much a field where quality trumps quantity. As far as social metrics go, “likes” have lost their significance. Likes are vanity metrics. They make a company or individual feel important. But they hardly have any bearing on the ultimate aim of content marketing, which is to capture leads or generate sales.
Shares are a little better. They stand for an action taken, a micro-commitment made. When someone shares a post, he or she solidly endorse it to their social circle. But apart from possible “virality” (which is elusive), shares do not add information about purchase intent, or even the intent to engage with the brand on a deeper level.
For instance, if your business specializes in cybersecurity, using an Instagram clothing model with a huge followers base to promote your messaging most likely won’t bring you the leads you want.
Depending on how specialized your product or service is, the social media influencers you choose for your campaign must be ultra-relevant to your target audience. For instance, going back to cybersecurity, a good choice for a partnership would be Brian Krebs, a well-known investigative journalist with over 51,000 followers on Twitter, known for providing rational insight on major stories related to security.
Having a niche voice promote your messaging to an interested, relevant audience of 100 people is MUCH more worth-while than promoting it to an audience of 1,000 uninterested viewers.
Keep in mind that you don’t always have to reach for the top shelf of social media influencers—as doing so can be very costly. Believe it or not, non-celebrities can be the ones who hold most the power. A study conducted by Collective Bias found that 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product promoted by a regular person. Chances are, there are plenty of lesser-known names in your industry you can pair up with and still get great results.
Tools like Klear are great for conducting comprehensive research to help point you in the right direction for finding the best influencers across the popular social media networks.
By searching for a specific skill or industry, you will get a long list of related influencers and details such as their reach and the type of content they post. Here is what comes up when searching for “cyber:”
When picking influencers, it’s beneficial to work to with the ones who have an engagement level similar to that of your business. This way, the partnership is mutually beneficial.
Make sure your influencer understands your brand
One of the trickiest parts of influencer marketing if finding an individual who lines up perfectly with your campaign. The primary goal is to advance your message to new audiences. While it’s inevitable that an influencer will have a somewhat different delivery than you would, your core values must align.
This will require a great deal of research on your end before you even attempt to reach out to them. Many brands make the mistake of solely looking at the influencer’s audience to find commonalities. Even though this is important, it doesn’t give you a substantial amount of insight as to how exactly the influencer will help in building your brand and improving your relationship with your community.
What you need to be looking at is the type and the quality of content they produce. Even more, you need to know how the audience reacts to it and what sentiment it provides.
This past holiday season, Hallmark conducted an interesting influencer campaign. The nature of their messaging was all about family and togetherness. So, to promote their collection of keepsake ornaments, the influencers used the hashtag #KeepsakeIt and posted candid pictures of their families doing their holiday traditions, along with a link to the products.
This influencer campaign did a great job to perfectly encapsulate Hallmark’s warm tone for the holidays.
If you can, try to ensure that your promoters actually use the product so that they can share authentic comments based on their personal experience. A great way to accomplish this is by choosing a brand ambassador (who might or might not be an influencer).
Delivering your messaging through influencers will always be somewhat of a gamble. It all comes down to who you choose, and how they can relate your brand to their audience. Working with big, recognizable names obviously helps gain traction and publicity, but any scandal associated with these celebrities will rub off on your brand as well. When partnering with well-known figures, always be wary of quirks in their personalities or events in their past that could potentially backfire on you, should anything go wrong.
Collaborate with the influencer for content
Whether you are dealing with just the influencer, or if they have their own content team, there can be NO disconnect whatsoever in the understanding of the campaign and brand message. The last thing you want is to have messaging that misses the mark in relation to your goals. The consequences can be detrimental if it’s severe enough.
For example, Rodan + Fields once partnered with Ramona Singer, from Real Housewives of New York, to help promote the charitable #FRGoNaked campaign. As Singer is known for her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor, her detailed Instagram post seemed WAY out of place. In return, the message fell flat.
Ramona (or her brand managers) clearly did not proofread (or perhaps even read) the comment and simply copied and pasted the entire email, including the message from the person who wrote the theme of the post for her. While this post certainly got quite a bit of attention, it was probably not the kind of hype Rodan + Fields was looking for with this campaign.
To create long-lasting brand-influencer partnerships in which both parties experience positive growth over time, it’s best to establish a reliable system for coordination early on. Unless you’re looking for just a passing shout out, your marketing team will need to coordinate with influencers to make sure they’re on the same page regarding ideation and execution.
Since these people are most likely not working from the same premises, it will take a concerted effort to remain in sync throughout the entirety of the campaign; there will most likely be a fair amount of content creation needed on both ends. You need to make sure either side doesn’t stray from the core messaging, and audience expectations are consistently met.
When it comes down to it, there should be no excuses for failures in coordination. As there is a high standard of perfection expected from influencer content, promoting open communication and transparency for everyone involved is the best thing you can do.
Create value for the influencer and their audience
At its core, influencer marketing is very much a two-way road. When most brands reach out to influencers, they tend to focus only on what they are getting out of the campaign. However, while the main concern is advancing your own messaging, partnerships stand a much better chance in the long run if both can parties benefit (outside of just monetary means).
There are many ways you can achieve this. First of all, you should place importance on giving the influencer as much-added exposure as you can. For example, your company likely has an array of channels for its own communication, such as blogs, social media, email, etc. Do your best to distribute the shared content on your outlets. Outbrain is a great tool to help brands promote their influencer’s content and amplify reach for both parties:
Going further, it’s a great strategy to try and engage their audience when possible. This can be done through contests, giveaways, or anything with that prompts positive, actionable responses.
A couple of years ago, Zevia Soda partnered with artist Jade Melissa to run a contest to expand both followings. Melissa posted a photo on Instagram including Zevia’s product and explained the simple rules for the contest: 1) Follow Zevia. 2) Tag three friends in one of the brand’s posts. Then the members of the audience would be eligible to win a $500 Visa Gift Card.
This is an outstanding example. Not only did it work to engage current followers, but it also aimed to gather more for both Zevia and Melissa.
In stark contrast, the issue of authenticity in influencer marketing took center stage towards the end of April 2017 as the Fyre Festival disaster made headlines across the web. Dubbed “the cultural experience of the decade,” patrons were promised 5-star catered meals, eco-friendly geodesic villas to sleep in, a number of big-name musical acts, and much more.
However, when guests began to arrive, they quickly realized they had been scammed. The “5-star meals” were little more than cheese, bread, and a handful of salad. Things got so bad and out of control that one of the organizers was arrested and charged with fraud.
Influencer marketing is all about building relationships. Just like any other kind of relationship in life, there must be a certain degree of give-and-take to achieve the best results.
Over to you
Influencer marketing is an amazing opportunity for brands and individuals to cooperate and increase exposure. We are lucky to live in a time when there are so many content outlets to make exponential results possible and feasible for tiny companies, all the way up to giant corporations. If done correctly, it can expand messaging to new audiences with unlimited potential.