Influencer marketing isn’t a new concept. The idea of getting the right people talking about your brand to sway consumer perception, expand the customer base, and ultimately drive more sales has always been present in public relations and advertising campaigns. After all, word-of-mouth marketing is the most trusted way for a potential customer to hear about your product or service. So, what’s changed to make this form of marketing more impactful to marketers? The Internet and social media, for starters. The immediacy and intimacy of blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter have changed how brands and marketers view and execute influencer marketing. Influencers are no longer limited to celebrities; blogging and social media have allowed for the rise of micro-influencers—regular people who use social media to share their opinions, thoughts, and ideas to a large audience of listeners around the world.
So what does this mean for your brand and how can you leverage the power of influencers? Let’s look at these five main considerations you should keep in mind when exploring how (or if) to work with influencers. Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with the size of the social following.
Change your thinking.
Influencers are a different breed—they aren’t just consumers, and they aren’t just journalists. They wield a lot of power, reaching mass audiences that can’t always be reached by a magazine or news segment. They can offer personal critiques that reporters can’t always do, and they can back it up authentically by actually being a consumer of the brand. This is an important piece for PR practitioners to own because they can help navigate the relationships between brands and influencer. Help find the happy medium of what brands expect and what influencers can deliver. Help bridge the gap between new and old thinking. Help push brands to move past the standard (and often times rigid) messaging to develop a conversational style that will resonate both with influencers and their audiences. PR pros see both sides—advocating for both the brand and the authenticity of the influencer. There’s middle ground to be shared, and they can find it.
Come prepared with a plan.
You need to first establish how influencers will fit into the overarching marketing and business strategies. While this may seem obvious, it’s an important step worth repeating. By stating goals and objectives for an influencer campaign, brands can help clearly articulate what they expect from influencers, and influencers can, in turn, deliver a better result for the brand. Consumers can see through a forced placement or promotion, and at that point the brand isn’t getting their money’s worth, and influencers will lose credibility with their audience.
Identify how you want to work with influencers.
Do an audit of your brand’s current influencers. It’s important to tap people who are true ambassadors for your brand and have interest in forming mutually beneficial relationships. Reviewing earned media placements and social listening can help uncover people who advocate for your brand that you might not even know about, and those are the people you really want to engage. Research the additional types of influencers outside your current following who best align with your brand and messaging. Figure out how you want to use them—is it a content producer, a distribution channel, or both? How are you going to engage them—through a third-party vendor or individual outreach? What is the cross-promotional strategy to ensure content and endorsement are being maximized across owned channels? Will it be a one-time fling or a serious, ongoing relationship? These are just a few questions that need to be answered before executing an influencer campaign to ensure its success.
Be mindful of the medium.
In the past, the digital homes of influencers were their blogs, and their social communities were merely an extension of that footprint. Now, influencers can have a social-only presence. Just as we recommend identifying how you want to work with influencers, you also need to determine where those influencers are going to engage your audience best. Identify the platforms that make sense for both the brand and the influencer and from there develop an individualized channel strategy to disseminate the content. Developing a series of YouTube videos will have a different approach and result from a blogger program. Make sure you understand which channels will work best for communicating the brand story, sharing content, and accomplishing your goal.
Know how you’re going to measure success.
Prior to any influencer campaign, communicate to influencers how their performance will be measured—engagement, website click-through, path to purchase, etc. These should always align with the overarching goals of the campaign. Look beyond vanity metrics by reporting on trackable links, website visits, referrals, or coupon downloads to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. As brands invest in more of these types of partnerships, it’s vital to be able to measure the return of influencers.
If you’re interested in developing an influencer strategy for your next campaign, contact our earned media team today.