Digital marketing experts predict that the average American sees between 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day! With that level of promotional bombardment, companies face the challenge of making their products and ads noticeable. They also have to make them memorable.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a solution for reaching consumers. Influential individuals weave in product information or testimonials to reach those already following them. At best, it’s strategic product placement that connects companies to real people. It uses real products in real settings. When done correctly, these campaigns and posts are ripe with authenticity and show consumers’ true passion for the brand. When done incorrectly, they scream ADVERTISING and turn audiences away from the brand and influencer.
Before you begin, it is important to ask yourself: is your brand prepared for an influencer strategy? A quick check:
- Is your brand established and being executed consistently?
- Do you already have an active presence on your desired social channel(s)?
- Is your website up-to-date and does it provide a great user experience (especially for mobile devices)?
- Are you able to compensate your influencers in some way (either financially or with product)?
If the answer of to any of those items is “no” or “not yet” then I’d suggest pausing on the thought of an influencer campaign until those foundational items are in place. If you are “green lights” on all four items, then let’s start with your strategy.
Start With the What and the Why
At Meld, we begin every project with strategy. While the key goal may be sales or growth, you should consider what you’re trying to do and why. It’s important to know who you want to reach and why before you choose influencers. Who are your audiences and what social platforms do they use? What do you want people to know, think, or do based on influencer engagements?
- Is it simply exposure and awareness?
- Do you want to generate discussion about product benefits
- Are you focused on teaching new ways to use an existing product?
- Do you want to share success stories?
- Are you trying to reach a new market or grow in a specific market?
Without this strategic step, you may choose the wrong people to promote your product to an audience that isn’t interested. This is also the best time to determine your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). How will you measure the success of your campaign? We recommend avoiding ‘vanity metrics’ (impressions, reach, likes, etc.) and focusing on true indicators that show campaign effectiveness and directly contribute to increased sales. Those could include trackable campaign or coupon codes provided to each influencer that can help to connect sales to influencer efforts.
Selecting Your Influencers
Consider what you’re looking for in an influencer (or group of influencers). Are you seeking a certain age group, gender, body type, or income? Are you looking for followers in a target demographic or for these individuals to post certain types of content regularly? For example, if you sell activewear, you may want to find people who post about hiking, exercise, or sports. Create your influencer qualities ‘wish list’ and determine your ‘must haves’ vs. ‘nice-to-haves.’ You may find some people who seem perfect until you compare them to your list. Setting these criteria in advance ensures your approach is logical and unbiased. It also makes it easier to check the boxes and confirm your partners are best poised for your brand.
When it’s time to search for influencers, start by considering your current champions. Conduct initial research to find out who is already talking about you. You can do this by monitoring relevant hashtags or searching for product or company mentions in social posts. Next, research additional individuals that could be a good fit based on the criteria you’ve selected. Consider these questions:
- Can they connect with your target audiences?
- Where are they located, and can they receive your product?
- What’s their demographic background? Would they be a well-rounded member of your influencer team?
- Do they post profane, vulgar, illegal, or politically charged content?
- Are they already promoting a competitor’s product?
- Will the influencer expect to be paid?
Less Can Be More.
Finding influencers with millions of followers may seem necessary, but it’s expensive and less effective. Companies frequently approach social media celebrities known for paid placements. This can discredit the value of their opinions. Additionally, some large companies are willing to pay more than $500,000 per post. Most companies can’t afford a celebrity strategy, and that’s okay. We believe genuine content with authentic influencer partners can generate more impact with less spend. Meld Marketing designed, recruited, and implemented an influencer campaign in which brand ambassadors participated in exchange for coupons for free product. Some people wonder if it’s worthwhile to target ‘normal’ social media users. There’s actually a simple answer.
A study by Markerly shows that as the number of followers increase, engagement falls. Why is this important? The key pieces of a cost-effective influencer campaign are authenticity and engagement. People trust friends and family more than they trust companies and celebrities. MuseFind conducted a study and discovered 92 percent of consumers trust social media influencers over celebrity endorsements or traditional advertising. A small company can spend less and have a greater return on investment by finding micro-influencers (those with 2,000 to 50,000 followers focused on a specific topic). Jonah Berger at the Wharton School conducted a study that revealed 82 percent of consumers surveyed said they were ‘highly likely’ to follow micro-influencer recommendations.
The Initial Outreach
While some clients want an influencer campaign tomorrow, it takes time. It’s like dating. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger in a bar and ask them to move in with you. First, you meet them. Introduce yourself. Get to know them over a period of time. Then, if you are both still interested and you are aligned in your values, you ask about a longer-term relationship. We recommend first following the individual from your company’s social account, which lets the influencer know you are interested. This may also be the first time the influencer has heard of your product. They may visit your website to learn more. The influencer may also follow you back. Track their post cadence and content for a few weeks and then do an initial outreach. Share your interest to find out if they might be open to trying your product (if they haven’t already) and sharing feedback directly (almost like a focus group participant). If they don’t like it, you’ll at least know this before you ask them to become a brand ambassador. If they do like it, you can continue the discussion and share what your partnership might look like.
It may seem too businessy and less friendly, but it’s important to establish a clear understanding of what you expect from the partnership. Create a formal agreement between your company and your influencers. This will help influencers know what type of support, guidance, and resources they can expect from your company. It also lets them know what your company expects from them. This should include:
- The number of postings per period
- The type/format of posts: Will they be video? Photography?
- If your product is visual, include requirements for product visibility/placement
- Who owns the content? Does your company plan to repurpose it later?
- What type of compensation will the influencer receive and how frequently?
- If necessary, how can either party end the agreement?
As a reminder, it’s always good to have your company’s legal team or lawyer review contracts you ask people to sign—for your protection and theirs.
Let the Creativity Shine
You never know what types of content each individual will generate. Ambassadors will know how to reach their followers and create content that elicits the best response. This is at the heart of why this type of marketing can be extremely valuable. You are letting people who love your products advocate for you to their friends and followers! Don’t forget to show your support. Continue to check your influencer post activity. Share or like posts from your influencers, and find ways to incorporate their content into newsletters or other company communications.
Stay in Touch
Once you’ve built the relationship, don’t disappear. Send monthly emails to your influencer team with company or product updates. Check in on a quarterly basis via email or phone to see how the partnership is going. Consider conducting virtual focus groups with your influencer team once a quarter. Share best practices, continue to collect product feedback, and talk about things that are and are not working. When influencers have mutual awareness of one another, they will usually begin monitoring what others are doing. This can create a positive snowball effect—you may see improvements in approach, creativity, and reach of individual posts.
Want to learn more about how influencer marketing can generate sales and elevate your brand? Let’s talk.