Consider these 5 requirements for success
Over the last decade, influencer marketing has become a mainstay of brand marketing, now estimated to be a whopping $5-10 billion dollar industry. As of 2018, a full 75% of brands are using some form of influencer marketing.
In the early days of social media, we would simply reach out and 'pitch' the influencer to blog about our client's products and services. The cost, beyond our time, would include sending free products, packaged in ways that would delight the influencer, in the hope they would show us some love. All for free!
Today, such outreach seems quaint. As a big business, influencers have amassed huge followings across Instagram and YouTube. And the influencer's followers are for sale. For example, Salena Gomez fetches an estimated $550,000 per Instagram post. Brands allocate big dollars and employ influencer marketing specialists to get it right. This includes adhering to established practices and FTC guidelines. Still, whatever the costs and complications, influencer marketing is an effective communications strategy. Why? First, new brands and startups can benefit from the borrowed credibility that the influencer can bring. As no one knows anything about something new in the market; the influencer lends their voice to their followers to create awareness and trial of these new products and services. This traditional approach was called a 'celebrity endorsement' but today, influencer marketing provides brands with a range of choices from major influencers (ie 1 million or more followers) to 'micro- or nano-influencers' which may have a very targeted following and may be more affordable to engage. Second, established brands find influencer marketing as an effective way to cut through the noise (and blocked content) that comes with traditional advertising today. The influencer offers another way 'in' to reach and connect directly using their voice that audiences already know and trust. Adding an influencer marketing element on top of paid advertising (or vice versa) is a smart extension to the overall marcomm program.
Even if your goals line up with the benefits of influencer marketing, you should pause and assess your 'readiness' to execute an effective influencer campaign. Consider these 5 fundamentals:
1. Adequate timing. This might be the most important consideration. A successful influencer marketing program takes time to set up properly. Allocate at least several weeks, if not months, before your campaign begins. Unlike traditional advertising elements which can be turned on and off, an influencer is beyond your immediate control. And if you rush it, the influencer will either a) demand more money; or b) only engage half-heartedly. Take the time to properly identify a list of potential influencers, including back-ups, as well as conduct an organized outreach effort, meticulously working on the details, providing campaign highlights, contracts and product materials in a timely fashion. You'll be glad you did.
2. Legal barriers. Second, your organization's legal requirements will factor heavily. For most brands, your influencer marketing campaign won't be the first for your legal team, but still, involve the legals early on, from the initial brief through the required contract. But also police the legal process so it doesn't overwhelm the campaign. A few watchouts include: a) unnecessary or laborious paperwork which can bog down and damage the new relationship with the influencers ('why are we sending 20 page documents?'); b) an inefficient review process which has endless redline reviews versus getting on the phone to resolve in real-time; and c) very conservative requirements around legal review (example: a week to review and approve an influencer's posts!). Even if you have smooth sailing with legal, the need for adequate time (see #1 above) is critical.
3. Nail down the details. Make sure all parties are ready before you initiate contact with influencers, or else you will end up back-tracking, or worse, turning off the influencers. This includes your proposed budget (remember, start low as you will be negotiating), your social ask in terms of the number of desired posts and channels, review/approval requirements, and any special requirements (travel, event participation, etc). Have a version of your campaign brief ready to send as a follow up to your initial phone call to get the influencer or their agent prepped.
4. Maintaining authenticity. The reason you are engaging influencers is because they represent a more authentic way of connecting with your audience. The last thing you want is to reduce this authenticity. Examples of watch-outs include: a) engaging with influencers who don't represent the brand or the campaign itself; b) pushing a fixed script that the influencer must strictly adhere to; and c) requiring long approvals where the in-the-moment timing of a post could matter. In fact - dare I say it - the best approach is hands off. Some of the more effective campaigns I've seen were those that didn't require prior approval of posts - at all. An early influencer campaign by Mercedes-Benz involved photographers, videographers and social influencers who were invited to post content about the vehicles without prior brand approval. Called 'MB Photo Pass' the content was fresh, real-time and truly authentic. Naturally, brands in highly regulated industries can't do this as they require review of content before they are published to ensure compliance. But for brands that are not Pharma and Financial Services, for example, they can realize the benefits of loosening the reigns when it comes to influencer marketing. And an open approach will lead to better results. Influencer marketing is most effective when the influencers produce sponsored content in the same style that made them successful in the first place. A recent study by Baazarvoice found that 47% of consumers get turned off by repetitive and scripted influencer content.
5. Get the right tools. Yes, you can do influencer marketing manually, but it's a heavy lift. There are two areas where influencer tools are extremely helpful. The first is at the beginning with identifying the right influencers. Use tools like Traackr which provide snapshots of each influencer, including their social following but also engagement metrics of their followers. Remember, you aren't identifying influencers as much as finding their audiences that most closely match to your brand. The best tools include contact details so you can quickly reach out once identified. The second area is measurement. You'll want to closely track engagement - likes, shares and hashtag spread from your campaign. Social measurement platforms like Netbase can do this extremely well, providing easy to read reports on your results.
Adhering to these 5 requirements will go a long way to a successful influencer marketing campaign.
What other requirements am I missing? Feel free to leave a comment.