Your business’s marketing strategy has 4 primary goals – Increase brand visibility, build business reputation, expand business reach and improve customer engagement. An influencer marketing strategy, strategically fits inside your larger marketing strategy and helps achieve these goals. According to a Forbes Insights – ‘The Trade Desk -2018 Survey’, 31% of businesses are going to increase their focus on influencers marketing.
Also, according to Linqia’s The State of Influencer Marketing 2018 report, a massive 92% of marketers found success with influencer marketing, and 39% of marketers planned to increase their budget in 2018. All these stats make one thing very clear – you are missing out on an effective marketing strategy, if you still aren’t using influencer marketing.
Let’s take a closer look at this particular marketing phenomenon.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy that leverages the reach and reputation of influencers to gain more exposure for a business or brand. Influencers are people who have built a strong reputation in their niche, have a huge and growing number of followers and who are trusted by their audiences when it comes to brand recommendations.
When you work with influencers, you are essentially asking them to expose your brand to their audience via their channel (social or otherwise). You are establishing a relationship with influencers wherein they are mentioning or sharing your brand content and marketing messaging to their audience.
It’s important to note that an influencer’s target audience is ever growing, and is extremely engaged, and therefore there is every chance that they are going to engage with your brand’s messaging as well.
And, all this happens naturally, meaningfully, seamlessly and optimally. If you want a low down on some of the best influencer marketing campaigns, give this HubSpot article a read.
When it comes to influencer marketing, an influencer might or might not say it outright whether they are working with a particular brand, but if they are sharing a picture of a product or mentioning a brand, chances are they probably are.
Here, Kylie Jenner, one of the most well-known influencers in business, especially in the fashion sphere has shared a picture of Versace shoes. Now your guess is as good as mine whether this is an example of influencer marketing, but this is essentially the way it’s done.
One of the misconceptions of influencer marketing is you need to partner with people who have a huge number of followers, but the truth is if these followers are not a subset of your brand’s target audience, then your association won’t deliver the results you are looking for.
You need to work with influencers whose followers consist of the audience you want to target. So, don’t worry if the influencer has a relatively smaller number of followers, the focus should be on ensuring your message reaching the right audience.
The Influencer Marketing Strategy
‘Detailed and focused planning of your influencer marketing strategy help deliver the best ROI.’
The first step towards a successful influencer marketing strategy is answering – “Why Do I Need an Influencer Marketing Strategy?”
Identify what you seek to achieve with your campaign. Typically, an influencer marketing strategy is implemented to achieve the following goals:
- Generating brand awareness
- Creating a brand identity and reputation
- Building a target audience
- Audience/Customer engagement
- Driving products/services sales
- Attracting targeted leads through link building
The second question you must answer is – What is the Kind of Campaign I Want to Implement?
Think about how you want to go about establishing the rules of engagement with the influencers. You can either convince an influencer to share your brand’s content or messaging on their channel, or you can pay them to do the same, or you could work out a relationship which is a mix of both.
The challenge with inspiring the influencer to mention your brand is that the influencer must see merit in doing so. This can only happen if your brand has a fantastic reputation and is considered one of the top brands in its niche. On the other hand, paying an influencer for a brand mention is relatively easier as is ensuring the association is a mix of paid and free promotion.
Here’s how you can implement your influencer marketing strategy:
- Pay the influencer to feature your brand, its messaging or content on the influencer’s social media channel or website; this is sponsored content.
- Send free products to influencers or offer free services in exchange for a brand mention or product review on their channel.
- Ask for a guest posting opportunity on the influencer blog; in this case, you can either convince the influencer to do it for free or go the ‘paid post’ route.
- Work together with the influencers to create content that can feature on both your websites, channels; or work together with the influencer to create content that can be published on an extremely reputed third-party website.
- Convince/Pay an influencer to run your brand’s contests and giveaways or advertise events on their channel or website.
- Leverage the ‘follower potential’ of your followers (especially loyal fans of your products) by asking them to talk about your brand or post pictures with your products. In exchange, you can give them product or service discounts, free products or service or give them an opportunity to feature on your business channel.
- Incorporate influencer marketing into your social media marketing strategy to work with a popular personality in the niche to share your brand or product messaging.
These are not the only ways you can implement your influencer marketing campaign; the idea is to find innovative ways of engaging with influencers and establishing a working relationship with them.
The third question you must ask yourself is – “Who is My Audience?”
Before you start searching for the right influencers, you must identify and define your audience. Establish a relationship with an influencer only after you know your audience.
Begin the process of identifying your audience by creating a buyer persona through segmentation.
When you start identifying your target audience, you will also come to know the people they follow, the websites they trust for product recommendations, the people whose opinions they trust, the YouTube channel they subscribe to, and so on and so forth.
This helps you identify the right influencers; let’s look at this aspect in some detail.
Finding the Right Influencers
Once you identify your audience, you will evaluate and analyse the people and channels followed by this audience. Start making a list of people, who you think are influencers in their niche.
So how do you identify influencers?
Look through their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube channels; evaluate their content, the number of followers and check whether their followers are a part of the audience demographic you want to target.
You also need to take a good hard look at the activities of these influencers. So check whether they actively participate in events, whether they publish articles on high-authority publications, whether they are mentioned by reputed publications or other influencers and so on.
Get a holistic view of their reputation, presence and reach.
But, don’t just depend on your ability to judge the worth of influencers and whether they are the right fit for your needs. Also, take the help of influencer marketing tools to speed up the search process and ensure you zero in on the right influencers. These tools won’t necessarily list the best influencers for your needs, but give you insights based on different metrics, to help you make an informed choice.
Judgement Day – Segmenting Influencers
Once you start identifying influencers, make a list based on the nature of their audience, their reach and the kind of content they post.
Audience Quality Segmentation: Prepare a list of those influencers who do not have a large audience (read followers) but whose limited audience closely matches the audience you wish to target.
Audience Quantity Segmentation: Prepare a list of influencers that have a huge audience (read followers), which means they have a far bigger reach than the influencers with a smaller but more targeted audience.
Content and Messaging Segmentation: Prepare a list of influencers whose content and messaging is in line with your business messaging. This essentially means, they should be active in your business niche; if your business is in the fashion domain, these influencers must be active in the fashion sphere’, if your business is in the education domain, the influencers must be respected names in the education industry.
Remember, the rules of engagement will be different for every influencer, and the terms your work out are dependent on the benefits the influencer can bring to the table. And therefore, segmentation is an absolute must.
Earlier we talked about convincing the influencer to work with your brand and one of the ways this can be brought about is by creating extremely engaging, high-quality, and original content. This content is so good that influencers have no problems in publishing it on their website or social channel.
If you were to describe this content in one word, it should be – Irresistible. They must feel they will be missing out big time if the content isn’t pushed through their channel.
Such content can take many forms. It could be a highly researched article; it could be a market report (exclusively made available through the influencer’s channel), an infographic, or something else. Get as creative as you can, and make sure this content can also benefit the influencer in more ways than one. For e.g. publishing your article on the influencer blog should be able to attract more readers to the influencer blog.
The final but crucial step of your influencer marketing strategy is tracking its implementation. Is it delivering the results you are looking for? Making sure, an influencer promotes your brand message is great, but is it working for you?
So check how your influencer marketing strategy is performing from the brand awareness, brand identity, audience building and engagement metrics point of view. Evaluate and analyse these results based on the data gathered from social mentions, website traffic, opt-ins, follows, shares, comments and more, to judge whether your influencer marketing strategy has been a success or not.
An influencer marketing strategy takes time to deliver results. So patience is the key. Also, you need to keep at it all the time, so even if you have identified and are working with a certain influencer, keep searching for better options. Be prepared to fine tune your strategy as you go along. This will help produce the best results.