Digital marketing experts share how to get the most out of an influencer marketing campaign.
As influencer marketing has evolved from simply finding the influencer with the widest reach to identifying the one specific influencer within a sea of influencers that is the exact right fit, how is a brand to know which influencer is right? And what comes next?
Here are 15 tips from digital marketing experts on how to get the most out of an influencer marketing campaign.
Eric Brown, vice president of communications at social network engagement company Lithium Technologies, which acquired online expertise management firm Klout last year, calls it “old hat marketing,” but said brands have to first think about their target and how they are going to engage it.
Katie Paterson, digital marketing director of influencer marketing platform Traackr, agrees it helps to first understand who is buying a brand’s products.
“The more you understand the buyer, the more you are able to dissect who is influencing them,” Paterson said.
And, for her part, digital industry consultant Hollis Thomases notes an influencer is only as valuable as his or her audience and no marketer can scale an influencer, which can sometimes be a deterrent to marketers who want assurance of scale. Influencer marketing is a powerful and effective way to conduct marketing, but it has some limitations, she said.
Influencer marketing is no longer about utilizing social media powerhouses, but about finding the ones with the best fans/followers for a given brand.
That means that instead of just looking for mommy bloggers, for example, brands need to drill down and find the 35-year-old mother of two who lives in Los Angeles and is passionate about healthy fast food, Brown said.
This, in turn, leads to better connections and content.
“Good influencer marketing is about earned media. It should not be about paid media. If you have to bribe [influencers] overtly or covertly to love your product, it’s not real influence,” Brown said.
Paterson said brands should seek influencers that are going to inspire buyers to take action and notes the market now has many tools that make these influencers easier to find.
These tools help brands pinpoint those very precise influencers, Brown adds.
And this may be something of a David/Goliath situation in which some larger agencies are at a bit of a disadvantage.
“Traditional demographics are what ad agencies are good at selling,” Brown said. “The interest and passion points of influencers I think is harder, but the returns are greater and good marketers will start shifting more time and effort toward those.”
At the same time, Thomases points out that tools like Klout, which can theoretically measure and identify influencers, can be gamed, so “marketers need to be wary and do their own due diligence to verify that someone who appears to be influential in their category really is.”
Digital marketers need to look at communities much more closely than they have in the past because communities are a powerful and overlooked tool, Brown said. But this is where consumers are engaging around products, services and passion points. And it’s where they are creating and sharing content and experiences.
“It’s not something easily sold by an agency. There is no IAB standard format for a community,” Brown said. “It’s highly customized, highly personalized, highly tailored for an audience.”
And tools and big data can help tap into these communities as well, Brown adds.
Engagement is a critical metric. Some influencers may have smaller reach, but have audiences that are super-engaged and very loyal and that are on the influencer’s site every day and are acting on the recommendations of that influencer, said Holly Hamann, CMO of influencer marketing platform TapInfluence.
“It’s the engagement that will move the needle – not necessarily the digital footprint. Really scrutinizing influencers for active communities is critically important,” adds Marcy Massura, senior vice president and digital practice lead at PR firm MSLGroup. “It’s not just about how popular they are any more. It’s about how popular they are and what is the quality of the content they create…That’s a shift in 2015. I see it growing. It will be a big year for the influencer.”
That means brand should take the message they want to share and put it into the hands of people consumers know and trust, Paterson said. Consumers don’t want messages shoved down their throats.
“Influencers can share products with someone, but it doesn’t feel like they are being sold to,” Paterson adds. “If you do it right, that’s the potential that you have. You can enter conversations with the buyer and it’s a two-way street and buyers can learn from you as well and make sure the product works for them.”
Because sharing on social networks is so focused on personal content, there is an expectation among consumers for comparable content from brands. Therefore, influencer marketing requires a higher level of authority, and, subsequently, more personal and relevant content, which is in part why celebrities are less powerful here than citizens who likely have more pertinent experience with a given product, Brown said.
Facebook continues to change the way it displays content because it is trying to find better ways to integrate display ads into the News Feed. But consumers can still tell they are display ads, Brown said.
“I think display fatigue will lead marketers to think of new ways to reach audiences,” he said. “Display fatigue online is like what’s happened on TV.”
Advertisers have learned they must create more compelling TV content if they want to capture the attention of viewers that can easily skip ads.
“Some things are so bizarre, I see it on fast forward and have to stop to see it in real time,” Brown said.
Advertisers also know that consumers’ eyes are focused on the middle of the screen as they fast forward and so even if viewers are not paying attention to an ad per se, something like Target’s logo in the middle of the screen will still stick out.
This trend toward more engaging content and ways to think outside the box to capture consumer attention is one Brown expects to extend to influencer marketing.
Influencers are influential because they are good at creating content and they know their audiences well. Ergo, brands should work collaboratively with them and let them have some creative freedom with content, Hamann said.
“We’ve found over and over again, when brands work with influencers and give up some control, they create content that is better than they create on their own,” Hamann added.
Massura said MSLGroup puts “pretty wildly acceptable…brand guard rails” with stipulations about topics and language to avoid into its agreements with influencers, but, at the same time, wants its influencers “to be creative and do what is going to make their communities happy.”
“We want them to create stuff that will make sense for their communities,” Massura said. “They have creative control within a guided process.”
When working with influencers, brands must be very organized, responsive and clear about their objectives and when they expect posts, etc., Hamann said.
“They have to be really, really clear with their expectations so influencers are set up to succeed,” Hamann said. “Fuzzy goals and objectives lead to unmet expectations.”
Also, brands should make sure objectives are aligned throughout an influencer marketing campaign so that they can track whether the campaign is successful or not, Paterson said.
Influencers are creating content like blog posts and photos and that takes time and effort, Hamann said.
“A lot of times, brands assume influencers will create content for free, but…as more influencers realize how valuable their content really is, less will tolerate that. It’s a well-accepted part of the ecosystem to compensate,” Hamann said.
“If a path isn’t working out, if the influencer isn’t quite right, if you’re not seeing movement in sales, change,” Massura said. “It’s a very flexible marketing approach.”
“I don’t know many advertisers who only advertise in a single channel and on/through a single publisher or network these days, primarily because the advertiser wants to reach as many relevant people as it can,” Thomases said. “So although the influencer may be very valuable in terms of reaching his/her present audience, there’s diminishing returns on that audience over time because it’s the same people receiving the marketer’s message over and over again.”
In other words, as Brown said, influencer marketing is best as part of an integrated marketing strategy that includes other elements as well.
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