Influencer marketing is a growing part of social media strategy. According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 75% of companies have influencer programs and nearly half (43%) are planning to increase their spending next year. Of companies not using it over a quarter (27%) plan to do so. Yet, there are many forms and methods to structuring an influencer program. To be successful brands must ensure they have a solid strategy rooted in business objectives, target market and best practices. Below is a guide to follow in creating or optimizing an influencer marketing program as part of a broader social media strategy.
Objectives and Target Audience: Begin your influencer marketing with business objectives. Are you trying to increase sales or build brand awareness? Do you have a reputation problem and are looking to increase positive sentiment? Are you a B2B brand that wants more leads? Look for the bigger problem or opportunity. Don’t make the mistake of starting with social media objectives that just become an end unto themselves.
Who are you trying to reach? Identify the target market for your product and service. Then turn that market into a target audience or audiences that you want the influencers to reach. You may have one audience active on specific social media platforms. Knowing this will focus your effort on finding influencers popular on those social channels. If multiple target audiences are involved identify every target by objective. Each audience may need to be reached with different platforms, influencers and content. An example is colleges with an annual enrollment objective targeting high school students, parents and alumni. They may also have a second objective of raising funds for a building project targeting alumni, business leaders and state legislators.
Method and Compensation: Influencer marketing can be structured in several ways. Small organizations with a minimal number of influencers or big companies with larger internal resources may want to create and manage their own influencer program. For more help brands can work with influencer platforms or networks that streamline processes and payments and make it easier to find influencers. Fees are charged for the convenience and you may be limited only to influencers in their network. A third option is hiring an Influencer Agency. These agencies provide the most options, customization and access to influencers, but will also cost the most in fees.
Another increasingly popular option for influencer marketing is affiliate programs. Affiliate marketing has been around for many years, but in the past it focused on building websites to draw an audience and send traffic to product links for sales. The retailer rewards the affiliate for each visitor or customer. Today more affiliates are using social media to attract audiences and insert links in social media posts. Instead of paying per post or sending free product, brands pay a commission per sale which could motivate affiliates to send traffic for a longer periods. Options include building and managing a brand affiliate program, working with an affiliate platform and network, or hiring an affiliate agency.
Social Channels: Select the social platforms that make the most sense for brand objectives and target audience. Where is the target audience spending time? What social media networks are they on and where do they look for content in the brand’s industry? Consider options in multiple categories such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and podcasts. Also look at niche social platforms such as forums, Medium, Reddit, Quora, or SlideShare. The idea is to match social channel users and social channel content type with target audience and objective.
Type of Influencer: Are you looking for a celebrity (famous in traditional media), a social media star (known for or because of social media ), or a thought leader (known for industry knowledge)? Celebrities can have a lot of advantages including their mass reach and appeal. Yet film, music or sports celebrities can be expensive and people may question the authenticity of their product endorsements. Social media stars may have less followers, but those followers could be more engaged and endorsements could be seen as more believable. Thought leaders are a good choice for certain product or service categories in B2B. A mention or recommendation by an industry leader can carry a lot of weight.
Influencers can also be categorize in terms of follower size. Macro-influencers have 100,000 or more followers. Mid-level-influencers have between 25,000 and 100,000 followers. Micro-influencers can have as little as 50 to 25,000 followers. It may be tempting to only go for the macro-influencers because of their massive reach, but micro-influencers are often more effective. Adweek reports micro-influencer engagement rates can be 60% higher, their buys are 6.7 times more efficient, and they can drive 22 times more conversions. According to the ANA more than half of brands use mid-level (66%) or micro-influencers (59%) while less than half are using macro-influencers (44%).
Type of Content: Once you have your influencers decide how content will be created and spread. You may think it is best to have the most control, but content created by the brand and merely shared could come across as not genuine. Certain influencers or influencer networks may also have their own standards for what they will or will not do. Consider the pros and cons for each option such as influencer shared brand content, influencer created brand content, or product and service reviews and mentions. Or get creative with options such as influencer brand account takeovers, brand guest content contributions, or collaboration on a contest or giveaway.
Finally, monitor key metrics per influencer and social channel to measure success. Be sure to identify KPIs that connect back to each business objective. This not only helps prove success but also allows you to optimize the program over time by social channel, influencer and type of content. Setting up key metrics and monitoring in the beginning will simplify social media metrics and help prove ROI .
As other forms of traditional, digital and social media marketing become more challenging many marketers are adding influencer marketing to their IMC mix. Consider these guidelines when structuring or restructuring your influencer efforts. For the bigger picture in social media strategy, more tools, templates and guides, plus a framework for creating and executing a complete social media plan consider the 2nd Edition of Social Media Strategy: Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations in the Consumer Revolution. bit.ly/QSocialBook