A Simple Guide to Influencer Marketing in Social Media.

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.

Guide to Influencer MarketingObjectives 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.

Monitoring and Metrics: Ensure you follow the FTC Endorsement Guidelines. Recently the FTC cracked down by sending out letters to influencers and brands not following the standards and creating deceptive advertising. Brands are responsible for training influencers on these standards and for monitoring their influencers to ensure compliance. Influencers, agencies and brands are all held accountable. Also make sure you have an up-to-date social media, user generated content, and privacy policy. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the new European data-protection law (GDPR) many companies are updating their privacy policies to meet new expectations and standards.

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

What Has Changed And Not Changed In Social Media.

The first edition of my book Social Media Strategy was published in 2015. When I went back to update the second edition I learned that many things have changed in social media, but some things have not changed. How should your approach to social media adjust based on new developments? What is the same that you may still be missing? Below is a summary of what I discovered in analyzing social media updates over the last three years.

What has changed in social media
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

New tools, tactics and features have emerged.

One major development has been the rise of live video. Interestingly live streaming video has been around on the Internet since 2007 with services like Livestream and Ustream.

Live video came into real prominence with the launch of live streaming video mobile apps. In 2015 live video took the stage at SXSW with the launch of Meerkat. Periscope was only a couple of weeks behind. Then Blab and Facebook Live were launched. In less than two years Meerkat and Blab were gone. Periscope was bought by and integrated into Twitter. In 2016 Facebook launched Instagram Live. YouTube now has live streaming video and Twitch is the Amazon owned live streaming video app for gamers.

If you have not added live video to your social media activities start looking into it now. Brands today need to seriously consider live video for its reach, engagement and creative possibilities.

Influencer marketing has taken off.

Three years ago we talked about influencers in the context of brand evangelism. Loyal fans and employees where recruited and equipped to become brand ambassadors. Businesses developed relationships with customers and trained employees who voluntarily advocated for the brand. Marketers built their own communities of influencers with programs such as the Lego Ambassadors where super fans were rewarded with exclusives, perks, free products and trips.

Today this process has been formalized. Influencer marketing focuses more on finding people with a high level of influence and pays them for specific campaigns. Now influencer marketing agencies, networks and software like TapInfluence automates influencer discovery, payment and content creation. Micro-influencer marketing has also become a popular strategy where brands partner with people who have smaller followings but have a highly engaged audience in a relevant niche. Are you leveraging social media influencers? Influencer marketing is the fastest growing part of social media strategies.

Paid social media has gone from an experiment to a necessity.

Three years ago paid social media was called native advertising and it was a small way to support organic social media efforts and a way to reach new audiences. It was also available on only a couple social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Today paid social media is a required part of most social media strategies to reach new audiences, but also your own fans on the most crowded social networks. The need for paid social advertising has increased as organic reach, or the percentage of followers or fans that see brand posts, has decreased significantly. Most top social networks now offer paid social media options including Snapchat, Pinterest, Yelp and even Reddit.

No matter how much paid social media grows, it is important to note that paying for reach does not replace the need for creating valuable content. Paid social media may buy exposure but it does not buy engagement and action that still requires quality content. The kind of content you create for organic social media posts.

Some social platforms faded away. Others became more important.

In the update of the book I removed significant sections on social media channels such as Google+, Flickr, and Citisearch. Other social media platforms and categories have been added. Snapchat has grown up to become an important part of many social media strategies.

Other niche social channels have become important for businesses in certain categories such as TripAdvisor for travel related business and Amazon Reviews for brands with e-commerce products. The entire category of Messaging Apps have grown in use and brands are now adding a presence on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Viber and Line.

If you haven’t reviewed your brand social media accounts in a while it may be a good time to conduct a social media audit to ensure you are on the right platforms for your objectives and target market.

What has not changed is the need for a social media strategy.

You can’t succeed by chasing the latest platforms, tactics and features or simply increasing content on existing social accounts. Brands need a solid social media strategy that works for today and three years from now. This is a mistake brands make even after being in social media for years and why nearly half of marketers are unable to show the impact of their social media investments.

For marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals to succeed at social media, they must first start in a place rooted in their distinct situation and drive a strategy of choosing social platforms and creating content based on their business objectives and target audience. Integrating social with other business functions and adding the right tools and metrics will connect your social media actions to broader business goals from the beginning. Then social media will not be an end unto itself and real ROI can be found.

Because of this gap in business knowledge spending in social media has failed to meet previous expectations. The initial hype over social media is dying down and management will eventually stop paying for engagement that doesn’t lead to bottom line action.

Social media knowledge is becoming an expectation in most marketing communication professionals jobs and social media professionals will need to expand their business knowledge to see the big picture and talk the language of management. As social media will inevitably change more tomorrow the need for a solid social media strategy will not change. What are the biggest adjustments you have made in the last couple of years?