Even though the average person is bombarded by an avalanche of marketing content every day, most modern consumers are willing to see or hear a review from somebody they respect or admire. So lo and behold, with the rise of digital marketing and social media communication comes "Influencer Marketing." Influencer marketing can be a very powerful marketing tactic. Brands can find epic success by leveraging influencers to drive brand awareness, exposure, conversions and customer retention with a deliberate influencer marketing strategy.
Influencer marketing is essentially like hiring a really great networker to talk about your brand. This is a person who is connected and influential to the type of people you want to engage with and who will get others to advocate for you. They may have spent a lot of time and energy building strong relationships with your ideal target market and are trusted by this group. Your marketing focus is then placed on these influential people and building relationships with them rather than the target market as a whole. This marketing tactic identifies the individuals that have influence over potential customers and orients your marketing activities around these influencers.
How do you find influencers who will talk about your brand? Do your research. When you are researching influencers be sure their focus aligns with your brand and mission. For example: Our foodie influencer platform Virginia Foodie is all about local and best sourcing practices so the food brands we promote and support through our influencer platform MUST be too. Due to the specific audience we built as a food influencer, they would not appreciate or care about the off brand message or product we are putting in front of them, and we would then also damage our relationship with our followers. Our relationship is genuine and trusted because of our very specific point of view and ethos. You can find out how we built our influencer platform audience of almost 50,000 fans here.
The careful selection of your best influencer will connect you with highly engaged consumers, but there’s more to influence than audience size. Tapping into one really big fan who aligns with your brand mission perfectly is worth 100 slightly connected followers and a mountain of useless likes.
Build partnerships that create strong brand advocates
Once you have created a list of potential influencers, you then must create genuine relationships with them. Influencers are often eager to share content regularly on their channels to keep up engagement. Getting on their radar could potentially get you featured, whether or not you pay them to do so. Be honestly engaged in their content; tag them and send them messages about what they are doing.
Approach influencers the same way you would anyone in a real conversation. Keep in mind you are building a partnership. Like any good relationship, if you put a lot of work into it from both sides, you yield greater results.
Keep in mind a stranger who walks up to you abruptly and asks you for a favor compared to a person who, over time, has built a rapport with you is going to be much more successful in getting that favor. The worst requests we get are the public relations "spray and pray" style messages, emails, and press releases that are generic in their request for us to share their products, news, events, charcoal-infused recipes…whatever. Take your time, send a personal note, have a solid pitch, make it easy for them to share your content (creating a media kit is a good way to do this), think about their followers and what they would want to see or want to share, do not make the pitch centered around you only and what you are going to get out of it. These partnerships should not be viewed simply as transactional- you want the influencers to actually feel passionate and invested in your mission, they will then become the best types of advocates for your brand.
As with most things, very little is free, and social influence comes with a price tag. Let's talk about money and how you could report back to your boss or board that you spent XXXX on influencer marketing and your ROI was XXXX (real numbers below). The bulk of your ROI will come in at the brand awareness level toward the top of the sales funnel. Instant conversion rates are difficult to manifest in influencer marketing. But the same to be said in most paid ads, really. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact point of conversion, so you need to view this tactic as part of a holistic approach to your marketing goals. The success will be getting in front of the exact group of consumers you want and making them aware of your brand, product, event, etc.
Factors affecting the cost & ROI of your influencer marketing methods
- Audience size: larger numbers do not necessarily equate to conversion; check average engagement rates
- Influencers with high-quality content (copywriting, photography, video, etc.) will be more costly
- Product alignment and relationship with influencer can affect price dramatically
- Content type can affect price: a single post, video, photo, giveaway, etc.
- Audience age (the more mature the demographic, the more expensive it is)
- Average pay per engagement: $.08 to $.30 per engagement
- Average conversion rate: 1.5% to 3%
Often influencers will not give you a comprehensive data report, so remember from the onset that those responsibilities may fall to you. Having a great landing page, indexing following and engagement on social channels, utilizing promo codes, and gathering measurements in analytics can give you a pretty good insight report of your investment and success. There are also great software programs that you can use to manage your social media influencer campaigns, find the right influencer and provide validations. Examples of these software platforms are AspireIQ, Upinfluence, NeoReach, Mavcrk, and Traackr.
Connecting The Dots Between Your Influencers & Your Consumers
Now you have your influencers on board and have a budget sorted. Can you answer these two very important questions:
- What happens when the influencer directs traffic to where you want?
- Will you be able to retain those people?
As a marketing firm who also is a social influencer, we have a bit of a conflict when brands ask us to promote them and they do not have all their customer journey mapped out. Just like the proverb says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” We could lead our followers to your brand, but if you have no interesting story to tell, no clear path to purchase, or no genuine reason to retain their interest, they will leave. You must make sure your brand story is apparent, your e-commerce is on point, and that whichever social media platforms you are utilizing are engaging and clearly defined for your ideal customer personas.
Consumers are very smart and are rapidly seeking authenticity before they consider a purchase. In a world where traditional forms of advertising are becoming less effective, brands are turning to influencers to leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing and initiate conversations about a brand. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to curate your brand and build trust with an audience. Working with professional and high-quality influencers will benefit your brand by lending a dimension of credibility, cutting some time and energy out of building this audience from scratch and provide exposure through a trusted source in an oversaturated marketplace.