In his Council piece on Forbes, Alberto Brea talked about the coming rise of the "Influencer" as an agency. In recent times, influencer marketing has grown exponentially to the point that it has become an important marketing channel. The foundation of this new and increasingly dominant category is that consumers don't trust most advertising anymore.
The distrust was then compounded by the sneaky and incessant interruption tactics most brands employed to get the attention of their audience.
However, consumers trust their fellow consumers (word of mouth). So, brands were more likely to capture attention by channeling their message through consumers who had built up a community of engaged followers.
This is influencer marketing. It's one of the fastest-growing channels for marketers today, and it's only going to get bigger and better.
So before we start, do you work for one of the many influencer marketing agencies popping up?
Or you are working on your first influencer marketing strategy. This step-by-step guide to building an influencer marketing program would be a great place to start your journey.
As the name implies, influencer marketing is directly working with people of influence to drive awareness and engagement for your brand(s). Influencer marketing is an offshoot of celebrity marketing, popularly known as brand endorsements.
Now, brand endorsements have been going on for years – but it can be a quite expensive tactic.
Notwithstanding, celebrity marketing is still an example of influencer marketing. However, with the rise of the Internet, influencer marketing has become more than a movie or sports stars talking about some unconnected product or service to their fans.
So, who is an influencer?
An influencer is an individual who has built up enough social influence or capital that allows him or her to affect the purchase decisions of others. They usually would have built up a "significant" following in a particular field or niche and have a special relationship with their audience.
The size of the influencer's community will depend on the size of the niche he or she focuses on – fashion, music, books. A fashion or lifestyle influencer will have more followers than one focused on African literature.
These influencers spend a lot of time building their personal brand and cultivating their audience. And cleverly attaching your brand to their social capital can give you boost in various ways. However, influencer marketing won’t fix a shoddy or substandard product.
You might get some temporary boost in brand awareness and engagement. However, once you are found out, the backlash might cause more damage. It will not only erase whatever social influence gains you might have made but also erode your pre-existing brand equity.
Before we dive into the guide, let’s discuss the difference between an influencer and a brand ambassador, as they’re often confused terms.
As described earlier, an influencer is someone who has built up considerable social capital within a defined niche. This social capital gives them the power to influence the purchase decisions of their followers or fans. The major types of brand influencers are celebrity influencers, social media influencers, and key opinion leaders.
On the other hand, a brand ambassador doesn’t need to be an influencer before becoming an ambassador. Brand ambassadors represent the brand and the lifestyle associated with product or service. They are usually under a long-term contract with specific goals. Ideally, the brand ambassador needs to have in-depth knowledge of the product or service they represent.
When was the last time you noticed an ad on the Internet or your Facebook feed? The chances are that even if you briefly saw one, you scrolled past it instantly. The social media networks are also not making it any easier for brands to grab attention. Recent changes to Facebook’s algorithm have made it extremely difficult to reach your target audience with organic posts.
Social media platforms were designed for users, not brands. And most of them have adjusted their feeds to favor updates from friends, followers, and family. This way, a brand needs to pay to gain access.
This is where influencers come in handy.
Mainly because they have built up an audience of like-minded individuals, in some instances, these communities have become self-sustaining colonies.
However, these Influencers can give brands the ability to drive awareness, engagement, and conversions to a relevant audience. Some firms (Red Bull is a perfect example) have succeeded in building strong online identities. However, it is much easier to find an influencer to help you spread your message to their audience.
Red Bull uses influencers to create amazing on-brand content
At its core, a successful influencer marketing campaign helps your brand bypass the human adblocking machine and provides the following benefits:
There are three types of influencers you should consider when developing your influencer marketing strategy. These are:
Social media influencers are the most common type of influencer you can work with. They have thousands or even millions of followers on social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. The top social media influencers are usually focused on a particular niche or platform. This means your approach to influencer marketing using Instagram might slightly differ from influencer marketing on Tik Tok.
Chef Stone is one of my favorite social media influencers
When working with a social media influencer, you must find one that complements your product or service. Their followers must also be part of your target audience. Social media influencers can be broken into macro, micro, and nano-influencers, depending on the size of their audience.
Celebrity influencers are famous people with massive followings. They are widely recognized and can provide you with extensive reach and influence within your target audience. With a celebrity influencer, you don’t need to worry about target audience fit or relevance. The star power that comes with a celebrity influencer provides a powerful form of social proof to your product or service.
Lebron James is as big as it gets when it comes to using a celebrity influencer
They can, however, be a tad challenging to work with, so you need to be clear on what you intend to achieve, and what they will be measured by from the get-go.
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are first-class experts on a specialized topic or field. If your brand is looking to engage an audience in a dedicated area, a KOL is a great way to drive awareness and engagement.
KOLs are trusted opinion leaders in their industries and have a large following/community who are invested in those topics.
Here is where most brand teams struggle. Finding the right influencer can be a daunting task. Here are a couple of tactics that have worked for me:
Google works best if you are looking for KOLs.
The right KOL is already creating content and engaging your target audience. Use the search function to find trending industry-related topics and keywords. You can then identify experts who are already blogging or creating the sort of content your audience is craving.
You can also review popular industry sites for contributors who are a brand fit.
You can also search for influencers on your preferred social media platforms. You can use hashtags, keywords, or competing brands to identify potential influencers you could work with. The comments section of a viral post related to your niche is also a great spot to identify social media influencers.
Why? Because your target influencers might have posted or interacted with the post, helping drive its virality.
With the rise of influencer marketing globally, various software solutions have emerged to help brand marketing teams identify the relevant influencers for their campaigns. I use Sprinklr for this most of the time, but I think BuzzSumo is one of the best tools out there for influencer marketing.
BuzzSumo helps you identify the right influencers that can drive awareness and engagement within your target audience. It also enables you to analyze which content types perform best among your target audience. Best of all, you can also analyze the content strategy of your competitors.
It also helps you identify key influencers that are popular among your target audience. You can then analyze which types of content perform best for the identified influencers and if necessary, review the content your competitors are putting out for the best performing creatives.
Influencer marketing is one of the fastest routes to generate premium content while rapidly building brand awareness. Best of all, a well-executed influencer strategy can almost immediately start to show an impact on your bottom-line.
Here’s how to get started…
What do you intend to achieve with your influencer campaign?
Do you want to drive sales? Build brand awareness? Launch a new product? Or do you want to introduce your brand to a new set of consumers?
A clear picture of success is essential, as it not only helps you define the goals but also communicates to the influencers precisely what you need from them. This is the first step towards co-creating unique and engaging content for your brand.
When developing goals for your influencer campaign, three metrics must be top of mind – Reach, Relevance, & Resonance. These three metrics not only help you define your goals accurately, but they also ensure you sign up the influencer that is a fit for your priorities as a business.
Reach answers the question of how well and often the influencer delivers content to your target audience. Does the audience engage with the material the influencer puts out? If you are focused on building brand awareness, this should concern you.
Resonance is the level of influence the influencer has over the audience. Does the influencer have the ability to drive the target audience to take a specific action? Resonance assures you of some level of conversions and impact.
Relevance is the level of emotional connection your consumers feel towards your brand due to the content created by the influencer. If you plan to achieve any form of emotional connection, the influencer has to be a natural fit for your brand. They must also be relevant to the target audience. Relevance assures you of brand loyalty.
Your brand’s target audience doesn’t change unless you are going after a new consumer segment. However, you need to ensure that the influencer’s audience is the same as your target audience. Your consumers should define the influencer you work with, not the other way around.
Depending on your overall goals for the campaign, you need to decide what type of influencer fits your campaign and can deliver maximum results. At this point, you should also start considering your budget.
For example, if you are a small business with a limited budget, you might consider working with a group of nano-influencers to drive awareness. If you work for a large FMCG like Diageo, you might consider working with a macro-influencer or a KOL.
So, you have established the type of influencer that will be a perfect fit for your brand. Now, it's time to determine if the influencer is a fit for your business and brand. Here are a couple of questions that can guide you in ensuring the influencer is on-brand:
Once you have decided on the influencer you'll be working with; it's time to agree on expectations and negotiate the elephant in the room – INCENTIVES. Regarding expectations, remember this conversation should be a two-way street.
Expectations might also differ depending on the type of influencer they are. A celebrity influencer will have different expectations from a social media influencer.
You also need to ensure all expectations are written, agreed upon, and signed by both you and the influencer. You can get your lawyer to draft a simple influencer contract. Another great approach is to go through your digital marketing agency. The agency can sign an agreement with the influencer on your behalf – they should also be the one managing the influencer and the campaign no matter where the contract is signed.
A signed contract helps you avoid any issues down the road.
To kickstart this conversation, here are some crucial issues you need to review with the influencer:
This is the most crucial part of your influencer marketing strategy. The target metrics you are measuring should be in service of your campaign goals, and most importantly, your overall business goals.
Here are some of the most important metrics you should measure to determine if your influencer marketing campaign is a success:
Engagement: Engagement is the first and most straightforward metric to track. Engagement should include likes, shares, comments, retweets, mentions, direct messages, and reposts on other channels or platforms.
Reach: The reach of your campaign can be determined by looking at the total number of views of the content the influencer is sharing about your brand.
Resonance: Did your target audience act after they consumed or interacted with the influencer’s content? How many of them acted compared to the total number of views?
Brand Awareness: Your brand awareness can be measured quantitatively – direct traffic and social engagement –or qualitatively – social listening or awareness surveys.
Click-through Rate: What’s the click-through rate on the content the influencer shares about your brand? Whether it be a direct link to your website, a landing page, a signup form, or an eCommerce product page – you should measure this metric.
Return on Investment (ROI): Calculate the return on your influencer marketing investment by dividing the revenue/sales generated through the campaign by the cost of the influencer marketing investment.
To measure this accurately, tools such as Sprinklr, BuzzStream, BuzzSumo, and Google Analytics have excellent capabilities that help you measure the impact and effectiveness of the influencer’s work.
Additionally, all social platforms have analytic tools built-in as well, such as Facebook’s Ad Manager and Twitter Analytics.
Why is an influencer important in marketing?
A properly executed influencer marketing campaign can deliver 11X higher return on investment than other traditional marketing channels. Your brand also builds trust and social influence with your target audience.
Does influencer marketing really work?
For influencer marketing to succeed, the influencer(s) have to represent your brand appropriately. This is why influencer selection is critical. Choosing influencer(s) who are a good brand and audience fit significantly increases the odds of success with your influencer marketing campaign.
What are the benefits of influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing guarantees the following benefits:
What makes an influencer successful?
Successful influencers are authentic, have a large or sizeable following, and are great content creators. They are also usually focused on a particular niche or platform. If your target influencer seems to work with different brands across different industries – that's a mobile billboard, not an influencer.
How popular is influencer marketing?
In 2019, SocialPubli published a report on the state of influencer marketing, which stated that 93% of marketers have influencer marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy. You can get this and other influencer marketing statistics by downloading the report here.
Influencer marketing has become a mainstay in recent times. However, it can be a tricky tactic to master. The influencer marketing world is also very fluid, so you must keep monitoring and optimizing your campaigns.
Doing this not only ensures you continuously gain new insights, but you are also ready for change if and when it happens. This guide will get you started with the fundamentals: identifying influencers and developing your strategy.
As it is with anything you are trying out for the first time, you might struggle to hit some of the numbers some experienced brands and agencies share in their case studies. However, once you discover what works for your brand and audience, you can be assured of a home run soon.
If you are looking to start with influencer marketing, one of the biggest stumbling blocks you'll face is measurement and reporting.
This is the most crucial part of your influencer marketing strategy, and the target metrics you are measuring should be in service of your campaign goals. Most importantly, they should be linked to your overall business goals.
Depending on your business goals and the specific campaign objectives, not all target metrics are tracked or given equal preference. If you are looking to launch a new product, you would probably be prioritizing awareness over sales. You can download a FREE influencer KPI sheet HERE to help track your campaign metrics.