When you hear the word “influencer,” do you roll your eyes as you picture a beautiful millennial smiling and holding a product that she’s probably never used in her life?
If that’s your reaction, you’re missing out.
Someone who’s new to the idea of influencer marketing may be under the impression that it’s simply celebrity endorsements in the age of Instagram. That’s almost it, but not quite. Unlike celebrities, influencers cultivate fanbases that are far more intimate than those of a typical movie star.
Think of it this way: celebrities tend to have a ton of people following them out of simple curiosity and amusement. A vlogger or Instagram personality, on the other hand, is far more relatable to the “average” person: they’re slightly famous, sure—that’s how you find them, after all—but they’re far closer to a regular Joe than they are to Kim Kardashian. For this reason, influencers typically earn a lot more trust and respect from their fans than celebrities tend to.
People keep up with influencers because they feel inspired by them. Unlike celebrities, influencers allow their fans into their personal lives, including their struggles, thoughts, and the products they use. This “realness” resonates with people, breeding trust and respect.
That’s what makes influencers’ recommendations so valuable: instead of coming from a celebrity that consumers have no real attachment to, influencer marketing is more akin to hearing about a great product from a friend (which is one of the most effective forms of advertising).
“Influencers already have…trust, reliability and positive associations,” explains Danielle Wiley, founder and CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency. “With the right partnerships and campaigns, influencers can express brand messages in ways that far surpass sales pitches. Instead, these brand stories become long-lasting authentic human connections.”
How to Plan an Influencer Marketing Campaign
The goal of influencer marketing isn’t having someone effortlessly pretty and/or cool hold your product and smile. It’s about building trust through authenticity.
Too many brands assume that creating an influencer marketing campaign is as simple as messaging someone with a lot of followers to see if they’d be interested in plugging their product or service. However, there’s a lot more planning that needs to be done if a collaboration with an influencer is to be effective.
Here’s what to keep in mind when developing an influencer marketing campaign:
Put Your Audience First
When searching for the perfect influencer for your campaign, the first step is to determine your target audience. Then, find out who they’re following and work from there. The influencers you identify through this strategy already have the attention of those who are likely to pause—and, ultimately, engage and/or convert—when a post with your product comes up in their feed.
Be specific in what you’re looking for. “Identify target demographics, life stage, and interests,” suggests Mediakix in their CMO’s Guide to Influencer Marketing. “This can help narrow down the categories, social media channels, and influencers you want to leverage.”
Micro-Influencers are the New Influencer
You may be wondering how you can possibly afford to put a quasi-celebrity on your payroll. Luckily, with micro-influencers, you don’t have to.
Micro-influencers are influencers who aren’t big internet stars, but are relatively well-known in their specific areas of interest.
“The internet has led to the fragmentation [of] media into many small niche topics,” Influencer Marketing Hub explains. “Even if you are into something relatively obscure you are likely to find a Facebook group or Pinterest board devoted to it. And it is in these niche groups and boards that micro-influencers establish themselves as genuine influencers.”
Micro-influencers have the ear of the consumers you’re looking to advertise to, and because their areas of interest tend to be more niche, the communities are smaller and more intimate. This makes the interactions between micro-influencers and consumers that much more valuable.
Keep in mind that if you hire a micro-influencer, you’re going to have a smaller audience than if you pay a celebrity to promote your brand. But there are plenty of pros to hiring micro-influencers, including:
- Lower cost
- More valuable engagement with their followers, who are more loyal
- Smaller backlash if some sort of scandal hits your influencer, campaign, or brand
If you’re looking to spread general brand awareness, enlisting a celebrity isn’t a bad idea. But if you want meaningful engagement that’s far more likely to breed customer loyalty (not to mention awareness in a valuable, motivated audience), it’s more effective to go with micro-influencers.
Relationships > Contracts
Collaborations between brands and influencers need to be built on far more than just a contract. The canned captions and overly-staged photos of surface-level advertising agreements are pretty easy to spot—and, especially in the smaller communities you may be targeting, it’s not hard for social media users to sniff out an inauthentic partnership. These posts are ignored at best and ridiculed at worst.
It’s not just about the audience (though, of course, they’re important). Think about your future with this influencer: a better relationship means it’s likely that you’ll work with them again, and their loyalty to their your brand will make a big impact on their followers.
So how do you form a good relationship with an influencer? First, start planting the seeds long before you contact them with an offer. Once you’ve located a promising influencer, follow them, like their posts, and leave some comments. Not only does this put you on their radar, but it exposes you to their fans, too.
When you’re ready to pitch a collaboration, write up a brief but clear proposal of your campaign. Ask the influencer about his or her goals so you can determine if your partnership will be beneficial for them as well.
A lot of marketers assume that influencers will take any opportunity to make some money or get some free stuff, so recruiting one should be a breeze. The truth is that good influencers spend years developing their unique identity and cultivating their audiences. For this reason, it’s rarely in their best interest to take on every contract they’re offered. If they post bizarre product placements or endorse faulty products, they risk losing the respect—and attention—of their followers.
Engagement & Other KPIs
Measure engagement, not just reach, when you’re checking out potential influencers to work with and when you’re evaluating their performance in your campaign. In other words, measure how much consumers interact with an influencer, not necessarily how many followers he or she has.
Be sure to determine exactly what you want to achieve when planning your influencer marketing strategy. Different goals greatly affect which KPIs (key performance indicators) need to be measured throughout and after the campaign.
Here are some examples of common influencer campaign goals and how to determine their success:
- Are you attempting a shift in brand sentiment? Monitor the content of comments and pay attention to reactions.
- Trying for regular engagement to increase conversions? Comments, likes, and shares are all valuable—the more often followers interact with an influencer’s posts about you, the more likely you are to see them become customers in the future.
- Looking for exposure in your target market? Conduct testing to see whether consumers remember seeing your brand in their feeds after an influencer has posted about you.
“The hallmark of a good influencer is the ability to stimulate conversation in the comments section,” says Kim Westwood of Later, an Instagram marketing platform. “And word of mouth reactions (friends tagging friends in a post) is the type of engagement that leads to future conversions.”
Like any effective marketing campaign, the results from your influencer partnership will likely continue long after the last post of the contract has been published. Consumers who find the influencer you worked with weeks or even months later can still see their posts about you, potentially leading to “bonus” untracked conversions.
Let Them Breathe
When designing your campaign, don’t put too many creative restrictions on the influencer. Remember that they know their audience far better than you do. If you restrict the tone or content of their posts too much, they’ll come across as inauthentic or phony. Let the influencer do what they do best and engage their audience—that’s why you hired them!
Solberg Auõunsson, co-founder and CEO of influencer marketing Takumi, suggests “bringing them in as early as possible in the planning stage so that they feel part of the project.”
“Give them context on the campaign, messaging and goals, and help them understand the dos and don’ts, but don’t be too controlling over exactly what you want to see in the content,” he continues. “If it’s too forced and they can’t use their style and tone of voice, you’re wasting your time.”
Pick the Right Agency
Because influencer marketing is still relatively new in the grand scheme of advertising, brands often prefer to turn to agencies to manage influencer relationships.
You may consider hiring an influencer marketing agency, but be warned: they typically focus only on digital content. While digital-only campaigns are great for certain brands, it’s often far more effective to integrate digital and traditional advertising.
If you don’t want to restrict your campaign to digital platforms, hire a full-service advertising agency that has experience managing influencers and successfully running campaigns.
Ready to talk to one of those agencies? Contact Kirkpatrick Creative today to start developing your influencer marketing strategy.