Current State of Influencer Marketing
If you haven’t dipped your toes in influencer marketing yet, it’s time to get your feet wet. While it’s still in its early stages, influencer marketing is quickly proving to be one of the most effective social strategies for businesses of all shapes and sizes. In fact, recent research found that 63 percent of marketing professionals with influencer strategies already in place are expanding their budgets this year.
Word of mouth has long been one of the most productive and valuable forms of marketing out there, and influencer marketing is largely an extent of that. Word of mouth is shown to influence 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions and will only continue to grow as consumers are given the resources to conduct more research and seek out more opinions before purchasing a product. This rise in information has dramatically altered how companies market to consumers. Consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising and are primarily making purchasing decisions independent of what companies tell them about products.
This shift in power towards the consumer is largely why influencer marketing is rapidly becoming the go-to strategy for marketers. By partnering with likable personalities to disseminate product information, marketers can tap into a network that is much more organic for the consumer.
According to a study, 65 percent of brands currently engage in influencer marketing, and adblocking has grown by 41 percent over the last year. The pattern is clear: As consumers reject one channel, marketers adapt by shifting their focus to another—influencer marketing.
What is a Social Media Influencer?
A social media influencer can be a lot of things and extend into various networks and demographics, but at its core, a social media influencer is someone who wields their influence through social media, which can be through platforms such as a blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram page.
It’s important to recognize that the way of influence can vary and no two influencers are the same. Celebrity endorsements were the original form of influencer marketing, but in the digital age of online connection, regular people have become online “celebrities” with powerfully engaged social media followings, especially in certain market segments.
How does influencer marketing fit into your social media strategy
While it’s a different approach to brand messaging, your influencer campaigns should still align with your larger content strategy and brand image so that they enhance your overall brand reputation. Here are three reasons to add influencer marketing to your overall marketing strategy:
- Extend Your Reach
By partnering with a social media influencer, you can piggyback on someone else’s follower base. Your brand will have greater access to a more focused demographic. Influencers are thought leaders within their niche and therefore are perceived as more genuine, authentic, and, ultimately, more reliable than traditional advertisements.
- Boost Your Brand Credibility + Build Social Proof
There’s no denying the power of social proof. Studies show nearly 70 percent of online consumers look at a product review before making a purchase. Even more telling is the fact that product reviews are 12-times more trusted than product descriptions and sales copy from manufacturers. This is why partnering with influencers is so crucial to get unbiased third-party reviews and endorsements on your brand and product.
- Build SEO Value
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) today is all about natural links and those can only be earned. When an influencer shares a link, it’s shared by others, and those others share the content even further. Each share earns a new link, and if content is accessible enough, chances increase that it will get picked up by a higher authority, yielding even higher quality links.
How do you find the right social media influencer?
Similar to how Facebook Ads can get granular with their targeting, influencer marketing can provide similar targeting options with the chance of converting sales from audiences you didn’t expect. The strategy is targeting influencers within smaller niche groups. By reaching out to influencers, we’re able to tap into their already loyal audience. Like most other facets of influencer marketing, your specific content objectives will help determine which relationships will be worthy of pursuing. For example:
- If your aim is brand awareness, working with popular bloggers or social media influencers can help increase your share of voice across platforms where each is most active.
- If you are looking to retain customers or upsell, current customers make more of an impact on decision-making than a neutral third party.
Once you have decided on the types of influencers you want to engage with, you can use keyword-based searches to uncover influencers that relate to your chosen topic.
Below is a list of some ways we can identify influencers which would assuredly have audiences that share similar interests:
Keywords / Topics
Every brand’s products/services can be placed into certain categories (e.g. Fashion, Beauty, Tech, Health, Travel, Apps, Finance, etc.), and you can be certain some influencers share those topics with their audience. By partnering with influencers from a particular niche segment, you can see a high rate of conversion and, in turn, you are able to apply these learnings and create ads to target this group.
Is your product/service intended mainly for men or women? Influencers have an audience comprised of both sexes; however, they usually lean toward one end of the spectrum – it’s rare to see a 50/50 split. It’s not always the case that an influencer has an audience that is predominantly the same sex as them. For example, female models on Instagram might have a larger male audience and vice versa.
While our tools allow us to find influencers based on their gender, we take the time to go through the comments to gain insight into their audience. This makes it possible to see the relationship that influencers have with their audience (for example, do they respond to their audience’s questions).
Targeting influencers by location can be imperative if your brand is only offering products in a limited geographic region.
There are plenty of tools to help you identify people with vast and engaged networks talking about topics that matter including The Shelf, Traackr, and Revfluence. However, it’s important to remember that reach alone does not indicate a powerful influencer—you also need the other two Rs: relevance and resonance.
Sometimes a smaller follower count can be powerful in a niche area. In fact, studies have found that partnering with “micro-influencers” can provide a much better return on investment (ROI) than trying to snag a big celebrity. Markerly’s analysis of 800,000 Instagram users found that influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers offer the best combination of resonance and reach.
Micro-influencers will move the needle for your brand and cost a fraction of what you would pay a mega-celebrity.
Another great way to get a sense of an influencer’s tone and audience is to research collaborations they’ve done in the past. You can do this by looking at the backlinks in their posts. Looking at these recent brand partnerships allows you to see the price range of products the influencer regularly promotes to their audience. For example, an influencer that talks about thrifty goods wouldn’t be the correct person to collaborate with to promote luxury goods.
Working with influencers that have promoted competitors’ products doesn’t necessarily mean they should be marked off as a potential candidate. Their audience may only be aware of that one product, but by having the influencer promote your product, their audience will be introduced to another product. Sometimes, instead of aiming to have a dedicated post or video, it’s more effective and cost efficient if you include your product in a “round-up” of other products.
How do you choose the right channel?
To make sure your influencer campaign is effective, you need to coordinate all your social media platforms and align your efforts with all your other marketing endeavors, such as events, new blog posts, etc. Developing your marketing strategies around your influencer marketing campaign will help you push your audience through your sales funnel.
Always keep these things in mind when carrying out your campaign:
Use relevant hashtags
Split your campaign budget to use more than one influencer
Share your influencer’s posts
Always negotiate pricing
* A Note On Compensation: Today, it is common for social media influencers to require payment for brand content promotion. If you do decide to work with high-profile players, here are a few tips to ensure you get the best value.
- Establish A Budget
Before you begin outreach, set an initial budget for outreach.
- Evaluate The Value of Their Engagements & Content:
Make sure the influencer you are negotiating with has the clout and dedication to meet your quality expectations and your goals whether that is the number of hits, qualified leads, content, etc.
- Ask For Their Media Kit
If applicable, ask for an influencers’ media kit. This is a great way to see at a glance the size of their network, their communication style, their audience demographic, and what channels they are most active on.
- Spend Smartly
Just because you have a small budget doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact. Sometimes it better to spend your budget amongst a few micro influencers or try to find a high-tier influencer who shares your brand’s passion and may be eager to work with you in some capacity.
How do you establish a relationship with influencers?
Though influencers may come off as superhumans, it is important to remember that every inch of them is just as human as the rest of us. Influencers enjoy being warmed up to and getting to know their followers as well as the people they collaborate with on campaigns. The necessity of building and maintaining lasting relationships lies at the heart of influencer marketing. Here are a few tactics for building the best relationships with your influencers.
- Reach Out Slowly
Instead of sending out a generic mass email to a wide selection of influencers, aim to connect with influencers on an individual level. Connect with them where they are already spending their time. For example, if you have an influencer whose primary platform is Instagram, challenge yourself to engage with their content in a way that adds value. Engagement can include commenting on a post and then eventually sending them a direct message. For influencers that are constantly on the go, you can offer them something that will better equip them for their next vacation, project, or life event.
- Create Mutual Value
After you have already established a relationship with an influencer, instead of it being a one-off collaboration, aim to maintain and nurture the relationship. Pay attention to your target influencers’ overall business goals or personal interests. If you have a mutually beneficial opportunity, don’t hesitate to make connections within your network. Opportunities can be as simple as making a formal introduction between your connection and the influencer. You can also share their content on your social channels to increase their brand awareness.
- Keep Track Of Them
After you have grown your influencer network to more than 15 influencers, it becomes harder to manage than it did when there were just five influencers. Organization is key when it comes to making sure you are presenting the right information to the right influencer. Confusing a Mother influencer with a Sports influencer can have big consequences because they are from completely different segments.When organizing your influencer network, you must make sure to know which segment the influencer is from and where you are regarding the communication pipeline. Read your emails carefully if you aren’t fully certain, and make notes whenever possible. Note taking is especially helpful when you learn that an influencer is unsatisfied or likes something to be done in a certain way.
How do you measure success?
Influencer marketing isn’t just all about likes, shares, and comments. As with any proper marketing tactic, an ROI is expected. The question becomes how do you measure the ROI with influencer marketing campaigns?
Brands spend millions of dollars on influencer marketing every year, but unfortunately, most of them are not accurately tracking their efforts. Especially, if you’re planning on having a long-term influencer marketing program, it’s critical to understand which influencers are performing the best. This way you can allocate your resources to the top performers and pull resources away from those who are not performing well.To set up a successful marketing campaign, you need to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
KPIs to consider include:
- Impressions & Engagements
Impressions are the number of times an influencer’s post is viewed. The number of impressions is one way to identify the effectiveness of branded campaigns.As mentioned previously, gauging the success of a post solely based on likes is not indicative of campaign success. Engagement is crucial. Engagement means taking a look at the shares, comments, and likes as a whole. By looking at these interactions between a customer and an influencer you are able to see how your customers are interacting with a post.
Influencer marketing can also lead to conversions. With the right tools, you can track the path from initial exposure to purchase. Here are three ways conversions can be tracked during an influencer campaign:
- UTM Parameters: These short text codes can be added to a URL to track relevant data about website visitors and traffic sources. You can create them for your influencers to use when they share content on social media so you can track how much engagement the campaign is receiving.
- Google Analytics: Use GA to review referral traffic and track lead and sales conversions. These stats will provide valuable insight into what influencer content is driving the most traffic. Pay close attention to the “referral visitors” section of referral traffic in GA, as this metric tracks the people coming to your website from other websites.
- Promo Codes: Customize discount codes for each influencer. Not only does this help you track the impact of your campaign, but it also creates a sense of urgency and extra incentive for viewers to buy your product.
Here is a quick glance at some additional KPIs you can track, based on the objectives you established at the start of your program.
Image Source: Content Marketing Institute
Pro-tip: Even with the most successful approaches, not all collaborations will be perfect. It’s important to start monitoring and measuring from the onset and continue to review your influencer engagements, analyzing how each one is performing. This way you can refine or revise terms if necessary.
What you need to know about FTC Compliance:
Recent fumbles by Lord & Taylor and Warner Bros. have brought industry awareness to the legal requirements surrounding influencer marketing. So before you roll out any type of influencer campaign, you need to be sure you’re doing it right. The primary goal of influencer marketing is to establish authentic connections, so a brand should never attempt to use influencers to conceal the promotional nature of their messages.
As of April 2017, the FTC has cracked down on influencer sponsored content particularly surrounding what constitutes proper disclosure. Per the FTC, merely thanking the brand is not enough, as it could be misconstrued as an organic experience with a brand or product. Additionally, the hashtag #partner is also not explicit enough. Instead, brands and influencers must use words like #sponsored or #ad on every piece of content. Failure to adhere to the guidelines will result in consequences for the individual, the company being sponsored, and even the social platforms themselves.
Influencer Marketing Trends for 2017
Authenticity is the most important aspect of influencer marketing, and the only way to achieve authenticity is by owning relationships and building out an influencer network with brand mentions that are done frequently, not once.
As influencer marketing continues to rise, we will start to see an emphasize on long-term partnerships instead of one-off projects. It’s been proven that consumers respond to frequent
brand mentions from those that they follow in a way that is unprecedented by any other advertising method. Just like you wouldn’t create a display ad for one impression or a commercial for one airing, you should never approach influencer marketing as a one-time mention.
The future of influencer marketing will see brands partnering with influencers for much longer contracts that include exclusivity. While this may already be the case for higher-tiered influencers that have already hit stardom, we’ll see smaller brands partnering with mid-tier influencers in the same fashion. This, in turn, will lead to brands releasing more lines of products/services under the names of influencers as revenue share models become the norm.
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