Are you interested in creating and implementing an influencer marketing strategy? All you need to do is find someone with a large social media presence and authority in their field. Use their reach to spread information about your products and services. And watch your sales skyrocket. How hard can it be? Lots of companies are doing it. But in reality, it’s not always that easy.
If you’re familiar with celebrity endorsements, you already know that the relationship can get complicated really fast. The same is true for influencers. The last thing you want is for your vegan influencer to get caught eating a steak, or for your travel blogger to Photoshop themselves into a distant location they’ve never visited.
Before you start working with influencers to raise your brand visibility, there are best practices you must follow. It’s relatively easy to get influencer marketing right, by ensuring that you conduct your due diligence, build an authentic partnership, and have strategies to deploy in case of a public-relations disaster.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Although influencer marketing is similar to celebrity endorsements, not every influencer is a celebrity. In fact, most are just ordinary people that others like and follow. They provide word-of-mouth credibility and lend familiarity to your products that attract genuine supporters.
They may be just plain folks, but they are personable and relatable, and have sway among your target audience. People listen to them. They are the ones who blog or post regularly on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, organically engaging with their followers.
No matter the market, influencer marketing is a strategy that can work for any brand. Influencers can be athletes, gamers, single moms, beauty bloggers, crafters, or people who have expertise, interest, or even just strong opinions in certain areas. They may be quirky, funny, ironic, compelling, or super confident. When they express themselves, their thousands of followers notice, like, repost, respond, and keep the buzz going.
As a savvy marketer, you can channel this energy for your brand. You just need to select the right influencers.
How To Find a Great Influencer
Look for an influencer who regularly posts high-quality, entertaining content that is relevant to your target. The content must be clear, consistent, and free from unprofessional errors. However, be careful not to rob the influencer of their authenticity by insisting on too much perfection. You want to ensure that the influencer is respectful to their followers without changing their voice.
Remember that influencers are human. They can and do post opinions that may enrage and offend — and have nothing to do with their work with you. Examine their past content thoroughly. You don’t want an influencer who will bring negative attention to your brand. They will post plenty of content in addition to the marketing they do for you. Make sure that you are comfortable with how they present themselves at all times.
It makes sense to use a credible agency to find influencers. They can investigate to ensure that an influencer matches your target demographics. The most important part of an influencer marketing strategy is engagement. An influencer with a few thousand engaged followers can be better — and more cost-effective — than someone with a million followers who barely engage. Consider starting smaller and growing along with your influencers. They’ll feel a special connection to your brand if it is one of the first to recognize them.
Build an Authentic Partnership
The best influencer partnerships are authentic. Look for influencers with similar values. Your brand should fit comfortably with the influencer’s image. At the same time, allow the influencer to have the type of creative freedom they need. You were attracted to the influencer because of the genuine rapport they have with your target audience.
Let your influencer’s voice come through. They can speak to the target audience in a way that resonates with them. That audience can tell the difference between an influencer who’s delivering a sales pitch and one who actually loves your product.
5 Tips for Success
For every influencer indiscretion that is out of a sponsor’s control, there are probably a dozen preventable missteps by the companies. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure that your influencer marketing campaign is successful:
- Know where your target audience hangs out. The social media platforms are different and, consequently, require different strategies. Don’t assume that your audience is on Instagram just because they are Gen Z. Do the research.
- Avoid giving the influencer word-by-word posts. Influencers are not actors, and giving them creative freedom is important. Whatever script or copy you give them may be inauthentic to their brand and may not benefit them, their followers, or your brand.
- Talk to your influencer directly. Don’t just send them products to hype. Build a relationship, or you may end up with an unexpected negative review.
- Review sponsored content first, then publish. This extra step isn’t about controlling the influencer. Rather, it is about ensuring alignment and avoiding embarrassing outcomes.
- Take the time to vet your marketing concepts. Don’t be lulled into complacency by the immediacy of social media. If you are doing something that might be considered controversial, avoid a PR nightmare by running the idea by a group of stakeholders first.
Handle Public-Relations Concerns Fast
Despite your best efforts to find great influencers, they are mere mortals. There may be an occasional snafu that requires you to put on your PR hat.
We have already suggested that you review sponsored marketing before it’s published. But that’s Monday-morning quarterbacking, which won’t help after the play unfolds. The relationship between you and your influencer is based on shared values. If the influencer does something that goes against your values and damages your brand, you have only one choice: Cut ties immediately.
There are many influencers out there. If you’ve been strategic in your approach, you onboarded more than one. Don’t waste time trying to retract words or repair what’s broken. Issue a statement reaffirming your brand values and, if it makes sense, take action that demonstrates your commitment.