It seems like you can’t go anywhere at the moment without somebody talking about Influencer Marketing. Grown-ups do it, kids do it, even dogs and cats do it. So, just how did word of mouth marketing become young again and morph into digital influencing? And what’s more, just how did it climb the ranks so rapidly to become one of the most essential elements of a modern marketing strategy?
Reaching The ‘Ad-Blind’ Generation
According to Market Watch (2018), we’re now spending most of our waking hours staring at screens. This includes more time spent on social media and spreading out across different channels. So, unpack it from a customer’s point of view, and it makes sense. Here we are, banner blind, ad skipping, ad blocking and even paying to go ad-free, when along comes a non-invasive, credible and relatable source of information; an elusive shortcut from our trusted peers, to the products and services that will help us to win at life.
With mega-celebrity influencers such as Kylie Jenner reportedly charging up to $1 million for posts to boost brands, most marketers would agree that its power is certainly not to be underestimated. But how can smaller businesses with let’s say, more modest budgets and resources, tap into this super-charged tactic?
Building An Influencer Marketing Plan
As with any strategy or plan, it is vitally important to begin at the beginning. Conducting a mini-audit to establish the role that influencers play within your industry is key. Start with a look at the external environment, your competitors as well as the ever-changing buyer routes that your customers take on the way to purchasing your products and services.
Beyond that, whether it is a brand lift you are looking for, enquiries or clearly defined sales targets, a series of SMART objectives is a must. This can mean the difference between flailing around in the digital darkness and scoring big wins with a campaign that shines brightly. Now is the time to pin down what you are trying to achieve with influencer marketing, by when, and with exactly what budget and resources.
Finding The Right Influencers
Next up, is discovery. Many ask the question: where exactly can we find the right influencers for our business and customers? Agencies can help here along with marketing platforms such as Traaker and Hypr. Keyhole.co is also a really useful hashtag tracking tool to identify appropriate content and influencers for you.
But don’t be so busy keeping up with the Kardashians that you overlook the influencer next door. Be sure to consider micro influencers (those who have between 1000-10000 followers) and nano influencers, who typically have less than 1000, but command a specialist community following. Find the influencers who align closely with your online value proposition, we’re talking about those who have a deep connection with their followers, and actually care about what you do as an organisation.
Knowledge, experience and a loyal following are as important as authenticity in influencer marketing. Appearances can be very deceiving, so before those influencers make the shortlist, be sure to use tools such as Upfluence to check for fake followers and the use of engagement bots. Due diligence and a close examination of the comments and their engagement rates can also pay dividends here. After all, you are trusting these influencers and placing them in control of your brand, so you want to ensure that they take their paid partnerships seriously and have only your audience’s best interests at heart.
Making initial contact is likely to mean getting in touch with micro influencers through an email or direct message while further up the scale, larger influencers will often have agents in place and these details should be in the profile biographies. At this stage, remember that you are building a potentially long-term and lucrative partnership from the ground up, so take the time to make sure they fully understand your brand, goals and payment arrangements so you can manage expectations successfully and smoothly on both sides.
Much like any campaign, we need to resist being bogged down by our daily workloads and allow measurements to play a key role. It’s imperative to understand what success looks like, so take a look back at your objectives and view the bigger business picture to understand where you are achieving your goals and determine what is working and what isn’t.
Keep in mind that it’s a brave new (ish) world and as influencer marketing increasingly dominates the social centre stage, regulators are raising their eyebrows as quickly as customers are getting savvier. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched a review last year into whether current guidelines on influencer content are fit for purpose and suggested that “People shouldn’t have to play the detective to work out if they’re being advertised to,”
Influencers who are in the know, are taking strides to ensure that they do not ruin their reputation by hoodwinking their audiences and potentially becoming known as a sell-out. So, for businesses, adopting this medium will require a razor-sharp awareness of ongoing changes to stay within the legislation and the good books. From #ad to #spon and paid partnership notices, now is the time to follow good practice and double down on transparency in this old game with new rules.
This blog post was written by Sue Ollerhead, Managing Director of Heads Up Marketing and Senior Tutor with Oxford College of Marketing.
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