Once upon a time, great brand strategists understood that one of the best ways to reach consumers was through the people they love and align with.
At its core, it’s a great idea! Get leaders, celebrities or someone with an audience you want to reach to talk about your brand and influence their fans to check you out.
The rise of social media made it even easier to tap into these influencer networks as brands and agencies had to do less detective work; it became relatively easy to find people online who appear to have vast influence based solely on numbers of fans and followers.
And this is where it all went wrong. Instead of focusing on the right influencers and really digging into their audience, it became about sheer numbers.
Influencer marketing has become a very misunderstood and expensive strategy that is not always effective; in fact, it can often end up missing the mark (and your audience, not to mention ROI) by a mile.
In an effort to grab a piece of the action, agencies have started throwing buckets of money at so-called influencers to try to get them to chat about clients’ products. It’s why the venerable Wall Street Journal refers to the industry as a hot mess.
The problem is, without a well-conceived plan, we end up seeing off-target people and poorly executed campaigns. Case in point: Reality TV personality Scott Disick had one job (to post sponsored content) and did it wrong.
To make matters worse, automation has entered the influencer sphere, making this activity more like programmatic advertising than honest, person-to-multitudes messaging.
You can do it right
Influencer marketing done right is about delivering real value, with authentic stories and content that attract and retain consumers. It’s not all about having a giant social footprint.
Real and results-driven influencer marketing needs to be treated as what it is at its core: true brand-to-consumer public relations. Therefore, advertisers (and agencies) must:
- understand their audiences and the influencers who could make a difference;
- carefully vet those influencers; and
- provide them with well-prepared, targeted content for their audiences.
An effective communications plan ALWAYS starts with a strategy
Smart influencer marketing requires an effective strategy with three-way alignment between the brand, the influencer and the end user. To develop an effective influencer strategy, we have to let consumers — and data — lead the way.
- What is your goal? Is this a product launch or a sales campaign? How will you define winning? By understanding your business’s overarching goals and key success measures, you’ll better ensure your influencer marketing program can achieve maximum ROI.
- Who are you talking to? Determine audience insights and overall brand objectives. Look at known purchase barriers, points of differentiation, executional mandatories and specific timing considerations.
- What type of content will work best to accomplish your goal? Educational or entertainment? Long or short form? What’s the right tone? Video, photos or heavy on text?
- What social networks does your audience live on?
- Identify your influencers. Who has authority to speak on that topic on your priority channels? At MMI Agency, we leverage influencer networks to identify which influencers have the highest potential for reach, relevancy and resonance and ensure we have a sufficient number of influencers across digital platforms (e.g., blogs, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat).
- Develop plan/influencer list based on competitive data, ratings and reviews, social media, search queries and platform data.
- Create effective influencer briefs that drive business priorities. Our creative and social teams partner to write effective influencer briefs based on all brand inputs, client goals and channel nuances (blog needs versus Snapchat needs, for example) that will empower influencers to tell the brand’s story in a way that supports the business objective.
It’s about creating relationships, from the initial pitch to nurturing content
- The pitch: Treat influencers as you would the media — with a handcrafted pitch to the right person for the brand and the audience. Doing so allows them to create really authentic or custom content and holds the key to successful influencer selection and the subsequent campaign.
- The content: Keep in mind that the technology and scale of online influencer programs require an integrated, rigorous approach, including the content these brand advocates will share. Technology has catapulted the importance of influencers in recent years, and marketers should be mindful of the important role these third-party endorsements play in telling a brand’s story (and encouraging consumers along their path to purchase).
The influencers you’ve retained will determine whether or not they or the agency will create sponsored content that reaches the right consumers in the right way.
Bottom line: Influencer-specific content is a vital part of your storytelling. A positive experience with appropriate influencers and the right messaging will get consumers to take action.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.