Influencer marketing has grown up. While once considered a low scale, somewhat risky endeavor with hard-to-measure results, it has since become a legitimate and productive marketing channel for brands. In fact, according to an April 2017 study from ANA and PQ Media, total brand spending on influencer marketing is projected to reach $101 billion by 2020.
As businesses are increasing their influencer marketing budgets, it’s vital to ensure they’re getting the quality product and, ultimately, ROI they expect. Many influencer platforms give a brand or agency access to lists of people that meet a specific set of criteria: follower count, demographics, keyword prominence and more. If all a brand is looking for is simple distribution of their brand message, that may be enough—but it’s not ‘influencer’ marketing. Influencer marketing, when done well, is about storytelling by respected sources, and that requires more than sending product to 50 social influencers and asking them to post pre-packaged messages with a campaign hashtag on social media platforms.
True influencers are creative, passionate experts in their subject areas, with highly engaged followers. Having them tell your brand story in an authentic and credible way is much more powerful than simply pushing out your campaign communications. Effectively working with influencers is a relationship that requires work on both ends. Whether that relationship is managed by an in-house marketing team or an external agency, there are five key tenets that can help to ensure quality sponsored brand content is developed that tells your brand’s story and delivers its message in an engaging and even inspiring manner.
Karen Koslow will be a featured speaker during the live Influencer Marketing Virtual Event July 19 presented by Chief Marketer.
Identify the right influencers
Finding the right influencers for your campaign means finding the right fit for your brand values, assignment and content needs. If your campaign is focused on visual storytelling, for example, make sure you pick an influencer with a proven ability to produce quality video. If you are delivering educational content, align with an expert in your vertical. If you are simply looking for a well-followed person in your target audience segment, you still need to consider personality, tone and manner. Make sure the influencers’ values and messaging are aligned with your brand’s—it should feel like a natural fit.
It is also important to consider audience size. Celebrity influencers offer higher reach and a particular cache, but also have lower engagement rates, so you may not always get your money’s worth. Power middle influencers (10,000-250,000 followers) and micro-influencers (less than 10,000 followers) offer higher levels of engagement because they have worked hard to cultivate an engaged audience through compelling content, and they work hard to create quality for brand partners, too.
Once you’ve identified your influencers, it’s important to vet them thoroughly to determine the authenticity of the influencer’s audience. You’ll also want to review their social posts for anything inflammatory, or anything that directly contradicts your brand’s mission. If you work with an influencer marketing agency, they will likely do the vetting for you; if you use an online platform to find influencers, you are most likely on your own to thoroughly vet the influencers for your specific brand need.
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Give influencers clear direction
Provide the influencer with a creative brief that clearly lays out the assignment details as succinctly as possible. Include the main communication points of the campaign and provide examples of what you are looking for, if possible. Eliminate extraneous information to keep them focused. The better the brief, the better the finished product.
If you work with an agency devoted to a specific industry, their experience and knowledge can be invaluable, helping to inform the creative process and work with influencers to be sure that the content is standout in the category. Agencies that specialize in influencer marketing are generally the most up-to-date on what kinds of content are most effective and which platform would be best for certain types of brand goals.
Treat every influencer marketing campaign as a collaboration
Influencer marketing is not a hands-off business—the best content requires collaboration between the brand and influencers. Have the influencers submit outlines of any blog or video content for approval before they create finished content to ensure you’re aligned on key messages and campaign requirements. And as the campaign rolls out, identify the best performing content and make suggestions to influencers to optimize the content that is still in development. If you’re including paid media amplification in your campaign, stay on top of performance of paid content and reallocate budget and/or adjust messaging when you know what’s working and what isn’t.
Trust your influencers
The driving force behind successful influencer marketing is authenticity. If you’ve done your job and picked the right influencers, you can trust that they know the best way to communicate with their audience. Give them room to cover your brand points in a way that is most genuine and engaging for their followers. Do not over prescribe; it will impact engagement.
Not only do influencers bring expertise in their vertical and their audience to the table, but they likely have significant experience working with brands, too. Listen to their ideas, and feedback about the process. You stand to learn a lot from someone who has done this with several other brands and knows what works… and what doesn’t.
Remember: the influencers you work with want your campaign to be successful, too. Give them the freedom to do what they do best.
Compensate influencers fairly
Rates are rising as more and more brands embrace influencer marketing. If you have properly vetted your influencers and determined they are the right fit, you’re getting good value for your money. Working with influencer marketing agencies that specialize in a specific vertical and have existing relationships with influencers in the space can go a long way toward getting you the best rates and performance for money.
Good influencer marketing is, at its core, good content marketing. Every brand has a story to tell, and every specially chosen influencer knows how to tell that story in his or her own words. Influencers have a relationship with their followers—they create mini communities around their subject matter and point of view. Tapping into that audience in an authentic, compelling way offers brands a unique and intimate way to build trust… and ultimately, acquire new customers.
Karen Koslow is co-founder + managing partner at Wellness Amplified, an influencer marketing agency focused on the health, wellness, nutrition + fitness verticals. Wellness Amplified partners health + wellness influencers with digital followings – healthcare professionals, wellness practitioners and healthy lifestyle advocates, with brands wanting to reach health-minded, wellness-aware consumers at scale.