Brands are sitting up and taking notice of the real relevance of influencer marketing. From being dismissed as a mere trend riding the wave of the dynamic world of social media, influencer marketing is increasingly being included as a core part of forward-thinking business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing strategies.
For example, research cited by Digiday UK says that leading up to 2017, globally, marketers spent $570 million on influencer marketing on Instagram alone.
What is a social media influencer?
A social media influencer is an individual who is regarded as a subject matter expert in a niche area and who tends to express their opinions on a range of digital platforms. They usually have engaged audiences who listen to them and trust their opinions. They have a high potential to influence the purchasing decisions of their audience.
Influencer marketing has matured in the last decade. From solely relying on big name celebrities, brands are increasingly keen to filter their messaging through regular people (also referred to as micro influencers) with smaller but often highly engaged audiences on a variety of social media platforms.
How to establish a brand to influencer relationship from the beginning.
The world of influencer marketing can sometimes feel like a game of lucky dip – presenting both brands and influencers with an overwhelming range of options to choose from, often accompanied by a dose of scepticism at the claims made by both sides.
Brands are wise to question the credibility of influencers who present large social media follower numbers and the promise of wide reach. Reach does not always mean engagement.
So how can brands ensure they are choosing the right influencers to work with and that their relationship with the influencer is mutually beneficial? Below we present a few suggestions that may help guide the decision making process.
Establish brand fit
It might be tempting to rush into a relationship with an influencer. However, brands must consider a few things first, top of which is how representative the influencer is of their brand values.
Savvy and time constrained online audiences are looking for authenticity and relevance and will quickly tune out messaging that does not match those attributes. Experienced social media influencers who have gained the trust of their followers are careful not to squander that trust.
Be clear about objectives
Influencers often get approached by a large number of brands, some of whom may have clear ideas about what they expect to achieve from the relationship. However, there are many others whose objectives may not always be immediately clear or achievable.
Some core marketing objectives should include:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Website traffic increase
- Increasing engagement
- Increasing number of followers on social channels
The influencer typically knows their audience and their subject matter to a reasonable degree. This places them in a position where they can lead the conversation towards a more realistic set of objectives based on their knowledge and experience of the target market.
Brands should be open to challenge from influencers about their campaign objectives with a view to achieving clarity and potentially modifying their budgets to make them more fit-for-purpose.
Critical to the success of the influencer/brand relationship is having a clear understanding of the deliverables expected from the engagement. These should always be agreed upfront with the influencer.
Examples of deliverables include:
- type of content to be developed e.g., written content, video, photography;<
- key messages to be highlighted in the content;
- hashtags to be used;
- frequency and number of posts;
- progress reports and performance statistics.
While respecting the unique creative voice of the influencer, brands should expect to provide a basic set of guidelines to the influencer as well as a reasonable level of review and approval before deliverables go live.
Finally, focus on the long term
Like in any other type of relationship, for influencer marketing to work, brands need to think long term.
A one-off blog post, video or product review might look great in the short term but its impact could be further enhanced when the content is situated within a long term ecosystem.
This ecosystem includes incentives to keep gained audiences engaged (e.g., using timed giveaways), opportunities to repurpose the content (e.g., on the anniversary of a product launch) and ongoing reiteration of the content by the brand. Influencers need to position themselves as partners with the brand to support this longer term relationship.