It’s no surprise that influencer marketing is important in today’s marketing mix for brands, advertisers and agencies to consider and plan for. Where the challenge comes in is how to discern its place in the overall funnel and investment strategy.
What is an influencer, anyway?
An influencer is defined as an individual who has the power to affect others’ purchase decisions because of his or her authority, knowledge and relationship with his or her audience or niche.
Influencers have gone through quite the evolution since the notion officially “launched” in the 1890s, when Nancy Green (better known as Aunt Jemima) became the local face of a little pancake brand, moving to fictional characters (Marlboro Man, Old Spice Man) and then to celebrities. But in today’s world dominated by the millennial and Gen Z market, authenticity, relevancy and relatability are the most imperative and successful traits for any and all marketing efforts. This has flipped the equation, and instead of celebrities being influencers, influencers are now the celebrities.
And why is this history lesson relevant? Because creating a connecting thread is important to success with influencer marketing today.
Making authentic connections: Authenticity is born out of relatability, which is born out of relevancy, which in turn is born out of connecting with audiences in meaningful ways.
Having a distinct tone of voice and style: Ownability of voice and having a unique look and feel are paramount to the success of an influencer’s identity. This ownability and uniqueness directly impact relevancy and relatability.
Designing for cross-channel: Influencers aren’t just influencing on Instagram or Snapchat. Working with your selected influencers to tap into their engaged audience across all platforms is a huge priority, one that often goes overlooked.
Having a unique and engaged audience: Brands want to work with influencers because they see that they have sway or pull with a certain audience or demographic relevant to the brand. Work with that. Co-create briefings and vision alongside the influencers, as they have the best insights into what and how they influence. And always think beyond the quantity of engagements and lean more into quality. That’s the true key to success.
There are also many potential pitfalls to be aware of when strategizing and executing successful influencer campaigns. Here’s some advice to follow along the way.
Understand how to execute it
With most influencer agencies offering both a managed service and a self-service option, what will work best for your organization? If you have the staff, expertise and operational know-how, is paying an extra fee for managed service beneficial? If your structure allows for successful execution, paying sometimes 5 percent less in fees to use self-service is the better option.
Set yourself up for measurement success
Historically, measurement of influencer campaigns has been the largest hurdle for most companies to get over (76 percent of them, in fact). It all starts with a successful brief. Devise a thought-provoking and creatively-driven brief with clear brand and campaign needs to be spelled out. Are you driving website traffic? If so, say it and provide trackable links. Are you wanting to shift perception or drive awareness of a new product, service or something else? If so, provide the right terminology that you want to be used and set up searches in a social listening tool to measure a clear shift in conversation.
Who should manage and execute influencer campaigns?
This is a big topic for agencies. Which group is best set up for success in managing influencer campaigns? Is it the social team, where most influencers are well-versed in strategies to impact social platforms? Is it the PR/communications team, where crisis management and perception shifts are often managed from? Or is it a content/creative team, which is familiar with building successful content strategies for groups and publishers to act on? Let me suggest something groundbreaking: Have all of the teams work together with an identified leader. When all prongs of marketing and communication work hand-in-hand, your influencer strategies will cover all needed veins of strategies.
So, what’s on the horizon?
As influencer marketing matures from adolescence into young adulthood, we will see a shift to more designated budgets on flowcharts, always-on campaigns and results driven across the full marketing funnel. With influencers really providing more than just influence, marketers will be able to connect more easily with them as well as partner with them to generate content. Content for the social feed isn’t cheap, and influencers can offset that cost. Finally, brands and agencies will need to get more sophisticated and rigorous with their legal teams and processes as the FTC continues to crack down.