Welcome to the era of Influencer Marketing. The rise of social media has allowed more people to share more information to a wider audience. This paved the way for a new breed of celebrities: The digital influencers. Today, with virtually everyone using social media for a variety of purposes, any one of us might influence someone else’s purchasing decision on something depending on our relationship, the context of the conversation, and the timing.
The more mainstream social media becomes in the fabric of our society, the more democratized social media influence becomes.
Together with Employee Advocacy, Influencer Marketing was one of the hot topics at this year’s Social Tools Summit, and I expect it will continue to be a topic of much discussion in 2016.
Influencer Marketing? Is it just a passing trend?
Many of you reading this might already know the answer to this question, but it bears repeating. In simple terms, Influencer Marketing is when a consumer’s buying decision is influenced by someone that we call an “influencer.” It could be a celebrity, a friend, a colleague, or a blogger, but the commonality vis a vis social media is that they are often 1) connected with influencers in social as a follower and/or reader and 2) the influencer is perceived as a trustworthy entity.
As our influencer marketing columnist Raymond Morin blogged sometimes ago, there are 3 main types of influencers:
opinion leaders (traditional media, online media, social media)
ambassadors (satisfied customers, happy employees)
With the democratization of social media influence, there are simply more people that yield influence in social media. Perhaps this is one reason why Influencer Marketing continues to soar in 2015. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, because numerous stats have already documented the power of online recommendations:
- A Nielsen report that shows that 84% of worldwide consumers will take action based on the reviews and recommendations of trusted sources above all other forms of advertising. These “trusted sources” are often our friends that we engage with in social media.
- A DemandGen study that shows that 72% of B2B buyers use social media to research a purchase and 53% rely on trusted recommendations to make that purchase.
- A Sprout Social survey that says that 74% of consumers rely on their social networks to guide purchase decisions.
- A Forrester Research report that 85% of B2B decision-makers rely on trusted online communities when researching business technologies.
While the potential for Influencer Marketing is huge, many companies still don’t have a formal strategy in place vis a vis to planning, measuring and optimizing the ROI from investing in such a program. Now it’s time to create one, and you can do so by following these 6 steps:
1) Research who your influencers are and where they exist in social media
To leverage on the power of influencers for your business, you have to know where they are. Thanks to social media, it’s easy for businesses to find out who potential influencers might be. You can do a simple search by keyword and hashtags to identify who is making their voice heard. Unfortunately, this can be very time-consuming.
This is where a sophisticated tool like Little Bird comes in. This tool will take away your tedious manual search with its ability to analyze and identify shakers and movers in your field and if they are perceived to be able to influence other leaders and key businesses.
With Little Bird, you can create an influencer network map that shows you three things:
How influencers are connected to you
How you are connected to influencers
How you compare to your competitors
From this information, you can then identify which influencers best match your goals so you can start engaging.
2.) Create an influencer marketing strategy
Knowing where influencers exist online is only the beginning. You have to know how to use the information you have to your advantage with an objective in mind, ideally one that aligns with your business goals for social media as I recommend in Maximize Your Social.
Every company will have a different Influencer Marketing strategy as objectives will differ, but some of the more popular business objectives I’ve seen are:
raise brand awareness
generate leads and sales
increase customer loyalty
Knowing the end in mind is critical so that you don’t get lost in both what type of relationship you want with influencer as well as how you plan to measure the ROI of that relationship.
3.) Understand what influencers are talking about online
Have you ever read a Twitter chat that made you cringe? Because someone unwittingly replied to a tweet without fully understanding the context? That’s not the type of engagement you need for your business.
Understand what influencers are talking about online and you can easily plan for an effective engagement strategy and content production.
Following your influencers is one thing, discovering trends relevant to your market from their social media updates is another important piece of data that you should utilize. This will help you come up with content that your audience can easily resonate with.
4.) Engage with influencers online authentically
Aim to make influencers take interest in you and co-create with you by building a lasting relationship through authentic engagement and, providing helpful and insightful information.
Reach out to influencers and be authentic. Show them you genuinely value their opinions, products and services not just by following them, retweeting their tweets or liking their posts.
Be creative in building genuine engagement by:
Respond to their audiences’ questions in comments
Invite them to a podcast or interview
Give them an exclusive product, service, or preview
- Become a case study for them
Click here for more relationship building tactics that get influencer’s attention.
The more you do this, the more you will build your own credibility with top influencers and their community.
5.) Use Paid Social Media to amplify relevant influencer marketing content
I’ve been evangelizing the value of Paid Social since writing Maximize Your Social in the spring of 2013. Assuming you’ve followed the previous 4 steps and have already invested in a sophisticated influencer marketing platform, you already know who the prominent players in your field are will make it easier for you to utilize paid social media marketing.
Here is an example: Export a list of your influencers’ Twitter handles and their “relevant” followers to Twitter ad platform and create a “tailored audience” or “follower” targeting feature so you can specifically showcase your content to them.
6.) Measure and adjust
Do you feel like you are winging your influencer marketing strategy in the dark? Just like the mistake that most companies make with a (or lack of a) social media strategy, you did a little Planning, a LOT of Doing, but little to no Checking and measuring and therefore no way to adjust and optimize your Influencer Marketing based on a data-driven approach.
It’s important to know, that at the end of the day, it’s not about how many people you’ve reached. It’s about how many “right people” you have influenced, and how the measurement of that aligns with your Influencer Marketing strategy objectives.
As you continually tweak your strategy, don’t miss out on the content marketing intelligence that can be gleaned from your influencer data. Search for trends and patterns that will help you shape your message. Understand it so you can to craft appropriate content for every audience. Customize your message for each market segmentation.
How strategic of an initiative has a formal Influencer Marketing program become for your brand?