When you hear the phrase “social influencer” you may think of a trendy new marketing fad, but they have always existed. They were your local DJs, fashionistas, socialites and friends. Social media has given rise to a new breed of social influencers capable of driving 16 times more engagement with your target audience than paid or owned media programs.
Social influencers can provide a cost-effective way for startups and smaller businesses operating on a limited marketing budget to reach new customers. However, like any campaign, there are crucial steps that need to be followed to ensure your brand and product are presented to the right audience and by the right influencers.
1. Identify. Pick a platform before you start looking for an influencer. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all have great transparency into performance. Consider Twitter a default, and add Instagram if your brand skews younger or has a compelling visual element; and add Facebook for older audiences.
Next, based on how large your market is, you’ll need to decide between a local influencer or an international influencer. Regardless of your choice, the influencer’s audience needs to match your target customer. Look for people followed by a majority of your customers, or who drive a lot conversation about your brand category. Generally avoid celebrities, unless you work with a social media expert, as the chance you’ll make a bad choice is greater and more costly.
A real influencer sparks action. If the influencer has a million followers but only ten people engage with his regular content, even fewer people will engage with your branded content.
2. Engage. Once you’ve identified your target influencers, you need to make a deal. Most influencers keep their contact information in their bio and are willing to tell you an approximate cost for a brand engagement.
Generally, you will want the influencer to repost your content, create their own content, or personally engage with your brand, on-location or at home. The tactic that has the greatest chance for success is typically the one that focuses more on the influencer than your product.
The best way to gain the trust and attention of the influencer's audience is to have the influencer engage with your product and either create content around the brand or testify as to what the product has done for them.
Once you know what you want the influencer to do, build a hypothesis of what you think each influencer’s actions could be worth. Whether its 500 visits to your site or ten mailing list sign-ups, you need to know what potential success would look like. Communicate your goal to the influencers, as they oftentimes have insight into their audience and can tell you the feasibility of your goal.
3. Execute. Now it’s time to set up your campaign(s). If possible, run each influencer campaign on a different day and give them each different tracking links, promo codes and/or a unique landing page so you can measure their impact separately. Also, make sure the influencer discloses that they’ve been paid for the post. Typically, it is acceptable to have the influencer include #ad, #advertisement or #sponsored in their post.
4. Measure. Now here’s the fun part….more math! Measure your first campaign and see how close each influencer was to your original hypothesis. Run more campaigns with the ones who met or exceeded your expectations. Drop the ones who didn’t.
5. Execute again. Once you’ve found influencers who work for you in a specific way, such as reposting your product videos, experiment with different tactics and platforms. Try running a contest where one of their followers can win an experience with your product, maybe with the influencer. After you’ve done this a few times you can develop a stable of key influencers who you can rely on for marketing. They may also help with natural introductions to other, similar influencers.
Remember that real influence causes action, so don’t pay much attention to follower numbers. Instead, keep your calculator handy to analyze the effectiveness of each influencer. Social influencers can wield a tremendous amount of power with your target audience, but that power must always be used wisely.