What I've Learned From Spending $10 Million on Influencer Marketing
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Influencer marketing is quickly becoming a key strategy for brands interested in tapping into new audiences via social networks. According to a recent study, over 90 percent of marketers who are engaged in some form of influencer marketing believe it is effective.
Organizations as diverse as Rolex, Sephora and Hugo Boss have used some form of influencer marketing in recent months. The reason is simple: Audiences trust influencers more than traditional advertisements. One report shows that members Generation Z abhor the idyllic depiction of life seen in most traditional ads, and prefer content that feels more realistic, such as that generated by users or trusted people they follow on social media.
I've worked with countless clients on influencer marketing programs, in the process managing over $10 million. Along the way, I've learned that the most successful influencer marketing campaigns have elements in common. Here is my advice to brands and to marketers as they consider implementing an influencer marketing campaign.
1. Quantity does not always mean quality.
When evaluating the potential impact of an influencer, it is tempting to go with the one who has more social media followers. More followers should mean more reach, and more reach will mean more visitors and ultimately more customers. Right?
It turns out, though, that it's better to choose a social media influencer who has a smaller but more dedicated audience than to go with numbers alone. As the co-founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, was told by his mentor, "It is better to have 100 customers who love you than a million customers who sort of like you." A smaller influencer who is focused on your niche and has passionate followers will have more impact than a blockbuster influencer who couldn't care less about your brand.
The content created by the influencer should subtly promote your product or service. That means it is best to work with an influencer who might naturally use your product or service. This will make it much easier for him or her to create compelling content.
2. Influencer campaigns can be measured in some way.
Contrary to popular opinion, at least some aspects of influencer marketing can be measured. While certain things like brand awareness or brand sentiment might be hard to quantify on their own, taking a look at website visits or search activity can provide marketers with a good approximation.
Referral traffic is one metric that can easily be monitored via a tracking link. This will help marketers understand if an influencer is able to drive traffic to a brand's website. From there, marketers can monitor website behavior to determine if visitors engage with content (a sign that they are qualified) or if they immediately exit the site (a sign that they are unqualified).
Another metric to monitor is branded search volume. It may be difficult for an influencer to drive direct website visits. This is especially true on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, where sharing a URL is harder than on other networks. To approximate the impact an influencer has on the behavior of your target audience, use a tool like Google Analytics or Moz to see if there is a spike in search terms directly related to your brand.
3. It's a long-term game.
Influencer marketing usually serves as a brand awareness tactic that encourages social media users to take steps to learn more about your brand. For this reason, the best influencer marketing strategies have a lengthy time horizon.
To reap the full rewards of an influencer marketing program, marketers should have strategies in place to retarget website visitors through ads, to capture website visitor information through gated content and to encourage continued engagement through email workflows.
Creating a long-term strategy to develop relationships with prospective customers who learned about your brand through an influencer will help to increase the return on investment your organization sees in the long run.
4. Cross-platform consistency is key.
Just as retail brands have an omni-channel strategy to meet customers wherever they are, brands that use influencer marketing should ensure that a consistent message is presented to social media users across platforms.
If an influencer has a meaningful audience on multiple platforms, be sure to work out a deal that involves cross-channel promotion. After all, some fans of the influencer may only follow him or her on one platform. Those who do follow the influencer across platforms will be better exposed to your brand. As was mentioned above, one way to capitalize on the awareness generated by an influencer is to retarget those website visitors with display ads.
5. Recognize that influencers are people too.
Working with an influencer is not like creating an ad on DoubleClick or AdSense. Rather, it's like building a relationship with a colleague or industry expert. Influencers are people too, and recognizing that is a surefire way to receive additional support from key industry influencers.
Over the last few years, I've made friends with hundreds of influencers. That has helped me get better deals and some free plugs here and there. More important, though, it's made the influencers genuinely loyal to the brands I bring to them, to the point where even after the partnership is over they continue to use the product and talk about it.
Time to get started.
Nearly 75 percent of marketers say that they have allocated at least some budget to influencer marketing. In a world where television ads are avoided because of live streaming and display ads are blocked with ad blockers, influencer marketing provides brands with a meaningful connection to prospective customers.
To begin a successful influencer marketing campaign, remember that when evaluating potential influencers, the number of followers is not a good indication of how much of an impact an influencer will make. Instead, try to identify influencers with passionate followers who care about products in your industry.
To get the most out of an influencer marketing investment, marketers should ensure that a proper customer journey has already been established. Retargeting ads, nurturing emails and related social media content should be prepared so that marketers see positive long-term return on investment from influencer marketing campaigns.
Lastly, remember that influencers are people, too. Building strong relationships with industry influencers can have a number of positive results, including free promotion if the influencer is passionate about your brand.