Influencer Marketing has gained incredible momentum as a core strategy for building brand presence and developing awareness. The ugly duckling that was Social Media a scant few years ago has transformed into a beautiful swan called Content Marketing.  Influencers are central characters in this fairy tale. These, often self-made celebs and their loyal followers can reach new audiences for companies. But making the leap and delving into the still Wild West of this new era in marketing takes a lot of guts. More companies than ever are relying on macro- and micro-influencers. Getting their brand in front of customer’s eyes can drive sales sometimes ten times over.

But are they really prepared and equipped with a) the necessary knowledge and b) the right strategic expertise? Can brands and agencies leave the widespread experimental state of Influencer Marketing behind?

People trust who they think they know more than any form of traditional advertising. That is a fact. To be communicators and marketers brands and agencies have to consider a new model and a strategy. This new approach is entirely different from still existing  one-way broadcast methods. Meaning, brands have to set their mindset to the consumer, converse with people.

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Even after they have gotten access to a new set of audiences through an influencer as opposed to talking at people. A modern conversation with consumers is an ongoing one and goes both ways. Its called dialogue. But it still has not resonated in corporation consciousness. The power of influencers almost forces brands to change their approach. They are the princes awakening brands up from their long slumber like Sleeping Beauty from her Coma.

The following tips are by no means sufficient for any effective influencer strategy. But they give the budding Influencer Marketing manager a thread of checks to consider:

1. You Will Only Engage Your Audience if You Have a Story to Tell

Today’s world is a connected one. That also applies to consumers. They share their experiences online and over time this will shape perceptions of an entire group of digital consumers. In a sense, each individual connected consumer becomes a bit of an influencer in his/her own right. Engaging with them in this mostly mobile-first world also means that you have to adjust.  The way you want to address this audience might be a complete departure from what you have been doing.  Influencers now provide companies a unique opportunity to attract attention by weaving authentic stories around their brand and conveying a message through the mouth of those the audience trusts  – the influencer. And trust is what it is all about.

Teaming up with somebody who knows how to tell your story in the right context will deliver value. You can reach your core audience to whom you would otherwise not have access. And consequently, this will create trust for your brand and your product. BUT – and this is a big but – marketers have to let influencers do their own thing.  They have built their brand through creative storytelling that is unique to them. Their audience follows them because of the uniqueness of their content. It resonates, it evokes emotions, it influences.

2. WOM is Alive and Kickin’  and Evolving

When looking for a restaurant or a hotel for the next vacation, today’s consumers go online. They google and/or ask friends and family. Or they look for peer to peer recommendations on their social channels of choice. Why? Because all of these recommendations, endorsements and reviews have one thing in common; they all are based on personal experience. Google or banner ads can’t provide that. Studies prove this behaviour.

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And here it gets tricky. We have seen with our own eyes influencers who appear to say anything to get paid. They might be speaking with a lot of energy, but we’re not buying it. Be wary of them as they won’t help your bottom line. The influencers who bring sustainability to your Marketing strategy are the ones who have worked hard on their reputation.  They won’t do anything that would risk destroying the earned trust of their community. Advertising products of poor or questionable quality could erode that trust, diminish their followers and tarnish their status as an influencer. They would lose their valuable currency. The competition is just an Instagram account and a hashtag away.

3. About Trees and Forests

Celebrities and well-known thought leaders are easy choices for brands to act as influencers for them. But focusing only on celebrities leaves so many opportunities on the table. The real value of celebs, macro and micro influencers is hard to determine. Vanity KPIs like numbers of followers won’t tell the entire story. The intricacies of what makes a good influencer for a brand are multi-layered.

Professional analysis builds the base of every successful campaign. This analysis starts already with the influencer search. When doing campaigns with 20, 40 or even 80 influencers at a time, this can be a painstakingly minute process. Platforms can help and ease that pain but need to be vetted. As with influencers, there are a lot of bad apples out there. Investing time and resources to find the right influencer marketing platform is crucial. It is as essential for your campaigns as the product you want to sell.

4. Automate or Not Automate

The hype of interacting with chatbots, Alexa, Siri and the like cannot cover one crucial fact. When push comes to shove, customers look for genuine communication. They want to interact with humans behind a brand who are consumers just like themselves. Masterfully implemented, a hybrid solution between automated customer service and a real-live representative can achieve a flawless brand experience.

Influencer Marketing does play a role in this. It allows you to display the human side of your business. By leveraging the credibility of opinion leaders, you are able to connect with consumers on Social Media.  There’s a human behind every like, share and comment. There should also be a human on the other side ready to engage genuinely with that earned endorsement. Connecting with an audience on a personal level helps you unearth their pain points, interests and preferences. You then have a unique opportunity to tailor your service to their needs. No focus group can do that better.

5. Hello Adblockers

Who does not share the collective dislike of intrusive pop-ups, Youtube pre-roll ads, deceptive links, display and paid search ads . Ad blockers are heavily implemented and installed everywhere. The numbers are rising. Still, companies spend millions on this kind of advertising, consistently throwing all that money down the drain. Those who have adapted to the new way of marketing have gained already a huge advantage. And the gap is going to widen if the signs of digital Darwinism in Marketing are being ignored.

Picking up again on how the mobile first consumer wants to be approached mentioned in point 1. Paired with focusing for your actual core audience and not 5 million random followers, this will be a game-changer. It allows brands to break through the wall of adblockers and innate aversion towards traditional advertising.

 

Credit: Amy Shamblen @unsplash

Now What?

To launch a successful influencer campaign, brands need to learn how to dance the dance of Influencer Marketing. Just doing it on the fly will set you up for failure. It won’t do the science behind this exciting new era justice. Get people who know their stuff, either in-house or through experts. Let tools and platforms help you streamline your mechanics and processes. Do your homework on the analytics. Take the earnings seriously and adjust your strategy. You might be surprised to find that not only influencers are a proven new discipline in integrated marketing cycles.  There is also an entirely new industry that can catapult your own influencer activities into a different ROI stratosphere.

When done right, it can work as magically as a fairy tale.

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