Why It Matters and 7 Steps to Developing a Successful Program
It’s a postmodern digital world. Consumers’ appetites for how information is digested has shifted dramatically. Marketers face roadblocks reaching target audiences and delivering content that resonates. Increasingly, banner-blocking tools and distaste for blatant advertising has complicated message delivery and impacted how marketers react. Even the most compelling content has a limited audience if not delivered on the right channel at the right time.
Additionally, consumers don’t want to be sold a product; they want to be shown a product in context of a lifestyle they emulate, from a source they trust. Those sentiments, along with the rapid rise of social media, have made influencer marketing not just a nice-to-have element of a marketing strategy but a must-have component of any effective marketing plan.
In the past, celebrities cornered the influencer market, but today, through one tweet, gram, pin or post, anyone can have influence in the decision-making process. Influencers can be fans or followers, bloggers, celebrities, experts in a space or anyone who aligns with the brand’s DNA. Influencer marketing leverages those individuals and capitalizes on their followers and fans, giving brands a direct pipeline to the audience through authentic and creative content. Most importantly, influencer marketing is not a sales pitch; it’s a conversation that builds trust.
Example influencers with large and small follower interaction
As marketers look at their budgets to determine where to allocate spend, they need to understand how influencers can impact the bottom line. Influencer programs don’t just impact brand awareness and engagement; they’re powerful tools with tremendous benefits as outlined below.
"Influencer programs don't just impact brand awareness and engagement; they're powerful tools with tremendous benefits"
Influencer marketing can be wildly successful, but only if the program is correctly built and executed laddering to business objectives. The steps below define the essential elements and considerations it takes to build a program.
Understand your overall business goals and what you are seeking to achieve:
Know the types of programs you can build:
These partnerships can work independently or together as a part of the larger strategy, depending upon program goals.
Projected growth with and without influencers
Hand-curate your influencers:
Manage your own influencer program in-house or through an agency partner. While it might not be as immediately turn-key as leveraging a network, you will have more control and are building relationships that will reap rewards in the long run. Developing your own program gives you the opportunity to select bloggers based on your business goals, defining the program’s reach and content mix for yourself. This mix is a key element, developed from a healthy balance of reach and engagement from quality advocates.
Spend time to get to know your influencers, specifically if you are managing an ambassador program. Follow them, share their content and engage with them. Knowing their needs and what makes them successful is critical. Finding ways to add personal touches, such as welcome gifts, go a long way in creating deep and meaningful relationships.
Develop an editorial calendar and create an on-target content mix:
Capture your content in an editorial calendar to ensure you have the right content mix, are aligned to key moments in time and understand your communication cadence. Apply the 80/20 rule when organizing your content – only 20% should be brand promotions and hard product call-outs while 80% should be about inspiring your audience. This rule of thumb ensures you don’t alienate your audience.
Negotiate for the content, then use it:
As stated earlier, one of the most often overlooked benefits of an influencer program is development of rich and creative content. With brand advocates, developing content is a shared experience and not just the responsibility of the brand. Make sure you negotiate content usage rights into your contracts and don’t limit just to social media use. Consider using influencer content across channels like emails, blogs and websites to name a few.
Get your hands dirty with data:
The key to any successful influencer program is to continuously analyze and optimize. Pull weekly metrics and sentiment, then take a deep dive into what is working and what isn’t. Make changes to your program as needed to drive the ultimate results.
Influencers must now be considered for what they are, publishers who leverage measureable word of mouth at scale. Audiences have moved away from traditional marketing tactics towards real-time engagement with trusted and admired sources to drive their purchasing behavior. By using the steps above and hand-curating a trusted group of brand advocates, marketers can move the needle. Brands who want to compete in our postmodern world must layer in some aspect of influencer marketing to ensure they are being heard, or they face the possibility of being left behind.
Take a closer look at how to use influencer programs to overcome client challenges: