Finding new ways to create compelling content and market your business is hard. As a digital marketer, it’s about growing your community, keeping it engaged, and using content that actually drive sales.
One of the best ways to drive sales is through referrals – when one customer is so in love with your product, they become an evangelist, telling everyone they about how much they love your brand.
Amplifying that can be tricky. People’s networks vary, and even with interesting referral programs, sometimes it’s hard to move the needle with customers and get them to market you.
That’s where influencer marketing comes in.
We sat down with some of biggest companies in the space, and asked them to walk us through what exactly is influencer marketing, and how people are doing it successfully.
Who did we interview?
Craig from Influence and Co, an agency that helps turn expertise into influence and allow companies to become their own influencers.
Zahara from HireInfluence, a full-service influencer marketing solution
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is the an authentic way for brands to collaborate with online influencers such as bloggers, YouTubers, and social content creators.. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay influencers to get out the word for you.
Influencer marketing is important because it’s not disruptive. As long as the influencers and brands collaborate to create quality content that provides utility, readers are open to viewing and consuming that content even though it’s sponsored.
It’s about building trust and awareness with new audience, from potential customers to potential investors to potential talent. It’s about showcasing credibility through brand awareness and distribution.
Influencer marketing is a form of marketing in which brands hire influencers to promote their company through social media. Influencer marketing is paving a new way for brands to reach consumers and consumers to reach brands, through the “white noise” of social media. Research shows that the majority (92%) of consumers take buying recommendations from friends, relatives, and people they trust, and influencer marketing is the way for brands to appeal to consumers’ marketing and decision-making preferences.
Is word of mouth marketing/influence marketing the same?
Although some people use word-of-mouth marketing and influencer marketing interchangeably, there’s a real difference between the two disciplines. Whereas influencer marketing is the concept of engaging key individuals to leverage their influence among friends and family, word-of-mouth marketing is the actual avenue by which this communication takes place. So, almost all influencer marketing includes word-of-mouth marketing activities by its nature, but not all word-of-mouth marketing is driven by influencer campaigns.
It’s slightly different, in my opinion. Influencer marketing is technically when a company hires an influencer to promote their brand. Influencer marketing works through word of mouth, so that is part of how this type of marketing functions: someone sees a pair of workout leggings in a photo of their favorite fitness influencer, and they decide to buy them. That person wears the pants to yoga class, and their fellow yogis ask where she bought them – this is word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth marketing that originates on social media is influencer marketing.
So, what does this look like as a campaign? How does it create customers?
Influencer marketing started out as a very manual process, and for some it still is. It requires hours of cold emailing influencers, creating strategy and sharing it out, negotiating rates, and measuring the effectiveness of the content. However, with an Influencer Marketing Automation platform, marketers can seamlessly search for influencers, invite them to assignments for their already-requested rate, and measure their campaigns with thorough reporting for every type of assignment. This saves time and money and allows marketers the freedom to focus on developing strategy and optimizing their programs!
Our approach is how to build you as an influencer, so it’s a bit different from traditional influencer marketing agencies or platforms. With our campaigns, we create content from your expertise. This comes in the form of byline articles on influentials sites online for your niche. We partner with someone on content, then get it published for them. This could be something like Ink, Forbes, etc, that represent niche industry publication.
This turns the brand into the influencer. That brand authority is what drives sales; a brand that establishes itself as an influencer creates inbound leads for itself.
The way brands run campaigns varies from one brand to the next, and one campaign to the next, depending on the campaign goals. An influencer campaign can include any of the following content: blog article, product review, podcast, video, social media post, live stream, collaborative posts, live events, Twitter parties, a combination of any of these. A company might wish to hire a high profile, celebrity influencer who has millions of followers, or a group of micro-influencers who are smaller, less well known but potentially more impactful on a smaller scale.
Example: Say there is a fitness influencer in Hollywood with 100k Instagram followers and a well-cultivated blog following. She works with celebrity clients and does sponsored work for brands. On a new campaign for a fitness clothing company to help them gain customers, she takes photos working out in the clothes, and posts the picture on Instagram with a genuine comment about loving the clothes. Of course, it will include the brand’s name and #ad or #sponsored to abide by FTC guidelines. Around 1,000 people will like the photo (standard statistics) and at least 50-100 will comment, many asking where to buy the clothing. New customer acquisition can happen immediately or down the line.
What are some characteristics of a successful influencer marketing campaign?
Effective influencer marketing campaigns produce beautiful, engaging content. The pieces of content don’t come across as ads (though they are always properly disclosed). The most successful campaigns are when brands and marketers give influencers some direction, but allow them enough creative freedom to create content that they know will resonate with their readers. Influencers know their audiences best, so marketers should allow them to do what they do best!
A successful campaign means the company has produced useful content that builds their audience and creates inbound leads. Unlike more traditional influencer marketing, that can be short term, success here should offer a more lasting effect that continues to build your audience.
Effective, professional communication with both client and influencers. Managing expectations of clients while working to achieve their goals at the same time. Understanding clients’ needs, brand, audience and niche market to source the right influencers.
Also, it’s important not to be afraid to pivot mid-way through a campaign if the messaging or other campaign elements are not achieving their desired results. Hiring highly-targeted, vetted, and validated influencers who will not only work on the project but who like the brand and the products or services so their sponsored content will be received as genuine.
How should people find their influencers? How do you know if someone really has influence?
Influence is not synonymous with reach. Some degree of reach is important, so the brand can connect with their target audience. However,engagement, voice, and quality of content are what make an influencer truly influential. Using a platform like Tap streamlines the process of identifying influencers.
I like to start by searching for influencers who create content related to certain categories, such as beauty, fashion, tech, food, etc. Then, I look at the influencer’s demographic data – age, ethnicity, number of kids and their ages. I also look at the influencers’ audience – where they live, their ages, household income, gender, etc. Once I have a group of influencers, I look critically at their profiles. How much do they cost? What does their content look like on each of their channels? TapInfluence even includes a Cost Per Engagement (CPE) number, so I can determine if an influencer is delivering value relative to the rate they charge. All of these things point to influence, and whether they will be a good fit for your program.
I’ve written multiple articles on this topic, my most recent “What to Look for When Hiring a Brand Influencer.” There are many ways to go about finding influencers and many tools to use. Here are the basics:
Brands running their own campaigns:
- Set campaign goals.
- Determine if you want an omnichannel influencer, or you wish to focus on one particular social media platform, and move from there.
- Understand your target audience and niche, because that will help you hone in on the best brand influencer.
- Decide if you have a minimum follower requirement for your chosen brand ambassador, and stick to it.
- Create a list of the top 25-40 influencers you would like to work with and reach out to all of them. Read this article for tips on connecting with influencers – one misstep and it’s an automatic “No!” on their end, so proceed with care.
- Choose the influencer or influencers who are most responsive, engaged, excited about your company’s vision and product, and excited to work with you. They will produce the best results in the end.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone looking to work on influencer marketing?
My biggest piece of advice is to think like a reader – would I read or view this content? Is it interesting to me? This will lead to the best content possible; content that influencers want to create and readers want to read. It’s an exciting time to be in influencer marketing because it feels real. It’s people talking to people, providing value content. If you’re always focused on that, your influencer marketing programs will be successful.
Be your own influencer! You want to do both, working with influencers and become one yourself.
The ROI for influencer marketing averages $6.50 across industries, so influencer marketing is the best thing you can do to promote your brand.
Ready to Get Started?
To start building your first influencer campaign, check out our 2 part guide on Influencer Marketing.