Starting an Influencer Program? Three Questions to Ask Yourself First
It’s tough to go a single day without seeing a headline or brand blog touting the powers of influencer marketing. And although mentions of this industry buzzword may induce a few eyerolls, there’s a reason why people haven’t been able to stop talking about it: it works. Brands aren’t just merely piggybacking on industry trends, rather, they’ve seen first-hand how influential influencers can be.
Are You Really Ready?
If you’re toying with the idea of starting an influencer campaign for your company, it’s important to acknowledge both ends of the spectrum: the challenges and opportunities. It’s also helpful to embark on an influencer practice with a comprehensive plan, as simply winging it will result in wasted dollars and ineffective content. So, if you think you’re ready to start an influencer practice, be sure to ask yourself these three questions:
What Are My Goals?
As with all marketing initiatives, citing an overarching goal is the best way achieve results. Mapping out your goals for working with influencers will help you stay focused and on budget. Depending on your ultimate goal, the structure, content guidelines, and, even, influencer relationship will differ greatly. Common influencer campaign goals include:
● Grow Brand Awareness ● Generate Excitement For Product Launch ● Drive Awareness for upcoming event ● Communicate brand changes and updates ● Develop deeper relationships with community
Once you’ve determined your goal, you can then move on to developing your target influencer persona and creating content guidelines for each influencer to follow. As you begin your outreach, it’s helpful to communicate your determined goals and KPIs with influencers. While influencers do not want to be creatively boxed in by stringent content rules, they do appreciate brand transparency around the purpose of the campaign.
What is My Budget?
One of the biggest changes to affect influencer marketing since its inception is pricing. In the early years, many brands simply exchanged products for influencer posts. But influencer marketing has evolved into a pay-to-play game. Most influencers today aren’t just partnering with brands for fun – they’re trying to establish legitimate personas and businesses and they often rely on their brand partnerships as a first or second source of income. It is still technically possible to execute an influencer campaign without dipping into your marketing dollars, but in these cases, high quality influencers expect considerable brand rewards or product exchanges.
While no brand marketer wants to spend extra money, most paid campaigns result in higher quality content and stronger influencer relationships than their non-paid counterparts. This infographic from MediaKix presents the value of paid influencer campaigns in comparison to free influencer campaigns. Ultimately, both brands and influencers win out when value is attached to an influencer initiative.
With that said, it’s better to have an idea of how much you can afford to spend on influencer partnerships up front. With a clear understanding of your monetary limits, you’ll be able to communicate and negotiate with more clarity.
Which Metrics Do I Value?
Influencer marketing is commonly defined as “a type of marketing that focused on key leaders to drive your brand’s messages to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you hire influencers to get the word out for you.”
Essentially, through influencer marketing, you’re using an influencer’s voice to broadcast your brand’s message to their vast and engaged community of followers. Given the structure of influencer marketing it makes sense that reach was the metric of focus for brand in the early years. However, marketers soon realized that more followers does not necessarily equate to more value. Celebrities and influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers may be able to amplify a message, but their larger-than-life personas often hinder real engagement. Niche, or micro-influencers, have been proven to be more influential at driving engagement for brands.
It’s not that you should dismiss reach entirely, it’s just that reach alone doesn’t have the same capacity to drive sales as engagement does. Through developing a sound understanding of influential metrics, you’ll be able to better pinpoint which influencers can can offer your company the most potential value.
Although influencer marketing has evolved from novelty to tried-and-true marketing initiative, it is a far from perfect practice. From unclear returns on investment to campaign pricing wars, influencer marketers are still trying to overcome a few growing pains. For several years, brands and influencers, alike, tackled campaigns like they were living in the wild west – no rules or regulations. Thankfully, as the industry has come of age, this reckless abandon attitude has calmed down considerably.