Influencers. Tastemakers. Trendsetters. Thought leaders. No matter what you call them, they are an important marketing audience for brands to reach and engage. Whether they are the first folks to know about the newest restaurant that is coming to town, the ones that break news of the latest food trends on their blogs or the folks you rely on to let you know about the best travel destinations, influencers are a powerful audience and one that other consumers have come to trust. Whether your business operates in the b2b or b2c space, now is the time to start planning for how you will engage influencers in your marketing campaigns.
It’s all about relationships
Just as brands work to build relationships with target media as part of their public relations programs and with local nonprofits as part of their community relations programs, they must work with influencers to build trusting, high-value relationships. Brands must demonstrate a keen understanding of their target audiences, knowing what makes these influencers tick, what is important to them, what they like to talk about on their websites, blogs and social media, and, of course, what motivates them to take action. Building authentic influencer relationships doesn’t happen overnight so be sure to take a strategic approach that is authentic to your brand, mission and vision.
It’s an opportunity to reach new audiences
While digital advertising still remains an effective tool for many brands, an increasing number of people are using ad blockers to prevent them from being marketed to through these channels. A 2016 study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that 26 percent of desktop users and 15 percent of mobile users were blocking online ads from publishers’ websites (think ESPN, Gizmodo, etc.). Similar to digital advertising, engaging influencers to talk about your product or service can generate exposure with new audiences. It does, however, come with a significant added benefit – people are hearing about your brand from someone they already know and trust.
Have you ever watched an Instagram takeover? Many consumer brands have embraced the trend of having influencers take over their Instagram channels for a day, allowing them to showcase first-hand how they use a particular product or service. It offers an authentic, insider’s perspective into how a product can come to life and it is a great tool to grow a brand’s online following. The all-important caveat, however, is that you want to be sure the influencer at the helm of your marketing channels is someone you trust implicitly as their reputation is now aligned with that of your brand. This is the same risk that organizations take when they enlist celebrity spokespeople to represent their company or cause. Despite the risks, having influencers and tastemakers share content in native streams has its rewards.
It can come at a price
While some influencers are willing to engage with brands for the benefit of their own additional exposure, others have monetized these opportunities down to the cost they charge per tweet and per word on their blog/website. Just as you would vet advertising with a media outlet based on demographics and reach, you should apply these same best practices to vetting the list of influencers with whom you will engage. As with all new marketing opportunities, it pays to do your homework before diving in.
Measurement is key
Whether your company is engaging with someone who runs a successful YouTube series or an Instagram celebrity, it is important to have metrics in place for evaluating the success of your endeavor. Whether you are looking to simply increase brand awareness and evaluating the size of the audience reached, or using promotional codes to track product purchase or event tickets sold as a result of engaging a group of influencers, you want to be able to ascertain whether the campaign yielded ROI.
Influencer marketing can complement an existing social media marketing or public relations program and provide a new avenue for reaching a brand’s target audiences. Whether you are looking to implement a year-long influencer marketing campaign or dip your toe in the water with a more focused and finite effort, it is critical to set goals, benchmarks and guidelines for executing your campaign. With the right strategy in place – and the right influencers in your target audience – you can not only increase brand visibility but generate revenue through influencer marketing.