Influencer marketing is this year’s craze. Not just because marketers are increasingly wanting to use it, but because there is much debate on whether there is any value in doing it at all. Blogs and networks are lit up with the discussion.
At immediate future we started out in activating influencer marketing programmes (12 years’ ago). As social evolved and Facebook and Twitter went mainstream, it seemed brand attention moved to different tactics. Now influencer marketing is back, and done properly – it bring business a lot of value.
Trouble is, it isn’t often done well. It seems it is time to set out a few rules of influencer marketing.
Rule 1: It’s not a quick fix
Influencer marketing is a long-term investment. Connecting to influencers for a campaign and dropping them once you get what you want is a pretty ghastly tactic. And can cause a lot of damage to your reputation too. Plan your influencer marketing across the long-term – developing a strategy that will bend and flex with your organisation, as well as with the ever-changing influencer landscape.
Rule 2: Focus on one goal
The beauty of working with influencers is that they can do something rarely found in other channels. They can change the behaviours of your customers. They drive action, change opinion and build (or break) reputation. Sure influencer marketing can raise awareness, increase engagement and so on. But the true value is in changing audience behaviours. Focus on that.
Rule 3: Get it right at identification
Selecting influencers is not easy. For starters the criteria varies between platform, interest hubs and your expected outcomes. One thing is for sure, there is too much emphasis on popularity. Popular or ‘celebrity’ social influencers can get you reach (often at a price), but that is not the definition of influence. In most cases it is worth considering celebrities more of a media opportunity.
Be wary of shortcuts in identifying influencers, too. Klout, Kred and others platforms rarely help find the key influencers that can make a difference. Finally, don’t confuse influence with advocacy. Advocacy is about sharing recommendations and referrals – promoting your brand positively. Influence is a wholly more collaborative affair: which leads us to Rule 4.
Rule 4: Be in the relationship
True influencers are not easily influenced by brands. They are protective of their reputation. And rightly so. After all, their audiences wouldn’t believe and trust them if they ‘sold out’ to every brand. And you wouldn’t be interested in them if they did!
You need to woo influencers. To build a relationship with each individual. Work with them to find the common ground. Co-create, collaborate, meet them offline, and expect to be with them on their journey (not yours). Real influence is not about gaining a blog post, but about working with influencers to create and develop content that will resonate, be relevant and reach the right audiences.
Do your homework. Find out about each influencer. Understand their preferences, their style and their needs. Then tailor your activity and your requirements.
Rule 5: If you pay, know the consequences
Paying for influence is not a bad thing. But it is not an alternative to building a relationship. It definitely is not a shortcut to influence. The social media celebs and who ask for money to post, tweet and video, are not always influential. They are popular and so will gain you reach – but they might not necessarily change behaviour.
The issues though are not whether or not to pay. The issues are twofold. Firstly, if you pay, how much is too much. This has been hotly debated recently in ‘confessions of a social media exec’ and resulted in the anonymous site, http://whopaysinfluencers.com/ , calling-out how much brands will pay (and how honourable they are in paying).
Secondly, if you pay, then the influencer must declare that anything posted is promotional (To ensure your brand complies with ASA and FTC regulations). Stating that a post is a promotion changes the impact. It turns genuine influence into an advert.
Rule 6: Expect change
When we started in influencer marketing all those years ago, it was all about the bloggers. Now we have YouTubers, Tumblrs, Snapchatters, Instagramers, Tweeters etc. The results is that the influencer landscape is constantly shifting.
For instance, the rise of the Instagram influencer has seen the emergence of the ‘micro-influencer’. These are influencers that have impact on audiences, with small followings (compared to other channels), and high engagement. Influencers that can change behaviours if your strategy is to work with a large number of them.
And if we return to the bloggers, they too will fall in and out of fashion. So keep an eye on your results, re-evaluate your influencers and keep looking for new opportunities to build strong relations with the best influencer online.