Long before influencer marketing was considered real media, there were celebrity endorsements. In today’s digital world, however, niche content creators with large and engaged audiences are often more profitable and valuable to brands than celebrity endorsements in several ways.
While celebrity endorsements connect the reputation of a celebrity to a brand or product, influencer marketing generates word-of-mouth promotion using individuals whose views are respected in specific circles.
An example of celebrity endorsement would be celebrity socialite Toke Makinwa – who doesn’t need to be a dental expert to recommend teeth whitening strips from Colgate; she is so well known that it doesn’t matter that the product probably lies outside her field of expertise.
In the case of influencer marketing however, fitness geek Kate Henshaw would be the ideal person to endorse the functionality of an up and coming gym on Lagos Island.
One form of marketing can easily be mistaken for the other and that’s okay if you’re on the sidelines. But if you want to devise an effective influencer marketing strategy, it’s important to understand the difference.
Consumers are slowly moving away from native ads and mainstream celebrities — towards online media channels, and especially social media, to individuals who are consistently pushing riveting content within those channels.
An expert marketer must determine if they want to employ influencer marketing or celebrity endorsement, or merge aspects of both.
DEFINING INFLUENCER MARKETING
Influencer marketing can function as well offline as it does online. However, for this manual, we will be discussing influencer marketing in the digital world.
Influencer marketing is marketing that uses relevant content creators to push unique interactions and engagement about a brand’s products and message. It is about communicating your message using the words and voice of a person that is liked and trusted by your target audience.
It takes place when a brand or a business, teams up with an important or powerful person on social media to endorse a product, service, or campaign.
These influential persons – usually known as social media influencers – usually have large, loyal and engaged followings.
WHO IS AN INFLUENCER?
Simply put, an influencer is someone who has established authority in a specific field and carries influence over others. A social media influencer is someone who uses that influence on social media.
A social media influencer that can have anywhere from several hundred to several million followers, with whom they drive interaction and engagement around a given subject matter, product or niche.
Influencers are categorized into three groups based on the size of their audience:
Micro influencers: These influencers deliver the most expertise in a specific niche and to a small audience. They have a small but deeply loyal follower count or audience of about 10,000 people or less. Micro influencers are a currently in high demand because they offer the most engagement at affordable costs.
Power middle influencers: With a follower count/ audience size typically ranging from 10,000-250,000 followers. Often, they already have experience working with brands in their niche and have grew their following as micro-influencers.
Macro influencers: Macro influencers are the most popular niche personalities on social media. These are the online celebrities of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Their audience size or followers can range anywhere from 250,000 to more 1 million. While their potential reach will overshadow that of power middle and micro influencers, that extensive reach may come with reduced engagement rate and bigger costs.
The right influencers build trust, can reach your target audience, and spike engagement. They use unique and highly engaging content that aligns with their own personal brand (instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach or a template provided by the brand).
As a result, it’s important to collaborate only with social media influencers whose vision, messages and aesthetic aligns with that of your brand.
THE 3 Rs OF INFLUENCE
How do you identify major and relevant players who can magnify your brand message to your target audiences? And what characteristics mark the difference between an influencer who just has a large number of followers from who they get a lot of attention and one who will actually drive a profitable outcome for you?
By following a basic guideline, you can save yourself a lot of time and energy. You can identify which Influencers will add the most value to your brand when they exhibit 3 specific qualities, which have be classified as the 3 “pillars of influence” as defined by Brian Solis in his 2012 report “The Rise of Digital Influence and How to Measure It.”
Before you get in touch with a social media influencer, it’s important to take into account the three Rs of influence:
Keep an eye out for mutual relevance. Ascertain that the influencer is posting content that is related to your industry and has followers that are interested in content related to your business, product or industry. Chances are that if there is a disconnect between their content and your industry, they may not be able to adequately enhance your brand message or promote your product.
This is a measure of the size of their audience. Apart from having the charisma to drive action and engagement, an influencer usually has a high number of followers in a niche or industry. Examine the quality of their followers. You might think that finding influencers is just a matter of looking at their follower count, but while that is certainly important, the quality of followers is just as important. A large number of followers that do not engage very often with an influencer’s content will not be affected by their recommendations and will not take action on it. Effective influencers not only have a beyond-average following, they also have a beyond-average influence on their audience.
This refers to the level of interest and activity an influencer creates by sharing content. A person who consistently creates content that their followers enjoy and connect with, will get a lot of attention whenever they share new content.
Examine the extent and intensity of reactions around the topics most relevant to your brand. How many retweets do they get? How many blog comments and Facebook shares do they get around the topics that are relevant to your brand? If content that was shared months or weeks ago are still getting shares, like or comments, it indicates a high level of connection. This feature ensures that new people get to see a piece of content when it is shared, and it is likely to ‘live on’ for a while on social media.
WHY INFLUENCER MARKETING IS POWERFUL
The great thing about influencer marketing is that there is a ready and waiting audience. All that is required is to form a partnership in which both brand and influencer are offering great value to the influencer’s audience in one campaign.
A few great benefits to influencer marketing include:
Instinctive brand trust
Influencers have established authority, trust and relationships with their followers. Their content and opinions are highly valued. This can extend to brands they collaborate with – as they share the brand’s story and the solutions they offer – getting their audiences to instinctively trust the brand in turn.
An enhanced content strategy
Influencer content can fill in the holes in your brand’s content strategy. This is great for when you’re looking for a unique twist to your brand’s message or have simply run out of ideas for content.
Unique value for your audience
Inbound marketing is all about is offering content that educates, solves problems, and inspires your target audience. Influencer marketing fully embodies this concept, as influencers are already aware of the needs of their audience.
This way you can easily optimize their content to deliver value to your target audience.
Linking with influencers can be the beginning of a powerful alliance. When you collaborate with influencers long term, you never know where these connections might lead. New opportunities abound.
Although the influencer marketing trend has not been analyzed locally, foreign studies that aim to establish its’ place on the digital media scale are already underway.
According to research conducted by a US based marketing firm called Whosay, a substantial number of advertisers have realized the value that influencer marketing can bring to a business.
About 70% of US-based agencies and brand marketers agree that budgets for influencer marketing will surge in 2018.
A big number of participants in the study, (89%) are convinced that influencer marketing can constructively impact how consumers feel about a brand. Just as many marketers regard influencers as a genuine form of media with results that can be measured.
So how is influencer marketing measured? According to a survey conducted in 2017 by Celebrity Intelligence, the most common metric used is press coverage. 6 marketers in 10 turn to media mentions to establish the effectiveness of their influencer campaigns.
Their most pressing problem however, is finding relevant influencers. For instance, the Celebrity Intelligence study also reported found that about half of marketers find it hard to spot the right talent. Their second biggest challenge is initiating conversation with said talent.
GUIDELINES FOR CHOOSING A SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER
Know your audience
Your influencer campaign will not interest everyone. For your strategy to be impactful, you need to reach the right people through the right influencers.
Be sure to clearly define the target audience for your campaign.
Audience personas can help you understand your target audience. To balance out your audience personas, you can also make a list of matching influencer personas. This way, the qualities you are looking for in your influencer partners are more clearly defined.
Go for trust and engagement
The most important factor in influencer marketing is trust. The influencers you partner with must have earned the trust and respect of their followers. If trust is lacking, the influencer’s impact on their audience and in turn your business, will be minimal.
To determine if an influencer is trusted, take a look at the level of engagement on their platforms. Views, comments, likes, and shares are all indicators of trust from the precise audience you’re looking to reach.
A good level of engagement rate also means that an influencer’s following is loyal and genuine, rather than inflated.
Check for consistency
Apart from finding an influencer relevant to your brand, you also need to identify an influencer whose content aesthetics compliments that of your brand’s. The tone must also communicate how you want your brand to be perceived by customers.
Shared values are also a feature to look out for. It wouldn’t be ideal for example, for a natural skincare brand to collaborate with an influencer who has had a lot of cosmetic surgeries which they often celebrate on their social media platforms.
Look out for sponsorship overload
Pay attention to what your potential influencers are sharing. If they are constantly sharing sponsored content, their engagement rate may not be sustainable long-term. There are plenty of non-paid, organic content to keep audiences engaged and hooked. Remember this when asking the influencer to post as well. Asking the influencer to share too many posts in a short time will not only make your offer unappealing to the influencer, it could potentially put off their following.
REACHING OUT TO A POTENTIAL INFLUENCER
There are many ways to reach out to influencers, but these key ways will increase your chances of successfully forming partnerships:
Show your knowledge and expertise
Popular influencers are constantly flooded with offers. When reaching out to potential influencers, display an in-depth knowledge of their audience, their platforms or channels, and uniquely underline how a potential partnership could benefit both brand and influencer.
Contact them privately
A personalized message sent privately on any of their platforms, should do the trick. You can also reach them via email but avoid the temptation to spam influencers with one generic message. Personalized messages show that you are serious about partnering with them and are more likely to convince them to go into business with you.
Prepare your budget ahead of time
Influencers who have wide-spread reach expect to be paid for their work and rightly so. To launch a serious influencer marketing campaign, you need a budget. You can offer free products for reviews from the newer influencers, and even those reviews are not guaranteed.
Consider payment plans that best align with your goals but be flexible enough to accommodate some of the influencer’s needs too.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Be willing to share creative control
Experienced social media influencers are very protective of their brands and will likely not accept deals that make their brand look conflicting. By handing over some creative control, you’re likely to get the best work out of them since they will be using their skills to highlight your brand in the best possible way. For peace of mind, you can provide some guidelines for them to work with – but don’t expect to call the shots completely.
Set goals and follow through
Different brands have varying goals when it comes to influencer marketing. That’s why it’s important to define brand’s goals before embarking on an influencer marketing strategy. These goals will in turn guide the execution of said strategy.
If for instance a brand is mainly focused on pushing sales, then sales should be factored into the influencer marketing campaign. In terms of influencer marketing, it would be ideal to have your chosen influencers promote specific products and offer one-off coupon codes that urge followers to go make a purchase.
Cross-share influencer content for enhanced credibility
You can share and cross-share content on your own channels, from influencer partners. This visibly establishes the partnership and benefits both the brand and influencer with fresh publicity.
You may be tempted to look at vanity metrics such as comments and likes, when you launch your influencer campaign. But if your brand’s following is smaller than that of your influencer, you may be surprised by the level of engagement cross-sharing can get you.
Have realistic expectations
Influencer marketing is a slow and steady process. Although popular influencers can quickly bring a brand to the limelight, sustained brand awareness and possible conversions realistically take time.
Keep this in mind when developing an influencer marketing strategy, as it can have a few implications, and will help you set your expectations accordingly.
Establish long-term partnerships
With the knowledge that influencer marketing won’t deliver long-term results overnight, Brands should focus on building and sustaining long-term relationships with influencers – chances of success are higher that way.
By partnering with influencers long-term, brands are more likely to benefit from their influence. As a result, brands are now taking into account the cost of partnering with popular influencers long-term and are instead opting to partner with those who have smaller followings or are in the early stages of growing their followings.
TOOLS TO EXPLORE
UTM parameters is a measurement tool that can track the visitors an influencer sends to your website, and how much engagement a campaign gets.
Each influencer is assigned their own links with codes generated by UTM, so you can have a clear picture of the results, analyze the impact of your influencer partners on your bottom line.
TrendSpottr for Instagram
This is an Instagram focused tool that can help you find trending influencers, videos and photos, using related topics and hashtags. Once you have a number of potential influencers, you can then research to see if they’re a good fit for your brand and business goals.
Right Relevance Pro
This app allows you to search for top content shared by influencers – based on location and topic. With this tool, brands can find thought leaders and potential influencer partnerships based on the quality of content they share.
Demographics Pro for Twitter
Demographics Pro allows you to check for a demographic match between your brand and your list of potential influencers.
You can view the demographics of any Twitter user’s followers, including age, income level and gender. You can even discover locations. This helps you ensure that the influencers you use, address the exact audience you want them to.
This is a Google-owned website that links brands with YouTube influencers. Enter the kind of you want, the kind of sponsorship available, along with your desired budget, and content creators will send in their proposals.
There are a number of platforms to help brands connect directly with influencers on other social networks, such as Linqia, Revfluence, Tapinfluence, Upfluence, , and #paid.