As web users turn a blind eye to banner ads and scrolling sidebars – and ad blockers eliminate them completely – content that promotes your brand but seamlessly fits in with the user experience is today's most impactful form of marketing.
Take a look at native advertising, which Entrepreneur reports reached $7.9 billion in spending in 2016 and will climb to $21 billion by 2018. Native ads are content-like sponsored stories at the end of a blog, or Instagram ads within a user's feed.
Even more natural and less-invasive than a native ad is influencer marketing, which is content created directly by the influencer, such as a video review of your product on a YouTube page or a photo post on their Facebook page of them enjoying your latest development. Influencer marketing is identifying the most effective presences in your industry and getting them to spread your brand message in a natural way to their followers. Hubspot reports 3 percent of individuals generate 90 percent of online impact. Focusing your marketing efforts on influencers is time- and cost-efficient.
The State of Influencer Marketing 2017 report by influencer marketing platform Linqia found 86 percent of B2C marketers have used influencer marketing, with 94 percent of them finding it effective. B2B marketers are increasingly expected to join in the trend since, after all, purchasers are still humans who trust the opinions of other humans. As your brand determines how to build an influencer marketing campaign that drives substantial results, use these strategies to find the best influencers who can help boost sales through the authority they command.
Focus on Relevance
Just because you have access to influencers doesn't mean you should use them haphazardly. Like any marketing campaign your brand executes, the influencer marketing campaign should align with your organization's mission and values. These extend from the selection of the influencer, to the type of content you want them to promote, to the way your product or service is presented in to the public.
Relevance also relates to how your campaign fits the influencer's regular content. Your brand will waste time asking just any influencer with substantial reach to promote your brand. Irrelevant content related to your business may even create a backlash with their followers that generates negative sentiment for your service or product. The main goal with influencer marketing is to present helpful, non-invasive messages that naturally market your business.
Set the Right Goals
The Linqia report states that most marketers find determining return on investment of their influencer marketing campaigns to be their most significant challenge. Do 100 Retweets bring your brand any value if you don't see immediate sales? They may, but that's up for you to determine before you launch the campaign. With an influencer marketing campaign, you should set solid goals and match your brand's key performance indicators up with them. Don't set goals that are not measurable. Factors to track in an influencer marketing campaign may include:
- Brand reach
- Follower engagement
- Landing page visits
- Lead generation
- Sales and conversions
- Search engine optimization
Include forms of goal measurement tracking wherever possible. Create a customized referral link the influencer uses in their content. Include an email newsletter signup box prominently on a landing page the influencer promotes. Track social share visits to examine the journeys users are taking, and optimize pages where drop-off is occurring. For influencer marketing campaigns with long-term goals such as increased search rankings for certain keywords, set timeframes with milestones you want to reach and when.
Select Appropriate Influencers
An influencer marketing campaign's success will be determined by quality over quantity. A spammy social media user who has bought the majority of their tens of thousands of followers will provide less benefit to your brand compared to a genuine and honest influencer with a fraction of the followers but who has immensely more trust built with them. When searching for the best influencers for a specific campaign, take the following steps:
- Use a social media aggregator, like Klout, to find influencers based on topics related to your industry.
- Examine your current customers who are already passionate about your brand and who have engaged followings.
- Use networks like Twitter to identify journalists and bloggers who regularly cover news about your industry.
- Consider notable personalities in local markets, or celebrity contacts within your business network who can be tapped into.
Influencers should drive engagement on their channels. They should be generating discussions, whether that's through comments by their followers on posts, or in the comments sections on their blogs. On pages where content can be re-shared, your brand can see which individuals post content their followers engage with and share with their own communities, which will mean your content is more likely to spread organically, too.
Build Genuine Relationships
While there are influencer marketing networks people can sign up for, and your brand can use them for quick promotion, they're often more expensive and less relevant for your brand compared to fostering meaningful and genuine relationships that last over a longer period of time. Influencers will be more motivated to spread your brand message on their own when they fit your target demographic and show a real interest in your product. Instead of paying an influencer to promote your product, get to know your target influencers' work thoroughly before approaching them about why your brand provides value to their followers.
Including them in product testing is a way to get them interested and give them an inside look at your brand. Exclusive access to new products helps them produce better content for their followers. By building a relationship with the influencer, you will learn what type of content they're interested in producing. Then, you will be able to create more relevant campaigns that include them.
Tap into Employee Advocacy
One of the best places to start building strong influencer awareness for your brand is with your employees. They're the ones who know your product or service inside and out. Whatever content they post about your business makes sense to their followers, since they work for you. Anything an employee participates in regarding influencer marketing for your business should be voluntary and built on trust and authenticity, to strengthen the campaign.
Consider creating an influencer marketing program with elements that make sense for employees, so they'll feel motivated to participate. Maybe it's sharing a free offer or discount code with their followers. Or, maybe it's creating a really stellar piece of content that their audiences would be interested in, so they're likely to share it. Using an Employee Advocacy software like Smarp makes it easier for brands to empower employees to share and produce quality content and enable them to feel confident with what they're sharing.
Gain more control over any influencer marketing program you create by including brand guidelines for the content when developing the campaign. This could include outlining key benefits of what is being promoted so influencers can convey the full value of what they are covering, or creating a case study they can read that supports the product or service they are examining. The more information an influencer has to make a valid case for your brand helps to make their job easier, and makes the promotion your brand receives more effective.