Influencer marketing is not a new concept. Brands have sought to harness the influence of others - from celebrities to politicians - since the onset of modern marketing.
However, during the early 2000’s when digital transformation and the tech era were just taking off, the internet democratized influence allowing regular people to amass huge followings and become internet celebrities. This new generation of celebrities exists on every channel, from traditional blogging platforms to YouTube and Snapchat. Over the past 15 years, the wide dissemination of content aided by the growing ecosystem of social and video channels has made influencer marketing an indispensible part of the strategy for many of today’s advertising powerhouses.
There are many things brands should consider when developing their influencer marketing strategy, from the right platforms for each brand to what type of content they develop. We’ve identified the five key components of a successful influencer marketing strategy that can be applied across all industries that leverage this marketing tool.
Start With The Objective
It is important that a brand approaches an influencer with a set of objectives to properly leverage the influencer’s own brand and audience. Is the goal to drive sales? Or is it to drive engagement or amplify reach? Since influencers themselves fall into several different categories, setting KPIs is important for selecting the right type of partner.
There are four main categories for influencers: the ‘Power Influencers’ with incredibly high reach and engagement, the ‘Reachers’ who have moderate engagement and usually have a following focused around a specific topic, the ‘Engagers’ whose reach might not be as significant but their engagement is high, and finally the ‘Micro-Influencers’. These thought leaders with smaller followings – between 10,000 and 100,000 followers – possess an interested, engaged and connected audience; they’re also cost-effective, enabling marketers to activate a host of micro-influencers for the fraction of the cost of one big name. Knowing which type of influencer is right for your brand, combined with having a clear set of KPIs is the right way to start an influencer campaign.
Understand the Influencer’s Brand
Influencers are themselves brands, and they tend to have a distinct style and strong opinions. A brand strategy that does not keep this in mind will come across as unauthentic and forced. This can be challenging because influencer marketing is more involved than the usual advertising. Marketing organizations need to take time to learn about the influencer’s brand, character and interests outside of their categories: there are pros and cons to all of them. Not skipping this type of due diligence work will help better align your brand with the influencer’s – and will ultimately create a more authentic collaboration. As long as the message is authentic, an influencer’s endorsement of a product can go a long way in convincing potential customers to make a purchase.
Look For Long-Term Partnerships
Celebrities have been endorsing products for a long time, but if an influencer is constantly switching categories and touting several products at once this strains their credibility. When influencers post conflicting messages, followers are often quick to call them out, and less likely to take them seriously when making purchasing decisions. This is particularly true for Millennial and Gen Z consumers, who crave authenticity above all else. Savvy marketers look out for influencers who not only have a strong audience, but are also careful about how they use their influence over that audience. An influencer partner that will be a long-term brand ambassador will add more value than a one-off endorsement.
Get The Content Right
The influencer ecosystem is already complex and is only growing larger, and can be very difficult to navigate without a clear, concise content strategy. There are so many types of content out there, and they will not all be the right fit for every brand. It is important to engage with various influencers from different spheres to create engaging content, but learn what doesn't work fast. There is a delicate balance between creating campaigns with influencers and becoming un-authentic or forced. The key to engaging content is to work with influencers based on their strengths - let them create in their style.
Authenticity is Key
The most important aspect of a successful influencer is authenticity. According to a recent eMarketer report, 59% of consumers say ads that are inconsistent with an influencer’s feed feel fake, and if the statistics on ad blocking are anything to go by, consumers don’t like seeing ads in the digital space. The reason that influencer marketing works is that the audience believe that the opinion given is that of the influencer. If they feel that the post is fake because they think the influencer is only saying what they’re saying because they get paid to do so, then the value that the influencer can bring to the brand will be eroded. As a result of the importance of authenticity, influencers are becoming choosier about the brands they work with and will likely refuse to sell out to their audiences if they don’t feel there’s an authentic connection.
Both brands and agencies should approach an influencer strategy with the attitude that the best influencers are the ones who already consume your brands – they will be the ones that add a genuine voice to the brand story and have the greatest impact overall.
Nick Elliott is R3's managing director of EMEA