Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing advertising categories and for your average user scrolling social media platforms seeing the hashtags #ad or #spon accompanying posts is fast becoming a common fixture. Brands are estimated to be spending $1.8b on Instagram influencers in 2018 but just because everyone else is spending up big does that mean that it is a viable marketing channel for your business?
An influencer is simply someone who’s voice holds weight with a particular community, it might be an individual with a few thousand Instagram followers through to celebrities with millions of fans. The concept of endorsements and word of mouth marketing has been around forever and by removing traditional constraints, such as geography, technology has simplified the process for influencers to grow and engage an online audience. As people increasingly distrust traditional advertising online, having real people who your target customers admire and trust recommend your product or service can be invaluable.
Before you load the scatter-gun and start blasting away your marketing budget it is important to know that when it comes to influencer marketing there is no one-size fits all approach. Just like any other marketing channel it is vital to prepare properly and ensure your goals are being met before you start. Understanding how influencer marketing fits into your broader strategy and following these steps below will ensure you get the most out of any influencer campaigns.
Influencer campaigns are a customer acquisition strategy
The key benefit of influencer campaigns is acquisition of new customers. By tapping into the audience of an influential person you will be able to reach people that may not have known about your product or service. A recommendation from a trusted voice is likely to increase trust in your brand, but after that initial introduction there’s still work to be done to turn this awareness of your brand into a lead or ideally a customer.
1. Optimise your marketing funnel first to get the most value from influencer campaigns
Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Simply increasing your retention rates by 5% can increase profits by anywhere from 25 - 95%. Your goal should be to build meaningful, long lasting relationships with your customers because today’s best businesses don’t just have customers, they build communities by consistently creating value for their target market through great content.
A successful marketing funnel consists of the following five elements:
Acquisition - How do customers find you?
Activation - Do they take an action once they’ve found you e.g. Contacting you, signing up online
Revenue - Are you making money?
Retention - Are your customers returning?
Referral - Do existing customers lead to new customers, are they telling anyone else about you?
Gaps in any of these five aspects can constrain your business. With low retention and referral, you’ll constantly be paying to acquire new customers creating a leaky bucket that constantly needs refilling.
2. Review your own channels to maximise retention
Before considering social media influencers as a channel to send new traffic your way it is vital to review your own website and social media accounts:
Is your website easy to navigate and visually appealing?
Does your site function correctly on mobile devices?
Is it easy to purchase from you / contact you?
Do you have effective methods to capture leads?
Are you posting regular, engaging content on your social media channels?
Do potential customers have a reason to engage with you even if they’re not ready to purchase?
If you can’t tick all of these boxes, any new found fans or referrals that come from your influencer endorsement may not be compelled to stick around. Remember - the influencer will help introduce you to their audience but it is up to you to make sure they stay engaged with your brand and to convert them into paying customers.
Ensure your website and social media is appealing and setup to engage your new audience
3. Establish your goals and find the right influencers for your brand
Once you’ve optimized your own channels and ensured your funnel is setup to capture the most value from an influencer campaign, it’s time to identify your business and marketing goals. If your current priorities are brand awareness or customer acquisition then influencer marketing could be a viable method to test.
Firstly it is vital to identify the right influencers for your brand. Most marketers are now savvy enough not to get seduced by vanity metrics, such as a high follower count, but sometimes it can be tricky to assess how genuine an account is and you don’t want to contribute to the estimated $100m per year that gets spent on fraudulent influencers!
There are many things to take into consideration when working with a potential influencer and having lots of followers is simply not enough. Do your homework, ask them to provide audience data and insights from previous branded campaigns and don’t be afraid to get them to sign a contract or agree to set deliverables.
You’ll want to work with accounts that are posting their own quality original content and not crediting other sources. Look for highly engaged followings that have genuine interactions and comments that are relevant to the content being depicted. Watch how the influencer approaches the paid campaigns they have worked on and see if it integrates into their account in a natural manner. You don’t want your sponsored content sticking out like a sore thumb, nor falling into a feed that is already oversaturated with ads.
Analytics can give you some insights to the success of a campaign but measuring an exact ROI can be difficult. Before you commit to working with an influencer it is important to establish which metrics you’ll be tracking such as likes, comments and shares, impressions, website traffic or sales. It is vital to always communicate openly, clearly outline your expectations and come to an agreement prior to sending out any product or organising payment.
Influencer marketing can give your company a significant boost when used effectively. By identifying the right influencers, setting measurable goals and ensuring your business is well set up to capture the benefits of the increased awareness generated by your influencer partnerships, you’ll be in the best position to use this strategy to help your business grow.
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Scott is the Cofounder of Creatively Squared, a platform that provides brands with high quality visual content by matching them with a global network of content creators