How to Make Influencer Marketing Work for You, Regardless of Your Business Size - dummies

How to Make Influencer Marketing Work for You, Regardless of Your Business Size

By Stephanie Diamond

No matter what size business you have or what kind of marketing or PR background you come from, you can make influencer marketing work for your business — as long as you keep in mind what influencer marketing can and cannot do! The various approaches outlined here can serve as the foundation for the influencer programs you’ll build.

Leveraging influencer marketing if you’re an established consumer brand

If you represent a large, established brand and you’re looking to launch or enhance your influencer marketing programs, you likely have the experience, resources, and budget to regularly run large-scale programs.

Leveraging your advantages

If you’re an established brand, you’ve obviously been successful with your marketing and PR programs. Way to go! You have systems and processes in place for your marketing efforts, you know what works, and you have a budget in place for ensuring your campaigns are successful. You should be able to implement all the tips and tricks in your influencer marketing efforts. Use your scale and experience to your advantage!

You probably already have access to more data and metrics for influencer marketing than you realize. Many social media metrics tools — the ones you’re already using to monitor your social media programs — have add-ons for measuring influencer activity. Research what your current tools can already do to help save budget while ensuring you’re measuring your programs’ successes.

Speaking of measuring success, according to a 2015 study performed by influencer marketing agency Tomason, businesses are, on average, making $6.50 for each $1 spent on influencer marketing. That’s quite a statistic! Data like these support influencer marketing ROI figures and should make an easy case for diverting more marketing budget to influencer marketing.

Given the demonstrable ROI, hiring a dedicated person to oversee influencer marketing makes sense. Just as businesses were once reluctant to hire full-time social media resources and now have entire social media teams and agencies, influencer marketing is deserving of full-time strategizing and implementation.

Think of influencer marketing as an addition to your current programs, not a standalone effort. Start with your overall marketing plan: What are your goals? Your key messages? Your key milestones? Your social media efforts will be coordinated with your more traditional tactics (digital, print, TV, radio, and so on). There’s no reason for influencer marketing to be any different. Influencers should amplify your efforts, not compete with them!

As an established brand, the best reason to use influencer marketing is to help give your brand a fresh perspective. Allowing influencers to tell your story lets other consumers see your brand through their eyes. Handing over the “storytelling keys” to influencers breathes new life and personality into brands that may otherwise feel too staid to consumers.

Avoiding common mistakes

Larger brands with bigger budgets and teams can run into trouble with influencer marketing by taking too much of a “hands-off” approach. There are, of course, ways to scale influencer marketing programs, but avoid rushing to automation! Don’t fall into one of these traps:

  • Even if you build your own internal pool of influencers, or outsource your programs to an influencer agency, don’t underestimate the amount of work that goes into making influencer campaigns successful. The very reason influencer marketing works is because influencers are real, live human beings — not display ads. There are ways to scale your programs, but influencer marketing is not programmatic. Don’t approach it as though it were.
  • Don’t under-budget! You’re working with individuals (not machines or ad exchanges). No matter how sophisticated your process or tools may be, every influencer campaign will be different, and each will require a larger investment of time and resources than a campaign that only involves “flipping a switch.”
  • Don’t try to control everything. More established brands frequently have a more rigid way of doing things, and are often used to owning — and controlling — their own media. Yes, an influencer campaign would be more automated and controlled if a company simply provided the influencers the exact copy they were supposed to publish — except that’s not influencer marketing. Don’t try to control the messages in the name of efficiency or fear of losing control. Otherwise, you’re just forcing a different kind of display advertising into a medium where it will fall flat. (Bloggers’ audiences don’t want to read a prewritten press release!)
  • Don’t treat your influencers impersonally. The more impersonally you treat your influencers (something that’s easy to do when you’re a large organization), the less personal and less effective their work will be. Treat your influencers like individuals.

Finding an approach that works for you

As a large and sophisticated company, you have greater flexibility to really leverage influencer marketing and make it work for you. Here’s how:

  • Your overall marketing initiatives can lay the foundation for hugely successful influencer marketing campaigns. You can use influencer marketing to supplement, enhance, and amplify your existing efforts. For example, say you’ve created a two-minute ad spot but only 30 seconds of it will air on TV. Use influencers to showcase the full video across social channels, while everyone uses the same hashtag.
  • Don’t limit your perception of influencer marketing to “something someone else creates over there.” Use and repurpose the amazing content you worked so hard with your influencers to create! Spend the time, energy, and budget to create large, high-quality influencer programs. For example, the kind of programs where the writing and photos and captions and posts are striking, where influencers clearly can and do produce outstanding content for you. And then repurpose that content all day long! Use it in display ads, via social media channels, on your website, even on TV. Be sure to build content usage terms into your influencer contracts.

Influencer marketing works in two directions: It’s easy to mostly focus on how influencers do a great job of introducing their readers to a new brand or product — to grow brand awareness, purchase intent, and (ultimately) purchase. But don’t forget that influencer marketing also works well for consumers who are already in the purchasing intent phase.

For instance, a guy who’s looking to buy a new vacuum cleaner is going to start by searching online for something like “best family vacuum cleaners.” Imagine how compelling it would be for him to stumble upon a series of blog posts written about a specific vacuum cleaner, especially if those posts were balanced and visually attractive. He’s never heard of these bloggers before, but this demonstrates the long-term impact of influencer marketing programs.

What’s more, this man may then further investigate the vacuum he’s read about by going to an online retailer and looking up the model to read reviews. It’s extra powerful to have influencers write reviews directly on retail sites (with full disclosures that they’re being paid for their reviews) to help move the customer from intent to purchase.

Using influencer marketing if you’re a small to midsize consumer brand

You don’t have all the experience and budget of the major brands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rock influencer marketing! In some ways, you’re actually more likely to be able to enjoy success with this new marketing medium because you’re more nimble and better able to try new things. You can absolutely use your size and lesser-known brand name to your advantage!

Leveraging your advantages

What you may lack in resources (budget and human capital) will impact the size and length of your influencer programs — you simply won’t have the ability to run giant programs again and again.

Instead of breadth of programs, focus on depth of relationships. In other words, do more with less. Spend time upfront identifying influencers who really embody your brand, and develop true, one-on-one working relationships with them. If you can’t pay them in cash, “pay” them with valuable products, insider information, and attention. Treat them as extensions of your workforce. Consider developing brand ambassador programs that span several months.

If you have a lesser-known brand, you have more creative freedom. The social media influencer sphere is attracted to innovation and self-expression. The less forced influencer marketing is (that is, the less a brand insists on stringent brand and editorial guidelines when working with influencers), the more likely the program will be to garner users’ attention. Take chances and let your influencers get creative with their assignments!

As you’re working to create more awareness of your brand, you’re building your social media presence. Influencer marketing is especially useful at helping companies build their social media followings on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on.

Focusing your influencer marketing goals on shorter-term wins, such as building your social media following, means you can better track successes. “Brand awareness” is a good goal, but it’s tricky to measure and expensive to achieve on a broad, national scale. Influencer marketing goals need to be realistic and achievable, especially when your resources are constrained.

Avoiding common mistakes

Some approaches to influencer marketing simply won’t work, regardless of the size of the company trying to implement them. But there’s a disappointing pattern among small to midsize organizations trying to implement influencer marketing for the first time. Don’t fall into these traps:

  • Don’t underestimate the cost of running influencer marketing programs. Too many companies turn to influencer marketing because they mistakenly think it’s a cheap, easy alternative to other marketing tactics. It’s not! Producing amazing and demonstrably valuable campaigns takes dedicated time and resources. That doesn’t mean you can’t get great bang for your buck, but don’t approach influencer marketing as though it’s a quick fix for marketing ails.
  • Don’t let your influencer marketing take over your marketing budget. Allocate no more than 20 percent of your total marketing budget to your influence marketing programs.

    Influencer marketing amplifies traditional marketing efforts, but it doesn’t replace them.

  • Don’t forget about how to measure success. Think about what your success metrics are going to be and how you’ll get there. Are you tracking sentiment, brand lift, coupon distribution, social media followers? With what tools and benchmarks? Whatever your goals, start with a small, in-house program with a handful of influencers and let them serve as your benchmark. Too many organizations throw together influencer programs with unrealistic expectations (“Our hashtag will go viral!”) and no way to measure success.

Finding an approach that works for you

You want to get the most out of your investment, especially because your marketing dollars are likely to be spread thin. Keep these tips in mind as you approach influencer marketing:

  • Given your more limited resources, focus on influencer marketing programs that truly amplify your other marketing efforts rather than programs that operate completely independently from them. If you have a product promo code or sale, use influencers to get that code spread far and wide. If you’re launching a product in stores, coordinate your influencer efforts to launch at the same time. Do you have TV, YouTube, radio, or podcast content you’re proud of? Work with influencers to share that content with their audience.
  • Use influencer marketing to increase awareness of and followers to your social media channels or to increase your email marketing list. This is easier to do if your influencers have one simple, clear, and consistent message.
  • Keep your goals realistic, measurable, and short term.
  • Nurture the relationships you develop with your influencers. You want them to become vocal advocates for your brand — both online and off — even when they aren’t being paid to do so.
  • Reuse the content that your influencers create! Their content can populate your other social channels and resonate with your audience because the content came from users and not just the brand. This is especially true for Facebook, where you’re constantly searching for new content that will engage your readers; posting images and blog links is fast, easy, and very relatable.

Using influencer marketing if you’re a startup brand

Being a startup is tough in every way and discovering your brand is no different. You’re struggling to build something great internally, while ensuring that potential customers know you exist. Often startups turn to influencer marketing because they think it’s a fast, cheap (read: free) way to get a lot of traction with brand awareness. And although that’s not exactly true, there are ways to make influencer marketing work for startups.

Leveraging your advantages

The very best advantage you have as a startup is that you’re new and fresh. Maybe you want to be first to market with a cool new concept. Maybe you can do something no one has seen before!

Find influencers who care about being trendy and who want to know, see, or do things before their peers, and appeal to this desire — you’ve got something no one else has. If you can’t pay them, offer them first looks, tours of your workspace, beta versions of products before they’re on the market, or stock/equity in your company.

Be creative! As you’re trying to get your brand name out there, you have tons of freedom to try new things. PR “stunts” are safer to try. Consider collaborating with potential influencers to do something radical!

You don’t have to limit your influencer activity to writing reviews of your product. Consider reaching out to influencers and using them as beta testers. Bloggers can make amazing virtual focus groups. Sometimes, early feedback makes all the difference between a startup succeeding or failing. If you don’t have the resources to pay an influencer to write a public-facing review, the influencer may still be willing to work with you to give you private feedback.

Avoiding common mistakes

Startups tend to make the following mistakes when it comes to influencer marketing. Avoid doing the following:

  • Assume influencer marketing is quick or cheap. Influencer marketing takes a lot of time and resources, two things most startups don’t often have. Unless there is a clear strategic marketing goal that influencers can help you achieve (such as beta testing), don’t waste your startup energy.
  • Try influencer marketing if your product is an app. If you’re promoting an app, you may want to reconsider influencer marketing. Yes, it can be a fabulous tool for long-term boosts in searches — if you engage a handful of bloggers to include your app as part of a blog series on “perfect apps for kindergarteners,” you can be sure that parents who search for “kindergarten apps” will discover those posts. But you won’t see a surge of downloads directly from blog posts. Don’t max out your marketing budget hiring 50 bloggers to write about your app thinking you’ll see thousands and thousands of downloads as a result. Influencer marketing is not direct response — it will never convert at the rate a startup app needs.

Finding an approach that works for you

If you’re limited in resources and budget, be very deliberate in how to leverage influencers and know exactly what you’re going to get out of a program before you start one.

Influencer marketing can help round out your marketing strategy regardless of your business size. Make sure you’re using it in conjunction to complement your other marketing efforts.