Eighty-four percent of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family members above other forms of advertising, according to Nielsen’s 2013 Trust in Advertising report. These word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals are also known as earned advertising, and they form the basis for influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing enables brands to reach larger audiences by engaging online influencers to share brand messaging and promote products and services through word-of-mouth marketing, tapping into the established trust between influencers and their audiences. With some careful planning and a clear strategy, small businesses can harness the power of influencer marketing to drive brand awareness and increase sales, even without the multimillion-dollar advertising budgets common to major corporations. Here’s how to create a strategic influencer marketing plan that works.
Discover Your Ideal Influencers
Jeremy Shih, co-founder of Dynamis World, manages influencer marketing campaigns for a variety of celebrity, social influencer and public influencer clientele. “The ideal influencer marketing campaign happens when the solutions of your business product or service directly sync with the fan and follower needs of your enlisted influencer,” he explains.
“If you keep this key principle in mind, then the first step to successful influencer marketing is to determine exactly who commands the attention of the audience you are targeting,” Shih says. Look to your existing customers or your target audience as a starting point: Who do they follow on social media? Who do they engage with regularly? Use these findings to make a list of prospective influencers.
Qualify the Best Influencers
Sheer numbers aren't enough to make an influencer truly influential. What matters is how well they engage their audiences. It’s one thing to reach thousands of target consumers, but another entirely to elicit a desired response from those consumers.
“Check out the social media profiles of your prospective influencer—sheer numbers are one thing, but specifically you'll need to assess and qualify how active they are with their current engagement, [whether] their messaging or style [matches yours], and what they are posting about—the subject and nature of their content,” Shih explains. These metrics can help you narrow your list of prospective influencers to those with the capacity to engage their audiences.
Build Relationships with Key Influencers
Once you’ve identified and qualified key influencers, establishing a relationship increases your odds of successfully engaging them with your marketing campaigns. Following their social media accounts, sharing their content, commenting on their blogs and interacting with them through emails, social media and discussion forums are valuable ways to get on an influencer’s radar.
Other methods include recognizing influencers or quoting them in blog posts or roundups identifying the most influential individuals in a niche subject area. You might invite an influencer to contribute a guest post to your company’s blog, ask them to participate in a roundtable discussion or co-host a webinar with you.
Often, the methods you use to gain an influencer’s attention result in engagement. For instance, if you’ve included a quote from an influencer in an article, they may share the content with their social media networks. But manual outreach can also work for engaging influencers, such as sending a personal email message and asking for participation in a campaign.
Engage Influencers in Your Marketing Campaigns
The engagement process is very individualized and depends on the goals of your campaign, existing relationships with influencers and how involved the influencer will be in the specifics. As Shih points out, some influencer marketing initiatives are as simple as including your company’s name in their profiles, while in others, influencers are responsible for extensive content creation.
“Establish a timeline that details exactly how you will coincide the influencer's marketing efforts with your company's product distribution timetable. Determine which KPIs [key performance indicators], systems and tools you will need to be able to analyze and ultimately optimize your influencer marketing campaign,” Shih says.
Measure the Success of Your Influencer Marketing Campaign
“With all marketing campaigns, you'll want to determine your ROI [return on investment],” Shih says. “While influencer marketing may be fairly new and has the ability to create an alluring splash, measuring the effectiveness of your campaign is still old school business: What does your bottom line say?” Measure the success of your campaigns around your KPIs.
If the goal of your campaign is to acquire newsletter subscribers, for instance, give each influencer a unique signup URL to simplify tracking and measurement. Building in these measurement and analysis systems from the start of your campaign allows you to monitor and analyze individual influencers’ effectiveness, enabling ongoing campaign optimization and improvement. Define goals, clearly outline performance objectives, and outline how results will be measured prior to initiating your campaign.
Influencer marketing allows any company to capitalize on the established relationships of industry influencers, thought leaders and social influencers to expand their reach and achieve business goals. With a strategic plan and a bit of effort, you can achieve substantial results from influencer marketing—even without a multimillion-dollar advertising budget.
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