Social media influencers are the talk of the town right now! It’s a topic I’m very interested in and one that I have given a few guest lectures on to young digital marketing students. I don’t promise to make you an influencer, instead I look at this from a marketer’s point of view, and how influencers can help brands spread their message.
I believe any business from any sector can successfully work with influencers but like with any area of marketing there needs to be a clear strategy, with goals and structure behind it and there needs to be a clear understanding of exactly which kind of influencer you want to work with so that a positive relationship can be formed.
What is an influencer?
An influencer is an individual with a large and loyal enough following to have the power to influence and affect purchasing decisions or lifestyle habits. Usually born out of social media channels, influencers will have demonstrated enough knowledge and experience in a sector, that followers will engage and actively follow their advice or recommendations.
More and more brands have tapped into the power of influencers and are successfully working with them to get their message out there. Think about how many fashion, beauty and fitness bloggers or Instagrammers you see actively recommending a brand’s products to their Instagram audience. That’s the power of influencers. Done well, influencers can massively improve a brand’s image, audience, sales figures, reputation, you name it. But done wrong, the message can come across as contrived and insincere and can cause damage to both the brand and the influencer.
Should you be working with influencers?
The short answer is: you should definitely consider it. For every sector, there will be people who are seen as influential, and therefore having them actively recommend your product or service will go a long way in reaching your target audience.
What sounds simple is in fact a complex and dynamic world centred around building positive relationships with established influencers that will work for both your brand and the influencer itself. This is a relatively new area for digital marketers, but it’s one that we can liken to celebrity endorsements. And as we have seen in the past, celebrity endorsements can work wonders for brands, or they can fall flat. The key is in making sure you have a clear strategy in place, and that you take the time to research this area in depth before embarking on an influencer marketing campaign.
Where to start?
Before you begin contacting influencers and offering them money or freebies in exchange for an Instagram post, make sure you plan accordingly to avoid any waste of time, budget or worse. Depending on the sector your business operates in, there could be a clear path to working with influencers, or it may require a lot more digging and relationship building.
Make sure to look at your competitors and find out if they are already working with influencers. And make sure you study the influencer market carefully so that you pick the right individuals to target.
Taking a campaign-led approach will help add structure and guidance to influencer marketing activity, and help you identify what success looks like. As with any campaign, start with a clear set of objectives, a well-defined target audience, be clear on budgets, and take the time to plan out timings. And of course, don’t forget to measure and learn from each campaign.
Once you have identified the influencers you want to work with, make sure you work together to create the best, most sincere content. Do not dictate what influencers should be writing about you. Audiences want to believe that these individuals are actively using these products and recommending them to their followers, so it shouldn’t look like a brand is just paying them to tag them on Instagram. If you have done your research, and built positive relationships with influencers, then trusting them to create their own content should come naturally.
What if things go wrong?
Things can go wrong. Influencer marketing is about people and building relationships. If you’re doing it properly, you will allow your influencers to craft their own message and tell their own story about your brand. But things can always go wrong. Influencers may not like your products and tell their audience about it. An influencer you’re building a relationship with may suddenly end up on the news for a negative reason. The message may come across as fake and insincere and receive negative backlash from social media fans and the press. Your campaign may not bring you the results you hoped. The list goes on.
This is why planning is so important. Taking the time to structure and plan out your campaigns and taking the time to do your market research properly will help avoid a lot of the negative outcomes. And for those that cannot be avoided, a contingency plan can be put in place, or a process of dealing with any negative outcome should it arise can be structured. As the saying goes ‘poor planning leads to poor performance’ and with influencer marketing, it can have very negative effects on your brand almost immediately. Take the time to plan accordingly and speak to an experienced marketer to make sure you’re covering all your bases.
Yes, planning is time consuming, but in the long run it’ll save you time and it can help avoid a negative outcome. But you don’t have to do it alone. Planning and researching is what I do best, so if you’re thinking about working with influencers to help grow your brand and spread your message then get in touch today and let’s work together.