As influencer marketing continues to explode, brands are increasingly looking to engage and partner with personalities that can reach and influence new buyers. But as companies expand their programs, so too is the influencer pool. Today, anyone can be an influencer, as long as they inspire someone to act. As the barriers to entry get lower, brands need to be more discerning to not only find the right influencers, but also to avoid pushing them away; a Cision study revealed that 80% of influencers are pitched off-topic information from brands and wish brands knew more about them before reaching out.
Furthermore, one of the most common mistakes brands can make when identifying influencers to work with is choosing someone simply based on their number of followers. Quantity does not equal quality, and there are a multitude of ways social media accounts can be gamed to appear as influential, including buying fake followers and automating and aggregating content. In response, we’ve identified the eight true factors of influence that brands should consider before working with an influencer:
Rather than simply looking at a potential influencer’s account, look at their followers’ accounts as well. Is your influencer reaching an audience that fits your brand’s personas? Are they likely to buy from you?
Is the influencer’s community actually liking, commenting, sharing and taking action based on the influencer’s content? If you aren’t seeing active community engagement, that may be a red flag to fake influence.
Topics of Coverage
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the influencer world is rapidly evolving. Their evolution is somewhat similar to the changes we’ve seen in the media over the past years: rather than covering general, broad topics, their coverage has morphed into hyper-focused, niche content. For example, instead of covering just “real estate,” they may be influential in “condo living in the upper east side of Manhattan.” Focus on the niche rather than the broad to get to the right influencers.
Content is still king, and valuable, original content is trusted, credible and resonates with audiences. If you find an influencer that is aggregating rather than creating their own content, that’s likely a red flag. Instead, look for an influencer that is creating and sharing new content on a consistent basis - you’ll need them to be comfortable with content to help create and share authentic messages with your target audiences.
You may find an influencer who is active on Instagram, one of the most wildly popular networks. However, is that a network that your target audience is active on? This is the mindset necessary for filtering through influencers who may seem like they are a good fit, but have some caveats to who they reach. Ensure that they’re active on the same networks your audience is active on (you’ll need to know this prior) so their messages will actually reach the right people.
Just like with media relations, dig deep into who your influencers really are. Both tactics are about people and relationships - how can you relate to these people? What are their interests, where can you find them off the clock, what’s their personal life like and how do you identify with them are common questions to ask and answer to help forge deeper relationships rather than one-off campaigns - a key driver to success of influencer marketing.
Culture and Demographics
The Edelman Trust Barometer has called it year after year. People trust people who are more like themselves. Engaging influencers that mirror your target audience’s personas will increase the chances that the people receiving those messages will share and act on the calls to action that may be delivered. Enable those influencers to forge those personal, 1:1 connections.
Where is your influencer located, and in what regions can they spread their influence? If you’re a local business in Virginia, it might not make sense to engage an influencer who is only geographically influential in California. If you’re a national brand, look for influencers that are accustomed to travel and have audiences in many different states - the same goes for global.
By carefully examining these eight key factors of influence, brands can more easily identify and engage the right influencers to implement campaigns that help shape brand stories, increase awareness and hook new buyers.
Stacey Miller is the director, communications at Cision. In her current role, she leads a global team of internal and external communicators while managing the strategy and execution of media, influencer and analyst relations, social media and community development. During her ten years with the company, she has pioneered influencer marketing, employee advocacy and social selling programs through both traditional and social media. Her programs have continually shown measurable increases in brand awareness, positive sentiment, competitor mindshare, news volume, customer retention, leads and sales. An internationally sought keynote speaker, her writing has appeared in Forbes, CIO and VentureBeat. Stacey is frequently quoted in online publications as well as published books, including several college textbooks. Consistently mentioned in "top people to follow” and “up and coming pros” lists, Oracle named Stacey a finalist for its Community Manager of the Year Award in 2012. Follow her on Twitter @staceylamiller.