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In October, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Instagram, a platform that has transformed the notion of (and arguably created) influencer marketing. While reviewing the last decade of influencer marketing, I could not help but reflect on what happened this year alone and how brands are still not getting influencer marketing right … and 2020 has been quite a year.
Events like COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have shown us that social media continues as a hugely powerful medium, and that the current consumer marketplace is incredibly complex and changing quickly. It got even more complicated when some of the biggest brands participated in a Facebook boycott (with some doing so until the end of the year). On top of that, throw in an election!
As such, brands must be more selective and prudent when it comes to choosing the right advertising channels, and that’s especially true with the steps they take to achieve the full benefits and value of influencer marketing.
Here’s how your brand can go about changing its relationship with influencers.
Discovering the right influencers from the start
There is a gigantic sea of influencers hungry for brand attention: newbies with nano-audiences trying to build their followings, casual influencers who have great audiences but are new to working with brands, and established influencer “pros” with loyal audiences and extensive experience working with brands.
Furthermore, choosing an influencer partner requires determining whether that influencer has the right skills, truly the right audience, and whether they, in turn, want to work with you. And on top of all that, throw in some influencers with not-great reputations and this can make finding the right partners completely overwhelming.
And finding one good influencer can be hard enough, so how do you replicate that for a larger scale campaign?
- Influencers don’t exist by themselves, they exist in communities: if an influencer is well known by other influencers, that is a really good clue regarding their reputation.
- Review influencers’ past projects with brands: look at their past posts and the campaigns that they have participated in.
- Don’t depend solely on algorithms when doing your influencer research: platforms can be severely limited in their third party access to data about influencers.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with fringe communities: some of the most passionate engagement and greatest impact can come from influencer audiences who aren’t at the “center of the bullseye.” When they see content in an influencer’s feed that’s different, but relevant, they tend to take notice and engage.
Consult. Then, build
influencers are not just content creators, they are “voices of the crowd.” They understand audiences on an intimate basis, and often see the genesis of important trends long before they are revealed in market research and data analytics. When brands build and maintain close relationships with influencers, they can gain early advantages that can drive more effective and innovative campaigns.
When brand, influencer and audience interests intersect, that is where the magic happens. To get there, brands should be having conversations with influencers and listening to their experiences before planning and launching campaigns.
A hugely valuable approach is to gather a group of influencer partners to participate in a focus group. Ask them about:
- Their perspectives on brand positioning and reputation;
- What values the brand brings to their audiences (features, solutions, etc.);
- The Dos and Don’ts of engaging with their audiences;
- What messages and tactics are tired or overuse;
- What their audiences are craving but not getting.
Don’t forget to also share this information with your creative, strategy and planning teams as these insights help all departments be on the same page for a more cohesive rollout.
Monitor and re-engage
Finally, once you’ve launched your campaign:
- Keep checking for feedback after they have posted for you: this also encourages influencers to want to keep posting about your brand (and it will be done so authentically). When influencers have good, mutually beneficial relationships with brands they’re more likely to work on a long-term basis instead of sharing their audience with your competitors.
- Test and iterate: ultimately, measurement will help you inform your strategy and decision making around who to keep moving forward with for future posts. Identify trends, what works, what is stale or overdone, and more.
If your brand wants to continue working with an influencer, maintaining a real relationship is key for a lucrative influencer marketing strategy. These relationships are not just built from one post; it comes from frequent communication, increased collaboration and genuine support from the brand. With these best practices in mind, your brand is sure to get the most out of their influencer marketing strategy.
Andres Echenique is CEO and co-founder of Perlu, a professional community for brands and Influencers. An accomplished digital media and innovation professional, he has helped brands such as Dunkin’, GE, FedEx, Motorola, Georgia Pacific and many other brands innovate and compete in the digital domain.