Online marketing strategies evolve along with every other aspect of the web, from platforms and technologies to users’ preferences and actions. While many traditional forms of online marketing are still going strong—such as pay-per-click ads and email marketing—influencer marketing is the new kid on the block. It’s especially buzzworthy because when done well, influencer marketing can have a tremendous ROI. Research from Tomoson found that businesses recoup $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. That same research also noted that marketing pros rate influencer marketing as their fastest-growing source of new leads and customers. So what is influencer marketing, and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Influencer Marketing?
When it comes to recommendations about products and services, a 2015 Nielsen study found that consumers trust friends and family members’ opinions the most (no surprise), brands’ own websites second (!), and opinions posted online came in third. Third place might not sound so great until you consider that fully two-thirds of respondents trust consumer opinions posted online. That’s actually a pretty strong third-place finish!
But not all opinions posted online are equal. The opinions of bloggers, vloggers, and social media mavens who have gained large followings tend to have a bigger impact than a few random comments on a review site like Yelp or the occasional Amazon review. These “power commenters,” so to speak, reach a larger audience that most often is also a fairly targeted audience—readers and viewers who share not only common interests, but often have demographic commonalities as well. They have long-term relationships with their core followers, who trust their opinions and will come back to their blog, page, or feed to find out what’s new.
These popular bloggers, vloggers, and social media users are the influencers in influencer marketing. They’re leaders within their niches. Whether you actually hire or pay these influencers to promote your business or product, or you inspire them to talk you up by virtue of having killer shareable content of your own, you’re essentially getting the best of word-of-mouth marketing (good old-fashioned “have you heard about this?”) with the best of advocate marketing (people who already love your brand talking you up). It’s even better than both of these, though, because if you properly vet your influencers (more on that in a second!), you’re also reaching the consumers who are most likely to want what you have to offer. The combination of authenticity and targeting is a big reason why influencer marketing brings in such a strong ROI.
How Do I Find Influencers?
Influencer marketing can be astonishingly impactful, but to do it correctly takes a considerable amount of work. In many ways, you’re running two marketing campaigns. First, you’re marketing your brand to influencers to get them interested in blogging, tweeting, liking (we could go on and on) your product or service. Second, there’s the marketing campaign that actually is targeted toward potential consumers, clients, and leads—the stuff you want influencers to share.
The first step is finding influencers. There are automated platforms, like Buzzsumo and Tapinfluence, which let you see who the big fish are in your target topic’s small pond. But identifying influencers can’t be fully automated—you really need actual humans, not just algorithms, vetting the blogs, social accounts, etc. of the influencers that you’re considering. It’s important to look not only at their content, but also at their commenters and followers. You want to be sure that your business, brand, or product is being presented in the right context, and that the people you’re reaching—the influencer’s audience—are the right ones for your message.
If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. The upshot, however, is that taking the time to find the right influencers gets you more with less. You don’t have to work with a massive network of bloggers. Find a handful of bloggers who are exactly the right fit, and you’re likely to get more from that intense targeting than you would from a more scattershot approach. Actually, reaching out to fewer influencers also allows you to build stronger relationships with them. Before you can get your message to their audience, you need influencers to trust you and your brand—remember, when they recommend a product or service to their readers or followers, their reputations are on the line. At the same time, you want to be sure you trust the influencer. Even if you aren’t exchanging any goods or compensation, you’re essentially hiring a part-time marketing consultant. If you wouldn’t want the person to work for you in a regular position, you may want to keep searching for another influencer.
What Kind of Content Do Influencers Share?
You’ve identified your influencers, but to know what you’re going to pitch them—and their audiences—you need to have that second layer of your marketing plan in place. In some cases, maybe you have awesome, shareable content (like a great infographic or video) that you’d like to get in front of their audiences. In other cases, you may want to provide talking points or an angle, but then let the influencer create the actual message in his or her own voice (which is, after all, what their audiences are accustomed to).
When it comes to content though, your options are virtually limitless. The main thing to consider is that whatever you choose, you should make your content work on multiple platforms. Most bloggers will promote their new posts through social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, and you want to be sure you can take advantage of that.
One smart idea is to make your awareness marketing campaign (since most of influencer marketing is to build awareness with the audience) something that the influencer will want to promote. Got something new? Offering the influencer an “exclusive”—the opportunity to be the first to announce your new product or service—can be a compelling offer. Another excellent way to get influencers on board? Offer to sponsor a giveaway or raffle on their blog or Facebook page—fully 90% of bloggers want to do contests like this with their readers. They get the audience engaged with both the influencer and your brand, so it’s a win-win. These are easier to measure engagement with, since you can use a specific call to action (tweeting with your hashtag, for example, or leaving a comment) for entry.
To make that major ROI a reality, the bottom line is that your influencer marketing strategy needs to be organized—you should have a thorough plan just as you would with any other style of campaign. In addition to identifying influencers who have the right audiences, you’ll need to develop an editorial calendar, strategize what kind of message you want to share, decide how you’ll initially reach out to influencers and nurture those relationships, figure out what metrics will help you know whether your campaign is working, and choose targets (clicks, calls, etc.) for your overall campaign. Measurable results are important, because they’ll help you know whether a relationship with an influencer is working or whether it’s time to find someone new.
Influencer marketing is a tantalizing prospect, but it’s also a major undertaking. If you’re wondering whether this kind of campaign might work for your business or what it would take to get started, call Higher Power SEO at 760-881-4736 or send us a message.