The Age of the Influencer: Best Practices for Best Results
Influencer marketing is not new. Brands have been partnering with influential people for decades. From celebrities to athletes, these influencers were, for a long time, the face of our favourite brands.
At some point over the last decade, this model shifted. Instead of celebrities and athletes, brands turned to real-world people to represent their companies and be the face of their brands. Adding a new layer of authenticity and credibility, these newfound influencers helped to shape a new era of media and marketing. However, slowly but surely, as brands began to capitalize on the reach of influencers, the model shifted yet again creating a new celebrity and a new cost of doing business.
While the rise of the high-reach influencer created great opportunities for brands to reach their audience on a much larger scale, it also presented new challenges around brand saturation and lost messaging. Over time, many companies began to seek out micro-influencers in an attempt to focus on quality versus quantity and grow brand affinity alongside these influencer’s growing fans.
Whether high-reach or micro, celebrity or other, influencers play a key role in brand marketing today. And, while we don’t foresee this type of marketing disappearing anytime soon, we do know that not all partnerships are created equal, and to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship, brands must do their research, know their audience well and create as much value from these partnerships as possible.
Credibility is key
We’ve heard many experts comment on the importance of doing your research to ensure the influencer you select aligns well to your brand’s core values and speaks to your key demographic. All of these are important and will set your business up for success from the start. However, an often-overlooked criterion is credibility, and it’s one that can be even more impactful than the others.
While a brand and influencer may line up in terms of value and visuals, it’s important to ensure that you work with someone who has a credible reputation. Meaning, beyond their own personal style and follower base, are they promoting other companies that align with your brand’s values? Are they promoting start-ups or new companies that have not been properly approved or vetted yet? Do they promote products that work well with yours? Or compete with your offering?
One influencer I worked with years ago was promoting a new online, on-demand medical app. When I saw the posts for this app, I thought “what a fantastic idea!” It’s something I would use as a parent. However, after trying to use the app myself, I quickly realized that it was not ready for launch – there were glitches, there were issues with scheduling etc. It’s so important to ensure that the person you align your business with, is aligned with other credible companies and has done their research too. It’s all connected. Every partnership is a direct reflection of your brand.
Offering free products or services to influencers is also key. It ensures an authentic approach to the content and will help to alleviate any hick-ups in advance of the promotion.
Value is the new currency
To maximize the value of influencer partnerships, brands should look beyond singular initiatives and leverage these opportunities as ways to create content that can live on, long after the launch.
Many times, businesses are focused on the launch-at-hand; a new restaurant, the latest product launch or must-have service. As such, they work with influencers to promote that news and focus on leveraging their platform to share launch details. While this approach offers reach for the launch, it does not provide long-term value.
A great way to maximize partnerships with influencers is to work with them on what they do best and create omni-channel content that can be leveraged on your company’s website or social channels year-round.
For example, if you are working with a food influencer for the launch of a new restaurant, in addition to having them promote the opening on their blog or social platforms, why not engage them to also create new recipes for your website, or shoot some great food photography for your Facebook page. It’s a mutually beneficial agreement as the brand receives additional content (and we all know content is king!), and the influencer receives exposure to a larger audience by being credited/tagged in the brand’s posts. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Define success in advance
Often times, brands are eager to ‘get out there’ with their message that they fail to define clear success metrics in advance of their launch. This is particularly important when working with influencers, as the way you define success should impact the way you select your partner.
If your key kpi is brand awareness, you’ll likely zero in on high-reach influencers that can distil your message quickly to a large audience. However, if you’re basing the success of a program on purchasing power or click-throughs, engagement will be more important than reach. You can have a lower reaching influencer with a high level of engagement – meaning, the followers they do have are more responsive and take action more so than other influencer’s followers.
Setting clear success objectives at the onset of a program is vital to ensuring your brand receives the best value from an influencer partnership and selects the best person to represent you.