High-profile celebrities have long been the obvious choice for garnering attention. For decades, brands have turned to Hollywood A-listers to market their products and raise awareness for their causes, in turn generating hundreds, if not thousands, of sales, and raising funds for much needed research. But this long-term association between organisations and celebrities is coming to an abrupt end. The shift from one way, broadcast communication strategies to a more complex marketing ecosystem has opened up a new avenue of promotion, where the consumer, rather than the organisation, is king.
This phenomenon is influencer marketing – the art of collaborating with well-known bloggers, social media personalities and ‘normal’, everyday consumers/experts to raise brand awareness and promote causes through third-party content creation and engagement.
While partnerships are far from a new concept for many organisations, what makes these influencers so appealing is their inherent sense of trust and credibility. Each obtaining their very own (and often very large) communities of loyal readers, viewers and followers, influencers have the power to take campaigns to a new level, reaching markets that, although lucrative, are also very difficult to crack.
With circulation figures now exceeding those of established daily newspapers, and some videos and blog posts being viewed up to 200,000 times in the span of days, it is no surprise many organisations have followed audiences onto the Internet, courting prolific influencers and paying them big dollars to collaborate on branded campaigns. In fact, just one piece of content shared by an influencer has the potential to be boosted by thousands, not only increasing the reach of an organisation’s message considerably, but also tapping into the loyal audiences these influencers have built over time.
So how can your organisation reap these same results? Here are some tips to help you catapult your organisation’s marketing campaign into success:
Marketing 101: Know your market. While it is important to identify your market and work towards fulfilling its needs, it is equally important to drill down further and invest in research that will pinpoint their behaviours. Ask what it is the market is looking to buy. Find out how they make purchasing decisions. Identify whom they are turning to for advice. Getting into your target market’s brains and understanding them is the first step to developing a marketing campaign that works.
Carefully select an appropriate influencer. Engaging with influencers can have a massive impact on brand perception. As with traditional sponsorships, you should focus on selecting the right influencers to associate with by evaluating representatives based on their “fit” with the brand’s values and culture. You will be better positioned if you select your influencers based on their market relevance, rather than the number of followers or views they attract.
Guide your influencer, don’t coerce them. While marketers could once dictate what their endorsers would say in advertisements or other promotional efforts, the same cannot be achieved with influencers. It is important to realise this early on to prevent unmet expectations. Rather than telling them what to do or say, give your influencer the inside scoop about your organisation – why and how you do what you do, and how you are making a difference in your field. Help them understand your products and core values, and give them the know-how and trust to translate those messages in their content.
Stay true to your target market. A mature approach to partnerships, from both the organisation and the influencer, is essential if such relationships are to flourish. As many influencers are now “available for hire”, it is important for them to navigate the fine line between promoting a product and losing what makes them such a powerful force—their authentic, unbiased voice. Take the lead and ensure a contract is put in place that guarantees endorsements are disclosed on all video, text and image content. Transparency will not only reflect well on the influencer, but on your organisation as well.
Find your spark. While it does help to have an influencer on board, this does not necessarily put you on the fast track to success. For your campaign to take off, there needs to be a spark or an element of difference that grabs attention and sets your cause or product apart from others. Ensure your marketing team has the talent and expertise to establish a strong promotional foundation for the influencer to work off.
Measure your impact. As with any other marketing campaign, it is important to evaluate the effectiveness of influencer marketing relative to other promotional efforts. Using tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Hootsuite, will give you the power to measure engagement on social media content and how it translates into sales or donations, unveiling a fuller picture of the strategy’s effectiveness. This will allow you to justify further investment into the strategy, or otherwise a change in business direction.
While the influential and disruptive power of consumer and peer-to-peer reviews are still being understood and harnessed, one thing is for sure – the marketing dollars moving towards influencers are not going away anytime soon. Do all of this, and you will be in a position to catapult your campaigns to a level you may not be able to reach otherwise.