The unfortunate truth for marketers is that people trust people a lot more than they trust brands. To address this trust deficit, marketers are increasingly turning to people — both within and outside their organizations — to get their messages heard. And while employee advocacy is indeed a great way to cut through (and one we’ll discuss in another newsletter), today we’re going to help reframe your thinking about external influencer marketing programs.
The following insights about influencer marketing were gleaned from multiple sources, including influencer programs Renegade has executed for various clients and the IBM Futurists influencer program, of which our CEO, Drew, is a part. We’ve also recently interviewed a wide range of brands (IBM, Dell, Cox Communications, Glasses USA), influencers like Sean Gardner and Martin Jones, and influencer platform providers like Group High.
Reach Equals Action
The natural tendency, particularly among mass marketers, is to start with influencers who have the largest reach. Unfortunately, in addition to sometimes having to work with prima donnas who might demand excessive fees, these folks often underperform compared to their less-followed, but more eager, counterparts. “Some of our most successful campaigns were a result of collaboration with small-scale influencers,” notes Paz Zvick, Director of Direct Marketing Partnerships with GlassesUSA.com.
Reach Begets Engagement
Mitchell Cohen of Group High, an influencer identification and management system, encourages his clients to focus on influencers with high engagement rates, explaining, “Everybody thinks that reach is going to equate to engagement, and, at the end of the day, it does not.” Relatedly, Martin Jones of Cox Communications suggests that B2B brands shouldn’t underestimate “the power of micro-influencers.” An executive with only a few hundred followers might command influence over a key target that could represent millions in potential revenue, for example.
You Have to Pay to Play
Many influencers, particularly celebrities with huge followings, demand sizable fees for even a single Instagram post. And while some brands find these transactions beneficial, if you focus on niche influencers you may find other ways to create a fair exchange of value. Martin Jones is a big fan of inviting influencers to events where they can get VIP access to people, information and or an experience that isn’t available to the general public, for example. Jones also warns that there are important legal considerations once you pay an influencer to speak on behalf of your brand.
You Can’t Test Influencer Programs
Like any other marketing campaign, you should implement testing for your influencer program, as well as for your individual influencers, to ensure a good fit and actual results. Konstanze Alex, Global Communications, Corporate Social Influencer Relations at Dell, likens working with influencers to dating, “where the brand (but really a human representative of the brand) and the social influencer get to know each other.” Mitchell Brook also prescribes this approach and recommends putting the onus on the influencer to “demonstrate that they can create content that their audience will engage with.”
Results are Instantaneous
Because social media is considered a real-time arena, those new to influencer marketing might expect results shortly after the initial brand interaction. In truth, many influencers schedule their content days, if not weeks, in advance, so patience is typically required and can even be rewarded, especially if an influencer shares your brand-related content on multiple occasions. Brands are well-advised to think about these programs as a series of mutually beneficial interactions that will only get better as the relationship matures.
The Specifics Should Be Outlined in a Contract
In the pay-to-play world of influencer marketing, contracts often state how much money will be exchanged for a minimum number of posts. However, this specificity is not necessarily recommended when it comes to non-contractual value exchanges because, more often than not, it will discourage an authentic relationship between the two parties. Brands that nurture their influencers and let them use their judgment as to when and where they share stories about the brand are often rewarded with better and more frequent content.
Your Message Should Be Mandated
The desire for a consistent message can often push marketers to be overly prescriptive when it comes to what they want their influencers to say about their brands. This approach can end badly for both the brand and the influencer, who could lose credibility with their fans if it seems like they’re parroting a brand. Martin Jones advises, “Don’t micro-manage influencers or try to get them influence ‘your’ way. They know their audience better than you do, so let them influence with the methods that are natural and authentic for them and their audience.”
Final note: Clearly, there are a lot of misconceptions about influencer marketing, but never fear — the team at Renegade would be more than happy to talk to you about how to test your way to success.