Do you remember Hammer Pants?
I do. The early 90s was rife with outsized, utterly impractical trousers thanks to MC Hammer’s 1990 smash hit, “U Can’t Touch This.” Everyone was walking around dressed like Aladdin. And loving it.
When I think of those absurd pants, I think of influencers. If you want people to listen to your brand, buy your product, or just wear funny clothing – partner with an influencer. They have power and reach.
Will you partner with an influencer whose album went platinum and still rocks dancefloors to this day? Probably, because you can leverage their audience and swagger to sway your target audience, drive action, and boost your image.
The best brands have made influencer marketing campaigns an extension of their content and social media strategies. This post is going to look at the complete process for running an influencer marketing strategy.
We’ll discuss ways to discover and reach out to influencers as well as maintain a beneficial working relationship. Read and learn how to employ user-generated, professional video and branded content campaigns effectively. We’ll finish with a look at the key metrics to track.
Why Do We Love Influencers?
Well, because your audience doesn’t trust your brand as much as the cool people they follow on social media (yet). You’re out to sell and they know that. By comparison, influencers are self-sufficient individuals who resonate with their followers. They’re more like distant friends to consumers, advocates for causes and product testers.
- 74% of consumers use social media to make purchasing decisions. (Source)
Just slide your content materials in with influencer messaging to boost your visibility and effect, allowing your product to receive a big boost in credibility and social proof. Users will see your content as recommended by a leader and respond with the desired actions more readily.
- 78% of brands increased content output in the past two years, yet content engagement decreased by 60%. (Source)
Looking at the reality of it, how can we not use influencers to drive actions?
3 Factors for Selecting Influencers
“Relevance is the price of attention.”
–Ardath Albee, Marketinginteractions.com
Thankfully, there are plenty of fish in the sea … because not every brand is a match for every influencer.
Just because someone has a huge following doesn’t mean they’ll be able to deliver the conversions your business wants. An influencer’s audience, area of expertise and personal style should all complement your brand. Otherwise, the audience will see right through the messaging and you’ll both lose credibility.
- How does this person interact with their followers?
- Do their values always coincide with yours?
- Are their posting habits consistent with what your brand needs?
For example, Taylor Swift is an influencer with 1.2 million followers. However, would she be as effective with your target market as an industry-specific influencer with 1/10th or 1/100th the audience?
Of course, getting the most from influencer relationships means partnering with those who can send your message far and wide. Otherwise, your ROI will be … DOA.
I don’t know about you, but I like hanging out with energetic people. They do things and get others to do the same!
You owe it to your bottom line to choose an influencer with energy and authority. You know, someone who actually drives action and boosts revenues with their posts. Because influencers don’t press their message on their audience, it’s only natural that some will have more sway than others. Part of deciding on a contextual fit is deciding if your influencer is engaging their users already and if you can catch part of that good juju. Peek at their blog and social accounts to gauge how much feedback they’re eliciting.
How to Create Effective Influencer Campaigns
“Create customer experiences that differentiate your brand.”
—Robert Rose, Robertrose.net
How can influencers better differentiate your brand? That depends on how you want to use the appeal of influencers across different types of campaigns.
Use a branded collection campaign, as luxury e-commerce company Gilt does with supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio, to really cement a connection between your image and the influencer.
Gilt goes for the gold by pairing with Ambrosio and her 7.1 million followers. Users obviously adore the woman, so the brand can only win with bold associations. The influencer is seen “living the life” while using featured products and talking about the benefits of easy, stylish Gilt shopping. The fashion retailer smartly assembled a custom collection for users to shop in the bio and made sure the #Giltlife hashtag appears throughout the messaging.
Most importantly here, Ambrosio is authentic and dazzling in her natural setting. This time, she’s giving a shout-out to Gilt from her own Instagram account. Sure, to reach a wider audience, this message recommends Gilt products but also communicates the wider brand values. The superstar welcomes everyone to sample the exclusivity and the good life available at a Gilt event – “fashion, food fitness and more.”
Approaching Influencers (Even Supermodels)
Want a (professional) relationship with an influencer such as Alessandra Ambrosio?
The rule of thumb for starting relationships is to give before you receive. And show what you can offer right away.
Successful influencer relations begin the same way. Once you’ve found a choice influencer, start to share their content, reshare their posts, hype them on social media and comment on their comments. Don’t just show up and demand a partnership.
These are successful individuals with finite time so treat them like people instead of products. Approaching influencers respectfully means performing your due diligence and investing in their brand first.
Start by reaching out to influencers and ask permission to include them in some of your marketing content. Maybe swap some guest posts. Or, submit your product or service for them to review. The responses and evaluations you’ll get are insight enough into whether your working relationship is going to be fruitful or incompatible.
Starting slow allows you to move beyond money. Many influencers prefer not to be a commission-only sales advocate or receive cash – they’re more comfortable acting as ambassadors for trades or exchange.
Cultivating the Mutually Beneficial, Lucrative Partnership
“33 percent of consumers report feeling deceived upon realizing an article or video was sponsored by a brand. Be authentic and communicate up front about what you are doing.”
–Ahava Leibtag, Aha Media
If you’re going to embed your product discretely, be careful. Social media platform users appreciate authenticity above all. And if you’re going to be blatant, make it worth everyone’s while. Advertising done through a branded voice box is still effective.
Online beauty supplier, Birchbox, exemplifies this in their partnership with lifestyle blogger, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere.
With customized beauty boxes from Schuman, the cosmetics brand creates an exclusive offering sure to resonate with fans. The testimonial delivery across Birchbox’s YouTube channel is personable and relevant within their audience and sure to drive conversions across the 300,000 followers she has on Instagram.
What makes this mutually beneficial is that Schuman has a chance at the beginning to share her forthcoming book with viewers. She also references her personal blog between highlighting the great value to Birchboxers. After watching and being told to look below, the CTA link is embedded in the description to make sure viewers can take the next step.
Social media is about authenticity. Feeling squeamish about shameless promotion? Well, then employ a user-generated content campaign to really show users you’re with them. By pulling testimonials and images sourced from your brand advocates you’ll flex some serious social proof and see higher engagement and conversions as a result.
Birchbox sources user generated content and places it as videos on their Instagram account. The goal is to create happy customers, yes, and the way to do this is to show happy customers! Amidst genuine voices from the audience are other influencer testimonials. Combining multiple influencers with a wide swathe of user-generated content gives the impression that everyone is talking about your brand!
This screenshot shows Birchbox holding a giveaway to earn followers and drive engagement. It’s a great tactic for generating interest and content for your brand. What other ways can you generate user content for use?
- Provide product discounts or giveaways
- Ask for uploaded videos and photos using your product (narcissism works)
- Take quotes from discussion boards and comments sections
- Ask advocates to answer questionnaires and guarantee that they get final publishing veto (and a free product/service trial)
User-generated content can be placed on your web page or attached in product pages. You can utilize it for Facebook ads and send it through newsletters. The more you have, the more creative you can be.
Collaborate on Winning Content
Once you’ve found a great ally, sit with your influencer to create stellar content.
While many personalities are DIY, set aside some time to plan content schedules, keyword use, links and messaging down to the tee. This is how to ensure your content goes the farthest, provides the best SEO boost and can be repurposed in the form of influencer quotes and testimonials.
I was researching how to make my own screen printing press when I came across this Casper influencer campaign. Bob Clagett, who has almost 1 million subscribers to his “I Like to Make Stuff” YouTube channel, displays a well-embedded professional video campaign from the e-commerce mattress brand. The video cuts away for Bob to reference how he built a bed frame last week – and what a great compliment Casper’s product makes.
While Mike surely could have shot that video himself, trust that Casper delivered the messaging and oversaw the production, perhaps even sponsoring the preceding post about the bedframe. The mini-video format does a great job of keeping viewers on target to learn about the printing press but also highlights what Casper can do for them in a natural way.
Keep Your Metrics in Mind
Be sure to discuss what success looks like before starting a partnership. Are you trying to raise awareness? Gain more social media follows? Content creation efforts will benefit from concrete standards and outlining expectations keeps all parties focused. Consider key metrics when designing your goal-specific content as it relates to phases of the customer journey.
How to Find Your Influencers
My logic is this: Use social media to find social media influencers. Pretty savvy, eh?
#1 Research Hashtags
By identifying and following the key hashtags your influences might be using, you do two important things:
- Locate active influencers
- Uncover content topics and ideas for usage in campaigns and for influencer outreach
Try to assemble a list of 25 influencers that match your brand message in your industry. I know it sounds like a lot, but you’ll appreciate the diversity when you start doing outreach. Who knows, you may already have built-in advocates you can readily switch into influential ambassadors.
#2 Use Tools
This costs but it is very effective. Jump on BuzzSumo, Klout, Kred or Moz’s Followerwonk to get rankings and stats from engagement, keywords and reach.
#3 Social Networks
If you’re not already following influencers in your industry, there’s no better time to start. Not only is it great to hear the latest info, but simple keyword searches can overturn a wealth of qualified persons. Plus, following (and maybe even engaging with) this person will go a long way to demonstrating you’re a worthy partnership. A report from Technorati shows 86% of influencers operate at least one blog so seek out their websites as well.
#4 Google Alerts
Set an alert for keywords in your business sphere so you can identify those writing topics in your realm. It’s a good idea to employ a form of social media monitoring as well and create name alternatives for your company in case people are talking about your brand – and are having a hard time with the spelling. This way you can identify any advocates already in place.
#5 SEO Research on Influencers
When you’ve compiled your list, amass the necessary SEO stats and social media information for every influencer. Then decide on which suits your brand and has the reach and actionability you want.
…you can’t touch the power of influencer marketing.
Influencers are here to stay, so once you’ve found a handful of well-aligned individuals, start creating terrific content that will return results. This means drawing from user-generated content to provide social proof to your target audience members who might need a bit of a push.
Be sure to use professional video campaigns to showcase your product or service in an outstanding fashion. Employ a branded collection campaign when you want to place your offering nearby the influencer for a revenue-driving endorsement.
Ultimately, you’ll want to craft influencer campaigns and use tactics that target various segments in various stages of the sales funnel. Setting forth with clear goals and metrics to track will allow you to see just how potent you influencer relationship is, or in what way it can be improved. That could mean tweaking messaging, channels, copy, and even influencers. But no one can resist the power of Hammer Time.
Brandon Gains is the VP of Marketing at Referral SaaSquatch. He leads growth initiatives at the company using a mix of content, design and web development tactics. Brandon also contributes articles to publications like SocialMediaToday, CustomerThink and Business2Community. You can connect with him via email brandon at referralsaasquatch.com or on LinkedIn