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Influencer marketing paves the way for brands to build connections, create social proof, and highlight their value proposition through strategic partnerships with knowledgeable influencers.
To succeed at influencer marketing, however, brands need to get their resources, priorities and strategies aligned. It’s not as simple as finding a few popular people on social media, offering them your product, and watching the sales roll in.
These 10 factors can help you ensure your influencer marketing strategy and campaigns are rock solid, so you can earn the return on investment (ROI) your company expects from your partnerships.
1. Clear key performance indicators (KPIs)
You probably have marketing goals for your organization. Do your influencer marketing goals align with them?
First, determine what you’re trying to achieve with the influencer campaign. Are you trying to grow followers? Increase engagement? Drive email subscriptions? Earn sales?
Answering these questions will help you identify the key performance indicators that you will need to measure in order to track ROI. Having absolute clarity around your objective will also help to ensure that you’re partnering with the best influencers for the job.
Related: 8 Ways to Grow Your Audience to a Million Followers
2. Synergy between your brand and your influencer partners
Narrowing down your influencer options can seem like an uphill task. You may already have a list of creators you admire but may be unsure whether they’re hitting your target audience, posting content that fits with your brand, or within your price range.
The very first question you need to ask yourself when vetting influencers is: “Does this influencer reach my target audience?” If the answer is yes, then you move on to identify other areas of synergy to make the collaboration as seamless and authentic as possible.
Successful brand-influencer partnerships feel like a natural fit. You should see similarities in the way you communicate and the values you hold so that you can ensure the messages you’re creating together resonate with the right people.
3. Influencer credibility
You don’t have to partner with the top influencer in your area of expertise. Sure, it might be nice to have someone with millions of followers sharing content on your behalf, but it’s also very expensive.
The most important criteria isn’t necessarily their follower count. It’s their credibility.
An ideal influencer gets great engagement, is viewed as an authority in their topic area, is in a niche that correlates strongly with your business goals and is committed to developing a strategy that works for both of you.
When evaluating influencer credibility, consider these factors:
- Are they considered an expert in your industry?
- Does their messaging resonate with your audience?
- Are their followers consistently engaged, in a positive way, with their content?
4. Focus on cultivating a relationship and offer value upfront
For an influencer partnership to succeed, it needs to have a strategy and the intent to build a long-term relationship behind it.
While working with influencers to support a product launch can be beneficial, the best ROI will come from building long-term relationships where the influencer serves as an extension of your brand and their followers come to see you as a company that can be trusted in the long term.
When you work with an influencer, take time to build the relationship. Get to know their audience and the ways they communicate and interact.
Watch their feeds and see what kinds of content they’re using and what works for them. Then, you can approach them with a knowledgeable proposal that acknowledges what both sides are bringing to the table.
Find ways to fairly compensate your influencer partners to create a reciprocal relationship. The majority of influencers want to be paid fairly for their work and their interactions with their audiences.
If you’re not able to adequately compensate them for their value, you may not be gaining access to the caliber of influencers you need to generate success in your own campaign.
Related: 4 Questions You Should Ask Before Investing in Influencer Marketing
5. Strike the right balance between guidance and creative freedom
If you’ve got a lot riding on the success of a campaign, it can be tempting to dive in and micromanage. However, doing so can cost you some of the biggest benefits that come along with influencer partnerships.
The whole point of influencer marketing campaigns is to use the platform of a person with whom your target audience already relates. If you take away their autonomy to connect with their audiences in their own time-tested ways, then you’re risking the effectiveness of your campaign.
Give influencers the freedom to bring their own style to the content so it retains an authentic flavor. You can guide the conversation by providing key points and your desired call-to-action but give them the freedom to use their knowledge of their audience and platform.
After all, that’s why you’re paying them, because they’ve spent time understanding what works for their brand and developing connections with their followers. According to our 2019 Global Micro-Influencer Study, more than three-fourths of influencers spend 3 or more hours each day developing high-quality content to engage users on social media platforms. Let them put those hours of experience to work for you.
6. Corroborate that followers are real
If you build an influencer campaign and only bots “see” it, you’re just throwing money away.
Estimates show that there are more than 60 million fake profiles on Facebook, more than 48 million Twitter bots, and thousands of other bots and fake accounts across the full spectrum of social media.
It can take some time and research to separate the wheat from the chaff and to make sure your influencer campaign is reaching real people.
This is where influencer marketing platforms come in handy. They have automated systems and technology in place to identify suspicious activity and influencers who are serving content to mostly fake accounts. Some of the warning signs include:
- Profile images that are duplicates or blank
- Profile descriptions that are incomplete or that are the same across multiple profiles or platforms
- No content posted on the followers’ accounts
- Spammy messages posted as comments on other profiles
7. Choose the right channel for your campaign
You can have a great product and a strong campaign idea, but you have to align it with the correct platform to see the optimal results. When you’re choosing your platform, consider which audience you’re focusing on and where they’re most likely to spend their time.
For example, Gen Z spends its time on TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat, while millennials may be more likely to connect on Instagram and older audiences skew toward Facebook.
The right channel isn’t only determined by generational cohorts, though. The type of content you want to have influencers share also plays a role.
If you’re creating content that’s personal and dynamic, and that features verbal calls to action, consider Instagram Stories. For longer form tutorials or reviews, YouTube is a great fit.
Content that requires a link in the call to action fits best on certain platforms as well; Instagram Stories offers the option for a Swipe Up that makes it easy to connect users directly to a website or ecommerce platform.
Related: How to Spot a Fake Influencer
8. Evaluate engagement rate
An influencer’s engagement rate is the best indication of the amount of interest their audience has in their content and how responsive they are to it. If you’re aware of the engagement an influencer typically earns, you have a baseline for what you can expect in terms of interaction with your campaign.
It’s important to prioritize engagement over follower count because the size of the audience doesn’t matter if the audience is disconnected and unresponsive. Instead, it can make more sense from an ROI standpoint to engage with a microinfluencer in your specific niche, where you can expect higher levels of engagement and overall influence.
It’s critical that you take time to calculate and analyze their engagement rates before making a final selection regarding influencer partners. You should also consider whether there’s a sharp difference in engagement with their sponsored posts versus their organic content, as that discrepancy might indicate which products are a poor fit with their brand and give you insight into whether you’ll see similar or better success rates.
9. Get the timing right
If you’re creating content, you need people to see it; that’s just common sense. When you’re developing an influencer campaign, it’s important to pay attention to timeframes and to when your target audiences are most likely to be online and engaged. This is frequently overlooked in the influencer space but is crucial to the success of your campaign.
To make the most of your influencer partnerships, focus on these timing-related considerations:
- Research the best times for specific platforms, your industry, and the demographics of your ideal buyers.
- Consider whether consistent scheduling works for your partnership; some audiences engage more frequently when they know to expect a post, story, etc., on a specific platform on a specific day or at a set time.
- What else is on your marketing schedule? Consider whether your campaigns will work together or detract from one another and how you’ll track ROI for each.
- What’s going on in the world around you? Will your message be heard, or will it be drowned out in posts for “May the Fourth” or National Sibling Day?
- What are your target audience’s usual decision-making patterns?
10. Effective measurement
You want to know if your campaign worked. The only way to do that is to know upfront what you want to track, and to stay consistent throughout the course of your campaign.
That means taking time to build out an ecosystem for measurement, including:
- A baseline of your audience, reach and typical engagement
- UTMs to track referrals to your website
- A tracking system or dashboard for analytics measurement
Getting a handle on data and making sure you’re measuring the things that matter can be time-consuming. This type of analysis can be delegated to an influencer marketing agency if you work with one, as they likely already have a good handle on what needs to be tracked, as well as the technology to automate it.
When you’re deploying marketing strategies, you need to be sure you’re getting a good return for your efforts. That remains true whether you’re working with influencers, through email marketing or through traditional, non-digital channels. Fortunately, with influencer marketing, there are plenty of ways to track and measure the impact of your campaigns, so you can iterate on them and keep creating better relationships and stronger strategies.