Press, analysts and now influencers? As digital platforms make it easier than ever for information to be searched, the voice of influencers becomes one of the filters customers use to qualify their research. Influencer marketing is not only a brand management domain: it is now also the business of lead managers.
Influencer marketing focuses on those who influence the buying decision. In other words, influencer marketing targets not those who actually make the buying decision, but those who have influence over the buyers. It is, effectively, taking a step back, and looking at what and who affects the buying decision. Influencers may be users of the product, endorsing it after purchase, or commentators such as journalists or industry analysts, via reviews and positive comments. Consider the 10-year old who influences her mother’s home decor choices.
Influencer marketing can be either paid or earned. This applies to both B2B and B2C. Paid influencer marketing is, for example, using celebrities to advertise consumer products, or sponsorship of some sort. Earned influencer marketing, on the other hand, involves no payment or financial relationship. It includes onward sharing of social content because of its intrinsic interest to the sharer or influencer.
When targeting influencers, you need to consider their relevance in your field. Influencers have influence over their followers, but their followers may not be interested in your product or service. You therefore need to identify and target influencers who are relevant to your brand or product. This means identifying their audience, and whether that audience is, ultimately, your target audience.
Influencer marketing enables you to reach a broad audience, and generate more activity. Using influencer marketing can often give you access to a much broader audience. For example, if your target influencer has hundreds or thousands of followers on Twitter, and they choose to share your content, you have just magnified its exposure by the number of their followers. But being seen by more people is only the start of the story. You also have to consider the amount of activity that is generated as a result. To assess this, you may need to look at what people usually do when they read the influencer’s posts.
Remember that influence can work in both directions. If an influencer likes your product or brand, they will encourage others to buy. But an influencer who dislikes or has had a negative experience with the product will also be able to influence the buying decision, and probably not in the way that you would like. You therefore need to consider engaging with influencers who comment negatively via social media, to try to improve their perceptions. And, be prepared to act on valid criticisms.
Think of influencer marketing as co-creation. Influencers are often, if not usually, independent thinkers. They will, therefore, promote your content if they like it and your product, but will also comment and post independently. You may, therefore, be best off thinking about influencer marketing as co-creation: a process of creating and sharing content together.
Building relationships with influencers is not a short-term process. It takes time and effort, because you have to develop trust and confidence. Yes, you can pay someone to endorse your product. But earning influencer marketing over a longer period takes time and consistency. The key is to see the relationship as long-term, and work on it steadily, not focus on a specific campaign or moment.
Listen to influencers on social media. Social media is an important way to keep up with the conversation. Social listening is a vital tool to ensure that you know what is exercising your customers’ influencers. Commenting on influencers’ posts, and engaging with them helps you to build relationships, which in turn are essential for earned (organic) conversations about your product or brand.
Use measurement to identify potential influencers. Celebrities and powerful people within your industry are influencers that you will probably already have identified. But canny measurement, using tools like Sysomos’ Heartbeat, can help you to identify those already within your network. Most of us are more influenced by professional peers —those we know—than any number of ‘guru’ endorsements.
Make sure that you thank your influencers. It is easy to forget to say thank you, especially on social media, not least because the moment moves so fast. But if someone shares your content, you should thank them for doing so, even if it’s a week later. It’s an important recognition of what they’re doing for you. We all like to be thanked, and it makes us much more likely to do the same thing again. Recognising and rewarding influencers is a good way to build a stronger relationship with them.