There has been a lot of talk recently amongst marketers about the effectiveness of Influencer Marketing and whether it translates into meaningful results for a brand. Burst Media recently released an industry benchmark report that provides great insight into the tangible results of those businesses that ran an Influencer Marketing campaign in 2014. The results were staggering! It was reported that for every $1 of paid media spent on a ‘retail and apparel’ influencer program, $10.48 in earned media value was generated. Despite these results, Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, Vice President and Principle Analyst at Forrester research cautions marketers about expecting too much from Influencer Marketing [CIO: Inside the murky world of ‘social media influencers]. She suggests measuring the return as you would any other PR initiative, focusing on mentions rather than sales. So how can you be guaranteed to get the best possible results from your Influencer Marketing campaigns?
Selecting the right influencers based on your brand strategy and target market is one of the most important steps when realising true value and long term ROI. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to working with Bloggers to promote your brand. Those marketers who take the time to really get to know the influencers who will be working to promote their brand will be more likely to see ‘real’ results compared to those who gloss over the detail or worse still just engage bloggers who have the highest number of followers.
Whether you’re a start-up brand or a well established business, the first step in any Influencer Marketing campaign is to determine and really understand the type of customers you’re looking to reach as part of your campaign. Influencer Marketing is all about reaching new audiences via a partnership with someone who has a genuine and trusted relationship with their followers. The influencers you choose to work with should have an established relationship with your target market so they can organically and authentically share your brand message with their audience, influencing their purchasing decisions.
Finding the right bloggers and influencers can have a make or break effect on the success of your Influencer Marketing efforts. So what factors should you consider when identifying the perfect match?
Unfortunately we find many brands and PR agencies opt to work with the most ‘popular’ bloggers in the hope their products will reach the highest number of people. Googling “top 10 fashion bloggers” and gifting them product is rarely going to net you the highest return. Popularity does not necessarily equate with results. There are many examples of brands that opt to work with influencers, who on face value were the most popular, only to find their message fell on deaf ears with very little conversion. Bloggers are savvy and know that some brands are simply looking at their follower counts when determining who to collaborate with. They have a range of techniques and technologies at their disposal to bolster their perceived level of influence. Not all followers are equal. It is super important to look beyond just their popularity to make sure the influencer’s audience aligns to your target market. Avoiding the most popular blogger might actually result in your most effective campaign!
So how important is engagement? At Shopping Links we would go as far as saying that ‘engagement’ is a more important factor to consider when selecting who to work with than simply follower numbers. Again some bloggers are using a range of techniques to inflate engagement but it is a little harder to detect. One important step in the selection process is to look at the trend of ‘likes’ vs. ‘comments’ for each post. This will give you some idea of how engaged the audience is. I would recommend picking a few random posts and click through to the accounts that have liked, commented or shared the post. Do the followers align with your target audience and ideal customer profile? Take the time to read the comments and note whether the influencer is actively engaging with their followers. You need to ensure that when your target customer has a question about your brand, the influencer you’re working with is willing to take the time to respond on your behalf. Follower counts and popularity are obviously important but true engagement is critical.
3. Frequency and Channels
Post frequency and media channels are important factors to consider when determining who is most likely to be the best fit for your Influencer Marketing campaign. Bloggers, like brands have a limited amount of time to spend building their audience and tend to focus primarily on a couple of key channels. It’s important to find an influencer who has an audience on the channels that align to your brand and overall strategy. Some brands for example are looking for an influencer to write a blog post review about their products/services but when selecting an influencer, they focus on their Instagram audience and reach. While there are some instances where you might just strike it lucky, it is important to evaluate the data from all channels so you can make an informed decision based on your specific requirements. A key benefit of using the Shopping Links platform to identify your influencers is that you have a concise summary of each blogger’s social reach across all platforms and also the traffic and demographics of those who visit their blog. This data is invaluable when it comes to making the right choice for your business.
4. Brand Alignment
For some businesses, the brand alignment with the blogger is far more important than popularity and engagement combined. These brands tend to have strong brand equity and an Influencer Marketing objective that focuses more on content generation than sales. The type of collaboration can also determine how much weight this factor plays in the decision making process. The style, visuals and personality of the blogger may be significantly more important for those brands looking to engage an influencer as a brand ambassador or to conduct a social media takeover compared with a product review or social post.
Lastly, one often overlooked element in the decision making process and one that can have a significant impact on the results and the relationship, involves the overall professionalism between your brand and the bloggers you decide to work with. Many bloggers and influencers have enjoyed rapid success, gaining more followers and greater influence than many businesses and brands. While some influencers have engaged an agency to act on their behalf when it comes to the commercials, others are navigating the space alone. It’s worth taking the lead here and setting up an agreement with the influencer that clearly details the terms and conditions of the engagement. Don’t wait until the last minute to share a vital aspect or requirement of the campaign and don’t assume the influencer has completed a business degree! Taking the time to build a relationship based on transparency and trust will go a long way to ensuring you achieve the best ROI possible. Influencer Marketing is a largely unmoderated and ungoverned advertising medium, so collectively we need to support and educate each other to harness the power of this exciting new channel.
Influencer Marketing is the hot topic amongst marketers right now. With very few barriers to entry, low risk and the potential of massive returns, it’s not surprising that everyone is giving it a go. There are no guarantees in terms of results, however those brands who invest the time to get to know the influencers who are promoting their business will be more likely to see ‘real’ long term results, and build a mutually beneficial relationship in the process.