Traditional forms of advertising just aren’t cutting it anymore. Commercials and online advertisements are easily overlooked, skipped, and muted, leaving budgets with little to show in regards to customer acquisition and brand awareness.
This is 2018 and people are searching for information from those they trust or see as experts. That’s what makes influencer marketing so valuable. It opens the door for authentic stories and experiences to formulate around brands in a way that can’t be accomplished through other types of advertising.
If you’ve been hesitant to take the plunge into influencer marketing, then hopefully these five strategies that big brands implement will change your mind.
1. Celebrities or No Celebrities? That is the Question.
It makes sense to think that if a brand hired a celebrity with millions of followers, their campaign would be more successful because it would reach a larger audience.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recent research has shown that engagement actually starts to decrease as follower counts grow. After evaluating over 800,000 Instagram users, Markerly discovered that those with 1,000 or fewer followers had an 8% engagement rate, while users with over 10 million followers only had a 1.6% engagement rate. The research goes on to show that hiring influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers gets you the best results.
One of the biggest reasons for this is because micro-influencers tend to build a following based on what they share on their blog or social channels. If someone consistently posts about being a mom, odds are that other moms are going to follow along and relate to that influencer’s content. With each new post, more and more credibility is built, and eventually this influencer may become their audience’s go-to expert on the topic.
By the time that influencer publishes a sponsored post about a product they’re raving about, they’ve already built the trust of their audience, and those followers will want to try the product as well. This is a win-win situation because as more followers begin to talk about the product or buy it, the brand should experience a lift in their own follower counts, as well as their sales.
Aside from having better engagement rates and a more targeted audience, micro-influencers also cost significantly less than celebrities. Hopper HQ recently shared that a single Instagram post from Selena Gomez costs $550,000. In contrast, it costs $214 on average to hire a micro-influencer in the United States to post on Instagram. That means a brand could hire approximately 2,570 micro-influencers in exchange for one Selena Gomez post.
Bigelow Tea, in collaboration with Walmart, realized their money was better spent with micro-influencers, so they worked with Collective Bias on their Tea Moments campaign, and the results were stunning. By hiring influencers in the healthy living and wellness verticals, the product fit authentically into their blogs and social channels. The content was so well received by the influencers’ audiences that Bigelow Tea experienced an 18.5% sales lift and over 44 million impressions from the campaign.
2. Creative Freedom – What It Means and Why It’s Important
A common mistake brands make when first working with influencers is trying to have too much control over the process. If you chat with an influencer, odds are they’ll tell you creative freedom is one of the most important things they look for before agreeing to participate in a campaign. They understand what their unique voice is, and if they aren’t offered the ability to keep that voice, odds are they’ll decline working on the campaign. Or worse, if they participate in the campaign and their followers don’t respond well to it because it appears inauthentic, the brand may develop a negative conversation amongst their target audience.
While it may be difficult for brands to give up control of the creative process, it’s important for influencers to be trusted to do their best work. This is why hiring influencers who are on-brand with your values and style is so important.
DSW’s 12 Days of Converse campaign found five influencers that fit their ideal demo and hired them to design two to three pairs of Chuck Taylors, then announce to their followers that they could win a pair of their own. Those simple details paved the way for influencers to unleash their creativity, and the response from their followers was insane. For less than $15,000, the campaign generated over 3 million impressions and over 100,000 engagements.
DSW continues to be an active participant in influencer marketing campaigns, and their revenue has steadily increased year after year. For the fiscal year 2016, DSW company revenues were at $2.7 billion, and they are now at $2.8 billion for 2017, which is a record high for the company.
3. Exist Where Your Audience Exists
Ten years ago, blogs and websites were some of the only online ways to tell audiences about your product. Today, there are several social platforms available to advertise on, like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. So how do you know which platform is best to have influencers post on?
With social media constantly changing social, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where you should have content going live so that your ideal target audience sees it, so an alternate strategy is to have influencers post on multiple platforms.
Bertolli hired nine influencers to publish blog posts, social amplifications, and videos about their olive oil products so that no audience was left out. By doing so, their campaign generated an estimated 6.8 million total views and $14.37 in earned media revenue for each $1 they spent on the campaign.
The blog posts were great for sharing recipes that called for using the product, and those recipes were in turn easy to pin on Pinterest. Instagram was a useful platform for showcasing one of the final recipe images, and to direct readers to get the full recipe on their blog.
Airheads had a similar strategy. In their campaign, the anchor videos lived on YouTube and were amplified on other social platforms to generate more traffic. This strategy resulted in over 1.3 million video views from just three influencers, and over 44,000 social engagements across all channels.
4. Think Numbers Are Everything? Not So Fast!
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers you see from a viewer’s perspective. For example, if your campaign goal is to get over 20 million impressions and 10,000 engagements, it may be very tempting to look for influencers who have a high following and lots of comments or likes on their posts.
The unfortunate reality is that numbers don’t tell the entire story. In fact, many influencers participate in Instagram pods and Facebook threads where they share their content with their influencer peers, and everyone then likes and comments to help make it seem like that influencer has an engaged following.
On the outside, the numbers look solid, but on a deeper level, the goal of reaching the target audience isn’t achieved.
One way brands can avoid this pitfall is by hiring influencers who consistently create quality content and fit the brand’s image. According to Jonathan Long, Market Domination Media’s founder, small accounts often outperform the larger ones, sometimes up to 300%. That’s right – 300%.
When brands stop looking at numbers, they are forced to look at each influencer as an individual instead. What does that person bring to the table? Do they regularly interact with their followers? Are their photos telling a story?
These are all questions brands should ask before launching an influencer marketing campaign.
Subaru understood the importance of quality over quantity and hired influencers to post a total of 58 sponsored posts for their Meet an Owner campaign. Since almost everyone owns a car, Subaru found relevant influencers in a variety of verticals, like fitness and art, to share their story.
1.9 million likes and 9,000 comments later, Subaru not only received increased brand sentiment and awareness, but they also positioned themselves to have another stand out year in the auto industry. In fact, influencer marketing is to partly thank for their 10% sales growth in 2016.
5. Surface Data Doesn’t Tell the Entire Story
Once a campaign has wrapped, it can be easy to walk away from it and start on the next big project. But in order to continuously execute a solid influencer marketing strategy, it’s important to revisit the data and take a deeper dive into the analytics of each campaign.
For example, knowing how many referrals are being sent your way, how many new leads you’ve gotten, what sales growth you’ve seen, and customer acquisition costs are all measurements that should be assessed on a deeper level.
Charmin partnered with Mavrck to to help track clicks to coupons, product reviews, and sign ups for an entire quarter so that they could look for trends in data, like the ones mentioned above. Over the course of that quarter, Charmin was able to see that they received over, 5,300 coupon clicks, 1,800 product reviews, and an average product rating of 4.82 out of 5.
If you aren’t sure how or where to look to analyze your results, Social Media Examiner has some great tips for how brands can conduct analysis on their own with a little help from Google Analytics.
It’s Time to Take the Plunge!
One final takeaway to consider is that every influencer marketing campaign is different. What worked for one brand might not work for another, and that’s why following these five strategies is so important. They help outline the basis for a successful campaign, but avoid getting too far into the weeds.
Anyone who is looking to improve their marketing approach should consider implementing these five strategies the next time they work with influencers. As mentioned previously, influencer marketing continues to grow and be a powerhouse for brands big and small. By putting these five strategies into practice, you can set yourself up for a successful campaign that reaches your ideal audience and builds your brand sentiment.